|December 28, 2010
Today we got the bus to Ljubljana so after checking out and having breakfast, we headed down to the bus station, which is amazingly closer than the distance we had to walk on our arrival here! It is so handy knowing the right place to go! The bus ride to the capital took just over an hour and some of the scenery through the Julian Alps was wonderful. Although the surrounding area of the bus was quite flat the mountains in the distance were snow-capped and made a great backdrop throughout much of the journey.
We arrived in Ljubljana and had a short walk to our hostel where we were able to check in, dump our bags and head out to find some lunch. We found a nice pizza place called Foculus and we ordered two large pizzas which were much to be but which we fought our way through regardless!
We hung out back at the hostel for the afternoon but in the evening we met up with one of the guys I “knew” from one of the Palace websites. Dave and his wife, Sabina, had flown up from Macedonia today and we met them at a local bar called Cutty Sark and enjoyed some of the local beer and had a great time chatting and getting some tips on other things to do here and in other places we’re planning on going to. After a fair while, we were getting hungry so we headed to a bar called Kratochwill which brews their own beer. The bar had stopped serving food but we stopped for a quick beer before heading out again. Elizabeth and Sabina went and grabbed some food and Dave and I headed to the flat where they were staying while they were in Ljubljana. We’d got some beer to take away from the bar and Elizabeth and Sabina soon returned with bureks for all of us. Bureks are a meat or cheese filled pastry and these ones were massive. I couldn’t manage all of mine but I certainly tried hard! After just chatting and listening to some music we realised it was almost 1am so we thought we should head back and get some sleep! It was really nice to hang out with some new friends and to meet some more Palace fans, too!
December 29, 2010
We weren’t in a rush to get up this morning although I didn’t sleep very well. I’d stayed up until about 3am listening to the end of the cricket and it seemed that around 7am everyone’s alarms were going off but no-one was getting up and everyone was pressing snooze. It was really annoying hearing alarms going off and no-one moving so I gave up and got up. Elizabeth was starting to get a bit of a cold and so I let her have a lie in and waited for her to wake up before we had breakfast.
After some food we walked around the main square and up to the castle. It was a nice walk through the old town and along the river. We’d walked past some of it last night with Dave and Sabina but it looked a lot different during the day. We walked up to the castle rather than taking the easy way out and taking the funicular and it certainly made us feel better for the exercise! The castle was really cool looking and provided some lovely views over the city. The city is not as pretty as some we have seen recently, like Vienna, Salzburg and, particularly, Bled, but it still showed signs of the past. Inside the castle there were a number of displays and museums which looked really modern compared to the castle itself but they had kept the old “windows” and merely covered the holes in plexiglass which meant that the inner rooms we visited were light and airy. We didn’t go into the museum here as it covered the entirety of Slovenia’s history and we’d decided to go to a different museum covering just contemporary history which we were both more interested in. It was nice to walk around the castle and get some views but it didn’t take too long before we were on our way down.
We took a slightly different, longer, route down but it still left us close to the centre and by this point we were getting a little hungry. The trouble with eating so much is that you always feel hungry! We decided to get something lighter and decided to look for a sandwich shop, eventually finding one called Smith’s. Although we eat a fair bit of bread and sandwiches we make ourselves, it is nice to have a wider choice of fillings and someone else to make it for us!
After that we just had a walk around a bit more of the town before heading back to the hostel. I know I’ve mentioned this but it is nice at times not to have much to do and to feel like you can look around, see all you want to and have plenty of time to relax, too.
In the evening we went out for a really nice Thai meal. The food was great but the service was absolutely awful. The waitresses were much more interested in chatting to each other and after waiting about 15 minutes at an empty table, we eventually went to them and asked for the bill. At least I didn’t feel bad about not leaving a tip! After dinner we headed back to the old town to look around some of the Christmas market stalls and I decided to try a mulled wine which was certainly a good way to warm me up. It wasn’t too late so we stopped for a quick beer at the Cutty Sark on the way back to the hostel, too.
At the hostel we found that the place had filled up. Our 6 bed room had been filled by four friendly Aussies who were living in London and had just come away for New Year. The adjoining 8 bed dorm room had been filled by a group of 8 loud, annoying Italians. We were meeting up with Dave and another of my friends tomorrow so we weren’t bothered about having a late night so while everyone else went out, we just lazed in our beds and read. The Aussie guys came back and were really quiet but the Italians were back later and a bit noisier. It gets worse though…
December 30, 2010
We got up this morning and had breakfast and fought over the shower. Notice I said shower. Singular. If anyone did their maths from what I said last night, you’ll realise that this one shower was to be shared by 14 people. There was a separate toilet, too, but that was to be shared by 16 people as the sole private room had a shower but not a toilet. So, one shower between 14 and one toilet between 16. Pretty annoying. In many ways we were thankful the shower was in our part of the dorm so we could see when it was empty so I was able to jump in and get ready to go out fairly easily. It helped that the noisy Italians were mostly still asleep and weren’t joining the queue!
Just after 11 we headed to the bar we had been to with Dave and Sabina on Tuesday night, Kratochwill. Here we met up with both of them as well as another of my Palace friends, Ian from Vicenza, and his girlfriend, Elisa. I hadn’t seen Ian for at least 4 years so it was great to be able to catch up again. Dave had a meeting to go to so Sabina gave the four of us a mini-tour of the city including a couple of the old churches and the indoor and outdoor food markets! This of course made me feel hungry and eventually we strolled back to the bar and met Dave and got some lunch. Elizabeth, Dave and I shared a massive dish called a “Balkan Plate” which was various meats and sauces and bread. It was absolutely massive and way too much food for three people! We sat and chatted for ages and it was good to be with such nice company. Ian and Elisa had even bought us a present – an almond sugary sweet thing, which was like nougat but much, much harder! It was such a nice gesture. They’d driven in from Vicenza just for the day and it had taken them about 3 hours to get here so they didn’t want to stay too late. We had a walk back into the centre with them so they could see the markets and castle lit up and then e said our goodbyes. I think Elizabeth is starting to really appreciate the “Palace family” now, too, as we’ve met so many great people as we’ve travelled and the Palace fans we’ve met are certainly amongst that group and so very welcoming.
Back at the hostel we arrived to see a 40 odd year old Italian kicking a ball around the dorm room and when it bashed into our door for the umpteenth time Elizabeth asked them to stop, a not unreasonable request. Of course, this just made them louder vocally and all we could hear was cackling. The Aussies arrived back almost immediately afterwards and one of the girls asked if we’d seen the computer at reception. We said we hadn’t and she told us they had put a pornographic image on the screen and left it there. This computer faces the doorway so anyone coming in could see it. A couple of times the owner had been in with her two younger daughters and it could so easily have been them who had come through the door. Needless to say, the group of old-enough-to-know-better Italians thought they were all hilarious. I’m far from being a prude and this kind of stuff does not bother me but I felt compelled to let the owner know. Thankfully they soon went out and as the Aussies had had a long day they were having an earlier night. We were planning a later night tomorrow so we too just hung out in the room and chatted to them and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
December 31, 2010
Let’s start with a good thing. Well, it is good for us, anyway, but will probably annoy the shit out of the rest of you! Today is exactly 18 months since we last worked and means we have now completed the entire of 2010 as unemployed bums.
And now a bad. At around 3am the Italians came back. We’d closed the door between the two dorms which meant unless one of them wanted a shower they had no reason to come into our room let alone open the door. However, the ageing, balding, football-kicking idiot from earlier decided that would be a silly idea and so, with the light on next door, he opened our door and walked right in before turning back to his room and started having a shouting conversation with someone in there. I told him to get the f**k out and at least he took that sound bit of advice before I got off my bunk and kicked him out, literally. It was so obvious they’d only come in the room to wake us up and annoy us and given their age, it was completely ridiculous and disrespectful to all the people in our room.
When I got up around 9am I ensured that I slammed the doors to the rooms as I left and this of course woke them all up. One of them was so annoyed he was banging on the toiler door and swearing at me! It was petty, it was immature, but it was good to know I’d annoyed them as much as they’d annoyed us! When the receptionist arrived she was really embarrassed and apologetic about their behavior and promised to let the manager know. In fact, the receptionist said she had problems with them the day before, too, when they refused to move from her desk so she could do her job!
We got ready and headed out, trying as much as possible to ignore the moaning and whining of the Italians. We headed to the Museum of Contemporary History. There was hardly anyone around as we walked through Tivoli Park to the museum and there were even less people at the museum! The security guard/receptionist/ticket seller didn’t speak much English but she managed enough to point us in the direction of the beginning of the exhibits! The museum detailed the history of the country and the region from the turn of the 20th century up until the return of an independent Slovenia in 1991 when Yugoslavia broke apart. The early part of the museum was quite well done with the background surrounding the territory of Slovenia and how it aligned itself with Croatia and Serbia and how the combined country is accused of the event which triggered the First World War. It didn’t talk too much about the murder of Franz Ferdinand but it did have a fair bit of information about the war itself, include a large number of artifacts. The years in between the World Wars and the Second World War were talked about in quite a bit of depth, too, but it was after WWII that the museum was really lacking. The museum only briefly mentioned Tito (a Slovene Croat who led the country for about 35 years after the war) and skipped over almost the entire period of communism in Yugoslavia. The united Yugoslavia had initially agreed to side with Stalin’s Russia but Tito stood up to them and created his own dictatorship without the lead from Moscow. Apart from a short biography of Tito, a load of pictures of him visiting random places around the country and a bust or two of Stalin, most of this history was over-looked. There was a lot more on the two years leading up to independence for Slovenia between 1989 and 1991 than there was about the 35 years of Tito. The museum also had a collection of what it referred to as textiles and although this usually means a load of clothing or hand-knitted handkerchiefs, this exhibit actually included a load of banners and flags and scarves (as well as uniforms) used by various organisations. These items were initially collected over the last twenty years and covered the period of history over that term, too. However, the museum has now searched for and acquired a number of much older items and these are on display, too. Prior to the 1991 independence there was no set measurements for the Slovenian flag and some of them from the period in between 1940 and 1990 varied quite a bit although the basic design of red, blue and white with a star in the centre was always the same. The flags and banners were well displayed and were raised with a mirror underneath so you could easily see both sides. Some of the details and stitching on them was unbelievable and people must’ve spent ages making some of them. Overall though, the museum was a little lacking, mainly due to almost skipping 35 years of history, but was worth a visit if only to take up a couple of hours or so!
After the museum we walked to the train station to buy our tickets to Zagreb for Sunday. I didn’t expect the trains to be busy but it is always nice to know you have a ticket and that you aren’t waiting in a queue the day your train is due to leave! We stopped at one of the kebab shops opposite the station for lunch and got ourselves a nice, chilli-sauce covered kebab and enjoyed being in the warm for a short while! Given it was so cold we decided we didn’t want to walk around all day, especially as we were going to be outside tonight, so we picked up a bottle of wine and went back to the hostel to start the party early! We got back and heated up the wine and it was pretty tart so I dumped a load of sugar in and made it marginally more drinkable! The manager of the hostel was there and she apologised again and explained she’d written the group a note to explain that their actions were not appropriate.
That calm didn’t last long though as the Italians soon came back, noisily, and dumped their stuff in the kitchen where we were sat and, of course, saw the note aimed at them. We didn’t want to sit and listen to them shouting in the kitchen so we left them to it and went back to our room to get ready to go out for dinner. We didn’t have a reservation anywhere so we didn’t want to leave it too late before we went out. We’d planned on just going for a pizza but when we got to Foculus it was closed and the Thai place we’d eaten at was likewise. We headed down to the old town as there were more restaurants around there and we quickly found an Indian restaurant which looked to have room. Inside, we were told we could have a table in about 10 minutes but given we didn’t have a reservation we had to be out by 9pm. Given it was only just gone 7pm this was easy enough so we grabbed a menu and decided what we wanted while we waited. We had two really good curries and two massive naan breads and were done just after 8pm. As we left, another couple were waiting and were told they could have the empty table but now they only had 45 minutes! Gotta be quick!
We had a walk around the old town and had a glass of mulled wine before heading back to the hostel. It was just after 9pm and we didn’t want to stand outside in the cold so we thought we’d have an hour or so warming up before heading out again. We had been joined in our room by four Swiss guys as the Aussies had left and they seemed fairly friendly and chatty. They had been asleep this afternoon when we had originally came back and we’d made sure we kept quiet and let them rest hoping they’d afford us the same respect later on tonight! When we got back this time, all the Italians were asleep, presumably having a nap before going out to party for midnight. They got really annoyed with us walking through their room but it was only bloody 9pm! Given their lack of quiet in the middle of the night, I’m not going out of my way to be quiet at reasonable hours because they want a nap!
At 10pm we headed out again. The old town was getting a bit busier and so we just strolled around, drank wine and chatted. At around 11.30pm we decided we’d try and find a good spot to see the fireworks from and it seemed this was a good time for lots of people to do the same. The bars and restaurants started to empty and everyone was out on the streets by the time midnight came.
January 1, 2011
Happy New Year!
The fireworks in the city were set off from behind the castle and were really excellent, the setting and the colours were both amazing. It might not be the prettiest city in the world but they certainly pick the right place for their New Year fireworks show! By about 12.15 most people were heading away from the centre and back to their bars, restaurants, clubs or homes and we decided to be part of the latter. We’d seen in the New Year and didn’t have any desire to keep drinking all night. We got back to the hostel and were glad to find it empty and quiet. We weren’t very tired so both of us just read for a bit before going to sleep.
The sleep was rudely interrupted at about 5.30am when everyone returned. The Swiss guys had gone out with the Italians and they all returned together and were very drunk. This meant that nobody gave a shit about us and lights went on, loud conversations continued and no-one really cared otherwise. One Swiss guy managed to almost completely pull his bunk bed on top of him as he drunkenly tried to get into it and only the help of his friend stopped it completely falling on him. We asked them to be quiet as it was gone 6 by the time they settled down and we even tried explaining to them that we had been quiet and respected them this afternoon and it would be nice if they could return that. Of course, they were too drunk to care and even their “whispered” conversations were very loud. By this point, I was wide awake and just decided to switch the laptop on and watch some videos and stuff on YouTube to hopefully send me back to sleep but by about 9 I gave up and got up and showered. Elizabeth was awake, too, so I certainly didn’t go out of my way to be quiet for anyone else in the hostel.
We were going round to Dave and Sabina’s for lunch so we left the hostel around 1pm. The Swiss guys were supposed to have checked out by midday but despite the manager telling them to leave they were still there when we left. I was glad to be out of there and heading somewhere else for a break from it all. Dave cooked us a lovely full English breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, black pudding and toast and we washed it all down with beer! Looking at our recent food since we got to Ljubljana we’ve had Italian, Thai, Turkish (kebab!), Slovene, Indian and now English! Not bad for four days! After lunch Elizabeth and Sabina chatted whilst Dave and I listened to the football, which Palace lost pretty convincingly (Happy bloody New Year!), before we headed back to the hostel to pack and try and get some much needed sleep. It had been a lot of fun meeting Dave and Sabina and they’ve extended the welcome for us to stay with them when we visit Skopje, too, so that is something we’re both really looking forward to as well.
Back at the hostel the Swiss had finally left and we had four new roommates, all of whom were asleep. It was only 6pm so we reckoned they’d all be heading out later and tonight would be another annoyance. We called our families to wish them a happy new year and to catch up with everyone. It was brief but it was good to talk to them all. Amazingly, everyone was fairly quiet tonight and although the Italians and a couple of our new roommates came back late it wasn’t very noisy and I finally got a good night of sleep. Elizabeth did too and she needed it more than me as she hadn’t been feeling great as she’d started to get a cold so we were glad of some respite.