What a phenomenal welcome to the village of Mirna, Slovenia. 30 minutes after we arrive Petra, assistant to the mayor, visits us and tells us that the mayor saw us drive in and called her to come out and greet us. A little later the mayor, Dušan Skerbiš, arrives. He doesn’t speak English, but he brought with him a bottle of local champagne and some tourist brochures to welcome us to Mirna. Petra asked us if she could take pictures of us and our RV to include on their website and Facebook page. Of course, we said yes. Later that afternoon Marko, who had initially suggested that we visit this area, came over to welcome us and tell us a little bit about Mirna. He had been on the beach in Croatia that morning. When he heard that we were arriving that day, he left Croatia to come back to Slovenia to greet us. He has invited us to visit his family’s vineyards this weekend. This was all on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning a woman named Tanja stopped by and came in to visit. She and her husband used to go camping with their children when they were young. She said that we were living her dream for the future. She has invited us to her house for drinks one day soon. We also have an invite to visit a local Slovenian who lived and worked in Canada for 50 years before returning to Slovenia to retire. His children still live about 30 minutes from our home in Canada.
The next morning, Thursday, a cameraman and a reporter from the regional television station arrived at our RV. They came to take pictures and to talk with us and interview us for their TV station. We had got an email about this visit from Petra, the night before. As I have said previously, our RV is a rock star in this part of the world. In addition to the RV, when people find out that we are from Canada, they are thrilled that we have come this far to visit their country. Europeans pay much more attention to license plates than we do in Canada. This means that people quickly notice that we are not from Europe. If I get a link to the results of our interview, I will post them in a future article. We have been interviewed before and have never been around to see the results.
The mayor has been involved in a project to put camping areas for visitors in all the municipalities in Slovenia. We aren’t talking about the large camping resorts. Here in Mirna, we are in the parking lot for the outdoor sports complex. They have put in electricity for four campers and they have fresh water and a place to dump our black and grey water. That is all that Mike and I need.
Over the last few years Mike and I have spent more than 125 nights in this small country and the adjoining Italian border areas. Remember that the entire country is less than half the size of Nova Scotia or, for our American friends, smaller than New Jersey. We hadn’t planned on spending much time here this year. The thought was to pick up our RV, get it ready for travel and then head back up to Austria to continue our journey from last year. Quarantine slowed that down and accepting the chance to visit this village may have really slowed us down. We are looking at the book the Mayor gave us on all the other camping sites in the different municipalities and are considering visiting a few on our way to Austria. Our visits are not your standard one- or two-day visits. With a much shorter season this year, part of me is saying that we should get a move on and leave Slovenia. On the other hand, we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves so why rush?
Slovenia is largely about the outdoors. They have a lot of bike routes that you can download to your phone. Yesterday was the first day, on our relatively new bikes, where we seriously got concerned about running out of battery power. Even worse, we were up in the hills at the time. It was the first time we had seen both our batteries drop down to one bar and that was before we got to the final ascents at the end of the trip. We have been going up and down mountains (hills?) that we would never have considered before. The ride took us up to multiple hill tops at about 700 m or 2300 feet high. Is this a small mountain (yes according to the internet) or a large hill?
We decided to give my backside a rest and to spend this afternoon driving and wandering around on two feet. Mike and I went to a nearby town, recommended by the TV crew, called Novo Mesto. Novo Mesto has recently joined a growing list of towns in Slovenia closing their centres to cars. The Main Square underwent two years of renovations at a cost of $10 million Cdn and was reopened in May 2019. Mike and I love these older looking town squares that are just for pedestrians and cyclists. I asked the TV crew what the local businesses thought of eliminating the cars from the town centre. They said that some of them, particularly the bars, where not happy and were seeing a drop in their number of customers. Ljubljana started a similar but much larger project about 10 years ago. It went from a city with too much traffic to a central core open only to pedestrians and cyclists. The pedestrian area is expanding almost every year. Ljubljana initially saw business drop but that was only for a short period of time. In addition to local residents, more tourists are coming to visit, in part because it is such a lovely city to walk around in. It is one of Mike’s favourite cities in Europe.
After seeing business drop because of the removal of cars in the Main Square, Novo Mesto next gets hit with the Covid crisis. I have said previously that while I felt a little guilty about it, Mike and I quite like the reduction in crowds this year. While a lack of crowds is nice, a deserted town centre is not. Have a look at this picture of the Main Square in Novo Mesto. It is literally deserted in the middle of the day, which is awful for businesses and actually a little uncomfortable for tourists.
Near the Main Square in Novo Mesto, was the restored Cathedral of St. Nicholas. Mike entered before I did and came out to make sure that I went inside to have a look. He had seen something quite unusual. The church was crooked. If you looked down the centre aisle you were not looking directly at the altar. You couldn’t see the entire area where the altar resides as it was off to the side. I looked into this and read that the church has a “broken longitudinal axis”. The assumption was that this was “influenced by terrain” probably because no-one could think of any other reason for building it that way.
The proprietor in the first restaurant we went to in Mirna spoke German and Slovenian but not English. It was no problem – Google Translate to the rescue! The locals know that Slovenian isn’t spoken by many people from outside the local area. They are very appreciative when we try and use one of the few Slovenian phrases that we have picked up. Attempting Slovenian always brings a big smile to the person you are talking with. Mike and I were trying to learn to say good-bye in Slovenian “nasvidenje”. We would speak it into Google Translate on our phone and see if it understood what we were saying. I got it right first time and refused to try again. Poor Mike, who is the one who already speaks a second language, could not get Google to understand him. Every time he tried Google provided a different English translation for his attempt. Once Google translated his version of “good-bye” to “wife”, then to “increase”, then “at the well”, and “take one part”, at one point it even translated his effort into “I don’t stink”. It rarely came up with the same translation twice in a row and not once did it translate his effort into a simple “good-bye” . At this point we had to stop as Mike was extremely frustrated and I couldn’t stop laughing. He swears that he pronounced the word exactly the same every time. Mike had a much easier time saying “Dovidenja” which is ”good-bye” in Croatian and is understood by Slovenians as well as Google Translate.
I will post another update on our time in Mirna after our visits with the local residents that have invite us to their homes.