We took a few days and drove to the former Yugoslavia republic, now independent country of Slovenia. With young children, the drive of 350 miles takes about 7 hours. There are two international borders one crosses as left Serbia through Croatia and into Slovenia.
Slovenia is a tiny country that borders on Italy, Austria, and Croatia. It is about 1/2 the size of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (or the same size as Massachusetts) and has around 2 million inhabitants. The Slovenes are Slavic and their language is very close to Serbo-Croat. They differ from the Serbs in that they have been under Austro-Hungarian and German cultural influence. It shows in the organization of the country and the more formality in the people.
The reason people come to Slovenia is to enjoy the Julian section of the Alps. I have spent much time in the Rockies and Andes, and the Alps rank up their as one of the great mountain ranges of the world. Oliver is shown above tobogganing down one of the many mountains in the country.
We stayed at the Savica Hotel in the small town of Bled. The hotel caters to families by having a childrens’ playroom, planned activities, and “Raki” the Swan, a mascot in a swan costume. Although it did backfire at breakfast, as Raki scared the living daylights out of one little girl. Imagine eating your cereal and looking up and seeing a huge swan coming at you! The Savica was not designed for children in its architecture and it got me thinking about someone should open a hotel built and designed with children in mind. I could do a great one, with all phones, towels raised out of toddlers’ reaches, all sharp edges taken out, etc. Anyway, there were heaps of kids there, and the kids really enjoyed it! We chose Bled because it is close to the mountains and it has a beautiful lake, castle, church, etc, that makes it a perfect Christmas wonderland.We took a hundred photos around the lake, it was so beautiful. You can see all of them on our flickr.com account. Just click on the photos on the right of the blog.
The highlights of our time there:
- Nadia’s father, :”Popa” had a difficult time in the cold weather. After his neck accident a couple of years ago, his muscles stiffen up in cold weather as he painfully found out. I was impressed that at age 69 he came to Serbia and visited us.
- Sebey almost killed himself on his first run on a sled, as he narrowly missed a steel support pole for a ski lift and then an amazing diving tackle/catch by Brad stopped Sebey and his sled from either hitting another pole or going over a steep precipice.
- We drank a lot of hot wine and ate well in the restaraunts of Bled.
- The kids experiencing snow – icicles, sledding, snowballs, etc. All the winter things I had growing up!
- Getting to know our possible future brother-in-law, Brad Woodruff.
- Being charged 55 Euros for a “vinjet” by Slovenian officials. This is a sticker that gives drivers permission to use the major highways of Slovenia. If a driver is caught, even tourists, without a sticker, they are fined from 300 to 800 Euros. These are purchased at service stations After stopping for lunch at a nice cafe attached to a gas station, we were warned by a fellow tourist that the police were stopping cars without the vinjet. We then learned all about it and bought one. The gas station had run out of the 3 month permission (35 Euros) and we were forced to buy the 14 month permission. It is basically a tax or toll to pay for the high way construction. We noticed two toll stations that did not charge cars, but possibly had cameras to catch drivers without the stickers. What a weasel way of raising funds for infrastructure! It left me with a bad impression of the country. Croatia had a toll fo 14 Euros for one section of high way. They did give us the temperature every few kilometers on signs above the high way down to the tenth of a degree, which I guess they try to justify taking 14 euros from every car that uses the high ways. I could go on and on, perhaps I’ll give a separate post for this topic.
Overall it was a great time and it was nice to make some family memories with Alejandra, Sebey, Brad, and Popa. They were here for only a short time and we’ll miss them. We are not sure the next time we’ll see them, so it was especially sad to see them off yesterday.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of my blog readers!