[This is the first of a number of posts about my trip to Venice. Warning: They will not necessary be in order or be related to each other, nor about Venice. You'll see why as the story unfolds... :) I'm still processing it and basking in the afterglow of it all.]
Our recent trip was enhanced when we took a day trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia -- 2 1/2 hrs by car from Venice. What a cool hip but gentle city. Lots of young people due to the university. Easy to get around. Hard to get really lost. Lots of upscale stores.
A colleague of D's made us promise to have a Union beer or two on her behalf as it was her home town. Apparently if we drink the other main brand Lasko in the city, we would be looked upon weirdly.
Later, by the coast, we did try Lasko. I think the waiter thought I was surprised by the cost because it was more than I expected when it was the opposite. Two pints and a large bottle of sparkling water was 7 euro! I thought he meant 17 euro and we would have considered that cheap as you can easily pay 12 euro for 2 espressos or 10 euro for a large beer in Venice sitting down.
Lunch was eaten in the heart of the old town a couple of store fronts by a wonderful chocolate store (more later). I wanted to try something local. The menu translation left a bit to be desired as my dish was called "roasted pork knuckles" served with potatoes and garlic.
The waitress's clarification wasn't much better but I went for it. D had a steak with an interesting brandy sauce and about a palm size hunk of baked goat cheese. There is some serious cafe culture here. Had an excellent medium bodied glass of white wine made by Vinakoper.
My meal ended up being roasted ham hocks. It was fall off the bone tender. The meal portion was huge -- I got 3 of them. And the potatoes was a a baked potatoe chunk pie held together with lots of garlic and I think cream or creamed goat cheese.
Despite my better judgement, I ate it all and followed it up (not all at once) with a large dark chocolate macademia nut bark from the above mentioned chocolate store -- 5 Euro! Would have been much much more expensive in Paris.
Slovenia is hilly and very lush. Whoever does their tourist website has done an excellent job. I was very excited to see it. While on the highway to the capital we saw numerous wind warnings and wind measuring devices found at small airports.
Apparently wind is a serious issue and highways get closed often as cars have been known to blow off the highway. Roads are in great shape otherwise. Everyone heads to their small coast on the weekends to see and be by the water so there is serious road congestion then.
We met a wonderful Slovenian lady who spoke perfect english and she painted a picture of Slovenia that was "typical" of middle class families. People get paid once a month. Average income is $1000 euro a month and typical housing expenses (rent, utilities etc) eat up $700. People dream of owning their own apartment and car. Neighbours get along as long as you car isn't better than theirs (no joke).
The government of Slovenia provides a pension equivalent to 70% of a person's income. There is universal healthcare and "free" education. There is a general aptitude test taken after highschool that will allow you to choose a professional path based on results. Like many countries, the government is trying to cut back retirement benefits.
The day we were there was "freezing" compared to the mid 30's Celcius we had been experiencing so being unprepared for 11 degrees celcius we were frantically looking to buy clothing. The main department store in town was Salvatore Ferragamo upscale so no go there. I just wanted an inexpensive pullover. We did find something that worked when we finally found a Zara.
We both were surprised by how much we enjoyed Slovenia. I've already looked up potential apartment rentals when we are ready for a return trip. If you have a chance, please go.