I spent most of this planning my trip to Slovenia (train times, buses). A friend of my austrian father stopped by and brought desserts for us to eat.
|She made the lower right desert (has apricots) herself in the hotel|
Tuesday July 9th, 2012
I got up very early and took a train from St. Urban to Villach and then transfered to a train that would take me to Ljubljana (Slovenia).
|Villach circled with Ljubljana marked with the red tag. Bled is circled as well which is where I will stop on return trip on thursday (courtesy of google maps)|
I arrived in Ljubljana around 8 am but couldn't check in to my hotel until 2 pm. I tried going to the Modern History museum but it didn't open until 10 am so I headed into old town instead. I crossed a bridge that had dragons on it (I would later learn that Ljubljana has a dragon story).
Some Ljubljana history (courtesy of wikipedia):
"Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia and its only centre of international importance. With approximately 272,000 inhabitants, it classifies as the only Slovenian large town.
A common folk etymology has traditionally connected the name to the Slovene word ljubljena 'beloved'. The origin from the Slavic -ljub 'to love, like' was in 2007 supported as the most probable by the linguist Tijmen Pronk. The linguist Silvo Torkar argued that the name Ljubljana derives from Ljubija, the original name of the Ljubljanica River flowing through it.
The symbol of the city is the Ljubljana Dragon. It symbolises power, courage, and greatness. There are several explanations on the origin of the Ljubljana Dragon. According to the celebrated Greek legend, the Argonauts on their return home after having taken the Golden Fleece found a large lake surrounded by a marsh between the present-day towns of Vrhnika and Ljubljana. It is there that Jason struck down a monster. This monster has become the dragon that today is present on the city coat of arms and flag. It is historically more believable that the dragon was adopted from Saint George, the patron of the Ljubljana Castle chapel built in the 15th century. In the legend of Saint George, the dragon represents the old ancestral paganism overcome by Christianity. According to another explanation, related to the second, the dragon was at first only a decoration above the city coat of arms.
Around 2000 BC, the Ljubljana Marshes in the immediate vicinity of Ljubljana were settled by people living in pile dwellings. These lake-dwelling people lived through hunting, fishing and primitive agriculture. To get around the marshes, they used dugout canoes made by cutting out the inside of tree trunks.Later, the area remained a transit point for numerous tribes and peoples, among them Illyrians, followed by a mixed nation of Celts and Illyrians called the Iapydes, and then in the 3rd century BC a Celtic tribe, the Taurisci. Around 50 BC, the Romans built a military encampment that later became a permanent settlement called Iulia Aemona. In 452, it was destroyed by the Huns under Attila's orders. In the 6th century, the ancestors of the Slovenes moved in. In the 9th century, the Slovenes fell under Frankish domination.
The Napoleonic interlude saw Ljubljana as "Laybach" become, from 1809 to 1813, the capital of the Illyrian Provinces. In 1815, the city became Austrian again and from 1816 to 1849 was the administrative centre of the Kingdom of Illyria in the Austrian Empire. In 1895, Ljubljana, then a city of 31,000, suffered a serious earthquake measuring 6.1 degrees Richter. Some 10% of its 1,400 buildings were destroyed, although casualties were light.
In 1918, following the end of World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the region joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.]In 1929, Ljubljana became the capital of the Drava Banovina, a Yugoslav province.In 1941, during World War II, Fascist Italy occupied the city, and on 3 May 1941 made "Lubiana" the capital of an Italian "Provincia di Lubiana". After the Italian capitulation, Nazi Germany took control in 1943] but formally the city remained the capital of an Italian province until 9 May 1945. The city was surrounded by over 30 kilometres (19 mi) of barbed wire to prevent co-operation between the resistance movement that operated within and outside the fence.
After World War II, Ljubljana became the capital of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, part of Communist Yugoslavia, a status it retained until 1991, when Slovenia became independent. Ljubljana remained the capital of Slovenia, which entered the European Union in 2004."
As you can see, Slovenia has a somewhat complex history and has only been an independent country since 1991. Below are some views of the city (also as a note I won't be able to have all the accents on letters that slovenian names and places should have; especially on the z's).
What is this? A market?! As I passed by a group of people I heard a tour guide say that the market is divided into two sections. One side is textiles and the other side is produce.
|Textile side of Market|
|So many clothes! I got lost in the sea of clothes!|
|Hey look! Its the lift to the castle.|
Ljubljana Castle (inclusive ticket: 5 euros)
I got a student discount for my ticket but it still seemed well priced. As always, I enjoy the lift (also known as panoramic funicular railway) rides up to the castles.
My ride up and the view of the cityThe Ljubljana castle is a bit interesting for the fact that the city decided not to leave it as just a ruin but to build a modern maze of stairs in the lower inside of the castle that leads up into a plaza with modern restaurants/cafes built into the castle facade. Apparently there had even been plans at one point in the past to completely demolish the ruins and build a modern cultural center. According to my brochure it calls the refurbished castle a "medieval fortress with a new attractive image" which I'm not sure is a sentiment I agree with.
There are also several art galleries (the arts seems to be an obsession in Ljubljana in general) in the castle but I noticed one exhibit charges an extra admission fee.
|Entryway into courtyard|
I started out in the tower where the castle chapel is located at the bottom. Before I hit the main stairs of the tower I waited for about 20 mins so I could watch the 'Virtual Castle'. The virtual castle is basically a video reviewing the history of Ljubljana castle which I found somewhat interesting. The video is in English but they had headphones for people who spoke other languages. Much of the history that was given is similar to what I have listed above for the history of Ljubljana although the Virtual Castle presented in a fun way. After the video I started climbing the stairs.
|View of city from top of tower|
|View of courtyard from tower|
|More view of city from tower.|
|Stairs going up and down. It is actually a bit of a clever design since there are separate stairs to go up and down but they are layered on top of each other in the same spiral.|
|Chapel at the bottom of the tower|
|Closer view of altar|
|Window in Chapel. I rather like the light in this photo|
|My expensive glass of orange juice.|
|Another view of the plaza.|
The castle also has a Slovenian History exhibition which I went through. They separated Ljubljana's (and Slovenia's) history into these major sections: Prehistory and the Roman Period, Middle Ages and Early Modern Times, Long Nineteenth Century and World War I, Kingdom of Yugoslavia and World War II, Socialist Yugoslavia, and Independent Slovenia.
I learned that during WWII Slovenia had been controlled in different sections by Italy, Germany, and Hungary. The descriptions of these occupations sounded terrible. However I'm not sure if Socialist Yugoslavia was any better for Slovenia. The museum seemed to touch more lightly on this subject but I have had heard enough stories of people disappearing that it sounded like another turbulent time for Slovenians.
Another part I found interesting was the slight differences in history according to Slovenians when compared to Austrians. As I was skimming through the information I noticed this paragraph about WWI (note that Carinthia is a region in Austria; Carinthia is actually the area I'm located in on the border of Italy and Slovenia):
"One of the myths of the Carinthian nationalist historiography also involved the fights of Carinthian brambovci (defense fighters) against the Slovenian/Yugoslave 'aggression'. They allegedly enabled the plebiscite to be held, thereby contributing decisively to its outcome, i.e. the major part of Carinthia remaining within the borders of the Republic of Austria."
It then went on to describe the Hungarian/Slovenian border but I puzzled over the first paragraph for awhile. Why say that and then not mention how the border with Austria was formed...
While I have learned that WWI history can be complicated here, it seems that WWII history far surpasses WWI in comparison. Everyone wants to say what was done to them by others but no one seems to want to say what they did to other people. While many were oppressed in Slovenia it is important to keep in mind not all Slovenians were against the Nazis and some were willing to work for them (same as in Austria, they had many concentration camps but often it is not talked about or the blame is fostered on Germany). That is why WWII history is so bitter here, why do you want to talk about a war that split villages/towns and families onto different sides?
|statue of virgin mary|
|Pins made for the liberation of Slovenia in WWII|
I left the castle and took the lift back down the 'hill'. The market was still in full swing so I bought a pastry from a food cart and then later ended up buying a dress (I had to go into a tent and try it on in a small square of curtains; then owner of the dresses held up a big mirror and tried to flatter me).
|My Skutni Zavitek? A sort of ricotta like filling.|
|Woman making flower bouquets. Very common site to see. I tried to unobtrusively take a photo of her table.|
|Beautiful lace, not cheap though.|
|Walking over the Three Bridges. Its a very popular bridge and the tourist information center actually sits right next to it.|
Since it was still a little to early to check in to my hotel I went into the restaurant area of the hotel (City hotel) to get some lunch. I noticed they had some asparagus soup so I thought I would try some.
|Asparagus soup, slovenian style. Didn't taste as fresh as my last asparagus soup but not bad.|
Once checked in I then met up with a slovenian contact of mine (there is a story behind that, you can ask me if you are interested). She took me to what is called the 'Skyscraper' which is 13 stories tall. According to wiki "construction began in July 1930 and the building opened on 21 February 1933. It was for some time the tallest residential building in Europe."
|View from Skyscraper after an intense rain storm.|
While we were up on top of the Skyscraper we peered through a list of people who had the same last name of my great grandfather and great grandmother and who lived in the villages my great grandmother and great grandfather had left. It was only five names but my slovenian contact tried one of the numbers (she speaks slovenian) and we got a woman who had married into the family we were trying to contact and she didn't know anything that could help us.
Hoping that my visit tomorrow to my great grandparents villages would be successful we left to walk the city (thunderstorm had ended).
|I can't quite remember what this building is...I thought it looked quite majestic though|
|Me in front of the capitol building (with naked statues?). Apparently a mayor of Italy was there so security was a little higher than normal. And yes, that is the dress I bought in the market earlier that day.|
|The lane leading up to Park Tivoli. Apparently quite popular in the spring to walk in the afternoon.|
|View from top of Park Tivoli|
|Two different types of pehtranova. The one on the left is cinnamon flavored and the one on the right is more herb flavored.|
My slovenian contact was a little afraid she was walking me too much but she wanted to also take me to the cemetery. She decided we should use the bus.
|On a inter-city bus in Slovenia|
|My slovenian contact and I together|
There is also a chapel for foreigners (to leave candles) if they do not have a gravesite to visit or do not know where their family graves are.
|Chapel for foreigners.|
|Me on the side of the chapel for foreigners trying to light a candle|
|After learning how to properly use a lighter (obviously I don't smoke) it was lite!|
|The lite candles. Mine is on the right, my slovenian contact's is on the left. I learned that different colors have different meanings. White candles are often for ummarried women or children. I was told that red had been a good choice.|
|The cement next to the grass. Apparently on "All Saint's Day" the candles for the foreigner's chapel overspills onto the cement. The black marks are where the cement was melted from the heat of all the candles.|
|Area of the cemetery for nuns and priests of the Franciscan (?) order|
|Some impressive graves. I was told it was custom to spend a lot of money on graves.|
|A very expensive family memorial.|
My slovenian contact and I headed back into the city where we decided to go get some dinner at the Ljubljana Castle's restaurant.
Instead of taking the lift up we walked up a small steep path to the castle.
|City view from pathway|
Our dishes arrived and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY!
|My polenta corn dish, sitting in some sort of flour sauce with squash blossom, cheese, and slices of zucchini.|
AND WHY IS MY SLOVENIAN CONTACT'S DISH SO MUCH SMALLER!
|My slovenian contact ordered sardines with some mashed potatoes (not like U.S. mashed potatoes) on the side|
*LOOKS BACK AT MY DISH*
|Again... looks good, but so big..|
If I had been a guest at someone's house and this had been served I would have had to have eaten all of it even if it hurt. Luckily my slovenian contact understood (she is australian) and also thought the dish was unusually large. I managed to wolf down about 75% of it but with its heavy starch content it defeated me. We had to make sure though that we told our waiter that I liked it and that I did not finish not because I didn't like it but that it was a full meal (didn't want the chef to take offence). I also learned that you never cross your silverware on your plate when you are done eating. It communicates to the chef that you didn't like the food. You have to leave you silverware parallel to each other on the plate.
We left the restaurant happy and full.
|Pathway back down the 'hill'. The bridge before this path was surprisingly not lit even though this pathway was. It was deceptively steep though so those railings are there for a reason.|
|Me at the dragon bridge|
Earlier my slovenian contact had gotten a call that some Americans were doing trivia night at the Patrick's Irish Pub so we swung by to see. Her friends were not there but some U.S. embassy employees were. Some of the U.S. embassy employees were actually slovenians so English was there second language. They spoke well though .
|Can see another trivia team in the corner|
|Me with part of my team.|
|Sign for the bar|
Wednesday July 10th, 2012
I woke up early and got some of the hotel's complimentary breakfast.
|Probably not very healthy but I was curious at what the crepe might taste like. Turned out to be a hazelnut frosting (way to thick to be a cream) that went with it.|
My plan was to go the bus station located next to the train station to catch a bus to Hotedrsica (the village my great grandmother was born in) and check the addresses I had to see if I was related to any of them. Then later in the afternoon I would take a bus back in the direction of Ljubljana but stop in Vrhnika and walk to Stara Vrhnika (where my great grandfather was born) to check for relations.
|Hotedrsica is the red marker. You can just see Vrhnika to the right of it. Stara Vrhnika is just located north of Vrhnika (courtesy of google maps).|
I planned to take the 8:15 am bus and bought my ticket and dutifully waited before 8:15 where my bus was suppose to come in and leave (the bus station has different spots with numbers hanging above it where buses roll in and out of). A bus came in at the correct row at 8:10 but then the bus driver left and didn't come back till 8:20 where he proceeded to tell me I had the right lane but that I had missed the bus. Considering I had been waiting since 8 am and had checked each bus before him I looked at him incredulously. "Your bus left at 8:15 am, I leave at 8:30. You missed your bus." Frustrated I went back to the bus ticket office where they proceeded to yell at me for missing the bus. They did however give me a new ticket but they circled the time and the lane the bus was coming in to while I fumed for being treated like a child (after talking to my slovenian contact we figure the bus rolled in to another lane. It isn't suppose to happen but when it is very busy it can happen. She almost missed a bus that way and only because she spoke slovenian did she hear the bus drivers complaining and realize that her bus was in a different lane then the one on her ticket). Since the next bus wasn't until 10:15 am I pretty much staked out the train station so that the ticket office couldn't possibly complain that I wasn't around to catch my bus.
Luckily when a bus rolled in around 10:10 into the lane that matched my ticket it was the right bus and the driver nodded at me when I showed him my ticket.
The bus ride to Hotedrsica was about 53 mins long and I arrived at a small stop in a small village. I didn't have much of a plan other than trying the addresses that had been found by my slovenian contact.
|Creek running through village|
|Field next to the road|
The first house I tried a old slovenian woman answered the door but it was obvious she didn't speak English and when I tried to show her my family tree she just shook her head. Thanking her in Slovenian I turned around and headed to the sole other address I had for Hotedrsica.
I didn't have much hope. I had only been in the village for about 25 mins and already my address list had been cut in half.
I had to stop for a few times to ask for directions. Luckily the both people spoke English (younger Slovenians typically do) and directed me to the other far end of the village to a cluster of newer houses. As I approached my last address and started to walk up the driveway I ran into a neighbor of the address I was looking for and he asked me what I was doing (he also spoke English). I told him I was from the U.S. and was trying to track down relatives to my great grandmother who was born in Hotedrsica. He asked if I had contacted anyone and I told him that I only had addresses of people I wasn't even sure where relatives. He told me he was also doing a search for his family and that he would help me and that I should come into his house.
Apparently he and his family only had moved in about 4 years ago so they were not so familiar with the history of the village but they did know the people in the village. The looked at my family tree I had brought and recognized some names and started calling people. I also had some old photos on my iphone that I showed them and they thought one of the woman looked familiar. They drew out a tree of what they knew of the family.
I was taken over to another house where they told me there was a woman who would know more information (the neighbor turned into my english translator). Turned out that woman was my grandmother's cousin! I met her daughter and granddaughters and when I showed them my family tree and some photos they began to draw their own family trees for me as well as filling in other parts of the tree. There was one area of major discrepancy between what I had and what they knew and I'm still trying to clarify what happened to one of my great grandmother's brothers (one of the granddaughters gave me her contact information). They helped identify some people in the photos I had.
|Me with my third cousins, my mother's second cousin, and my grandmother's cousin|
They told me that the photo of my great grandmother in front of the chapel was when my great grandmother put money into the chapel. From what I understood before my great grandmother left Hotedrsica to go to the U.S. she wanted to leave something of herself in the village because she was proud of her village. Since she had some money (wasn't explained where the money came from) she put money into having a chapel built. When I asked if she was the only one who put money into the chapel the mentioned that no, others going to Argentina had too.
Looking at my list of addresses they explained that the addresses I had were indeed relations to the main family tree of my great grandmothers and drew out the trees. They even looked at the adresses for my great grandfather's village and said those were also relatives of mine (they said they were "third generation"). Then they told me we were going to the old house and chapel.
As we approached the house I realized we were back in front of the house I had initially visited. Apparently at one time the house of my great grandmother had been torn down and new house had been built in exactly the same sport (the number of the house had changed when it was rebuilt).
My translator told me as my grandmother's cousin headed into the house that we were going to the chapel. Confused I followed him across the property over a small bridge to a bright yellow chapel. I had never realized the chapel was so close to the original house or even that it was still strongly present.
|Great Grandmother (she has the label on her) standing in front of the chapel|
|Me in front of the chapel, still somewhat bewildered|
|Inside of chapel|
|Me, chapel, and 'new' house on old plot|
|My great grandmother's brother is the young boy second from the far right|
|I was told this was an important photo but no one knows who is in it (looks like wedding?)|
After examining some photos my translator took me out to lunch and told me about some of the items on the menu. I decided to go for some minestra (minestrone) soup since it sounded like a safe bet in a meat filled selection and I thought there was a much better chance I would be able to eat all of it. My translator seemed worried that I wouldn't like the dish and kept asking if I liked it as I was eating it. He thought since it was an old Slovenian dish it wouldn't appeal to me (he seemed to have been under the impression that I must of eaten McDonalds in Ljubljana). It was actually quite good and even more enjoyable when he informed me this minestra was regional to the area and would of been a main dish during my great grandmother's time.
|Surprisingly good soup (had some carrots, potatoes, some sort of ground meat, etc.)|
|My translator and I|
He shared a little with me about his family and before long I was being packed onto the last bus to Ljubljana with some homemade sausage. Because of this I didn't have time to stop by Stara Vrhnika the village of my great grandfather (nor did I have the emotional energy) but I was comforted with the knowledge that the addresses I had were relatives and that I could still make another trip to try to find them later this summer.
I arrived back in Ljubljana and spent the evening with my slovenian contact who took me around the city again.
|The University I think?|
|Other side of the plaza from the University|
|Ruins of an old monastery in a performance area. For some reasons Ljubljana officials like doing modern new buildings in the middle of old ruins.|
|Fountain at night|
|My prekmurska givanica|
I went to bed tired but highly satisfied.
Thursday July 12th, 2012
Thursday I enjoyed a little bit of a lie-in before eating some breakfast and checking out of the hotel. I caught a train heading in the direction of Villach but hopped of at the Lesce stop where I took a bus to Lake Bled (it seems I'm becoming somewhat familiar with slovenian buses).
|For your convenience again (courtesy of google maps).|
What you should know about Lake Bled is that it is highly commercialized tourist spot. So much so in fact that I had to fend of taxis trying to pick me up at the Lesce train stop so I could catch the bus instead (cheaper that way).
Lake Bled boasts of and island that has a church on it while the town Bled has a castle and a church (of course, always more churches).
Quick Bled history (wikipedia):
"A settlement area since Mesolithic times, Bled was first mentioned asUeldes (Veldes) within the March of Carniola on April 10, 1004. Bled is known for the glacial Lake Bled, which makes it a major tourist attraction. Perched on a rock overlooking the lake is the iconic Bled Castle. A small island in the middle of the lake is home to the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church; visitors frequently ring its bell for good luck. Human traces from prehistory have been found on the island. Before the church was built, there was a temple consecrated to Živa, the Slavic goddess of love and fertility. One can get to the island on a traditional wooden row barge called Pletna. The island on Lake Bled has 99 steps. A local tradition at weddings is for the husband to carry his new bride up these steps, during which the bride must remain silent."
I probably could of spent a whole day in Bled but I was mostly interested in visiting the island on Lake Bled (I was still battling with emotional exhaustion from the day before so five hours wandering Bled didn't seem terribly appealing).
|View of Bled from other side of the lake|
|The island (which I want to reach!).|
#1 Don't leave until at least half the boat is filled and often wait another ten minutes for possible extra people (thus if you go up to the pletna driver and ask when he will leave he will shrug his shoulders and tell you when more people show up)
#2 Only give you a half hour on the island before you have to leave (I read online that if you ran late that you would have to pay the fee twice, one to the guy who brought you over and the other to the guy who would have to bring you back. Interestingly enough though my pletna driver didn't collect his fee until we were ready to leave the island.
#3 It isn't a cheap boat ride. The signs they had up said 12 euros per person although my pletna driver only charged 10 euros (maybe he was happy there was a lot of people on the boat?)
|Very clear water, can you see the fishes?|
|Me on the pletna with not a terribly good expression. At least its better than my neighbor's expression :D|
|Approaching the island|
We reached the island and the race began to explore the island in 30 mins. It is not a very big island but it is hard to appreciate the nooks and crannies in that amount of time. There is a gift shop on the island as well as some sort of small cafe I think.
|The tower which you can not enter|
There was an entrance fee to the church (an additional 3 euros) which smacked of tourism prices to me but I paid it and entered the church. If you look closely you can see a rope which you can pull to ring the bells.
|Me at the dock. For some reason it seemed impossible to get a photo of me with both the lake and the castle in the background (even though the castle is right above me in this photo, just out of the frame).|
|Virgin Mary statue at dock. Is that a well of some sort beneath her?|
|The pletnas waiting|
|The homemade sausage I got the day before. Finally getting around to eating it.|
Friday June 13th, 2012
I spent most of the day writing of my experiences and sending many emails to my poor mother who was overwhelmed with photos from Hotedrsica. I also wrote up my thoughts and that part of the trip and started writing this blog post. My austrian father arrived at home bringing bread and some of those delicious sticky bun treats (w/o the nuts) that are so amazingly sweet.
|Finally learned the name of this. Its a type of reindling. Reindl describes the high pan it is made in and this is a reinkerl (bascially means a small reindling).|
Saturday June 14th, 2012
Around noon my austrian father arrived at the house with all the kids in tow (he went to pick them up from camp, there was no room in the car for me to go with him *sad face*). We had some lunch (more reinkerls appeared courtesy of my austrian grandparents) and then took the kids to their respective places (two of my austrian siblings go to another camp tomorrow, austrian cousin goes somewhere else, etc.). My austrian father and I swung by the grocery store where we picked up beer and more food to weather the appetites of my older austrian brother and his friends (who were dropping by later in the day).
I continued to write this blog post and now I am finished. Yay!
As of right now (evening) we are experiencing heavy rain and thunderstorms (not unusual). My older austrian brother and his friends are also trying to have a barbecue on the lake. My austrian father guesses that right now they are huddled on the front porch of the hut waiting out the rain but if that is the case they will have to wait all night. :D