Slovenian and Croatian 9/13/2007-10/7/2007

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Journal Part VI:

9/23/2007: Izola, Slovenia: We were sorry to leave northern Slovenia, but looking forward to Trieste, Italy and the our drive through the country getting there. Fortunately we were not too intent on leaving earlier because the rain had washed out the roads and they had just opened yesterday. We headed back through Bled. The lake and surrounding country was even more beautiful than we remembered. The air was particularly clear and crisp and the air temperature was in the 60s. We hung out at the lake for a little while and did some tourist shopping before hitting the road for the coast.










Last view of Bled lake and chapel
















We headed a little ways back toward Ljubljana and then turned west to Trieste. The country never stopped pleasing our eyes. Every little pass was lined with dense pines and beech and every valley was occupied by a perfect farm and immaculate meadows. Every window sill had its window box overflowing with bright and always blooming flowers.








This is one of the small farm in a valley we passed through. Of note is the Apartmenta sign. It seemed like almost every home and farm we passed had a sign for guest lodging.

















As we neared the coast the pines thinned and hills got smaller, but still very steep and rocky. We were passing through the karste lime stone coastal range where we planned to return in a few days to check out some of the world famous caves in the region. We also passed the turn off for Lipica, the home of the Lipizzaner stallions, where we also planned on returning to on our trip to Croatia.

Finally we descended to the coast and in to Italy. Nothing materially changed, but our hypersensitive psyches sensed that the people were a little more rushed and not so keen on foreigners. The outskirts of Trieste were fine, but as we headed toward the city center and the harbor it became more crowded and not so fine. We navigated to the harbor area and found a parking lot. Mo had a call from nature so I hung in the lot with the car. A few minutes late a couple of Italian parking attendants came up to me to inform me that this was a pay lot. We chatted a little utilizing their bad English and my no-Italian. Then one of the attendants, kind of out of no where said, Do you like George Bush. Not wanting to perjure myself in a foreign country I admitted that I wasnt fond of him and that he was not going to get a Christmas card from me this year. With out hesitation he said, Ok, you can park for free, and walked away.

When Mo returned we took a short walk around the harbor area and took advantage of a free tour through an old Italian navy sailing vessel. With that completed we decided that we were ready to go back to Slovenia. This was not a difficult thing to do since Trieste had basically been carved out of Slovenia after WWI and given to the Italians. While the Slovenians are a clear minority now, post WWII Trieste represented the largest Slovenia population center in the world, even greater than Ljubljana. Incidentally the third largest Slovenia population center is Cleveland. When the Italians lost WWII the Yugoslavian dictator Tito took control (for 40 days) until the Americans and British established a military rule. Finally in 1954 it was given outright to the Italians in spite of an election result 60% to 40% opposing the gift to Italy.

History sometimes has a way of righting itself. The port of Koper and the small harbor of Izola were given to the Slavs and ultimately to Slovenia and is now by far more successful than Trieste.

Past history aside we were ready to make modern history. An hour later we parked near the city center in Izola and walked to the end of the peninsula along the small Luka Pivan Harbor with its outdoor restaurants and shops. There are only two hotels in Izola and one was at the end of the harbor looking out west in to the Adriatic. Our karma was good and we found a second story room (there were only three) at the Marina Hotel with a spectacular view along a dock that pointed straight west in to the setting sun.













View from the front of the hotel


















9/24/2007 Izola, Slovenia: After breakfast got a map and directions to a bike shop in town where we could rent bikes. It was about a mile walk but found the shop no problem. The proprietor was another super friendly Slovak who wanted more than anything to set us up with the right bikes, bikes that would fulfill our hopes and dreams. Mos bike was not only adequate for the ride, but could have performed in a 4th of July parade. It had bells, horns and all kinds of fancy gadgets, but no suspension. My bike had fewer accessories, but did have shocks.

The bike shop owner suggested a trail that followed a turn of the century small gauge rail track south across the peninsula to the Piran salt-pans. The path started out on a quiet road just outside of town, but soon turned to a dirt and grass path through small vineyards and fruit orchards.


It climbed above Luka Pivan Harbor so that we would look back at the marina.



The old track took us through a tunnel and out on the south side of the peninsula. From there it was a long gradual down hill through more vineyards, orchards and bamboo groves. We finally landed in a small town where Elvis was apparently hiding out selling compact economy Italian cars to Slovenians.

Outside of town we passed stone sculpture yard where pieces were in various stages of completion. The most impressive was an 8X10 bearded head chiseled out of lime stone.

We had a rough map and did pretty well navigating, but after a few wrong turns decided to seek help at pension on the coast. The place was basically closed down, but the owner got us a table, beer and a better map. We sat under a grape vine shrouded veranda and relaxed for a while enjoying the view.


We finally made it to the Piran Salt Pans, also know in ancient times as the Placitum of Risano. Salt was first panned here in the 804 AD, but they point out it was modernized in 1358. The salt pans are still producing, and in the name of historical preservation, they still use the same techniques developed in the 1300s. After our tour of the pans we reversed course and headed back to Izola.

We got back to the bike store in the afternoon and walked back through town to our hotel. We had a brief rest and then ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant right on the bay a block from our hotel After dinner we decided to check out the hotels spa. Since the door to the spa was locked we enquired at the desk about getting in. The desk attendant asked if we had reservation. We indicated we didnt and the attendant asked how long we needed. We were a little baffled until the attendant explained that the entire spa designed as a romantic retreat and only one couple at a time used it. There just happened to be an hour slot open right now so we took it. The spa was spacious with a hot tub, sauna, showers and massage area. The stairs leading up to the hot tub pool were lined on each side with about 40 candles.


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