My impressions about Slovenia.
I was at Slovenia at August 2003 during business voyage
for studying of new telephone exchange equipment together with the group of telecommunication
engineers from Russia and Ukraine. There was the Training Center
"ISKRATEL" in town Kranj. This country was western republic of former
Yugoslavia. It was the first one, which separated from that Union state.
First epithets that come in my memory when I remember Slovenia are "calm" and "comfortable". Little towns, clear streets, houses with flowers on the windows and balconies, transparent clear water in the rivers even in the towns with some factories. I liked accuracy villages, which were like pastorals, cafes with tables outdoor under tents, polite and friendly drivers or people, who you meet at the streets...
We arrived to Slovenia to airport Brnik by Russian plane at the midday. There was too hot there, especially after Moscow wet and cool weather. Airport was too small and it was not like international airport, such as Moscow Sheremetevo-2 from where we started. But we spent a very little time for passport and custom checking. Little bus from company came soon and we started to Kranj. I had observed well seen road marking, road signs of white and yellow colors and a road accident - one car had just caught up another one.
We were settled into hotel "Creina" (S. Boukharov's photo) near the old part of town. The hotel had the same name as town was named by ancient Romans during the Roman Impair. Front side of hotel has four floors but rear one - six ones, because of the hotel is situated at the hill's slope. I saw floor "-2" in the lift first time. Restaurant is situated on the floor "-2". Rooms in the hotel are for one person but a family pair can live there too. There are about eighteen rooms in the hotel. You totally pay for room and breakfast. There is a black wooden shutter at the external part of window. Windows are modern PVX one. There were too much Germans or Austrians at the hotel. They spent there only a couple of days and then they were changed by another ones.
There was another hotel near ours one - "The Deer". But it was very neglected with broken windows and fallen ceilings. This hotel was returned to family, which was owner before socialists' period. The business was bad and hotel was closed. But owners don't wish to sell it. And hotel is self destroying bit by bit. There are many small hotels at Kranj and nearest villages - from eight to twelve rooms each.
Town Kranj is situated at the hilly valley near the foot of Julian Alps. The highest mountain in Slovenia is Triglav (three heads). It has about 2.900 meters. I was seeing mountains each morning and evening from my room through the window. The slopes of those mountains are bald in their top part and covered with forest below. Two rivers flow through the Kranj - Sava and Kokra. They join at the town. Water in they is very pure, though there are many different manufactures such us textile fabric and pharmaceutical one there in town. I was wondered to see the big trout in the river from bridge. The length of those trout was more than one foot! I also had seen a heron standing at the middle of the Sava at one of last days staying at Slovenia. It seems, nobody besides herons fishing there. I saw Slovenians, which fed trout with bread from bridges across Sava and Kokra.
Streets in medieval part of Kranj are very narrow and paved with stone. It seems, you walk through the real history there and each house is embodiment of ancient times. But there are many small cafes or shops on the ground floor of those buildings. All cafes have indoor rooms and tables under round sheds outdoor. There are many people gather there at the evening and sometimes you can't find any free place there. There are many churches in town and all of them are functioning. Though the most part of Slovenian are Catholics one Greek Orthodox church stands at the edge of old town. But there is not priest there that time we were there. He had gone away for a couple of weeks. The car traffic is allowed in the old town, but you must buy the special plastic card for visiting it by car. When you want to come into medieval town - you put your card into automatic device and then it pulls down the poles into ground. Such poles stand at each incoming street in the old part of the town.
There is a mountain in the town. It is more than 500 meters. The church and the hotel with restaurant are situated at the top of that mountain. You can see all Kranj from the observation ground and sit at the oak table with the glass of cold beer there. It is very marvelously to drink beer after you have just climbed along the abrupt road. Slovenians prefer use bicycle for that purpose.
Prices in Slovenia are higher then ones in Russia. Salary of 800 Euro is enough for one person, but is not considered as big one. The driver of inter-city bus has such salary. I had a conversation with driver who carried us on excursion. We talked with him by means of four languages - English, Russian, Slovenian and language of gestures. We could understand each other.
There were two excursions organized by company. First excursion was to caves in central part of Slovenia. After visiting caves we started to town Piran on the Adriatic Sea, where we have seafood dinner and a couple of hours for swimming into sea. Another excursion was to plain part of Slovenia (town Ptui), where we visited Ptui's castle-museum, had seen a old part of town and then had a dinner at the peasant's economy not far from Croatia border: "You see - Croatia is behind that hill yet!". After dinner we visited the vine-cellar and tasted different sorts of wine produced at that economy.
We also visited another places of interest in Slovenia at the spare time at weekends. I visited Ljubliana (see Lujbliana gallery ) - the capital of Slovenia. This railway trip began with funny thing. Our group bought tickets at the booking office and had got a discount as we were more than five passengers. We bought tickets to the local train. Soon some train arrived to station. We didn't find a conductor and got on the train. We wondered a little to get to sleeping-car but we went to another where seats for sitting were. We sat there and became to enjoy the view of fog slipping along the mountains slopes. But conductor came soon and had demanded additional payment. Neither we nor he didn't understand why! Well, I took out my dilapidated wallet, conductor have a look on it and asked us if we all going to Ljubliana. When we say "yes" he allowed us to go farther. When we got off from train at the Ljubliana's railway station we saw that it was "Zurich - Beograd" express! (pic 1) We had taken another train - our one started several minutes later.
One of our colleagues was there previously and she became our guide. She led us to the castle on the highest hill - old town. We looked at the old buildings, flowers at the windows, different monuments and nice bridges, fountains. All houses have the shops, cafes and another institutions of such kind at their ground floors. Streets were paved with stones. Our guide got lost in the narrow streets and we had to ask about right way. First three person we had asked spoke at Russian. I thought that Ljubliana was occupied by Russia but it simply was the forum of "Slavists" - linguistics specialist who studied Slavic's languages. We met them several times during the day in the city. Third woman told us how to find path and we started there again. We met funny white "train" for tourists. Then we had a rest in the cafe (cafe1 cafe2) at the quay. After that we came to the castle, at last. There was enough abrupt way there. We went through the gates into internal yard of castle. We paid some money into book office and went to the roof of castle tower - the highest point from which you can see all Lujbliana with its red roofs. Then we visited virtual museum, where we were given special spectacles and in the dark hall we fought against sleep looking to stereo screen and listening the Slovenian speech about history of Ljubliana. It was possible to take a player with the translation on English, as I knew after museum. But my English not so good that I could understand most part of text. Then we had a walk at the internal yard and along galleries on the city walls, visited the souvenir shop and went down to city. There was the dinner there - in the restaurant which was situated just on the quay. We had the great dinner - fried fish and another seafood with salad. And local Slovenian white wine was a good accompaniment for dinner.
We started to the center of city after dinner. There is the square where three bridges come across the river at one point. The metal circle is situated at the center of that square. It symbolizes the center of the town. Here we visited the Catholic church and found that it distinguishes from our Orthodox churches. Our ones have no benches and all people have to stand during any divine service. Icons in Catholic church are more like just pictures. When we left the church we saw well-known white tourists' "train", which has the start point there. Of course, we bought tickets and got in that "train". It drove through the city and conveyed us... again to castle on the hill! We could came to the center of city, board on that "train", visit castle and return back with another trip of the "train". It would need only one ticket, which had two parts - one for rising and another for
I had known from guidebook that there is the park "Tivoli" exists in Ljubliana. That name remembered something like "Old Good Vienna" and I offered my colleagues to go there. They agreed with me because there was too hot on the stony streets under the sun rays. There were many South's trees there, which I could recognized - acacia, willow, platan. There was some kind of outdoor museum near the entrance to park. Some abstractionism sculpture stand here and there at the lawn. We saw a couple of fountains in the park, figures made from cut bushes and flowers on the flower-beds, many green lawns under the big trees, benches at the alleys, little grotto made from white bricks, stairs that was guarded by two stony dogs. That stairs led towards the castle-museum, which was like old Russian landlord's manor. There was not too many people in the park and they have a rest on the green lawns of park - as Americans do. We celebrated the birthday of our colleague at previous evening - and some of our colleagues needed for rest yet. Well, we have such rest on the grass under the shadow of big trees.
Our group divided into two parts when we returned back to station. Of course, our part lost another one. But our way towards station was the same. We went along the street, which had name "Russian" and passed the brewery "Union". They produce the best Slovenian beer "Union" there. We came to station firstly. There was terrible heat and we had to go to McDonalds and had an ice Coca-Cola. Then we met another part just at the bus to Kranj when it left only five minutes before bus starting. The returned way occupied about fifty minutes. Bus conveyed us immediately to hotel's door. This trip had place at the end of second week of our stay in Slovenia.
And our first trip was the excursion to Shkotiansky Caves and town Piran at the Adriatic coast of Slovenia. The Slovenian word "cave" sounds as the Russian one "hole". I visited Crimean caves previously. Slovenian one was like them but it had larger sides. I was impressed with narrow bridge above the gorge, whose bottom was hidden in the dark. Light from lamps on excursion paths couldn't disperse dark. They said that depth of those gorge was more than 30 meters. I liked the arches at the cave's exit too. Stalactites and stalagmites were like Crimean ones and didn't impress me, though they were beautiful. We walked along the cave by large group gathered from several small ones, include ours. Woman guide told about cave in two languages - Slovenian and English. And our translator translated guide's tale to Russian language. Shkotiansky Caves are situated in the Kars - region of Slovenia.
Another famous cave is Postoinska Jama near town Postoina. I heard the legend about lord-robber who lived in castle near that cave. His castle was unassailable because of it was situated just on the mountain slop. Nobody could come to its gates besides of narrow path from mountain foot. And straight attack were impossible too. Only one way stayed for capturing castle. It was long siege. Hunger must win the garrison better then any army. But lord-robber laughed at any attempts to plunge his garrison into hunger. Food was supplied from another side of mountain through the secrete passages into castle. And lord-robber flung from the castle walls grilled meat or another food when the opposite army became to starve.
However lord-robber was killed in his castle. There was own Achilles' heel there. The walls of lord's lavatory wasn't enough thick. Of course, it was situated in the place which was inaccessible for assault. On of the enemies bribed lord's servant and he lighted out a lamp when lord-robber went to the lavatory. One good shot of catapult won that battle. Castle garrison capitulate after lord-robber was killed.
We went out from cave and went along the path (pic 2) on the slope of gorge (pic 3) toward the mountain carriage. There was too hot outdoors, especially after cold cave. Carriage (pic 4)carried our group by two parties. Woman-guide defined number of passengers.
Then we visited museum of peasant's way of life. There was a cabin under the thatch, where different peasant's things were gathered. We returned to our bus after visiting cafe and souvenir's shop and started to Adriatic Sea. I forgot to say that it was first time I had seen the chargeable highway. Driver gets coupon when he enter such road and gives that coupon and money to cashier when he leave it. I liked that another (free of charge) road runs not far from highway. Of course, alternative road goes through the villages and towns. You can choose any way. Another thing I liked was the patience of any drivers on the road. I never saw more patient and friendly drivers here in Russia.
Our bus went leisurely, sometimes it got in traffic congestion. It seemed that all Slovenians got into cars and buses and started to Adriatic Sea. Bus run along the narrow streets toward the quay when we arrived to Piran. It had to stop near the turnpike and we had to go along quay about a kilometer under the terrible heat. Our way laid to restaurant "Pavel II", which was situated at the quay among another ones. I didn't see any beaches during that way. Only asphalt grounds or stony blocks on the shore were there. Also I saw the big mooring with enormous amount of cutters and yachts. There were even a couple of pirates' bots there. At least, they had "black jack" on their masts. (pic 5 pic 6 pic 7 )
Very tasty fishy dinner waited for us in restaurant. There were Slovenian white wine and fruits there. I consider that any dish in Slovenian cafes and restaurants is very big. It seems, that Slovenians very like to eat.
We had some swimming at the warm and very salt Adriatic Sea after dinner. There were many people on the grounds near sea but we could to find some place for us there. If you look from that ground to right side you see the Italian coast and if you look left side - you see the Croatia one. Slovenia has only about thirty kilometers of the Adriatic Coast and those kilometers is not he best ones. There were many stones with very sharp edges at the sea. About a half of our group was scratched with those stones. You don't feel any pain from scratches when you is into sea water because of the salt.
After swimming we had a little walk along quay and nearest streets (pic 8). There were too much impressions in those excursion and I didn't remember the way back. I remember only the new very high bridge above the dark gorges. This bridge is intended for new highway and it was only under construction. We returned to hotel when it was very dark.
Next day our group started to mountain lake Bohinj and waterfall Savitsa. Alexander Krouglov, our teacher, became our leader. We got the bus Ljubliana-Bohinj early at the morning at the bus station in Kranj. Our bus visited each village. Passengers got on and off, driver sold tickets and they all did that without hurry. It was not like Russia. There is no need to hurry when life is not too hard, I suppose. Also the villages were not like Russian country side. Slovenian villages looks like settlements of new Russian rich men. Of course, there were houses that need good repair but they were not too many. We saw the lake and town Bled - famous place for summer and winter rest in Slovenia. And there were mountains everywhere around.
We reached town Bohinj soon after passed Bled. It was situated near lake into the mountain valley. Bus went through it towards the end stop "Zlatorog" (gold horn). Our way to waterfall began there. We went up along the asphalt road firstly and then went along the macadam path. There were many guide-boards at the any crossroad, therefore you couldn't lose yourself there. I liked wooden sign, which showed the directions and distance to European capitals. Rome was the nearest one. There was only 700 km to it. Little hotels or houses were here and there near the path. Low fences, many flowers, fountains in the yards - it was tourists' Slovenia. Raising was not too abrupt there. We passed wooden bridge above the mountain river with greenish transparent water and soon were at the tourists' village with big hotel made from old black thick logs. Outdoor restaurant was near hotel and souvenir shop was there too. About dozen of trout were swimming into big aquarium at the square. We had to buy tickets to visit waterfall and then had enough abrupt raising towards it. Thank heavens, path run through the beech forest and was not so long. Metal ropes were rigged up in the places where dangerous slopes were. Waterfall was not very power because of unusual heat but water fell from cliff with noise and fine drops. There were dam but water didn't pour above dam and stayed a little below dam's edge. (pic 9) Water in that reservoir was very very cold and such transparent that you can see the bottom through several meters of greenish water.
After visiting waterfall we went long way along North shore of lake until we could find the place for swimming and picnic. Lake Bohinj is considered as cold one and not many Slovenians swim there even at the summer time. But very hot summer could heat that lake. I considered its water enough warm for me. We had a lunch from lunch-bags we got instead dinner in our hotel. We drank Slovenian white and red wine and our Russian vodka. We fed the ducks and fishes with the rest of bread. When ducks went away the very big fishes came to the floating bread pieces and pulled them into depth.
Our guys broke the raft for diving , which was considered from four tanks and wooden floor and couldn't gather it back. Slovenian cried something about raft to them from windsurf (pic 10). I had to be a translator, because I knew English a little better than others. And again my bad English, a couple Slovenian and Russian words and "language of gestures" helped us to find understanding. Slovenians brought the hammer and nails soon and we repaired raft together. Then we invited Slovenians to drink wine with us. They were very sad when had known that real Russian vodka had ended before they joined us.
The evening came and we had to go to last bus to Kranj, because we would returned back by taxi or hitch-hike if we were late. Therefore we reached the bus stop when it remained much time till bus departure. Forest burnt near the top of mountains around "Zlatorog". It burnt from morning. Fire became more powerful since that time and pulled down along the abrupt slope. Two helicopters tried to extinguish a fire dropped water down.
We returned to Kranj at the dark again. And great thunderstorm came that night with the hail, which was like big grapes. Powerful lightning lighted up with white light town and sky above it. Thunderstorm brought cool weather but not for long time.
We studied hard next week and went to Ljubliana at Saturday (I wrote about that above). And we started to Bled at Sunday. Bled is the town and the lake with beautiful island. Water in the lake Bled warmer than one in lake Bohinj. There are many mountain-skiing complexes at the mountains around Bled. Nice church is situated on the island. If you want visit it you must give the boat to hire. They let anybody to ring a bell in that church. If you could force the bell sounds from first jerk - you will be lucky. There are many trees on the shore of lake. All beaches are the plots with grass. Only one beach was sandy but there would pay money to get there. Road Ljubliana-Bohinj runs along one shore. Houses of town Bled are situated on that shore. Opposite one has a road into trees' shadow. You can see there car-"train" for tourists and people who go on horsebacks. Old castle and church are situated above the shore on the mountain. Firstly we visited the church and then went up to the castle. Castle had internal yard from which you can see the lake and island with church from great height. There were several cafes with outdoor tables in the yard. Group of Germans or Austrians loudly song and laughed at on of those cafes. Castle is used as museum now. It seemed me a little tiresome but view to the lake from windows was splendid and like the old picture into black wooden frame (pic 11). Wine-cellar is situated into castle too. We met there the monk (pic 12) who sold wine in the bottles. You can buy the bottle with label where your own name would be written down. Another type of bottles was label with sign of zodiac. There also where the old well with wooden winch amongst the stony slabs of the yard. And hot sun and bright blue sky above the castle and lake.
More people swim into lake Bled then they do into Bohinj. And family of white and young gray swans lived at the lake. They floated to shore and let to feed them with bread (pic 13). I was lucky and caressed one of the white swans.
We spent day swimming into lake and drank Slovenian white wine. We started to bus station when evening came. There was little souvenirs' market at the way to bus station. I had some time to walk along the narrow streets of Bled because we had to wait the bus about half of the hour. I liked this comfortable and clean town with great amount of flowers at the windows and just on the streets. There were many cars on the narrow streets of Bled, like as into big city. And you can see mountains in any place around.
Next Saturday was a day when we had to resettle from Kranj to village hotel "Martin" in the village Shenchur near Kranj. We had to give place to congress of beekeepers. Three cars came to "Creina" early at the morning and we were soon at our new place. It was a real rural hotel - two little houses and internal yard with pool with blue water and pavilion and barbeque stove near it. There were six rooms into bigger house on the first floor. Reception, kitchen, store and three halls-restaurants were situated at the ground floor and "Finnish bath" were situated at the basement there. There was only one misfortune - we had to divide one room between two persons. But I was not too sad with that circumstance because I started to the real mountain walk. Only three men took part in that walk - besides me there were our teacher and Dmitry . Our women started to Ljubliana again and another men stayed "at home". We returned to Kranj and went to bus station. We were going by bus to village Ezersko soon. Firstly bus ran through the fields then it started to raise to mountains along the narrow serpentine road. It take only one hour to arrive Ezersko.
Earth road with stones went up just from square. Of course, the guide signs were set anywhere. They said how many kilometers and how much time you need to reach your aim. We went to Cheska Kocha. Firstly road was slightly sloping and I went without any troubles and admired the beauty of mountains and bright blue sky. We passed the rural house with great amount of firewood prepared for winter. We came to fir forest and then rise became very abrupt. My companions run forward from me but I moved very slowly and hard, heart knocked into chest, shirt was wet from perspiration. And one think was into head: "Why did I go to damned mountains?" Thank havens, such abrupt paths changed with enough slightly sloping. Companions waited for me there and we went together until another abrupt rise began. At the open glades we stopped and I recovered for understanding that what beautiful places are presented from mountains. White light clouds clutched the nearest mountain top, forest liked the green thick carpet on the far slopes, another stony slopes without any plants on them both dazzling sun and very bright blue sky above me (pic 14).
We stopped near spring to drink cold and tasty water. Somebody settled gutter and little red turbine at its end. Fallen water turns that turbine. You can see red and white circles on the stones and trees here and there. They signed the route so well that you would never lose there. I fear the height usually but I was so tired that time that it was not matter for me how far I could fall. I passed narrow wooden bridge across the gorge without any emotion.
We rose higher and went along stones. Hand-rails made from metal rope set along narrow cornices where cliff rises up on the right and abrupt slope falls on the left from path. Hand-rails are intended for wet weather when damp stone becomes very slippery and it is better to hold to something, because you can roll down along the slope. There were many as artificial stairs as natural ones along our way up to mountain (pic 15). We became to meet Slovenians who went down yet. All of them were very friendly and greeted us with words: "Dobr dan" (good day). But I was so tired from raise that I wanted to kill them. But I answered "Dobr dan" too and tried to smile. Almost each of they had the sticks like that skiers use. We also met the old people there. My companions went forward and said me that I should catch up with them, because aim was near. I passed once more across the wooden bridge, rose a little along the path through big stones and reached, at last, Cheska Kocha. It is a big glade which is surrounded with bald mountains. There is a big black wooden house in the center of glade, tables with benches stand here. There is a spring near house. Many peoples were having a rest on the glade. I saw my companions at one of the tables and cried to them: "I am alive yet!". Firstly I needed a rest after great rise and then I could to have a look around me.
We all had sat around one of the tables; drank Slovenian vine and had a lunch from lunch-bag we got in the hotel. I came to my sense soon and saw the beauties of the place and surroundings. I had forgotten hard rise and want to sing and loudly cry. Then we walked at the glade, had a look on elevator (pic 16) behind the house, climbed onto big stones and made photographs of each other there.
I felt myself well and greeted all people who only were rising to Kocha (pic 17). I was very pleasure to do that. All of them answered me friendly, but one man presented malicious look to me. May be I had the same look a half ago. I lagged from my companions again. But it is not from tired. I made photographs of surrounding landscapes. We turned to another way when we had gone down about a quarter of distance. Path was very abrupt here (pic 18) and hadn't plain parts. I caught up here my companions and we went down to another mountain glade. There was an old neglected building there. We passed another slope and reached the road which lead us to Ezersko through the fir-wood with high and slender firs. There were cars there yet and we came to outskirts of Ezersko soon. We were surprised with view of dried up lake and went across that lake by feet. There was not any water there. That summer was too hot for Slovenia. Thank havens terrible heat couldn't dry up the store of local restaurant and we spent nice time there sitting at the oaken table and drinking beer. Then we returned home by bus. Alexander started to Kranj and Dmitry and I went to Shenchur a couple of miles through the maize fields. We met our women just near hotel "Martin". They had to walk from Kranj to Shenchur too.
Our last excursion was to town Ptuj and dinner and tasting of vines at the farm. There was area with far and low mountains and hills. It was Northern part of Slovenia, which is poorest one of Slovenia. General occupation of population here is agriculture. Town Ptuj is situated near beautiful and powerful river Drava. Castle is situated on the highest hill as usual. You can see wide expanses of Drava's valley from walls of castle. Castle serves as museum of old time now. One of the masters of castle was the first ambassador of Dual Monarchy in Russia. You can see old furniture and Gobelins on the walls. One of the halls of castle filled with pictures - portraits of men and women who lived many years ago - at XVII - XVIII centuries. There were another museums in castle halls and rooms. I remember maskers' suits (pic 19), which I saw at the museum of folk traditions. There are suits made from fell with head and horns. Another part of those suits is a belt made as chain with metal bells on it. Total weight of such suit is about fifty kilograms. And if you want that bell could loudly ring - you must run, dance and jump all time.
There were too many facilities for killing in the arm museum. I saw ancient axes and pikes, pistols and guns of any shapes and sizes. How much minds and creation was to put into making means for death and crippling of people!
The walk through the old town was last part of excursion. We say goodbye to our guide near town hall and started to our bus. We were surprised with absence of people in town. All people who can go away from town on weekend do that. Most part of them starts towards seashore. Another people go to mountains to see wild nature. We started to seek farm after our returning to bus. Neither driver nor our leader didn't know how get to farm. They had to make a call there and farmer's car came soon and leaded us to farm. Farm was situated on the one of hills with big house (pic 20) on its top and rich vineyards around. Great table (pic 21) was laid for us at one of the rooms. We ate very tasty chicken soup with noodles, salads, fried chicken and pork, potatoes and small rice balls. Meal was in enormous amount (pic 22 S. Boukharov's photo) and all was very tasty. Pots with red and white vine were an addition to that meal. We went to vine-cellar (pic 23 S. Boukharov's photo) and taste five kinds of vine (pic 24 S. Boukharov's photo), which were produced at that farm. (Funny corkscrew S. Boukharov's photo)
We had a very nice returning back due to wine and good mood. We sang a songs - old Russians and modern folk ones. poor driver - he had to hear our singing all the time.
We returned home next Friday just after passing of graduate exam. Of course, my poor tale cannot tell you all impressions I had got in that splendid country. I hope my photographs improve it a little. Also I hope that time will come when I should have opportunity to visit Slovenia again.