Dober dan: this is hello in Slovenian, the only two words I managed to learn and pronounce during the last 6 days, which is actually not a real problem since everybody speaks either German or English. We are enjoying this country very much. And there are a lot of reasons for it:
#1 – THE PEOPLE: They are extremely friendly and welcoming, wherever you go or whatever you do, they never become impatient.
In the bakery they explain you in detail what they are selling, others tell you the way and where to go if you want to know it or not, just a quick look at a sign or a map makes them stop in the middle of a crossing, block all other traffic just to make sure we take the right route. Seriously, this happened to us. A very old guy explained us in perfect German about 3 times how to cycle, while cars had to manoeuver around us. I have to admit that this happened in a small village with not so much traffic, but still. He then finally continued his way just to stop about 500m later to make sure we are heading into the right direction. Hilarious! That very same day – we’ve been cycling most of the day uphill – we were looking for a place to camp. Knowing there are no campsites around we asked a lady working in her garden if she knew a spot where we could stay. Without much hesitation she let us stay in her garden, we could shower in her house and she even offered to cook for us! Unfortunately we had to cook ourselves since we bought fish earlier that day.
Or the gay couple walking their dog we asked for directions to a b&b who then called for us several hotels to ask the price and in the end made a reservation. What a hospitality!
#2 – THE LANDSCAPE: I think when this country was created by someone who thought given its small size, there is no space for dull landscapes or ugliness. There are only about 2 million inhabitants and sites on our map that look like small cities are small villages and you are lucky if there is a supermarket at all. But back to the landscape: it is a hilly, a very hilly or better mountainous country. We crossed the ‘Karst Mountains’ just because we didn’t know better or most likely because we were too stupid to read the map. These two days were more exhausting than crossing the Alps, first because there were extremely steep roads in between, second because it went up and down and up and down and up……..and third the length of the climbs.
Two days in a row we had to climb about 8km followed by the previous ups and downs. Nonetheless, we got rewarded by beautiful views over huge valleys, old villages…..
…and interesting insights into the Slovenian way of living and farming (grapes are still being hand-picked, we even saw a family harvesting corn without using a machine).
They also have a funny taste when it comes to house colours: Miss Piggy pink, neon green and orange, baby blue.
Finally they are enjoying flowers and gardening very much, I have never seen so many flower-decorated houses or vegetable gardens. This makes me think that the people must have a very joyous mind.
#3 – THE CITIES: Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is the biggest city with around 300k inhabitants. It feels much bigger, since there is a lot of industry and it takes about 10km from the city sign to the heart of the city. The old town has been beautifully restored and is very charming with nice small shops, bars, restaurants and loads of relaxed Slovenians. The emblem of the city is a dragon, who once got killed by the Greek hero Jason, for having stolen the Golden Fleece (if I remember correctly).
We are now in the oldest town of Slovenia, Ptuj, which joins Maribor in being Europe’s capital of culture 2012. It is very small, very old and within two hours we visited the old town and the castle with all its exhibitions. A perfect place for a rest day.