Monday, October 26, 2009

Ljubljana! (+ the way there)

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Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, a little country of two million people just south of Hungary. It's only about the size of Des Moines! To approximate the pronunciation, you can just pretend the Js are Is (so Liubliana) and it will be easier, although not perfect to the ears of a native Slovene speaker - I can't really even hear the L in this example. It has a German name - Laibach - but I've never heard anyone use that.

Damon's parents were visiting for a week and a half and left it up to us to plan a vacation within certain terms - it had to be by car and stay under 70 EUR per night per couple for accomodations. We hoped to make it all the way to the Adriatic sea, but driving that far and still having a nice time is a bit of a challenge. The Alps are in the way, making everything take longer, and the route takes one through the most clogged sections of the Autobahn (and right now, kilometer after kilometer of construction). They also wanted to visit a concentration camp at some point during the trip.

We got the camp out of the way immediately by visiting Dachau the first morning of the trip. For the night before, I stayed under the price limit by booking outside of Dachau (which is kind of expensive because of its proximity to Munich) at a little place called the Koanznhof north of Markt Indersdorf. The day we left a Bavarian friend of mine told me she thought it was going to snow because her toe hurt. Apparently, her toe is still tuned into Bavaria. There was no snow in Heidelberg, but there were reports of snow all over the radio on our way to Markt Indersdorf, and about 10 minutes from our destination we ran into a minute or two of pretty big hail!! The following morning, we woke up to frost on the windows.

I wrote previously about a concentration camp visit so I don't have much more to say about Dachau. It was the first camp and housed a lot of political prisoners. It has a good museum which talks about all the different groups of people who were brought there. It's enormous, though, and it's easy for a person to run through it reading only the parts they want to see and thereby maybe still not learning much. With a lot of time, though, it really is educational and thorough. We left the camera in the car.

Then it was off to Ljubljana, a 4.5 hour drive from Dachau. Loooong. We ate at a rest stop. It snowed on and off through Bavaria. In Austria, we began to pass south through the Alps and it was snowing in earnest. I had actually checked to make sure the roads would be passable at this time of year and they were, but wow! Winter just doesn't hit this soon over here in sunny Heidelberg. Luckily there wasn't much traffic. Maybe everyone else knew better and stayed home! They missed out on some beautiful snow-covered trees then.

To drive on the major roads in Austria you have to buy a special road pass. You can get them at rest stops in Germany - at least the ones near Austria. Unfortunately, the pass does not cover the enormous tolls on tunnels in the Alps. We went through at least 3 tunnels over 6km long, and two of them had tolls - I think one was 6.50 EUR and the other 9.50 or so. Brutal! The major roads in Slovenia also require a special road pass called a Vignette (Vinjeta?), also available at German rest stops.

We found an apartment in Ljubljana through Apartmaji Sobe. The apartments, though not terribly cheap, are a much better deal - by a landslide - than any hotel we could find online. Ljubljana apparently suffers from a shortage of accommodations. For stays under four nights, though, there is an additional percentage charged, up to an additional 50% for one-night stays. So, we stayed three nights in Ljubljana (an additional 10% over the base price) and made it our base. Our apartment, Martin, was conveniently located near the center and great for us with two bathrooms and two bedrooms! (And a balcony, but the weather didn't cooperate for that.) There were some parking snafus but otherwise the stay was totally problem-free.

Ljubljana Okt 09

So, about Ljubljana!

  • By a landslide, this is the most well-off looking former-East city I've seen. Shiny cars, fancy clothes and restaurants, and just a generally fresh appearance compared to Budapest, Bratislava, or even Prague or any German city in the former east.
  • To go along with that, Ljubljana is not cheap like other eastern cities. Prices in the center are the same or higher than Heidelberg prices, plus the accommodations problem I mentioned earlier. The restaurant where we ate the first night, Sokol, had jacked up its prices about 30% since the 2007 publication of our guidebook. (And the food was not worth the prices, although the atmosphere was alright!)
  • They don't seem to eat out. We had a hard time finding sit-down restaurants that weren't super touristy/expensive - but there are kajillions of cafes with just drinks/desserts, and they were all busy. We did see stands for ultra cheap not-sit-down food, but with the inlaws along this wasn't really an option for us. (By the end of the trip I was really craving one of my usual vacation doeners!!) Leaving the center might have solved this problem, but again with the inlaws they preferred to get around on foot but not get tired out, so our radius was limited. (Also, as in Bratislava, it might have raised a new problem - no English menu and a lack of a complete Slovene language food guide on us.)
  • You can see all the tourist attractions (other than museums) in less than a day. It's just that small! The castle isn't very exciting - it's very modernized - but entrance to the courtyard is free and there are nice views over the city and country from there. Even better views can be had by climbing the tower for 2 EUR. The churches were mostly locked. At the market you can talk down the prices easily.
  • See the photos for more, including lots of graffiti pictures and pictures of all the Art Nouveau buildings we checked out!

Coming soon..... we go to the coast!

2 comments:

  1. Nice!
    I run a masterclass every summer in Groznjan, Croatia, so I go through Ljubjana every year.
    Croatia is much cheaper than Slovenia.

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  2. Looks pretty cool, I'll have to get to Ljubljana sometime! I was just in Croatia last year, and a few years back I went to Slovenia for dinner. No joke... visiting a friend in Villach, he said "wanna stay in Austria, or go to Italy or Slovenia for dinner?" I said Slovenia, and he replied "OK, grab your passport, let's go."

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