Tuesday and Wednesday, August 27 and 28, 2013
Knoxville to Zagreb to Skofja Loka, Slovenia

At 11:45 a.m. on Tuesday, we left home for the Knoxville airport, where we received boarding passes all the way to Zagreb. We'd bought our tickets from Lufthansa, but it took three different carriers to get us to Croatia. We flew on United Express, Lufthansa, and Croatia Airlines, with stops at Washington Dulles and Frankfurt on the way.

It was a typical day of air travel: Terribly uncomfortable seats on Lufthansa, absurdly inefficient airports, and of course a screaming baby on the longest flight leg. Only one incident to report: Just before our final flight, the Croatia Airlines gate attendants in Frankfurt made a long announcement in Croatian, ending in the words “oopsie-daisy.” That was followed by a much shorter briefing in English, with no translation of the “oopsie-daisy” portion of the announcement. What weren't we being told?!?!?

At 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, we arrived in Zagreb, Croatia. Hooray! We passed through a cursory passport check, then got some kuna from an ATM and picked up our car from FLEET Rent a Car. I'd arranged the car rental through AutoEurope, a consolidator. FLEET gave us the requisite paperwork, and we went outside and collected a white, four-door SEAT Toledo with a manual transmission. To get an automatic would have been much more expensive. Luckily, Tom is comfortable driving a stick. I, unfortunately, am not. SEAT is a Spanish auto maker owned by Volkswagen.

Near the airport, we stopped at a supermarket and bought snacks and beverages for later. For lunch we had mystery cheese, since we couldn't decipher the language, and some pretzels. Better than airline food for sure. We're off to Slovenia!

We crossed the border at Bregana, Croatia / Obrezje, Slovenia. Croatia was officially admitted to the EU on July 1 of this year, but we still had to get our passports stamped at the border. I'd think that would change soon. Immediately past the border crossing, we pulled over and bought a vinjeta (toll) sticker, required to use the highways in Slovenia. It's 15 euro for a one-week vinjeta, or a 150 euro fine if you get caught without it.

The scenery we passed through in Slovenia was very Europe-y: tree-covered, rolling hills, with a church or castle atop most every one, and in every field a hay rack. The sky was very overcast and it rained off and on, which just added to the Europeness. After the long series of flights and the jet lag, we could barely keep our eyes open on the three-hour drive from the airport, but somehow we managed.


Turizem Loka

At 3:30 p.m. local time, 22 hours after leaving our house in Clinton, Tennessee, we finally arrived in Skofja Loka, Slovenia, a town of 12,000 people less than an hour outside of Slovenia's capital city of Ljubljana. We'll be staying three nights at Turizem Loka, a family-run guesthouse. The family collectively speaks six languages, and as, I guess, a courtesy, since we made our reservation under the name Goetz, they had a member of the family available to check us in who, in addition to Slovenian, is fluent in German. You can imagine how helpful that was! Ha, ha! Nonetheless, we managed to secure our room, grateful to finally stop moving.

They gave us a nice, large room, complete with minibar, and I helped myself to a Lasko Zlatorog beer almost immediately. It was nothing special, but at least it was beer. Tom took a nap, and I went for a walk, forcing myself to stay awake so I could acclimate more quickly to local time. By the time I got back from my stroll, Tom was awake as well, and then the two of us explored Skofja Loka's charming Old Town, located in walking distance of our guesthouse.


Ah, beer

Crossing into the Old Town, our view was of the 700-year-old Capuchin Bridge a/k/a Stone Bridge. The fenceless, arched, stone bridge was built in the 14th century by Bishop Leopold, who also died here. He was riding his horse over the bridge when the horse was startled and fell over the side into the river, killing the good bishop. As you can see in our photo, the bridge now has a fence.


Capuchin Bridge, Skofja Loka

Across the bridge, the Old Town is small but lovely. Skofja Loka is known as the most preserved medieval town in Slovenia. We walked all around, admiring the old buildings and the apartments with flowers in every window, then climbed uphill to Loka Castle. The castle was closed for the night when we got there, but the views of the town and surroundings were wonderful.


Flowers in every window


From the castle

By 7:00 p.m. when we'd finished our walk, we were famished, since all we'd eaten today was a meager airplane breakfast, pretzels, and a bit of cheese. There wasn't a single restaurant open in the Old Town, only bars and coffee/pastry shops, so we got in the car and drove and drove, ready to settle for practically anything we could find, when we happened upon a small Chinese restaurant several miles from town. We had no clue what to expect but were thrilled just to find something open. Happily, the Slovenian descriptions of the Chinese dishes were translated into English, so we were able to each confidently order some kind of beef, plus a mixed salad. It was some of the best Chinese food we've had anywhere! We had plenty to eat plus a beer each for a reasonable 25 euro. At the end of the meal, they offered us each a complimentary serving of delicious, and strong, hot plum wine. I'd certainly recommend Kitajska Restavracija Zlata Ribica if you're ever in the area.

Back in our room, we tried the Croatian spirits we bought earlier in the day, called rakija, a popular local beverage produced by the distillation of fermented fruit. I was expecting something like grappa, but it turned out to be way more moonshiney. Maybe it would be better if we'd bought a different brand. To purchase tomorrow: some kind of mixer. Tom tried a different beer from the minibar, Union, which was a little more flavorful than the Lasko.


View from our room

Continue to August 29, 2013

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