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Back to Dardanelles, Gallipoli & Alexandrouplis

Day 54 Monday July 17 2017

Bergama to Alexandroupolis / 417 km / Border Crossing

  • Bergama has a few more sights to offer than we have time to see. So what's new!
  • In particular the Aslepion ruins. The Pergamum medical school became renowned throughout the ancient world. Mainly because an eminent physician by the name of Galen (A.D. 129- 216 ) came to work here. His theories on our bodies' circulation & nervous systems were used in western medicine up until 16C. The snake that features in the BMA logo even today, was the symbol of the God of medicine, Asclepios. Make it to the sanctuary at the Aslepion and you'll apparently see them carved around the base of the entrance column. The ruins also include baths, latrines, a sacred well, a theatre, and a treatment centre. Sounds a fascinating place, especially if you have a medical background.
  • Oh and there is also a reasonable archeological museum ( closed today Monday ) and the Red Hall which is so huge to be unmissable as you drive or walk through the old town. Dating back to 2C A.D. it is a former pagan temple built in honour of Egyptian gods. It is currently being restored. How well we don't know, but for the moment it is closed to the public.
  • For relaxation, if you have the time, there is also meant to be a fine old 16C Hamam. We've seen it from the outside but sadly have had no opportunity to try it out. In the summer heat, a Turkish steam bath & massage is not top of our agenda.
  • Bergama is somewhat of a maze to negotiate an exit route. As we leave town, market stalls are being set up for Monday market.
  • A quick word before we leave Turkey about the 15/16 th July weekend. President Erdogan has gone to a lot of trouble to make the 15th of July a day of national celebration. You may have read about it in the British media. We have seen plenty of evidence in Turkey too.
  • On July 15 2016 there was an attempted coup against Erdogan . A coup that was supported by 'traitors' in the militia & police force. It was seen as an affront against Turkish democracy and its legally elected government. The government's response was to crush its opponents - brutally. Ostensibly to safeguard democracy. But it has given Erdogan the legitimate excuse to rid himself of troublemakers, those who oppose his dismantling of secular elements of Turkish society or his extension of personal power. In 2016 50000 Turks were sentenced to prison for involvement in the failed coup & 150000 lost their jobs under suspicion of being sympathisers.
  • A year later and to celebrate the Erdogan victory, a further 7400 public sector workers have recently lost their jobs.
  • 15 th July has been declared a National holiday. Events this weekend were carefully stage managed to ooze symbolism & to give the impression of huge national support for the Erdogan regime.
  • Turkish TV screened live the celebratory rallies, marches, speeches & sermons that happened all over the country. Huge Turkish flags fly everywhere, large pictures of Erdogan along our route are a frequent sight. The famous Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul has been officially renamed July 15 Martyr's Bridge, and Erdogan summoned the government to Ankara on Saturday morning, 15 July, to give his victory speech - at 2.32 a.m ( the time when the government buildings were bombed last year in the attempted coup ).
  • You may recall that in April this year Erdogan held a referendum - a democratic tool was used to allow the people to vote for or against his plans for the extension of his authority and various constitutional changes. As in the Brexit referendum, the issue was not black & white. People had many different reasons for voting the way they did. In the end 51.3% voted for Erdogan's plans & 48.7% against.
  • Turks who have been willing to talk to us about the delicate subject of politics have explained that the electorate are faced with a dilemma - a lack of real and quality choice. Some of Erdogan's policies have benefited ordinary people; a type of bribery to get them to approve the constitutional changes that will ultimately enhance his power & authority. Then what will he do?
  • On the other hand a weak opposition lacks vision and ideas for the future. Above all many opponents of Erdogan are also against political involvement by the military. On this one issue Erdogan is a unifying force.
  • We commiserate with their dilemma and re-assure them that the Turkish people are far from being alone.
  • It's 200 km or so from Bergama to Cannakale where we will catch the ferry for a very short journey across the Cannakale Strait ( also known as the Dardanelles) . We will then continue our drive to the Greek border.
  • It is this notorious waterway, together with the Bosphorus that essentially connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. It is therefore highly strategic and very busy. In wartime it was the quickest route for armies to cross from Europe to Asia Minor.
  • At the small & crowded ferry harbour we inadvertently get put in the Istanbul queue. It is definitely not our destination today. When signage is poor and language a barrier, it pays to keep checking with different people. Should advice conflict, you know there is a problem. Navigator soon establishes that we need to change queues quickly before we become hemmed in.
  • The crossing costs 10 euros including car. It takes barely 10 minutes.
  • Thankfully we are driving in the right direction - across the water in Kilitbahir, there are queues of about 3 km of oncoming traffic to access the ferry back to Canukkale. We think this is all part of the summer migration of Turkish families who work in EU countries such as Germany & Netherlands. They are headed home for the holidays. Best to avoid this direction of travel mid to end of July. And likewise the reverse at the end of August.
  • If you have an interest in World War 1, a pride in our fallen soldiers, and an admiration for the way overseas allied cemeteries are maintained in pristine condition, then you should definitely put the Gallipoli Historical National Park at the top of your 'to do' list. We visited it back in 2010 and were immensely touched.
  • In 1914 the Ottomans closed the Dardanelles. This blocked the Allies supply route between Russia, Britain & France. Winston Churchill decided it was essential for the Allies to take control of the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus & Istanbul. An ambitious scheme. His first attempt to free the Dardanelles failed in March 2015. This was not his greatest moment.
  • A second alternative strategy was devised and put into action the following month on April 25. British, Aussie, NZ and Indian troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. French troops came ashore in a pincer action near Canakkale. The mission was a disaster - the Allied forces were hemmed in by Turkish forces & were unable to advance across the peninsula to the Strait. The Turks were led brilliantly by a certain Mustafa Kemal, the future Ataturk, who is rightly regarded as the father of the modern Turkish nation. The Allies had no choice but to dig trenches and fight from there. They did so for 9 terrible months before the decision was made to withdraw our troops in December 1915 / January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign was a great Turkish victory and is remembered as such with immense pride by the Turkish nation.
  • The balance sheet figures were grim: more than 370000 casualties & 130000 deaths - all within 9 months and in the Dardanelles area. The British Empire forces lost 36000 men including 8700 Australians. The Ottoman army lost over 86000 men. Terrible statistics.
  • Gallipoli is also engrained deep within the Australian Nation's psyche - Anzac Day on April 25th is commemorated every year by Australians all around the world at a dawn service. Gallipoli has become a place of pilgrimage. Around 10000 visitors from Down Under come every year.
  • The Turks hold their annual commemorations here on 18 March . It might be best to avoid these two dates if you wish to escape the crowds. Weekends between March & September is also busy with Turkish visitors generally. The Turkish government has decreed that all schoolchildren must visit Gallipoli at least once during their childhood.
  • When we came late October 2010 we had the park practically to ourselves. We were fortunate to find 'peace & quiet ' to contemplate. We hope you are too.
  • Now it's onward to Ipsala & the Greek border, the entry point into the EU. The Turkish road on the approach to Greece is as impressive as always. There are no queues in our direction of travel but people are definitely on the move from Greece into Turkey. The queue of inbound cars stretch a good 3 km and a separate HGV line of at least 5 km compounds the problem. Best to avoid.
  • Bearing in mind this is an external EU border - it is interesting and not a little concerning that our vehicle is not checked and there are no sniffer dogs anywhere in sight. We look harmless, middle aged travellers with British passports. But our truck is large enough to be carrying a significant amount of something or a few people...
  • The road on the Greek side heading to Turkey is noticeably inferior.
  • We drive another 50 km to Alexandroupolis on the coast. Chosen because it is a convenient overnight stop after a long drive - a day that can be further extended if the border crossing is difficult or even thorough!
  • We have been to Alexandroupolis once before - on our Rally Med trip in 2010. SG, tired of researching where to stay in over 40 different places, took the easy / lazy option and decided to return to the Thraki Palace .
  • But a month ago (June 2017) the Thraki Palace was taken over by the Ramada group. There has been no time either for much needed refurbishment or staff training. Indeed it soon becomes apparent that it is another of those 'get us out of here quickly ' places.
  • We are surrounded by Greek families on holiday on an all inclusive package. Except for us - and we are also the only couple without children in tow.
  • Whilst the hotel’s location on the beach is pleasant enough. Inside it is just like one big airport lounge. Due to the bad weather, it has become a playground!
  • White wine is served warm & red wine straight out of the freezer.
  • A large buffet spread is soon decimated by the guests. We order a la carte. Sounds refined doesn't it. But because everyone is on an all inclusive ticket, chef is not prepared for individual orders. Andy's chicken concoction is inedible. He shares SG's main course instead. It is a miserable experience. We are particularly upset because we are being charged extortionate EU prices - our room is costing just under 100 euros and AG's main course 20 euros.
  • Indeed it has become apparent that the Thraki Palace Hotel is another of those 'get us out of here quickly ' places.

Large Entrance to Our Hotel  in Bergama

Large Entrance to Our Hotel in Bergama

And Behind Closed Doors - Our Wonderful Hotel in Bergama

And Behind Closed Doors - Our Wonderful Hotel in Bergama

Real & Fake

Real & Fake

Bergama Street Advert Condemning Last Year's Failed Coup'd'Etat.

Bergama Street Advert Condemning Last Year's Failed Coup'd'Etat.

A 'Why Are We Here'  Look from AG

A 'Why Are We Here' Look from AG

Posted by sagbucks 12:54 Comments (0)

Our First Visit to Macedonia

Day 55 Tuesday July 18 2017
Alexandroupolis to Popova / 417 KM

  • It blows a gale and rains heavily during the night. If any refugees are attempting a Mediterranean crossing, they will encounter very choppy seas.
  • In the morning we discover we only have one bath towel between us, that the overhead shower does not work and that the toilet seat is broken.
  • We aim to leave as early as possible. Only breakfast dictates our departure time. It is after all included in the room rate. We figure if we get to the breakfast buffet as soon as it opens at 7.30 a.m we will be ahead of the holiday crowds.
  • Do we complain? You bet. For our troubles, we get a bottle of Greek red wine and a small fruit plate. The Thraki Palace will be receiving very poor reviews.
  • As we set our respective satnavs ( 2 in the car ), the familiar digital voices greet us: "please drive to the highlighted route". And so another day thankfully begins & we leave Alexandroupolis.
  • This time next week we will be arriving back in UK. We are meant to be moving within a month. We have a house to pack up and temporary accommodation to find. But hey that's a full 7 days away. Let's enjoy what is left of our trip.
  • Today we drive a coastal highway to Thessaloniki before heading north to the Republic of Macedonia, a country neither of us have ever visited previously. North of Thessaloniki the roads deteriorate noticeably. Confusingly this region of Greece is also known as Macedonia.
  • The border crossing into Macedonia is a relatively quick but expensive affair. Since the country is not yet an EU member ( just on the waiting list ) we are not covered by our European car insurance. We must pay 50 euros, a blanket charge, for the minimum period on offer - 15 days. We are spending 3 days 2 nights here.
  • Do we charge non EU cars coming into UK ports with a blanket insurance fee? Do we even ask if they have insurance? SG determines to find time to write to the Secretary of State for Transport - whoever they are.
  • As well as the standard Duty Free store, there is also a casino at the Macedonian border - and then a few more are subsequently advertised along our route. This may be geared to Turkish travellers - casinos and gambling are banned in Turkey except for the state run lottery.
  • The Macedonian & EU flags fly side by side. There are EU signs indicating that the huge road projects we see in progress are supported with EU money. Admittedly the existing road from the border to Skopje the capital is in need of improvement. But you would have thought it possible for a country in receipt of EU funds ( our money ) could be incorporated within the EU insurance agreement.
  • This evening we are staying in our favourite kind of accommodation - a vineyard with a restaurant. Set in quiet, mellow Macedonian countryside, Popova Kula Winery is obviously a well known stopover for travellers heading across the Balkan States in either direction. We are not alone. And there are 50 rooms.
  • We sign up for the 5 p.m. wine tour. It is a brief event and there is no wine tasting. We are therefore none the wiser what to choose with our evening meal.
  • We do discover that they cultivate about 8 different grape varieties including a grape unique to this area called Stanushina. In all they produce 600000 litres of red, white & rose wines per annum. The one fact we do learn, (and we possibly should have known previously), is that barrels are graded not only according to the type of oak and age, but also to the intensity of scorching. This is the application of flame heat applied to the interior of the barrel during its manufacture. Barrels are clearly marked with this information. The higher the temperature, the more scorched the wood and the toastier & richer the flavours of the wine stored.
  • Dinner is not the fine experience we hope for. It seems they are better at making wines than food. However this evening the fridges are malfunctioning and the 'taster' menu is served with tepid white wine. Strangely the bottled water comes to table well chilled.
  • Still there have been worse stopovers on this trip. We have but one night here; we are on the move again tomorrow. Our modus operandi has advantages.

Popova Kula Winery

Popova Kula Winery

Popova Kula Winery

Popova Kula Winery

Some Red Wine Evaporates Through the Skin of the Barrel During the Ageing Process

Some Red Wine Evaporates Through the Skin of the Barrel During the Ageing Process

Wine Barrel Classifications Include Degree of Heat @ Manufacture - HT = Hot Temperature

Wine Barrel Classifications Include Degree of Heat @ Manufacture - HT = Hot Temperature

Posted by sagbucks 13:41 Comments (0)

Ohrid - Macedonia's Lake District

Day 56 Wednesday July 19 2017
Popova to Ohrid / 213 KM

  • The new Popova to Skopje road will be amazing & very scenic when it is completed. It's not easy terrain to carve out a 4 or 6 lane motorway. Significant civil engineering expertise is being harnessed.
  • Its good to know EU money is being put to good use.
  • En route from Popva to Prilep there are several other vineyards advertised, notably the Stobi Winery, where there are also Roman ruins and Tikves Winery. It may be worth googling further info if you are interested in visiting this area.
  • Apart from agricturally rich valleys, this region of Macedonia consists of rolling wooded hills and mini mountains that stretch for miles all around.
  • In this part of the world, sheep are accompanied by herdsmen and small groups of cattle seem to walk the roads at leisure. We pass through a couple of villages where it's market day - farmers are driving their produce to market in trailers towed by tractor. There are few middlemen in this chain of supply!
  • Today we are heading to Macedonia's Lake District, to a waterside town called Ohrid - site of some of the oldest human settlements in this region of Europe. Across the lake is Albania. Indeed the lake itself has the international national border drawn straight through it. If ever Macedonia becomes a full member of the EU or God forbid the Schengen Zone, it would only be a hop, skip and a jump for Albanians to cross the border.
  • En route to Ohrid we are seeing mosques as well as Orthodox Christian churches. Around 30% of Macedonia's 2.1 million people are Sunni Muslim, many of them of Albanian Muslim heritage. Ethnicity is a confusing issue in this part of the world. Turkish influence from Ottoman Empire days is also very noticeable - in the domestic architecture, the food & the language. The Macedonian language uses Cyrillic script and is a continuum of Bulgarian. But many Turkish words have been incorporated into Macedonian and after spending 3 weeks in Turkey, even we can recognise the simplest examples.
  • Lake Ohrid is a delight. Beautiful, clean and deep water, and plenty of empty spaces lakeside where you can still find a peaceful spot to relax, picnic, swim etc. It is however more commercialised than say Lake Egirdir in Turkey and the holiday season is in full swing. It appears that urbanisation is being confined & controlled. At least for the moment. And so it should be. Lake Ohrid & town have Unesco World Heritage status.
  • SG knows from experience that it is better to get sightseeing out of the way before settling down at our hotel. Once parked up AG is very reluctant to get back in the truck & drive anywhere.
  • So we pass directly through Ohrid and continue along the East shore towards Albania.
  • Apart from in Ohrid town itself there are many accommodation options around the lake - camping, pensions and near to Ohrid itself some larger hotels boasting pool & spa facilities. SG reckons that by installing a spa, no matter how mediocre, hotels can claim extra star rating. On Lake Ohrid they all seem to have one.
  • We stop just short of the Albanian land border at the St Naum Monastery complex. The crowds, the restaurants, the souvenir shops are a shock to our senses. This is meant to be a holy place and yet it has been turned into a kind of entertainment zone. It's not clear whether the monastery is still active. It looks very much as if former living quarters have been converted into an upmarket hotel with glorious lake views.
  • Within the hotel complex is a courtyard & the small chapel of St Archangel. The original church was built here in 10C by St Naum but was destroyed by the Ottomans. It was rebuilt in 16 & 17C and the internal frescoes date from this period. Subsequent restorations have been done with tourist appeal in mind rather than archaeological discipline. We wonder what our Oxford friends @ Afrodisias would say.
  • St Naum is buried here. To come and place your ear on his tombstone & hopefully hear his heartbeat is a pilgrimage that many Macedonians are keen to do. We respectfully observe their ritual.
  • There is no doubt that Ohrid and its lakeside churches, monasteries and Byzantine ruins are best seen from the water. It is probably well worth paying for a boat trip. Sadly we do not have time.
  • On leaving the St Naum complex, a right turn will take us to the Albanian border within minutes. Turn left and we retrace our route lakeside to the Bay of Bones where there is an old Roman fortress, museum and cafe with pleasant views. Again the visuals of this place will be better appreciated from a boat.
  • Adjacent to the small and very average museum is a dive centre. It was here that underwater archaeological research was conducted between 1995- 2005. At a depth of 2.5-5 m, more than 6000 wooden piles were discovered, as well as fragments and whole pieces of household containers, tools & weapons. Ruins of a village built on stilts & dating back to 1200-600B.C. had been discovered.
  • The reconstruction of the village houses is also not the best - but it gives you a rough idea of the domestic architecture of prehistoric times in this area. Interesting is the fact that homes and utility buildings were square or rectangular, made from wood, covered with plaster, and often topped with thatch or twig weave. They had an internal trap door that allowed rapid escape into the water or direct access to their main source of food - fish. Buildings used for cult & ritual purposes were differentiated by their round shape.
  • Macedonian newly weds seek out scenic places such as the Bay of Bones and the St Naum Monastery complex for that special photo opportunity. Why professional photographers do the session at mid day in the harshest of light is a mystery. It is also uncomfortably hot to be dressed up in wedding gear. Maybe the rate is cheaper. Anyway it is all a bit ridiculous really and so contrived - but that is the inevitable impact of our social media age and the pressure to compile a personal portfolio for public consumption.
  • Its time to find our pension - Villa Kale. And then take a stroll into Ohrid in search of a light lunch.
  • Satnavs get us in a real mess. The pension is located near the upper city gate, close to the remains of the ancient Hellenistic theatre. The winding narrow residential streets are not easy to navigate with the Toyota Landcruiser.
  • Temperatures rise and so does AG's blood pressure. It is a major source of displeasure for him to drive in endless circles. After all that's why he has a navigator. Despite SG's best efforts, or perhaps because of them, the truck 'grazes' its side on a stone wall. A slight blemish in the scheme of things but it means we have to go forwards - there is no way to reverse through the same narrow space without sustaining more damage. SG walks ahead and crosses every part of her body that the road widens. Phew! It does and more or less immediately we find Villa Kale. If there was a naught step SG would be there. Get over it AG!
  • Villa Kale is very conveniently located - away from the lakeside crowds & noise but accessible by a flight of stone steps to the centre of town within 5 minutes. Walk uphill from Villa Kale and you access:

- the ancient theatre ( check schedule for concerts if you are planning to come )
- the Icon Gallery ( one of the best collections of old Icons in Europe )
- the fortress ( that dates to 4C B.C. when Ohrid was capital of first Bulgarian Empire - did we know there was one?
- a footpath that leads back down along the coast into the town centre via a few more churches ( notably the gorgeous Saint Jovan at Kaneo & St Sophia )

  • Old Byzantine & Eastern Orthodox Churches, ( as we can testify from our travels,) tend to be built in the most beautiful of locations. It is no surprise therefore that around Lake Ohrid there are meant to be at least 365 different places of worship, one for every day.
  • Lunch and liquid refreshment soon put things into perspective and restore energy levels - for a walk around town and the trail up the hill back to Villa Kale. SG has it all planned - as ever.
  • The city map does not however indicate the detour around a massive & deserted building site - a new hotel complex is being constructed high up on the promontory. It will have the most fantastic views. But it will also engulf the old church of Sveti Klementi & Pantelejmon (10C origins & restored in a rather contemporary way in 2002 ) & Byzantine ruins of an old Basilica. Eventually it will probably resemble the St Naum complex we saw earlier in the day.
  • We ask the lovely owner of Villa Kale how this has been allowed to happen in an historic town with Unesco Heritage status. He rolls his eyes, shakes his head and utters familiar words: politics & money.
  • We have a pleasant & reasonably priced supper in Damar restaurant just opposite St Sophia church. SG is once again tempted by smoked trout - from the lake & a signature dish in this & many other Ohrid restaurants. Fortunately this time neither taste nor size disappoints. And AG enjoys his slow cooked lamb, accompanied as always, by local wine. Served at the correct temperature.
  • Ohrid - Don't be put off, it is definitely worth a visit, for perhaps 3 nights 2 days but not in high season. Few British tourists have discovered this part of Europe. And that has to be another plus point!

Macedonian Flag

Macedonian Flag

Albania is Very Close to Ohrid

Albania is Very Close to Ohrid

Lake Ohrid - More Sightseeing?!

Lake Ohrid - More Sightseeing?!

Local Car, National Colours

Local Car, National Colours

The Church within the St Naum Monastery Complex

The Church within the St Naum Monastery Complex

Internal 16C Frescoes of Chapel of St Naum Monastery

Internal 16C Frescoes of Chapel of St Naum Monastery

Listening For St Naum's Heart Beat at his Tomb in Monastery of St Naum

Listening For St Naum's Heart Beat at his Tomb in Monastery of St Naum

Bay of Bones Museum & Gorgeous Lake Ohrid

Bay of Bones Museum & Gorgeous Lake Ohrid

St Jovan Kaneo Church - Classic Ohrid Vista

St Jovan Kaneo Church - Classic Ohrid Vista

Another Perspective of St Jovan Kaneo Church

Another Perspective of St Jovan Kaneo Church

Posted by sagbucks 13:45 Comments (0)

Ljubljana - An Unexpected Highlight

Day 58 Friday July 21 2017 / Mladenovac to Ljubliana / 579 KM / Motorway most of the day.
Border Crossings: Serbia - Croatia - Slovenia

  • Breakfast is not served at Motel Jezero until 9 a.m. With such a long drive ahead and hot, sunny weather forecast, this is too late to wait. We heat up our last remaining packets of camping food, make a brew of coffee and are on the road just after 8.
  • it is a short drive to the motorway route E75 that heads to Belgrade and circumnavigates the worst of the city's rush hour traffic. We are soon on our way to the Croatian border, another access point into the EU.
  • Our documentation, both personal & vehicle is given a cursory check by Border police.
  • We are again grateful that we are headed back to Blighty (as AG has the habit of referring to our British shores ). Rather than somewhere on the European coast. There is a 3 km double lane queue to get into Serbia. Most vehicles will be passing through to other countries.
  • Freedom of movement in Europe makes cash road tolls a very lucrative business. And yet the UK charges annual road tax only to its poor British residents.
  • Some 20 kms into Croatia there is a further roadside check of vehicles. They ensure that number plates match the paperwork and that neither the vehicle nor driver is on any active police alert list. They have a direct link to their national security system.
  • We are legal, have nothing to hide and do not mind at all about such 'stop & search ' procedures. Liberal lefties supporting our human rights in this respect, please note.
  • Congratulations to Croatia for taking border control seriously. Shame on Greece.
  • So past Zagreb and on towards the Slovenia border. Another EU country ( since 2004 ) and part of the euro and Schengen zone. It is also vignette country. A week is the minimum period - we are in Slovenia for 2 days & 1 night. We must pay 15 euros for the pleasure.
  • According to Plan A, we should have been staying longer in Slovenia and exploring this beautiful country in greater detail. If Ljubliana is representative of what is on offer, we will definitely be back.
  • The capital city is a revelation. It has the climate & sophistication of Italy but the grand architecture & scenery of Central Europe. English is widely spoken, levels of cleanliness & customer service are good. It's definitely a long weekend destination to add to your list.
  • Easyjet have already identified its potential : its online brochure states: Slovenia's capital is one of the best kept secrets in Europe. Often described as Prague in miniature, minus the crowds compared to Salzburg for its setting and Vienna for its architecture...
  • Actually we rate it higher than any of those cities. it is as yet probably not a common destination for hen parties and stag adventures. Please God may it stay that way.
  • It goes without saying that Plan B does not allow us to do justice to Ljubiliana.
  • Our hotel, B&B Slamic is located just outside the old part of town, but within a 5 minute walk. It offers parking. A precious commodity in many European cities.
  • But there are many small hotels & AirBnB appartments within old Ljubiliana that may be of more interest if you fly rather than drive. For this is where the cultural action and many of the historic sights are concentrated.
  • Ljubiliana has an extensive pedestrianised zone that leads along the river and around the castle which dominates this part of the city. In cooler temperatures and with more time on our hands we would have walked up. Instead we take the funicular up & down.
  • There looks to be a good range of continental shopping in town and abundant choice of bars, cafes & restaurants, often with outdoor seating. We have a pre dinner drink at such a pavement cafe, then dine in the courtyard of the Spajze Restaurant.
  • After our meal we meander back through the old town towards the river. We come across a couple of musicians playing live classical music - free. The mini illuminated stage and sound equipment indicate they are not buskers and that their performance is a scheduled event.
  • Further on more noise - far from classical - no it's a beach volley ball match between Slovenia & Holland. Temporary scaffolding with seating has been erected around the sand filled pitch. Again it is free. We follow the crowds, find a couple of seats and spectate our first ever beach volleyball. We can see the appeal!
  • Match over, victory to Slovenia and we continue our way back to our hotel. The city is packed with revellers. It's a fine summer's evening in a beautiful setting. Ljubiliana is certainly having fun.
  • P.S. The city also has a Christmas market.

Ljubiliana Citadel

Ljubiliana Citadel

Bronze Church Door, Old Ljubiliana

Bronze Church Door, Old Ljubiliana

AG & Old Ljubiliana

AG & Old Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

3 Bridges in Ljubiliana

3 Bridges in Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

Dancing the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Dancing the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Strumming the Night Away

Strumming the Night Away

Play the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Play the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Posted by sagbucks 13:53 Comments (0)

Europe is on the Move & We’re Headed to Innsbruck

Day 59 Saturday July 22 2017
Ljubliana to Innsbruck / Border Crossing / 447 KM

  • Since Plan B is in force and we are now headed back to UK, there is no time to enjoy the lakeside town of Bled or visit the bee museum at Radvolijica, as originally planned.
  • As we leave Ljubiliana in a NW direction towards Austria & Salzburg we see mountains rising in the not so far distance. Driving in western Austria, even on a motorway route, is spectacularly scenic.
  • We are glad we leave Ljubiliana promptly. The city may be still slumbering on a sunny Saturday morning, but on the various motorways of Central Europe, traffic is already heavily congested and getting worse by the hour. This weekend 22/23 July is one of the busiest of the year for most of Europe, the UK included.
  • As it happens we are headed north and it is only returning holiday makers that share our route. Schools have just finished in many countries and the vast majority of people are going on holiday, on the same day and altogether.

.

  • North, south, east & west, as far as the eye can see - a huge human migration is unfolding before our very eyes. Yes it's voluntary not enforced, yes it happens in vehicles and not on foot. But it is still European madness.
  • Some 65 km out of Ljubiliana we queue to cross the Slovenian / Austrian border. It's not passport control, it's a queue to purchase the obligatory vignette.
  • 8.90 euros for a minimum of 7 days. Firstly what a silly amount - 90 cents - all that small change required to service cash transactions.
  • Secondly, that is not the end of the story - in Austria you pay additionally to drive through their longer and extremely splendid tunnels. Within a short distance of the border we pay out a total of 20 euros in tunnel fees.
  • To add insult to financial pain, 50 cents (1/2 euro ) entry is then charged at the toilets at the next motorway service station.
  • It's our first visit to Innsbruck, Austria's 4 th city. Surrounded as it is by high mountains, the vista from city office windows must be very uplifting. You are but a cable car ride away from mountain summits, ski slopes and bike trails.
  • Nala, our hotel for the night, is a short walk from Maria Therese Strasse & the famous Monumental Arch that leads into Innsbruck's old town.
  • Fortunately weekend parking is allowed on the side streets and without charge. We manage to find a space close to our hotel. Otherwise be prepared for a daily fee of around 10 euros.
  • Interior designers have been let loose in the Nala. Yes it's interesting, even eclectic. But light switches are too numerous & complicated, there is no aircon and rooms have bathrooms with sliding glass doors. It would seem that according to contemporary design standards, it is the height of chic to have a bath in the middle of your bedroom and a toilet visible to all.
  • AG comments that they might as well just put the toilet in the middle of the room and just be done with it.
  • Call us old fashioned. We just don't get the appeal. And we have yet to discover anyone who does - except obviously the designers.
  • After another long day on very busy roads AG is exhausted. Sightseeing is restricted to a mere wander around the old town. The main task is to find somewhere suitable to eat. We are craving steak. Woodfire is recommended by reception, but they say they have no space all evening. It pays to reserve in advance at the weekend in Innsbruck.
  • SG navigates a walking trail through the old town purposefully to pass by and check that there really is no availability. It's just 6 p.m. Diners have not yet begun to arrive. They take pity and allocate us a table out on the rear terrace. It's perfect. We're the first to order and to eat. The food, starters & steak main course, is first class in both presentation & flavour. It definitely justifies our perseverance.
  • En route back to our hotel we come across a live music performance in one of the old town's squares. Innsbruck puts on lots of different cultural events during the summer. This evening's concert is part of their annual New Orleans Jazz Festival. We stay a short while and enjoy. But tomorrow's journey, across a Europe very much on the move, looms large. A good night's sleep is essential.

View from Hotel Nala's Terrace - Olympic Ski Jump in Background

View from Hotel Nala's Terrace - Olympic Ski Jump in Background

Religious Icons are Prominent in Austria

Religious Icons are Prominent in Austria

Another Lovely Drinking Fountain in Innsbruck

Another Lovely Drinking Fountain in Innsbruck

Night Sky in Innsbruck

Night Sky in Innsbruck


Downtown Innsbruck - SG

Downtown Innsbruck - SG

Posted by sagbucks 13:57 Comments (0)

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