Thursday, November 16, 2006

And now you can consider yourselves FULLY updated :-)

Another note to say "hi". No, nothing new has happened since I last posted, since that was just two days ago and life is just not that exciting.

Since some of you have been asking, I'll tell you a bit about my classes. I teach mostly adults.
For adult students I have:
-one group of seven students who are studying for an English certificate examination -- on a scale from level 1 (beginner) to level 7 (advanced) they are about a 4.
-one individual level 4 student,
-one individual level 2 (barely!) student,
-one group of three people at level 2 (this group is quite clever),
-one individual level 1 (VERY beginner!) student,
-another individual level 2 student who is also quite clever

I teach two childrens classes:
-one class is just two girls, ages 8 and 11, who are about a level 2 (but slightly more advanced). I really enjoy this class.
-the other class is a group of seven kids, all age 7 (5 boys and 2 girls), beginning level 2. I pretty much dread this class - sometimes they are monsters and making sure I have enough interesting stuff to keep them from being monsters takes a lot of time.

Most students' classes are 2 hours and 15 minutes, and most of them meet twice per week.

At the beginning, class prep was taking a lot of time, but that has gotten better. Since some of my students are learning the same things, and they are not all at the same pace, that means I can sometimes re-use lessons. You'll have to ask Joe about his classes/students since I don't know much about them. I mean, I have an idea what levels he is teaching and I know which ones he complains about, that's for sure (!), but mostly I think he has a mix similar to mine. I know that his kids class (he has just one) has kids in it that are about age 11 or so, and they can be a bit bratty sometimes, but that's about all I know about them.

Tomorrow we are having Thanksgiving at Ernie and Jozi's house. I am making a sweet potato and carrot puree and I am really not sure what anyone else is bringing. Ernie was supposed to find a turkey somewhere, and he was also making some pie. Hopefully someone will bring a soup -- the soups here are the BEST! I made a KILLER sour cabbage and vegetable soup last week - YUM!

I started taking a Slovene class. It's just one hour, once a week, but it's better than standing at the bakery or deli counter pointing at food and stammering out numbers for the rest of my life. It was tough to cram it into my schedule but I figured if I forced myself to study and to go, I would make myself find the time for it.

Speaking of grocery shopping, if there had been such a thing as a prize for the Most Dairy Purchased In One Shopping Trip, I would have won it tonight. I bought two packages of butter, one tub of sour cream, heavy cream, kisla mleko (which is sort of like sour cream/creme fraiche but not exactly), three hunks of cheese, yogurt, milk, and cream for coffee. Somewhere, there is a very tired cow.

This past weekend we went to Martinovanje. This is the celebration of the new wine for St Martin's Day. So where else would we go but to the village of St. Martin? Actually, we went to the next village down the hill, but let's not nit-pick. First we went to a small village, Brje, where we saw a presentation for Gregorciceva, a famous slovene author/poet who died 100 yearts ago. He was born in Brje and they put a plaque on his house, which is now a museum that houses many of his original manuscripts. There were some speeches which I am sure were very interesting (although I can only guess what they were about in a general sense) and some singing. Then we all went down the hill and had a little bit of food and tasted all of the wines they make in that village. I think there were about twenty of them. I lost count after I tasted the tenth one or so. Ha ha. I really only tasted a couple because the night was still young!
We then went to a fabulous restaurant called Arkade, in the village of Crnice. We had a typical Slovene dinner for St Martin’s: duck, red cabbage in a sweet kind of sauce, and some noodles with gravy. It was fantastic! This restaurant was written up in Gourmet magazine last February, and I would love to go back there to have something off of their regular menu as well.
Then we went back to the tourist farm where we were staying the night and we danced up a storm. I haven’t laughed that hard in such a long time! The next day, we had breakfast – well, lunch, to be honest (we got up late since we stayed up dancing until 3:30) and then we visited two great wineries in the area. We spent a long time talking to the wine makers and they gave us snacks and tours and samples and loads of information. It was a great weekend, and now we are well stocked with good memories and good wine! Oh, and we can go back to either – or both- of those wineries to help them harvest next year. Harvest time, although it’s hard work, is kind of a party in itself, and also earns you an invitation to their big, private shin-digs for next Martinovanje.

So, that’s all for now. I have a few more pictures, mostly from Halloween, to upload to Flickr and then I’m going to call it a night. I hope everyone is doing well and has a happy Thanksgiving of their own.

Hugs, -S

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


This means "SORRY!" I haven't been able to post anything in a while. We have been super-busy with work and haven't had much time. A good deal of the time we spend at home is doing lesson prep, which means that one of us is using the computer for work and so we can't kick the other one off for non-work-related things (i.e. blogging). I did upload some new pictures to Flickr so you should take a peek in there and look at all of the things I uploaded on October 30th and so far in November. I also had some time to add a few comments along with those so you'll get an idea of some of the things we have been doing in our spare time (read "Sundays").

For those of you that had our old address on Ane Ziherlove and don't realize or remember that we moved in August, please remember to send us an email asking for our new address. For obvious reasons, I don't want to list our address here.

Weather is still decent although we've had a couple of frosts. There are still flowers blooming here and there, and the grass is still green so I can't complain about the weather, that's for sure!. We put the snow tires on the car today. Hopefully it won't snow anytime soon, but if they're not on by tomorrow we'll get a ticket; I also drive up and down a pretty steeeeeeep hill/mountainside to go to and from a client so there's that to consider as well.

The city will put up all of their Christmas lights on December 6th. An interesting thing I learned today: almost all of my students will put up their Christmas tree on Dec 24th. Most of them will leave it up until Feb 6th-ish as they generally take it down on 3 Kings Day, unless they have a live tree and it is just too crispy to leave up without people making fun of them. I told them that Joe and I usually put up our tree in the beginning of December and take it down in the beginning of January -- this was astounding to them! We're not sure what we will do about a tree this year since I don't like the idea of buying one at a grocery store. Maybe we'll just go into the woods in back of us and cut some branches.

I'll end here since it's very late (midnight) and I have an early morning (8 am) class. This weekend our friends are hosting Thanksgiving at their house on Friday evening so we'll be squeezing in yet another USA holiday (we did Halloween at their house, too).

Hope everyone is doing well.

Hugs, -S

Monday, September 04, 2006

Otliško okno September 2006

Otliško okno
Originally uploaded by 2Americans.
(This post was started on 30 August)
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything --- sorry about that. We’ve been caught up in the day-to-day things and I’m sure you don’t want to hear about things like bedsheets and table lamps again, do you? Nah…I didn’t think so. We DID successfully finish our car shopping expedition, settling on an Opel Agila. I will post a picture here once we pick it up so if you happen to be driving round the roads of Slovenia and you see us, give us a honk and a wave, okay? Hey, I just thought of something funny to tell you: instead of a normal wave like we might use to say “thanks” to another driver who let you merge, or maybe if you are crossing the street and someone yielded for you, they use something different. Instead of an open hand, pretend like you are making shadow puppets. You remember: flashlight or campfire against a white background…well, now make the little duck head with your hand, and make him go ‘quack quack’ – that’s the motion they use here instead. So now you are ready to fit in!

Back to sight-seeing. Up north a bit is a town called Slovenj Gradec where they have preserved the older part of the city, especially two old churches (circa 1630). One, St Elizabeth, is still in use and is very baroque; it’s very pretty in a cluttered, ornate sort of way. It had some stone carvings/plaques on many of the walls in old german, most from the 1600s and some very attractive statues carved in wood – the colors are a bit muddy but overall they are still in very good condition – certainly much better then I would expect to look after 4000-some-oddd years. The other is no longer in use, but I preferred because it seemed more authentic for the date, having some original frescoes (in very good condition) covering one full wall near the main altar. Many Roman ruins, some as old as from the 2nd century CE, were discovered in this part of Slovenia, and especially further southwest near Kranj. One of the museums in Kranj is built in a similarly old building (vaulted ceilings, lovely carved wood work inside from several hundred years ago). Most of the town of Kranj is built on top of a cemetery; these cemeteries surrounded the two churches in town – one for the poor, and one for the rich. The museum is located over the ‘rich’ area. When they were excavating many years ago they moved a lot of the graves, but some they left where they were – they put windows into the floor of the museum and also into one outside courtyard so you can look down and see the remains of the skeletons! It’s somewhat ironic that the ‘poor’ cemetery has no remains on view for gawkers like us…

We also saw some fantastic costumes and gowns designed by Alan Hranitelj, one of the local Slovene costume and theatre costume designers (he was born in Croatia but worked here for the last twenty-something years and is quite famous). They are fantastic: a mix of classic styles and also something out of a storybook – very fanciful and loads of fun. Several that he designed as costumes for the Millennium Ball were on display – I would have felt very special to wear one of those!! Imagine if one of your parents made your Halloween costume for you, but she was really, really REALLY talented and imaginative, and also had a lot of time on her hands to sew on all of those fun little decorative bits, and make sure that it really suited YOU. That is how all of these outfits made you feel when you saw them: like whoever was fortunate enough to wear them was elevated to some privileged and extra-special status because of the outfit itself. When you looked at them, you felt the love. Unfortunately I could not find any pictures to post here, but perhaps you will have more time than me to delve further into ye olde internet.

We also took a great trip a few days ago in the southwestern area of the country (see new photos posted with tag "Ajdovscina"): Ajdovscina, Vipava, Otlice (no, I am not bothering to download and add the Slovene fonts to this post, sorry, it’s getting late, but they are correct on the photos) . Ajdovscina has many old Roman ruins, but we did not have a chance to spend a lot of time in the towen itself – we’ll have to go back for that. The people at the tourist office were so helpful that we left with at least a week’s worth of things to see and visit. We took a ride up up up the mountain toward the snow and ice cave “Ledenica” but did not go hiking all the way there since we could not go in because we had the dog with us. We also had lunch at one of the most beautiful places I have EVER had lunch, and it was just a picnic table on a hilltop. You will see the pictures and get some idea.

We also hiked across some rocky, windy plains at the top of a ridge to the Otlisko okno, which is a natural window carved by wind* into the rocks, forming a natural window into the rocks below. *Legend has it the devil was trying to steal the nearby mountain-tops and he tripped and fell into that mountain, causing some damage (the hole). I don’t think our picture will do it justice or give you the sense of scale. We had seen one picture before we set out, and when we finally came upon it, we gasped -- it was so incredible, it actually looked fake, as if someone had painted a really fantastic trompe l'oeil on the side of a mountain. The terrain in this part of the country was quite unique and I have never seen anything else like it here. It looked very much like some parts of Scotland, and it was very pretty. Green grass, scrubby little shrubs such as wild roses, leaning, windblown trees, large and small whitish-grey rocks scattered across the landscape; flowering plants growing out of some of the larger ones, and a deep ochre-colored lichen of some sort growing on many of the others. We had about a 20 minute walk through this area to get to the window. I was about to say it was a beautiful end to our afternoon in that oart of the country..

..but wait!

We also managed to nip into a winery on our way back home. We got started chatting with the people that managed the place and some of their friends and we quaffed some yummy sparkling wine (not yeasty like traditional champagne – very fresh and crisp-tasting) as well as a nice beli pinot (dry white wine) and we bought some of the sparking wine. One of our new pals also gave us some of the local sivi pinot to take home with us. We will have to go back there, and also visit the other 90-some-odd wineries that are also in that area. Not a bad goal, right?

Closer to home, we have been checking out some of the stuff at this local festival (“Trnfest”) in the Trnovo neighborhood (see posting re Macedonian band of many notes) and we went a few nights ago and played some fun games. Last Wednesday I was looking forward to seeing a band called Gogol Bordello, but unfortunately the drummer was injured/sick and is in hospital in Paris, so the show was cancelled. Bummer. So we went grocery shopping instead, which we needed to do anyway, and we went to our new local store, E. LeClerc, where we found ….. cilantro! Here I was at my wits' end, thinking I could never again complete a proper Thai or Mexican dish because I could not find cilantro anywhere, but God bless this excellent French grocery store for putting their one and only store in Slovenia right in our neighborhood. I cannot possibly communicate my relief in such a way that would make sense. Imagine if you could never find, I don’t know..basil again? That’s how I feel about cilantro.


Then this past weekend there was an evening festival in the center of Ljubljana with lots of music and food; it was great fun with some fantastic music, and also some very, very baaaad music. The highlight was late Saturday night: we saw a band called "Langa". They were from Murska Sobota, which is a Slovene city in far northeastern corner of country. Their music was very gypsy-esque; the two main guys who sang (and what voices!) were brothers. One brother played a bongo sort-of sounding drum that you play while seated, and he also played violin. The other brother played a stand-up base. Also in the band was a guy on clarinet, a guy on accordion, a drummer, and an acoustic guitarist. They were EXCELLENT, and the crowd leved them too - lots of dancing and singing. Hopefully we will have a chance to see them again. Actually they are playing another music festival up north this weekend but I don't know if we will go since it's kind of far and we can't stay the night. But there will also be a klezmer band, and who wants to miss a chance to see both a gypsy band AND a klezmer band at the same gig? Plus who-knows-who/what-else? We'll see..

Well, it’s back to work for us – it had to happen eventually…we start at _______ (for privacy I am leaving out the name) next week. That ought to change the content of these pages a bit, or at the very least we will stop showing you yet another quaint stucco house and/or gratuitous maintain-top view. Yes, we will be able to talk about our STUDENTS! Mwah hah hah hah.

Ciao for now ;-) I am not proofreading so please pardon any typos - I'm very sleeeeeeepy.... Oh, also posted in flickr are pics of our new flat - these are tagged 'doma'. Hopefully you won't confuse them with the pics of the old flat marked with the same thing. if I have a chance I'll go back and mark the old ones "old".

Hugs, -S

Sunday, August 20, 2006

mid-August already!

Stari Grad.JPG
Originally uploaded by 2Americans.
Today it is the 20th of August. Wow, time flies! We moved into our new place and spent a few days doing some necessary shopping. These things take a bit longer because of crazy Things you don’t think about:

Thing #1: Sheets are sized in cms, not “full”, “queen”, etc. And they are not sold in sets. You can buy a fitted sheet, and separately you can buy a duvet cover, which comes with only one pillow cover (unless you are buying the largest size, 200 cm which equates to a king size bed, in which case you generally get two covers) . So you are left to find a coordinating pillow cover separately as well. And, for the life of me, I cannot find any top sheets (a.k.a. flat sheet in the US) and I think they just do not sell them here? It doesn’t seem worth it to try and translate into Slovene my explanation of a 'top sheet' so as to differentiate it from what they normally use, so I just buy a thin blanket and use that instead.

But I am getting ahead of myself: first off we measure the mattress, which is 140 cms. We know this when we go to the store, but we buy a fitted sheet that is too small anyway because we are completely overwhelmed after looking at ten thousand different sheets and we get all bleary-eyed and crabby in the process.

But we buy a duvet cover in the CORRECT size, 140 cms (with one pillowcase, AND we find another set that matches - this is quite a coup) and we go home cheerfully.

We open it to discover that they mean it measures EXACTLY 140 cms, which (use your imagination to picture this) means it covers only exactly the top of the mattress. For example, imagine if you bought a tablecloth and it covered only exactly the top of the table, with no overhang – you’d be a bit disappointed and confused, right? Right.

So we went back to the store but could not find the same pattern in a larger size, and could not find anything under 140 euros (gasp!) in the 200 cm size (which probably would have been too much overhang anyway…and there was no size in-between. We tried three stores and then gave up. We have already spent a ridiculous amount of time on this bedding matter and I am not going to spend any more time typing about it, don’t worry, you can stop skimming this blog entry.

Thing #2 is trying to find a cabinet/closet (“omara”) suitable for hanging long coats inside that will also match the décor (1970-something? Commie lite?) of this apartment so that perhaps we can leave it here and sell to the landlord when we move on, and not have this monolith to worry about finding a new home for. This has been fruitless so far and it’s not for lack of trying. We are also being very price conscious of everything, having learned the hard way that you will never recoup that money spent, and – oh yes, you’re right, thanks for mentioning that we haven’t had any income for the past month or so, but we ARE going back to work, we've said so and you have to believe us. ;-).

Aside: I am not exactly a model of stoicism when it comes to shopping but I don’t mind doing what has to be done – Joe has a bit less patience even than me, and I really have to commend him on his tolerance, gamely trudging from store to store to offer his opinion and carry various packages.

Thing #3 was that we thought we needed a futon for the place (because we know you will all visit eventually, right? RIGHT?) so we finally found one we liked (see above situation concerning décor) and bought it. We were two days from delivery when lo! and behold! It turns out that not just one but THREE of the existing sofas in the apartment all open up into beds! Only two out of the three are comfy, but that is beside the point. The point is we did not need this now-superfluous couch. We had to go back to the store and request a refund. Getting a refund is almost unheard of in Slovenia, so that took a lot of complaining on our part, but we eventually were successful. Kind of off-topic, but we have also heard this is the best way to get out of a traffic ticket here: just jabber incessantly in English and they eventually go away (apparently not many of the Police speak English here). We are not planning to try this, but we have heard it from various sources so it's good to have that idea handy in case we should need it someday…

We also went plant shopping, which was much more fun and rewarding than buying things like flatware and a colander and a mop and bath towels (blah blah blah). We went plant shopping because we now have an excellent terrace where we can lounge outside, and so can our new plants. And so can the cat and dog. We have exchanged our tree-house-like bedroom on Salem Ave for something even more arboreal: Surrounding two sides of the terrace and growing partially above our heads is an enormous pear tree. It grows in such a way that Izzy, should he choose to climb up, is still only above the terrace and so he cannot get away from the house. Should he choose to climb down – oh, wait…he CAN’T climb down – evidently his brain is not wired for that direction! This means he can relax outside, and watch the birds, etc, which is all he ever wanted to do anyway. And we can relax outside, knowing that he can't run off and get hit by a car or something. Did I mention that just a few days before we left our last apartment (third floor) he pushed out a screen and jumped out a window, landing on an awning two stories below? I don’t think I have told you this story yet, so I'll go on: He got stuck there on that awning, and was sitting up there when we got home that afternoon. I’m sure the initial jump was enough to scare the crap out of him and he would go no further. I had to climb on top of a chair to the top of a big recycling bin and reach up to drag him down. I can still hear his claws screeeeching across that metal awning –aaagh! Like fingernails on a chalkboard! But, we got him back inside safely, and of course the little bastard bit me today while I was brushing him, so that’s gratitude for ya.

We also found a decent vinska klet (wine cellar) which was quite near our old apartment, but may be worth traveling back to that neighborhood for (it’s also next to the library). They have seven different varietals, and the malvazia and merlot are a good quaff. They cost something like 1.20 euros per liter. Yes, per liter. Wine here is cheaper than absolutely everything else, including bottled water. You go to the vinska klet and bring your plastic bottles, and they fill them there out of these enormous stainless steel vats – they measure about eighteen feet tall and three feet wide and who-knows-how-deep. If you have a place to keep it at home, many people buy a cylindrical stainless steel canister (usually about 30-50 liters) with a lidded top and a spigot on the bottom. You first pour in the wine (via the lidded top) and then you pour liquid paraffin on top of that. The paraffin floats on top of the wine and keeps the air out, so it stays good indefinitely*(*Who knows? Who ever has wine hang around that long? ) It’s a good system, especially when you consider that there are many such wine cellars/sellers around the city and country where you can buy in bulk, and the wines are good.

Other than these things we have not been doing anything very exciting. Our move was timed perfectly in that our boxes from the US arrived last week with all of our stuff we decided made 'the cut", so we delivered them right to the new place. It was like Christmas to see some of our things again! We did not take a lot with us when we left, and there are some things we would do differently if we had known what prices were like and that some things are a lot easier to find than we thought, but overall I think we chose well.

It has been raining a LOT so that is why we haven't been doing anything much. We also don't have auto insurance to drive our friends' car out of the country so we are staying in Slovenia on our ramblings for the moment. We did manage to spend one day at the beach at Lake Bled, and also did some various hiking trips around the arboretum and some other places in that same area (“Kamnika Bistrica”) on other days. I have posted some photos with the tags “Kamnika Bistraica area” and also “Arboretum”. We have also been doing some car shopping.

Last night we went to a good performance: it was a woman doing Edith Piaf songs while accompanied by her friend on the piano – there was also a back-story to it but, our Slovene not being what it should be, we’re not quite sure what that was…but it was a lovely night under the starts and it was held at the foot of Mali Grad (“Little Castle”) in Kamnik.

Today we tried to go to a bread-making performance/demonstration-thing at this small town in the mountains but we couldn’t quite find it (the little village was not on the map?!? Anyway, we encountered a problem finding it, even though we brought our trusty bread-sniffing dog with us) and we also tried to go to this partisan hospital hidden in the mountains, but it was so well-hidden we could not find it.

Ha ha, kidding. Actually, we DID find the hospital museum, but due to a serious rockslide a few months back, it was closed for major repairs to the footpaths and bridges by which visitors access it. In the recent pictures (that one labeled ‘zanimivo’, which means “interesting”) you will see a photo of a sign meant to discourage people like us from visiting during this time of “technical difficulties”. Not easily dissuaded – after all, we’re seasoned walking professionals after our recent treks through the retail world of Slovenia - we tried to hike up to it anyway so that we could at least see the exterior. Unfortunately, once you got to a certain point on the trail, there was a tall iron gate across the path and trespassers like us could go no further. So, we had some disappointment in that we didn’t actually do anything today that we set out to (sounds familiar – a bit like the home furnishings shopping experience) but at least it was a very pretty drive up through the mountains, and overall a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We also had some yummy pizza and home-made beer at the castle in Idrija on the way up.

And now I’m going to sleep. We’ve got to turn in a bit earlier at the new place since we are on the border of the city (we are now about 5 km from the center) and there are farms in this area. And by farms I mean they have farm animals. Farm animals that make farm-y sounds, like roosters and dogs and goats and chickens. Those roosters start pretty darn early, lemme tell ya. But I think it’s better somehow to be woken at 5:00 with a rooster as opposed to motorbikes and people dropping their recycling underneath our bedroom window. I’m not sure why, but it is preferable.

Hugs, ~S

Monday, August 07, 2006

Natural air conditioning!

Natural air conditioning

“Up!” – yes, we surely did go “up” on this day (about a week or so ago..). We drove up high enough into the hills that it already was a good 15 degrees cooler, at least, plus there had been a recent thunderstorm and some intermittent showers so everything was wet and cool and lovely. The forest smelled like cedar and fresh rain. We’d packed a lunch and started walking up to another waterfall. We’d never seen any pictures of this one, we only knew about it from a signpost on the trail. To look at pictures, these are all tagged “Jezersko” on Flickr. I have also posted many comments under each picture.

After we ‘d walked for maybe 45 minutes (all uphill but not too steep of a grade, and winding through beautiful sunny meadows along a brook, and then up into the woods..) we found a big rock and sat down and had a picnic lunch. We’d gotten our energy boost none too soon, because the trail soon became much steeper, and in time became increasingly narrow. We then emerged from the woods into an area where a lot of trees were down – it wasn’t clear if they’d blown down and someone from the park had cut them to clear the trail, or if someone was in the middle of cutting them and then suddenly had something better to do. (A lot of them are pine trees. It turns out that rocks from minor rock slides fall from the hillside and mountain above, and gather in their boughs – this weight begins to eventually pull down the tree. I guess they were cutting some of the ones that did not look so well as a result, and maybe also to clear a trail? The trail was non-existent at this point – we just knew to go ‘up’!)

We climbed up it for some distance, but it became increasingly difficult. When you looked up we were still about a 1/2 mile to one mile from the mountain face (presumably where the waterfall was) but we couldn’t go any further. Between bad footwear (Joe: sneakers, Me: sandals) and also we were dragging the poor dog along (footwear: none! She’s a dog, not a mountain goat!) we decided we should turn back. After all, we’d already gone about two hours and we still needed to get back down. The views from where we were perchedwere astonishing, and I think that was enough. We’d already seen one disappointing waterfall, and I don’t need to try out my new health insurance just yet, thanks very much. Getting back down, since there was not visible trail, was also a bit of a challenge, but we came across a large ice field at the edge of the rocky area, and that was a great surprise to find ice and snow somewhere at the end of July in the middle of such a scorchingly hot couple of weeks.

Eventually we picked our way back down the rocks and found the trail. We didn’t see anyone else hiking during the entire time we were up there.

On our way back we stopped at the river to check it out and to feed Lucy her dinner. It was clear and ice-cold; I don’t even think Joe would be crazy enough to try swimming in there, no mater how hot the day was! Next to the water the air temperature was probably ten degrees cooler, if not more, than up above by the road – a great place to have a picnic and cool off!

The next day we went “down” instead of “up” but this was in search of guaranteed cooler temps –- the caves of Postojna. We arrived there at about 2:00 and killed a little time in the obligatory café/bar while we waited for the 3:00 tour. Since it’s cooler outside the city anyway, this was nice, but the added treat was the cool breeze that blows out of the mouth of the cave, giving you an occasional “aaaahhh” while you are sitting there.

In this cave it is always about 45 degrees F. Other than preparedness for the temperature, we had no idea what else to expect. When you enter the cave you feel like you are going on a Disney ride – you line up and get into open tram cars. Then you enter the mouth of the cave and travel in the train at a fairly good clip for about one km, all the time with your mouth hanging open because it is absolutely fantastic inside. I have been to a fair amount of caves and caverns, and this one is the most astonishing I think I will ever see. The formations are beautiful, and so incredibly large, and then these passageways open up into these cavernous rooms (they called them “halls”), and a lot of the colors are white (from the limestone) and reddish (from the iron oxide). It’s amazing what nature can put together if you give it enough time, undisturbed except for the presence of water...some of the largest formations are 50 million years old!

After the 1 km ride you exit the train and get into groups according to language preference. You then are on a guided walking tour for about one hour, going up and down through the cave and through different rooms. In the next to last room you can see the Proteus, which is an amphibious creature that lives only in these caves. This little critter looks very much like about a 10-inch-long salamander. It is completely white, with no pigment whatsoever, and breathes through external gills and lungs (so it can live both in and out of the water); it has a very slow metabolism and can go for years without eating, which is handy since there really is not a lot to eat at the bottom of a cave with almost no other life forms.

The last room you come to is a concert hall – the echo in this chamber lasts for six seconds! To give you some idea of the size, they have chamber concerts in there with up to ten thousand people (this must absorb some of the sound I am sure) but the acoustics for such a performance must be amazing. Then you get back on the train for another 1km ride up and out.

It really is fantastic, and you can visit the website here:, but I don’t think it does the cave justice – this is one place you really, really must see for yourself. many spelunking terms and scientific names for cave formations are Slovene words -- it really is THE place for this sort of thing. We talked about how it would be fun to get a small group together to go on a private tour of some of the places not on the general public tour – you put on a helmet and a lamp and some overalls and go climb around for a while – I think it would be great fun!

I have lots more to tell you, but I'll end here. The next fun place we went to was Radovlice (I have to re-check the spelling before I post..) and then it rained for the next week(!) so we went apartment hunting (this one we're in now is a bit too loud and busy to suit us very well)

I'll try to enter some more tomorrow or Wednesday (when it's supposed to rain again).


Thursday, July 27, 2006 search of cooler temps..

Hello … it’s been a few days and you guys (and this blog) are all a bit behind on our travels. It’s late but I thought I should write before I forget everything.

After our underwhelming experience at Velenje (and those pictures are posted to FlickR now – if you have access to our account you can see them labeled as such) we decided to go someplace better the next day. The tried and true, undeniably gorgeous area for scenery is the drive from Lake Bled to/through the Bohinj Valley, so we went there. We were not disappointed. I am not going to do it justice, but I’ll try my best. Other than ours, there are some lovely photos here:

Lake Bohinj is on the southern end of Triglav National Park (Triglav is the highest peak in Slovenia) and is part of the Slovene Julian and Kamnik Alps. First of all, you should know that the lake, and the entire valley, was carved by a glacier. All around this area there is forest littered with these fantastically huge, white, moss-covered boulders that were left behind by the glacier. They are everywhere: in the woods with trees growing on top of them, in the river with water rushing around and over them..

Once we got to the park, which is west of the lake itself, we stopped at one of the gostilnas there and had some lunch. All of the rivers in this area are known for trout (see previous post about fish-bashing) and so I had some for lunch, along with some potatoes. The trout is always served with this olive oil and garlic and parsley mixture on the side that you slather over the top of the fish. This love of garlic may explain the popularity of chewing gum here in Slovenia (did I tell you that gum is even on some menus? More gum per capita is chewed here than anywhere else in the world.) Anyway, my trout was super-yummy; Joe had a brat and some kraut, also yummy but somewhat heavy and regrettable on the hike up to the waterfall. After lunch we hiked up to the waterfall. It is not a terribly strenuous walk, about 20 minutes’ walk straight uphill, but I must say it is a bit of a disappointment when you get up there. It’s a lovely view and all that, but you are not actually that close to the falls, and the falls are not really that big or remarkable…so, it was pretty and a fine way to work off some of our lunch calories but don’t feel too badly if you’ve never seen it (other than the picture posted here). And I’m not being a grouch – I’ve heard Niagara Falls described as a let-down as well. Then we walked down and Lucy and I dipped our toes in the glacial river – brrr!

We left the park and drove back towards Lake Bohinj with the idea that we might find a good place for a swim. Given the fact that it is high tourist season and there was not a lot of parking, this turned out to be a challenge. We did eventually find one place and we parked, but the lake bottom was a bit too filled with leaf litter and branches so we decided to press on and look for a better place. We found another place, a rocky beach across from a small hotel, and hung out there for a while. Joe went fully in for a swim, but for me it was…while not bone-chilling or teeth-chattering…it was a good bit more than goose-bump-eliciting COLD so I only went in part-way. Lucy was not digging it very much – I don’t think it’s so much the cold in her case, but rather that she has not figured out how to swim yet (and she doesn’t seem too keen on learning). She goes in up to her shoulders and then once she cannot touch bottom she jumps out again – it’s funny how she picks up and places her feet very carefully until she get to that point. Equally funny was her giant fluffy body (dry) and her skinny wet legs!

After we left there we headed home, driving through Lake Bled along the way. We did not stop because it was very crowded and also we have seen it before (without the crowds). We will go back in the Fall once everyone else has gone. It is absolutely stunning and it has it all: the lake itself, the white mountains framing the background, the castle on the hill, the church on the island in the middle of the lake…you just can’t beat it. Here is a fantastic picture here:

I would like to go back to Bohinj/Triglav Park and do some more extensive hiking once the weather is cooler, and once my better shoes arrive. Hiking in sandals is okay, but not the best thing.

Speaking of cooler, now we will talk about the weather for a few minutes. In Ljubljana the past week it has been well into the nineties every day. Since we don’t have A/C, we have been heading into the hills to try and cool off. Invariably, Joe will say, “Where do you want to go today?” and I will say, “Up!” On Monday we had some errands to run so we stayed sort of local and went to some stores and lingered in their air-conditioned splendor. Then we had a thunderstorm in the afternoon that gave us some relief for a few hours and into the evening. That was the only day recently where we haven't really gone anywhere so I guess we were due for a rest.

The next day we again headed “Up!” and went well north, just a few trees shy of the Austrian border. Unfortunately, you will have to wait to hear all about those adventures, because it is just too late now and I would have to wake up Joe by turning on the bedroom light while I look for the camera cord in order to upload the pictures. So, sorry, you will have to wait until tomorrow, but it is worth it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Originally uploaded by 2Americans.
Hello again! It’s Sunday night here and not much is going on. Today was not a good day for activities involving movement of limbs…., no, we’re not hung over or injured -- it’s extremely warm outside and as a result we’re not motivated to do much of anything. It’s been increasingly warm throughout the week, and today it finally got the better of us. We tried to make the most of the evening’s necessary exertions (walking the dog), and so we rented a video along the way. Unfortunately the box for the movie was somewhat incorrect -- there are no English subtitles (Slovene and Croatian only) so we cannot watch it; well, technically we CAN watch it, but I think we will miss some of the key bits such as when the characters are speaking to one another. We’d go back to the store except there’s a thunderstorm brewing so we don’t want to walk, and it doesn’t make sense to give up our great parking spot to walk six blocks. So, I guess you get another blog entry.

“Parking spot”, you might ask? Yes, I said, “parking spot”! These past few days we have had some wheels, so we are travelin’ and we are happy!

Earlier in the week we went to a town called ‘Kamnik’, which scores VERY high on the ‘quaintness’ scale – I’d give it eight or possibly even nine ‘Q’s on a scale of one to ten. It’s rural, but not in a “boy, it sure does smell like cows around here” kind of way, and it’s in a valley so it’s very pretty. The town itself is well kept and looks fairly busy, it’s got some galleries and of course the compulsory café/bar scene is well-represented. It is about a 35 minute train ride from the center of Ljubljana so it’s got a good location.

In mid-June they have a medieval festival of sorts in Kamnik. The towns of both Kamnik and nearby Skofja Loka are a part of an international project called ‘the Path of Venus’. According to website Matkurja, a professor at Klagenfurt University (Austria) was inspired some years ago to organize a reenactment of the poem "Path of Venus," written by Styrian knight Ulrich von Liechtenstein in the 13th century. The poem tells the story of von Liechtenstein's travels through 52 towns in Central Europe, dressed as the goddess Venus, fighting in tournaments all along the way. Was this the very first Gay Pride parade? Who can say?…But today, towns in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Slovenia are all involved. Von Liechtenstein traveled through six towns in what is today Slovenia: Brestanica, Stanjel, Postojna, Ljubljana, Kamnik and Skofja Loka. Kamnik, a town with a medieval core around Stari and Mali grad (these are two small castles, “Old Castle” and “Little Castle” are literal translations of their names -- I think..) has participated in the Path of Venus since 1997 and it includes a medieval market, complete with wandering minstrels and craftsmen. Traditional crafts associated with Kamnik, including blacksmithing, leatherwork, and iron working are also on display. Knights come from all over Slovenia and sometimes from abroad to participate in knights' games (presumably jousting, and the ever-popular pushing each other down, running away and laughing as the knight cannot get up because of all of that armor). The program is rounded off with medieval song and dance performances. This takes place in June, so we missed it this year, but I’m sure it probably raises the Q-factor up to that desirable ‘10’.

Anyway, on account of a late start – the pressure of our first Completely Unfettered Day (read: first day with a car!) and a whole country to visit caused some overloading of the synapses – by the time we got all of the directions sorted out on the map and discovered what there was to do in the area we had only time enough for lunch, to go to the small castle “Mali Grad” and also to wander around the town itself for the afternoon. General gaping and snapping pictures also took up a good portion of the day. If you have access to our Flickr account you can look at all of the pictures tagged 'KAMNIK" and see all of them from this day.

That night we walked up to one of the cafes on the corner for some ice cream . Joe placed his order (some sort of fruit sherbet-thing – I understood what he wanted) and they brought him a bottle of Coca Cola
This happens fairly often so we have taken to ordering verbally and also pointing to the item on the menu. I don’t think our Slovene pronunciation is THAT bad, but then again, how would I know? One guy we know has been here for more than ten years (I have it on good authority that he speaks Slovene passably well) and when he orders a pizza they still have him repeat it in English.


The next day we headed out a bit earlier and set our sights a bit further on the map. We went to a town called Velenje where there is also (surprise) a castle. This castle was a bit of a disappointment. Firstly, it must have stood unconquered for a long time simply because it is nearly impossible to find. You could see it easily from down at the bottom of the hill, but “Tourism Be Damned – mwah ha ha ha!!!” must be the motto of the Velenje Chamber of Commerce, as the castle and anything else of interest was astonishingly difficult to get to, and the town map was printed in letters so incredibly minute, the street names were just a blur. Or maybe they were just in Slovene. But I digress…

We persevered. (read “I pestered Joe so he kept driving until we found it, even though that vein bulging in his forehead would have told a sane person who values her happy home life to shut the hell up”) and eventually we found our way to the castle. From the exterior, the castle is built like a basic military/residential fortress, and is accessed via a wooden bridge which replaced the drawbridge (removed in the 19th century).

The castle of Velenje bills itself as the best-preserved castle in Slovenia. Well, it is still standing, and is indeed in remarkable condition, but what they fail to tell you is that it has been continuously inhabited since its construction (circa 1270), right up until the time it was turned into a museum (late 1970s). Since 1270 it has undergone a series of poor add-ons, reconstruction, and suffered other general blights to the interior, essentially rendering it charmless and stripped clean of most of its character. Sadly, I think that throughout most of its life the castle was defended well and withstood damage by invading Turks and angry peasants. Surely the worst of it was done after the State took it over after WWII, at which time it was turned into apartments for families connected with the local (flourishing) coal-mining industry. In case anyone is wondering, let me just say it here: linoleum floors do not belong in a medieval castle.

Various rooms in the castle have been turned into galleries of the museum (which are well done, and our tour guide did a fantastic job) but they might as well be in any modern building – there is no point to most of them even being IN the castle as nine out of the eleven galleries have nothing at all to do with the history of the castle itself… But, as I said, as a museum it was well done. There is a wonderfully extensive collection there of African Art collected over a period of 20+ years by local artist/sculptor Frantisek Foit. Unfortunately Mr. Foit was killed in a car accident just a few weeks after his return, so he never had a chance to give anyone the history or significance of any of the pieces, so nothing is labeled.

(Ed. Note: a lot of the “s” letters in these few paragraphs are supposed to have the little inverted roof symbol over them , meaning it is pronounced like “sh” instead of “s”. I am having some trouble with my Slovene fonts at the moment so in case you are someone who would notice that they are missing, you’ll just have to pretend they are there. Thanks.)

There is also a lovely collection of baroque church art from the 8th century to the 16th century — these items were rescued from a church in the nearby area of Skale. Much like our hopes for the town of Velenje, the church and most of the surrounding village of Skale were quickly sunk – in both cases, the result of extensive coal excavation. In the event of Skale's fate however, the Chamber of Commerce was on the ball! At that lake (and several others which occurred in much the same manner) you can enjoy a great holiday including boating, fishing, water skiing, horse-back riding…you name it. Just don’t attempt an outing from there to the castle unless you pack a lunch. I’m willing to bet the Rosetta Stone you need in order to read the COC map of Velenje is somewhere at the bottom of one of those lakes as well.

We would have attempted to locate a small waterfall in the area but the girl at the Tourist Office, when she gave us the inscrutable map, pointed in the general area on the map where the waterfall is supposed to be and said, “You won’t find it”. Given her broken English, we thought she mean we would not find it on the map. After our castle excursion we of course realized she actually meant “You will not find it.” and decided to leave the town.

We headed for the old section of town in nearby Celje, where we wandered the streets (Q factor? About a 5, maybe even a 6) and thankfully quaffed some refreshing beverages at a café/bar.

Later that night we went out to walk the dog and sat down outside at a local place for ice cream, and I ordered a bowl of water for the dog (yes, in Slovene) AND…she brought a bowl of water! Woo hoo!

That’s all for now. It’s getting late (I actually typed “getting latte” and had to go back and fix it – that must mean it’s time to head for the café/bar!) hahahaha

The next day we made a fantastic trip to the Bohinj Valley that I’ll tell you about next time.

Ciao and hugs,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sorry, we were on Naklo Time

road from Kranj to Naklo.JPG
Originally uploaded by 2Americans.
Sorry “tomorrow” took so long to get here – we were on Naklo time.

Our big joke when we go to visit our friends just outside of Kranj is that we are then on “Naklo time”. First off I should say that – in general – things just seem to take us a LOT longer here. This is not just because we don’t have a car so we have to walk or bike everywhere in the city. I mean that no matter how hard we try, we can only get one thing done each day. If we can get two things done we feel we should be nominated for some sort of Slovene Hall of Fame award.

But then we go to Naklo.

This is going one step further into the apparent rip in the fabric of the time-space continuum here on this side of the Alps. Whole days go by in the blink of an eye – on this past Sunday I’m sure that somewhere in America someone built an entire house, raised a family and sent them off to college just in the time it took us to have a little lunch and decide what we were going to do with our afternoon (we did not end up doing much – just going for a drive up into the mountains and then to a park with the kids with Jozi and some of her friends)

During that afternoon I had Slovene spoken at me and around me for something like eight hours straight. When your vocabulary is limited to about 50 words (most of them useless nouns) you don’t really know enough to participate, or even understand a conversation. My eyes were probably crossed by the end of that evening! It was intensely frustrating, and despite the nice weather it’s not a day I’d care to repeat. When I got home today I made some flash cards – this time in addition to some more Useless Nouns I added some easy verbs and possessive pronouns. In a few days I will be ready to talk about objects (referring to my mental list of Mostly Useless Nouns) that I have or don’t have, or perhaps you might have. I can hardly wait to run across someone in the park and perhaps ask, “Is that your dog?” and then run off immediately after hearing “Ja” or “Ne” -- before they can ask me a follow-up question.

I’ll tell you a bit about our neighborhood. We have quite a few buildings in our neighborhood – most of them between four and eight stories high. Many have small balconies, and if you are lucky enough to have a ground floor apartment you may also have a small terrace/yard/patio and outside entrance. While we do not have either, at least we can look at other people’s – this is good because out here people will cram flowers and plants into every square cm possible so we got to enjoy lots of other people’s gardens. If there’s a window (“okno”), there’s probably a flower box (“zabojcek za rože”) attached to it, spilling over with geraniums or lobelia or something. The building I look out at from the writing desk in the bedroom is a reddish brown brick building with arched windows. I think you might be able to see it in one of our pictures. It’s about three stories high and it’s a very pretty building. Inside one of the apartments there lives a parrot, or some other bird with similar vocal talents. He can sing the theme from the Woody Woodpecker show and he also whistles a lot. He does a very good imitation of a car alarm being set (“boop!”) When it rains he gets excited and makes a lot of sounds. Most of the apartment buildings are made of concrete, which means you cannot hear your neighbor’s apartment noises, but everything from the ground echoes upwards so you hear a fair amount of street noise.

In between all of the apartment buildings are small courtyards and playgrounds, and lots of walking paths (called the “POT”) that go all throughout the city. We have a very large park, Tivoli, nearby in which there is a small mountain called Rožnik (or large hill depending on your viewpoint) where you can go hiking. In that park there is also a zoo and some other stuff we haven’t seen yet; it’s pretty big.

Most of the time here it has been about 62-66 degrees at night and about 75-80 during the day. It is not very humid. Sometimes we will have a streak of a few days of warm weather (85 or 90) and then we will get thunderstorms in the afternoon -- these usually cool it down for the overnight. Mosquitoes are virtually non-existent here (yay!)

There are lots of stores nearby and a farm market where we do our grocery shopping. We usually go every day or two and get whatever looks good and is in season. Food prices are comparable to the US, and maybe a little lower in some cases, especially for things like dairy. Contact lens solution is absurdly expensive – about $13-15 a bottle!! You cannot get Advil without a prescription. There are cafes/bars everywhere. Lots of people smoke, although you probably already guessed that. We don’t have squirrels; instead we have pigeons. Lucy enjoys chasing them just the same.

The workday starts early here – people think nothing of starting at 6:00 or so. An unfortunate side of this industriousness is that the city workers are trimming trees outside of your window at this early hour. Thankfully the parrot has not begun reproducing THOSE sounds.

Have you ever seen a cat – for no apparent reason at all – suddenly decide, “HOLY CRAP!!!!! I’m supposed to be IN THE LIVING ROOM!!!!!!!” and go tearing off at breakneck speed? Well, that’s how a lot of people here drive. “What the hell street am I on? Oh my GOD, I’m supposed to be on VODNIKOVA CESTA!!!!!!! And they go squealing off in that direction without regard or concern for anyone who might be in the way. Just WAIT until I learn how to express myself better in Slovene – I’m going to give some of these crazies a piece of my mind! Yes, I think some verbs are in order, and especially commands. Commands and prepositions. And reflexive pronouns.

Slovenia is experiencing the same slow death of the small town that has happened in the U.S. There are still small shops and har salons, etc., but you can see it happening: people are flocking to giant outdoor shopping malls with enormous stores. We went to one the other night called Planet Tuš. Inside this HUGE mall was a bowling alley, bars, restaurants, lounges, pool tables, darts, a mechanical bull(!), a movie theater, and then a whole separate side of the mall with just shopping (grocery, clothing, and who-knows-what-else). What was perhaps even more astonishing is that it is privately owned by one Slovene couple. Although I am generally against this type of large-scale experience, I have to give them credit for a job very well done.

On Saturday we went fishing and then went on a picnic. We go fishing at a stocked trout pond in Kranj. This place is a gold mine! It is a lot of fun and there are always people there. You pay a little bit of an entrance fee (about $6.00 for a family or group) and then you rent a fishing pole (also a modest amount – I think it is about $2.25 or so). You also pay a small amount per kilo (about 75 cents?) for what you catch. You clean it right there and then you go home and grill up some delicious fish! They believe that allowing the fish to die a slow death by suffocation in your bucket is cruel, so along with your bucket you are supplied with a small club – really just a heavy stick about a foot long and about an inch and a half thick. After you catch the fish you give him a good “thwack!” on the top of the head to finish him off. I did not think I could do it but you get used to it. Even little Carolina has no compunction about getting in there with her little cudgel firmly in hand! They also have tables there and a bar (of course) so in case you are not having such a lucky day fishing you always order yourself up some of their own grilled fish and wash down your disappointment with a nice,cold beer (“pivo”).

In other local news, but falling more into the “charming” category, we arrived home one day last week and there were Gypsies (from Hungary, we learned) in the parking lot playing the accordion; people would throw down some money from their windows or balcony if they liked a song, or wanted to request a song. It was a great surprise! And speaking of coming to the house, the potato man also comes once a week. He comes in a small truck and rings each doorbell. “Krompir!” he calls, and if you want to buy a bag of potatoes you can go down and get some.

Tomorrow our friends are going back to America for a visit . They won’t be back here until September and they are lending us their car while they are away. Yay! This means we can do some not-so-local sightseeing to places far off the rail lines. Maybe we will also do some camping.

Hopefully our boxes o’stuff will arrive during the next month. It’s a good thing most of it is cool-weather clothing – we’ll be lucky if it is here by September! What we miss most that is not here yet are some key kitchen utensils and also some warm-weather items of clothing and shoes. I could also really, really use some of my English-teaching materials that are not here yet either.

Well, that’s all for now – back to my CNN viewing. It’s been a crazy week between the bombings in Mumbai, the attacks in Lebanon and Israel, the tidal wave in Indonesia – we hardly hear any news from the U.S.

Hugs~ S.

PS: We added a few new pics to Flickr.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

We're here!

Cool building and cafe.JPG
Originally uploaded by hfrstanjel.
No, this is not our building -- that would be too much for my poor brain to handle. But we are finally here, living in Ljubljana, and here is the place where you can read all about our new adventures (as well as see pictures via our Flickr account).
To see our pictures, simply click on this picture (or the description below it) and it will take you to our account. I have pictures loaded there from our trip, captions, etc., and you can leave your comments there for others to read -- they will be attached to each individual photo. Or (this is preferable) you can leave comments here on this blog for everyone to read and reply to further.

Well, tonight I am staying up late to tell y’all about our adventures here so far. For those of you with whom we haven’t had much of a chance to speak, or maybe just read my blog, I’ll start at the beginning (but spare you TOO many excruciating details..)

We left MN shortly after our closing; we had to wait for the new homeowner to meet us at the house to give us a check for some of the furniture that was staying with the house (we’re glad some of it is staying since it’s like leaving a little piece of us there) but we were on the road by 1:00 or so. We drove through flat landscapes and other visual and cerebral monotony for the next God-knows-how-many hours. The wrist-slitting boredom was finally relieved by some jaw-dropping traffic somewhere east of Chicago and west of Urine Streams, Indiana --- we sat in traffic, in darkness, for about 90 minutes with only the soothing inhalation of carbon monoxide and other exhaust fumes to steady our nerves. And then, zip-zip, the traffic suddenly eased up and we were at our crap-bag of a hotel. Lucy slept better on the floor than I did in our bed. "Nuff said about THAT evening.

However, I should mention the critters at this point: they did VERY well on Day One. We shacked up Izzy in Lucy’s crate along with his litter box, with the idea that should he feel the call of nature while we were on the road, he was all set. Evidently nature called him into the box just to sleep, so he spent the entire Day One asleep in his litter box. Yes, it was clean, and he never did use it – he just sort of shut down (after he stopped yowling, that was..). Lucy mostly slept and looked out the window., and we took her out a few times to stretch her legs, snack, etc – pretty much what we were doing.

Oh, and thanks (sarcastic and genuine) to our friends who gave us some things to listen to on the road – some of you made us get a bit tear-y more than once.

There’s something about driving away from a place as opposed to flying. Flying is a quite abrupt departure --*SNAP*-- and you’re off the ground and away, and before you can say "I miss...", all of your friends and their houses and the parks and roads are the size of Monopoly pieces…

...but when you drive, it’s another thing entirely.

It’s as though you are pulling on this looooong rubber band (not the short, thick ones like the ones that come on the broccoli, but a really long skinny one like maybe would come around a large bunch of mail after you’ve been on vacation for a week). And this rubber band keeps trying to pull you back and finally you get far enough away that it cannot stretch any farther and finally it breaks but it doesn’t go *twang* all the way back home – it more just lays there like an old rubber band that maybe you left on a package or a book for a few years and no longer has any elasticity. It lies there in the road like a strand of unraveled yarn, making you feel guilty for a few more miles yet. Yeah, Day One was tough in a lot of ways.

On Day Two we woke up early (thanks, Lucy – at least SOMEONE got a good night’s sleep) and were on the road by 8:00 or so. Before we left I gave Izzy a natural ‘soothing agent’ – some sort of Triptophan or however you spell it (it’s that substance that is produced in turkey that makes you sleepy after you’ve eaten it) Anyway, he snoozed (outside the litter box) for most of the trip. Lucy was a good dog and did not get whiney until somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, at which point we were pretty whiney ourselves. We thought she needed to go to pee, etc and had to pull over on the edge of Route 80 with the 18-wheelers screaming past, but she did nothing but run around and look for field mice.


It turned out she just wanted to crawl into my lap and go to sleep. This is no small trick for a 60-pound dog but it made her happy, and once my left arm finally fell asleep I thought it was very cute, too. Not to mention thankful that I was not driving at the time.

Day Two also sucked, by the way, but in a more conventional road-weary sense. We drove for about seventeen gumptillion hours before we even saw a hill. Then the scenery started to change and we FINALLY got to Pennsylvania, but our happiness was soon squashed under the heel of the realization that we still had another fourteen frazillion hours to go. Onward, gritting our teeth and blinking our bleary eyes in determination (much as I am doing right now, come to mention it - JEEZ, this is a long post), we finally crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, and about an hour later we arrived at Mom and Dad’s in Barnegat


We had some peppers and eggs and went to sleep. At least that’s what I think we had – it’s still foggy.


The next week was a bit of a blur. too. We did not DO a heck of a lot, but somehow the week absolutely FLEW by -- we did some visiting (actually, most people visited us) and also blew two days taking the beasties to the vet and getting their USDA paperwork done. Most of that time, unfortunately, was also spent driving around, with an extra round-trip across the state thrown in for fun and variety because the vet filled out the paperwork incorrectly (!!!!) We also went to the beach one day and went to M’s house in western NJ (and Philly in the evening to see a band) and then back to Mom and Dad’s the next day. Oh, in case you are wondering, please only use first names or initials on this blog – this will keep everyone’s privacy (we hope).

The drive to JFK took three-plus hours (another cause for “!!!!”) and also we were a couple of Nervous Nellies about Lucy and her travel arrangements, which were slightly less plush than ours. NB: This is probably the only time you will see a reference to coach airline travel as “plush” so it’s worth noting.

We were told to stay with her until the last possible second before check-in ; this did not help with our nervousness, let me assure you! But we did it, the flight was fine, it went quickly, I dozed for an hour or so, and before we knew it we were picking up our bags in Vienna. We had a brief moment of panic when Lucy was not waiting where she was supposed to be, but they unloaded her after the luggage -- we were very, very happy to see her being wheeled down the ramp, and she was very happy to see us, too! Izzy had traveled in the cabin (drugged, asleep) and so he was fairly ignorant of any goings-on.

Zip-zip through customs and we were on our way to get our rental car. Holy cow -- it was 90-something degrees outside!!!! We loaded up the car. We spent another few profanity-laden minutes trying to figure out the trick to get the car into reverse gear (FYI on a Renault: lift up the ring on the gear shift knob) and finally we were off! You can check out the photos on Flickr to see some snaps but I didn’t post that many of the early part of the drive They are not that spectacular until you start getting closer to the Slovene border, although I must say I saw the TALLEST pine trees in my entire life (sorry, could not get them on film) When you looked down from the road, I swear they reached up hundreds of feet – I’m not kidding! Did you ever wonder where telephone poles come from? Well, these trees could make several each and have some left over to whittle a canoe or two.

Our friends picked us up in Klagenfurt -- after another few minutes of consternation when we could not find the street for the rental car drop-off; it’s amazing when you are tired, you make these odd mistakes (and BTW a big THANK YOU to the makers of Red Bull, for making the last leg of our journey possible) but it was very good to see them and a huge relief! E & J took us to our new home, which they had decorated and supplied with some Slovene basics (cheese, prosciutto, bread, beer, milk, cereal, Commie Cola “Cockta” and this funny little snack puff-thing that tastes like peanuts instead of cheese, like we are used to) and we had a beer and kicked them out so we could go to sleep – ha ha.

Much like I am kicking you out now. Let me get the light for you. No --thanks -- Just leave everything - I'll clear it away tomorrow.

Oh. About tomorrow: more then on the apartment and Ljubljana Life. Right now I think I’m too tired to do any of it justice.

Good night ~ Hugs