Monday, September 04, 2006
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..
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".
at 9:21 PM