After the excitement of seeing Podsreda and visiting the graves of possible distant relatives on Wednesday, we took Thursday easy: just a tour across the Karst and coastal areas of Slovenia, including a little jaunt through a cave. You know the drill.
When Mom told me she’d booked the tour, I assumed it would be the sort of tour you usually encounter abroad: huge busload of people shepherded around to different sites, plus motion sickness in three different languages. (Not to denigrate that sort of tour! They’re fine in small doses.) Instead, we ended up in a largish car with one (1) tour guide and two (2) awesome friends traveling together from Hong Kong. A five-person tour group is more my speed, definitely. Plus, our guide for the day was funny and natural, and she taught us how to count in Slovene!
First part of our relaxing, take-it-easy-day: Škocjan Caves! Obviously, this picture was taken before the actual spelunking, because we both still have light in our eyes and the will to live. (By the bye, I got permission from Mom to share pictures of her, so no more gold-star faces!)
So, you remember how I mentioned my mom’s dislike of heights? Turns out that in Škocjan Caves, there’s a high bridge you have to cross between the first and second halves, and the entire second half involves hugging a wall over an underground river. I thought it was pretty rad–I’d like to take a book back to the quiet first half of the caves and just enjoy the cool darkness–but Mom was not in her happy place. And I have to admit, it was A LOT OF WALKING. There were more stairs than any one cave should rightly have.
But hey! We made it! The non-metaphorical light at the end of the non-metaphorical tunnel!
Considerably sweatier, but triumphant.
And as a reward for exiting the cave, we got to walk up some more stairs, in order to get to more stairs, to take a short funicular ride, to take more stairs. But stairs with gorgeous scenery, at least.
And then: HAM.
Or more correctly, prosciutto! Cave-aged prosciutto special to the Karst region, because caves make everything taste better.
These pancakes were not aged in a cave, but they were pretty delicious anyway.
When we headed back outside to resume our drive, another storm was rolling in. It held off while we briefly crossed the Italian border and came back again (hey, now I can say I’ve been to Italy!), but things opened up on the way to the Lipica Stud Farm.
That’s okay, though–the green linden trees and the rain made the grazing Lipizzaners look like a herd of unicorns. Pretty, ridiculously expensive unicorns. We peeked at them until raindrops started coming in through the windows in earnest, and then we started the looooong drive to Piran. Not long due to distance, particularly, but rather to the May Day holiday weekend. Despite the variable weather (and I assume it’s like this every spring, with the surprise thunderstorms followed by sunny spells), people were heading to the coast in droves, so we had a lot of car time to hang out and chat about socialism. Tour guide’s opinion: it wasn’t that bad.
And finally, Piran! Hello, Piran! What a gorgeous Mediterranean seaside town, am I right? Obviously this is a special newfound opinion I’m holding and in no way the reason that people flock to Piran when the weather’s pretty.
Mom opted to stay at ground level while I climbed another hill to check things out from above.
I abstained from going up the really tall clock tower, but it was still pretty sweet. I could see both Italy and Croatia because the rain had cleared up a bit!
Then, you know, I went around taking pictures of moss and doors like any good pseudo-artsy tourist.
And more pastel buildings! Ah, these pastel buildings, I will never tire of them. May I one day be fortunate enough to move into a house and paint it the color of key lime pie.
The water was pretty cold, but I dabbled my fingers in the Adriatic Sea nevertheless, just to say I had. (And also to wash some of the cave dust off my boots. So, so cavey.) We only had an hour and a half, so I met back up with Mom and we ate some ice cream, bought some salt products–this may be the saltiest vacation I’ve ever been on–and debated whether a human-sized mortadella on display at the street market was for real or not. Pretty soon it was time to go to our last stop of the day:
Predjama Castle! The name translates to Front-of-the-Cave, which is rather apt, and apparently there’s a famous Slovenian legend about its owner getting killed on the toilet. Our guide advised us that the inside isn’t very interesting since it’s missing most of the furniture, so instead she told us the story about poor Erazem Lueger and his potty-death while we boggled at how someone would even begin building a castle in a cave mouth.
On the way back to Ljubljana, things turned cold again and we passed several bonfires of people burning up damaged wood from that aforementioned winter ice storm. I was sad to say goodbye to our guide-slash-chauffeur–as Mom said, she made you feel like it wasn’t even her job, which is a great skill in a tour guide. Thank you for the wonderful, stair-filled day, Ms. Guide!
Weird European Graffiti tally:
6. Possible new Adventure Time character, the Baron of Cheez-Whiz.