Ljubljana, Slovenia

Fun in Ljubljana

Sorry but this is a very long article.  A lot has happened since I last wrote.  Mike and I have just spent 9 days in Ljubljana and the surrounding area.  Most of it was through choice, although as you will see below we did have a few problems that delayed our departure.  Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia with a population of 275,000.  It was an easy 4 km bicycle ride from our campground into the city centre which was really nice.  Ljubljana is a lovely small city with a castle that has been standing on a hill above the city for about 900 years.  The castle was originally a medieval fortress that was constructed around the 11th century.  As the castle was the major attraction, Mike and I went to visit it on our first afternoon.  To get up the hill you can either walk or take the funicular.  We saw a sign that said we could buy a ticket that included the funicular, an audio tour and entrance to the three or four museums that were in the castle itself.  When we were picking up the audio headsets at the top I heard one couple in line being told that their ticket didn’t include the audio and that they couldn’t get in to see very much at all as you required additional tickets for everything.  I felt really sorry for them.  It reminded me of when we were recently not told about an English audio guide at a palace we had just finished touring without that benefit.  We spent a full afternoon at Ljubljana Castle.  When we got back to the campground we met a couple who had actually walked up the hill and visited the castle.  They had only seen the courtyard and where in and out quite quickly.  They also didn’t know about the audio guides and the museums.  The castle was quite well done, but the advertising of its features and how to access them was very poor.  This isn’t the first time we have seen that.  One interesting historical fact that we learned was that the first wheel with an axis in the world was found in Slovenia.  It is dated about 5,300 years ago.

Within the castle was the Dragon Museum.  The dragon is the mascot or symbol of the City of Ljubljana.  The story has it that Jason, of Jason and the Argonaut fame, is credited with killing the dragon in the swamp around Ljubljana.  Jason then became the first citizen of Ljubljana.  You will see the dragon image all over town including the many statues on the Dragon Bridge.  I find it interesting that in the west the dragon is a cruel and scary mythical beast to be slayed whereas in the Far East the opposite is true.  Dragons there are symbols of light and wisdom.  The Emperors chose the dragon as their symbol and added golden dragons to their clothing.  Just an interesting difference.

Dragon Bridge

We stopped in at a home furnishings store and talked to a clerk there.  She said that the cost of the furnishings, beddings etc. was higher in Slovenia than in other EU countries but that their wages were not any higher.  We noticed a huge difference in the cost of food in downtown Ljubljana versus the cost outside the city.  In Ljubljana, we sat outside at a restaurant on the river for lunch.  It was in a prime tourist area.  When we got the bill, the restaurant had added €4.00 ($6.00 CDN) because they provided the seating area for us to eat the meal we purchased from them.  We were not happy.

The world is a really small place these days.  I, a person from Canada, met a man from Germany, in a campground in Slovenia, who had been to the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton, Canada at the same time that Mike and I were there in 2016.  It is a very small world.

Driving around Slovenia you see red flowers pouring over the window ledges everywhere you look.  Very pretty and reminiscent of Bavaria without the lovely paintings you see on the walls in Bavaria.

Many years ago, when Mike and I were engaged, I met a cousin of his from Holland.  She was visiting Canada and was just horrified to see all of us eating corn.  In Europe corn wasn’t for people it was for animals.  Now sweet corn is extremely popular and here in Slovenia they put it in everything from all sorts of soups to on almost every pizza which isn’t the best.

We have always said that we really loved the people in Transylvania.  One of the things that we are learning is that you get to know the people you are near much better in the very small campgrounds.  In Transylvania we were often one of only one or two campers.  Not only did we get to spend time with the owners of the campground, we also spent a lot of time with our neighbours.  It is surprising, but when you get into a campground with many campers you actually talk to people less.  You chat as you walk around, and you explain that yes we did bring our camper from Canada etc., but you don’t really visit the same at all.  It looks like our next place we stay will also be a larger campground, which is too bad.  I had originally planned to stay at some tourist farms they have in Slovenia but it hasn’t worked out so far.

On another day, Mike and I biked back into Ljubljana for a second time.  This time we planned to do a tour of the city itself.  Luckily the izi Travel app that I have mentioned before, had an audio guide for Ljubljana.  Mike and I put our headsets on and followed the tour route around the city, listening as our phone told us about the different places we were seeing.  We also took a tourist boat ride on the river through the city.  The weather has been a little too warm, but quite nice overall.

Velika Planina

Velika Planina:

One day Mike and I drove into the mountains sightseeing.  We had seen a few signs for a cable car that went up to a pasture and herdsmen’s settlement that we thought might be interesting.  Well we got somewhat lost.  I think my stomach is more sensitive now than it used to be.  I remember, many years ago, Mike and I taking every unsigned mountain road that went up between Banff and Jasper.  Driving on a small gravel road with a cliff dropping off beside me didn’t bother me as much then as it does now, I am sure.  There is gorgeous scenery around here.   We did eventually find the cable car, but it was too late to go up and see anything and then get back down.  We decided to return the next day.

Given that cable cars aren’t Mike’s favourite activity it was a little surprising that we did get back the next day.  It just goes to show how outstanding the scenery was.  We bought a ticket for the cable car and found out that we were expected to take a chair lift after we got off the cable car.  Mike wasn’t thrilled but it was truly worth it.  The chair lift took us up to 1,666 m or 5,500 ft.  When you got off the chair lift you felt like you had stepped back in time.  It was actually a bit of a strange feeling for both Mike and me.   We were in a large, somewhat hilly, “pasture” on the top of one mountain and surrounded by other mountains in the heart of the Kamnik Alps.  Spectacular.  The pasture contained herdsmen’s huts and cows wandering around.  One disappointment was that the weather the previous day had been beautiful and sunny with no clouds.  On this day it was a much darker, cloudier and overcast day.  It was still great, but I can only imagine what it looked like the day before.

The plateau is a herdsmen’s settlement and one of a very few settlements of this size in Europe.  The herdsmen’s huts are a unique architecture.  About 200 herdsmen live here during the height of the summer.  They have actually built some similar looking tourist homes on the mountain nearby but they are intentionally separate from the herdsmen. The herdsmen’s settlement is revived every June when the cows are brought to the plateau and they tend their cattle until they are taken down the mountain in September.  In WWII German forces burned all the huts to the ground.  They have since been rebuilt.

During the winter, the area is a small ski resort.  The ski resort requires 1 metre or 3 feet of snow for skiing.  This has started becoming a problem in the last few years.  This requirement is because they cannot make snow here.  One person told us that there was a lack of water needed to make snow.  I also read that for environmental reasons, artificial snow cannot be produced.

Velika Planina on mountain top, surrounded by mountains

Disaster:

OK so in addition to thinking this area was great we also had a bad day or two while we were here.  On Friday we had brought the bedroom slide-out in for some reason, the living room slide-out was open and the levelers were down.  When we tried to open the bedroom again, nothing happened.  The motor that runs all the slide-outs and the levelers had decided not to work.  Now I can sleep in a short bed, but my six-foot-tall husband wasn’t too happy with that thought.  Also, we would have no access to any of our bedroom drawers.  In addition, we can’t move our RV at all with the levelers down in the ground and the rest of the RV wide open.  Mike did manage to open the bedroom slide-out manually and he then removed the motor.  We tried to find a small motor repair shop which is really hard when you are searching Slovenian internet sites.  Mike eventually found one but when he called they only spoke Slovenian.  We went to the restaurant associated with the campground and asked the bartender to place the call for us and ask if they might be able to fix the motor and if yes, could they do it quickly.  It was now closing time on a Friday and this business was closing for the weekend.  The final plan was for Mike to take the motor Saturday morning and leave it there, someone would pick it up and look at it on Monday, which he did.  Luckily, we were parked in an area that, with very long hose extensions, we could just reach the camp water supply as we weren’t moving for a while.

No-one was at the repair shop on Saturday, so Mike ended up just leaving the motor with an English note in front of the store.  That was a little scary.  When he got back we had planned to go to a major tourist attraction about an hour away.  It is some caves that everyone thinks are really special.  I will let you know when I find out more about them.  We were delayed when we found out that the waste in our black water/sewage tank was solid and essentially our toilet was plugged up.  It took a couple of hours to get that cleaned up and flushed out.  We weren’t even sure all Mike’s work was going to have a successful conclusion which added some frustration to the whole exercise.  It was successful and Mike did get the toilet and black water system working properly again.  By this time, it was too late to go and see the caves.  Hopefully we will see them on our way south when we are leaving Slovenia for Croatia.  Some towels had got wet in the flushing process and we put them in our laundry machine which made a noise, but nothing else happened.  We just couldn’t believe that day.  By this point in time my poor husband was fed up and said that the laundry machine could wait until Sunday.  Our laundry machine is built into a small closet in the RV and the base of the closet is about three feet off the ground.  It is very nice and compact when everything works but it is a devil to be able to get the machine turned around to get to the back of it.  If we actually have to take it off the shelf that will be a major issue.  On Sunday Mike tried to find out what was wrong without a lot of success.  The manufacturer was closed so we then had to wait until Monday.

Monday starts with Mike back at the motor shop at 7:30 AM.  Together they took the motor apart and found out that it needed 4 new brushes to replace 1 broken brush and 3 which were worn out.  The company couldn’t make these parts themselves, but they called another firm who could.  They impressed the urgency on them and told Mike that they would call us when it was ready.  When Mike got back to the camper the U.S. was still closed, as it was the middle of the night there, so we couldn’t do anything about the laundry machine.  We decided to bike back into Ljubljana for a last visit.  That was nice and helped us relax.  We watched some people making lots of different types of bubbles for kids.  It was great to see, and we don’t think that they were actually selling anything, just entertaining the children.

When we got back and got through to the washing machine manufacturer we almost had a major setback.  The technical support person was about to hang up on Mike the moment he found out that we were in Slovenia and not North America.  After some discussion the likely cause of failure was thought to be a loose drive belt.  This sounds simple but getting the back off a built-in laundry machine is difficult.  The bad news is that when Mike finally succeeds in getting the machine open the belt looks just fine.  After more phone calls, downloaded service manuals and lots of testing the diagnose is finally that the motor is toast and needs replacing.  This type of motor is a specialty one and cannot be fixed and there are no replacements in Europe.  It looks like we are going to have to wait until we get back to Canada to get a $400 motor for the laundry machine and hope that the diagnosis was correct. Mike still needs to do some work on the laundry machine just to get the door unlocked and the wet clothes out before they rot.  Obviously, we can live without one, most campgrounds have a pay laundry machine, but having your own is much more convenient and time saving.

We have had a few problems with motors on this trip.  In addition to the motor in the washing machine which is now toasted, the motor in the refrigerator that drives the ice maker, and the motor in our Italian built “Vienna” coffee machine don’t seem to operate very well.  Mike is wondering if any of it is to do with the fact that European power is 50 cycles per second and North American equipment is designed for 60 cycles per second.  Also, the light in the refrigerator only works when we are using our own power source (generator or battery and inverter). Our transformer changes the 230v to 110v but doesn’t change the cycles.  We have also been in a few campgrounds with fluctuating power voltage (such that transformer output has been as low as 90 Volts at 50 cycles per second).  At 90 V and 50 cps our refrigerator was unable to keep our ice cream frozen.  So, Mike now tests the voltage at each campground and switches the refrigerator to the inverter when he sees that the voltage in below 100 volts.

On Tuesday, while we were waiting to hear about the motor for the slide-outs we decided to go on a special, 35 km bike ride around Ljubljana.  I have “borrowed” some descriptions below from the internet.

Ljubljana view from castle

Ljubljana within a barbed wire fence (1942-1945)

During World War II Ljubljana, annexed by Fascist Italy, was subjected to brutal repression after becoming a focal centre of the Resistance. In 1942, the Italian occupying forces surrounded Ljubljana with a barbed wire fence in order to prevent communication between the city’s underground and the Slovene Partisans in the countryside.

The fence, along which there were 206 guard towers and bunkers, was guarded by approximately 1,300 soldiers and 400 policemen, who checked the ID of everyone passing the fence. Following the capitulation of Italy in 1943, the fence was taken charge of by the German army. The Liberation Army marched into Ljubljana on 9 May 1945, after the city had been enclosed by barbed wire for 1,170 days. The construction of the Path of Remembrance and Comradeship along the barbed wire route began soon after the war and was completed in 1985.

It was this path, known as POT, that we cycled on.  Along the route were various memorials.  It was well signed.  If you zoom in on our map, you will see that we didn’t ride a perfect circle around the city.  We had to skip one section of the trail that was too steep for our bikes.  I wasn’t taking any more chances with any other motors at this time.

During the ride we did get a phone call with some good news.  The motor for our slide-outs was fixed and ready.  When we finished the ride, Mike picked up the motor and installed it in the RV.  It not only works well, but it even sounds better than it used to.

Franciscan church in Ljubljana

My husband still surprises me at times.  He is absolutely addicted to the US soap opera that is Trump news.  It does cause for some fights over the remote control.  I go for European News even You Tube videos, anything to avoid continuously hearing about Trump on the television.  Mike says that he isn’t completely focused on Trump as he starts each day with Canadian news, first the “Globe and Mail” newspaper and then we both watch the previous nights “The National” on TV.

Next, we are heading to Slovenia’s major tourist attraction Lake Bled and the surrounding area.  We have been told by everyone, starting with our Hungarian hosts Joska and Jutka, that we have to make sure that we get there.  So, we are really looking forward to it.

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