Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Part 9

Saturday, July 16

I woke up early to return the rental car. When I'd picked it p a couple of days ago, I was told not to take it back to the hotel's parking garage because I would have to pay (perhaps at the entrance?). I'd left the car in the apartment agency's parking lot and wanted to get it out of the way as early as possible.

I was at the car rental desk in the City Hotel a little after their advertised start time of 0800, but the desk agent didn't show up til about 0820. He must have been out enjoying the town's Friday evening entertainment yesterday.

With the car dropped off, and it still being quite early, I took the walk up to the train station to pick up our tickets for tomorrow's train ride to Zagreb. Tomorrow promises to be one of our more challenging travel days; train to Zagreb, fly to Split and ferry to Hvar. I wanted to make sure we were all set without having to scramble at the last minute. No worries on that front. Although there was a bit of a line at the"international" ticket sales window, it wasn't that bad ... and 26 euros later, I was out the door with our tickets.

I went back to the apartment. Helen and Marg were up and ready to have breakfast. After eating, we went to what's become our regular morning coffee hangout - The Prince of Orange. We had our coffee and headed towards the centre part of the city to do a last bit of kicking around and shopping.

We went to the market area; just across the river (Dragon Bridge) from the apartment area. At the market, we bought some gifts to take back home; Marg and Helen are both getting more comfortable using their Slovenian and have managed to get a couple of small deals from the local merchants.

One of our "missions" today is to pick up another bag/suitcase. Marg finally admitted that she's packed way too much stuff and Helen has agreed to take some of it back when she leaves tomorrow. We found a good candidate the other day when we were poking around in some of the shops, so we were just hunting to see if we could find anything better before making the buy.

We started by walking (and dodging cyclists) westward along one of the pedestrian-only streets. At Slovenska Cesta the pedestrian area ended but we carried on for a couple of blocks until we came to Tivoli Park. This is the main central park of Ljubljana and exploring it would have to wait for another trip.

We went a couple of blocks south and headed back along Tomšičeva Ulica. These few blocks are the homes of the formal cultural heart of Slovenia; the National Gallery, the Modern Art Museum, the National Theatre and the Slovenian National & Natural History Museum are all within these 2 to 3 square blocks. As with Tivoli Park, touring these will have to wait for our return.

As we walked back towards the old-town centre along Tomšičeva Ulica we passed by the Slovenian Parliament and the Square of the Republic. This is the 20th anniversary of The Slovenian break with Yugoslavia and in preparation for the trip, Marg and I had watched an excellent BBC series titled "The Death of Yugoslavia". It was in this square - across from the parliament buildings - that the leaders of Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia on June 26th, 1991.

What followed is called "The Ten-Day War". As a near-homogenous cultural group, the central (Serbian) authorities in Belgrade only put forward token resistance to Slovene independence. Casualties were light; 18 Slovenes and 44 members of the Yugoslav National Army were killed.

The balance of the disintegration of Yugoslavia was a much different matter.

Since then, Slovenia has gone from "independence" to "integration" by becoming (in 2006) a full member of the EU. There is a noticeable difference in levels of prosperity between - for example - Italy, Germany or France and Slovenia ... but the Slovenes are catching up fast.

History lesson over ... we headed back towards the old town centre to buy our "extra" suitcase. Marg found one that (she says) will meet her needs for years to come. With that in hand (or rather "in tow") we headed back to the apartment.

The lesson learned from our days without luggage was that we didn't need quite as many things as we had originally thought. Both Marg and I had identified clothes that we could send back with Helen. I'll leave it to you to figure out who sent back the most stuff. We also sent back some souvenirs from fils part of the trip.

With that mostly in hand, we headed back out for one last late-afternoon stroll through the old town centre. The area is really interesting and we began talking about the things we'll have to do the next time we come back.

We went back to the apartment, cleaned up and treated ourselves to supper at a restaurant named Julija. After supper, one last stroll through the centre and some sladoled (ice cream). The buskers were out in force. There was the one-man band, a guitar/drum duo and a fire-juggler with a whip. And although it would have been fun to stay out even later, the truth was that we had to get back to the apartment.

Tomorrow, Helen goes home and we go to Croatia.

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