Monday, September 10, 2018

Slovenia and Vienna, July, 2018
Flew from Albania to Ljubljana and picked up my Sekt rental car across from the airport.  Really nice people even throwing in a GPS for free!!!  Drove easily into the city and found my cute little studio with free parking out front.  Host was there to greet me and show me around and then I took a beautiful walk along the river and over the bridge to the old town.  I loved Ljubljana immediately with its many bridges, cafes and its old town feel.  Another plus, i.e. almost everyone spoke English!!!

Found TaBar off on a side street where I had dinner outside overlooking the river, i.e. grilled octopus with tomatoes and sturgeon with leeks.  Really nice to be on my own for a few days…

Slept well in my quiet little airbnb.  Had delicious strong coffee and chocolate croissant at Cafetino on Stari Trg where I went everyone morning to start my day.  Walked to Joze Plecnik’s house, the famous architect who designed most of the bridges, to learn about his life.  Wandered around the old fruit and vegetable market and then to Preserven Square, across the cobbler’s bridge, butcher’s bridge, triple Bridge and dragon bridge – all so very beautiful!  Walked to the National Library which Plecnik designed but only peeked inside.

Stopped at an outdoor café for a lemon tart with lemon sauce and then walked up to the castle.  Not much of the castle per se to see but there are many great museums inside, i.e. Museum of Puppetry which was my favorite and an interesting photo fashion exhibit.  There were some old prison rooms as well as an exhibit on the importance of the dragon when Jason looked for the golden fleece and slayed the dragon.  It started to rain so I headed back, returning later for dinner at Julija.  I had Slovenian cheese dumplings with mushroom sauce and apple strudel with cream which were both heavenly, sitting outside…so very nice indeed.

The following morning after my delicious chocolate croissant I wandered around the open market and then drove out to Idrija, home of the famous bobbin lace and stopped to visit the school of lace.  I got a nice guided tour of the different patterns and techniques of lace making and then continued on to Kobarid for a delicious lunch at one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, Hisa Franko.

My choice was the 6 course lunch, i.e. pickled sardines with tomato water, goat cheese ravioli with corn and hazelnuts, trout with beets in tonka vinegar, octopus with potato polenta and smoked yoghurt, bear with honey and berries and summer pear with nasturtium.  It was one of the most delicious meals I have every eaten.  Ana, the chef was there as well and it was she who suggested I drive through the Vrsic pass, a high mountain pass which goes through the Julian Alps and the highest road pass in Slovenia.  I snaked my way through 50 hairpin turns (each marked!!), stopping occasionally to see the beauty and the Russian chapel at switchback #8.

Walked into town later that evening and sat by the river enjoying an ice cream cone for dinner.

In the morning I drove to Predjama Castle built on a cliff within a cave just to see it.  Had read it was nothing special inside.  Decided to visit to Skocjan caves instead of the more well known Postojna caves and really glad I did.  It is an exceptional system of limestone caves with some 6 kilometers of underground passages.  The guided tour took about two hours and the walk along the cave system was amazing!!!  Had a traditional Slovenia cake with apples, poppyseeds and cheese for lunch and then on to the Lupica Stud Farm nearby. 

I took a tour where I learned a great deal about the famous Lipazanner horses and we stopped by some stalls to see them up close.  Stayed for the fabulous performance at 3 p.m. where the horses galloped and danced to the music of Strauss.  Afterwards I spend about an hour in the museum which explained the history and bloodline of the horses, etc.  It was really an incredible day.

Dinner later that night in town at Marley & Me sitting outside, i.e. grilled salmon salad and a delicious cream cake.  Wandered around a bit afterwards to enjoy the evening.

In the morning I drove to lake Bled, a beautiful turquoise lake surrounded by mountains and forests.  Walked up to the Medieval castle and enjoyed the various museums, especially the printing press.  Walked around the lake a bit and stopped at a nice hotel and sat on the terrace to enjoy a slice of cream cake before driving to Vintgar Gorge which was the highlight of the day.

The gorge carves its way through the vertical rocks of the Hom and Borst hills and the trail leads you over wooden bridges with amazing views to the mighty Sum waterfall.  Made a quick stop of lake Bohinj, the largest permanent lake in Slovenia, which was also very beautiful.  Dinner later again at Julija, i.e. arugula salad with crisp polenta and cheese and apple strudel with ice cream – delicious!

Up early to return the car and fly to Vienna, Austria.  Arrived about 8:00 a.m. and stopped for a chocolate croissant and coffee before taking the train into the center and the U4 to Margaratgurdel near my airbnb.

Erwin let me check in early and it was an awesome studio, modern, bright and even had a great coffee machine!  Started out towards the center passing through the Nachtmarkt with all its great food and vegetables, arriving at the Opera House in time for the 1:00 p.m. tour which provided lots of interesting information about the history, architecture, etc. of the Opera House.  Built in 1869 and again in 1955 following the devastation of the war, it is one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. 

Walked up to the Central Café  (which seems to be the place to go for Vienna pastries!) and had a delicious mille feuille with custard.  Walked down to the Albertine Museum and spent a couple hours viewing the current exhibition of Picassos, Monets, Derains, etc.  I was also able to wander through the old apartments where the king lived which I really enjoyed.

Walked to St. Stephens Cathedral on Kartnerstrasse, the symbol of Vienna and one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria.  Walked back to my airbnb which took about 30 minutes and had dinner at Mini nearby, i.e. smoked tuna carpaccio with diced melon and croutons and an apricot chocolate torta.

In the morning I found a nice pastry shop nearby and had a delicious almond croissant in my cosy airbnb along with two shots of espresso and some fresh raspberries I had picked up on my way back the previous evening.  Walked to the Kunst Historische Museum and spent about 3 hours viewing the Kunstkammer exhibit of all the beautiful things collected by the Hapsburgs, i.e. gorgeous gold ships, ivory and agate pieces, clocks, etc. etc.  There were books in each room describing each item and even little videos of how some of the clocks, etc. moved.  Really fascinating.  Walked back to shower and change for my Michelin star dinner at Loca near the Stadtpark.

Sat outside and enjoyed a delicious 6 course meal with a glass of wine, i.e. burrata cheese with pesto and tomato pieces, salmon trout with avocado puree, cold cucumber cream soup with shrimp, char fish with squid and green bean cream, beef with mushrooms and cheese with berries and sorbet.  A great finale to my last evening in Vienna!!

Pastry and coffee in the morning and then took the tram to the train station and a train to the airport.  Arrived in Budapest, Hungary about 12:30 p.m. where I would start my next adventure with Intrepid that very evening.  It was great having a bit of time on my own…

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