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Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 6: Ljubljana

Cheap drinks, a great night out and some dated remarks about smoking

Aug 31

Up out of our wet beds at 6.45 to pack up the miserable, cramped contraption allegedly called a 'tent', and get a bus to Mestre station and the 08.25 train to Ljubljana. To our delight, it's empty, and our biggest problems are 1) it's freezing, and my only jumper got soaked the night before and 2) we're starving, and we have no food and no Italian money.

So we froze and starved and didn't sleep, and after two ticket checks and three passport checks by armed men in variously-coloured uniforms, we arrived in the capital of Slovenia at 13.40. It was pissing rain! Stomping aroudn the city in t-shirt and sandals with full packs, we discover that all the hostels closed in the last few days as the tourist season is over - aargh!

After nearly paying £22 each for a three-star hotel, we end up in one-star Hotel Park for £13 each. Some confusion over which corridor-showers were which followed, and then our faithful trio all fell asleep at 6pm! I wake up at 7.20, have a smoke on the balcony, a shower, and a cup of coffee (nice, 86p) and here I am at 8.30 in the room and the other two are still asleep and it's still raining!

So then we had coffee in the hotel bar (which shut at 11pm ?) and went to the local 'Trubar', where 500ml Union beer was £1.16! That was shutting too, so we went to Bar Sodcek, a rocker bar! Headbangers were pouring entire short glasses into their beers (yes, the glass with the shot inside). We drank Zlatorog (£1.40), the label of which had a goat on it!

Sep 1

Awoken by the cleaning lady just in time to make free breakfast buffet (cornflakes, iffy coffee, marmalade and bread), then went out with Julie for a walkabout while Ollie wrote his journal. Saw what looked like a Russian national football team - I wonder is it the real one? Bought Slovenian Dunnes Stores cola (Mercator) 500ml, 20p! Browsed market later in the afternoon, then had a late lunch which was tasty and very cheap. Struck by how Irish Ljubljana seems - it's like Cork or something! Everybody's very laid back, and today was so like a Saturday afternoon in Ireland. Stopped for a vanilla ice cream cone beside the river (48p), and strolled back to the hotel to plan our cheap night out.

A bizarre night was to follow. We originally decided to try and find The Brewery Pub, which the book told us had a good atmosphere, but when we couldn't find it a local told us it was miles away so we stopped at a super-trendy ultra-modern bar/restaurant called Cafe Romeo that only served tortillas, burrittos and savoury pancakes (and drink of course). Only when the lack of ashtrays became apparent and Julie asked the barman did it become clear that I was in my own personal hell, a no-smoking bar!

Rushed my pint and sat on a three-foot wall outside while Ollie and Julie had savoury pancakes and burritos. Then we promptly left for bar Kurlinca on the riverbank, where Ollie ordered two shots because they were only £1 each and the barman came back with two 50ml glasses (a double is 66) and two tumblers of water! We got out of our canopied seats to watch the fireworks that marked the end of some summer festival, and eventually left after one when it was too cold. On our way home we stopped at another bar, and left just before three with locals drinking quite contentedly, inside and outside, with no obvious inclination to leave!

But I left a bit out - in between looking for that other pub and going to Kurlinca we stumbled upon a free rock concert featuring the funniest, most 1985 band seen since, well, 1985. The more the locals sang along to this sub-Status Quo gibberish, the more we laughed!

Sep 2

A typical lazy Sunday in some ways, except that I got up at 9.45 to get breakfast, had a shower, and then seeing that the other two were still asleep, lay back down on my bed and slept until 13.45! Groggy and lazy, the most significant things we did were to have lunch in the hotel, and find the only supermarket open in this Sunday ghost town and buy snacks n' beer to consume before it, as Ollie put it, "was a respectable time to start drinking"!

Uninspired by the few restaurants that were open, we went back to Cafe Romeo, and sat outside this time. I experimented with a chicken burrito, which was tasty - a bit like eating a curry out of a piece of pitta bread! We even stole an ashtray - the irony!

We ended up at another riverside pub, where we had a few leisurely pints as our tolars were beginning to run dry. Back early enought, around midnight, and had a great night's sleep under two furry blankets - the cold weather has taken readjusting to!

Posted by BillLehane 10:00 Archived in Slovenia Tagged trains travel youth europe slovenia ljubljana european blog interrail writing Comments (0)

Photoblog: Wild Donegal

rain 8 °C

Me_at_Slieve_League.jpgFor a native of a cosy, leafy corner of suburban south Dublin, the remote wilderness of rural County Donegal in the north-west corner of Ireland is probably about as different a place you could find from my urban background without travelling to a different country. So perhaps it's fitting that this is location for the first post I've ever written about travel within Ireland.

Late December is probably not the most popular time to visit this area because of the wet winter weather, but then warmth and sunshine are elusive most of the time in Ireland, and no less so in the wild northwest.

The weather did not spoil the view either as the rugged green landscape seems to look best when it's a little wet!

We stayed in a cottage outside Ardara that boasted spectacular views as well as many sheep, gates and mud on the outside and a cosy hearth getaway on the inside where radio is the new wifi and books are the new television. Trust me this is a good thing not a bad thing, call it a digital detox. Plus there's delicious food and drink in the village itself, such as the mussels at Nancy's Bar (Charles McHugh), as well as excellent trad music.

Anyway enough blather, here's some nice pictures :-)

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The view from our driveway (yes, you read that correctly)

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The cottage

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The hearth

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Gweebarra River

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The road to Slieve League, as seen from about halfway looking back to the entrance. Having initially attempted this on foot and feeling like I was trapped in the set of Waiting for Godot, we went back for the car :-)

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This picture pretty much sums up driving in Donegal :-)

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Sheeporama.jpgMountain_3.jpgMountain_2.jpgMountain_1.jpgDrive.jpgSlieve_League_2.jpg
Some views of Slieve League mountain and its Atlantic sea-cliffs
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Trad session in The Corner House
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Posted by BillLehane 06:37 Archived in Ireland Tagged travel ireland cottage photos holidays europe photography irish donegal ardara Comments (0)

Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 5: Verona and Venice

Showers, rain and liquid meals

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While this pic looks like we were arguing, we were actually trying to get the gondola in the shot!

Aug 27

Bought cheap fruit and bread on our way out of the hostel, which came in handy on the four-hour train to Bologna, for which we had to sit in the gangway, between carriages, and even then the inspector charged us a supplement, though he pretended we got on at Arrezzo, which made it a bit less severe. After seven minutes in Bologna we got on the short hop to Verona (1.5 hours), for which we did get a seat, and bussed and walked to the hostel up the hill where we were told there was beds free at the other hostel at the bottom of the hill - d'oh! It was brand new though, and the dorms were nice (and three-quarters empty!), the only problem was the showers, which consisted of a single pole with four shower heads pointing out - I'm no shrinking violet or whatever the phrase is but let's just say for two nights and two days myself and Ollie showered at different times!

We settled outside at a picnic table, where a Cork girl who just finished a degree in Italian and Latin guessed Julie was Irish without speaking because she was making a crisp sandwich! I had four more Splugen (u umlaut) 66CL bottles, and then myself and Ollie tucked into a IR6 700ml bottle of vodka, having grown our drinking group into us three, Irish girl, two New Zealanders, two Australians and two Germans. Though the curfew was 11.30pm, weren't kicked inside until 12.30am, where we drank until 2am even though the night guard turned the lights out at 1am! At least the bed was comfortable, though too hot as ever.

Aug 28

What a day - booted out of the hostel at 9am, and it was closed until 5pm then - so we went for a stroll around Verona, and decided to look for a tent shop, as three into a two-man tent doesn't go (!), and we planned to camp in Venice. The idiot bitch in the Tourist office gave us the wrong directions to the camping store twice in one sitting - we got a bus to the south of the city where a woman told us there was no via Antonio da Legado, so we got a bus to the train station, where they told us that street was on a different route. We ended up outside the city altogether to the west, where a kind hotel porter told us that we were on the right street, but that the camp store was on Via Legado, an entirely different road way, way to the southeast!

Got back to the hostel, had a quick cattle wash (shower), and headed out to dinner before the opera Nabucco at the Arena, which I finally persuaded the other two to go to - tickets only 28,000 (a tenner), and we had a great view of an open-air, Babylonian, fully-orchestrated performance of Verdi's Nabucco that we didn't understand a word of, but it was brilliant! Divided into acts of 50-sih minutes, which made it handy for getting more beer. The highlight was the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (Va Pensiero), which was encored even though it was only three quarters through the show!)

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Photo Credit: Camping-fusina.com

Aug 29

After some bother getting to the train station, we now have to wait until 1.10pm (it's 10am) for a slow train that doesn't incur a supplement (personally, I'd just get the Intercity train and pay the £4, but democracy rules on this trip!)

We arrive in Venice anyway, and after a trip to the tourist office we get a bus to Camping Fusina, out right by the sea in Mestre, the industrial mainland area of Venice (I discover that Venice is 117 small islands, connected by 400 bridges - the map resembles one of those puzzles where you draw a line through the maze to the other side!)

We set up the tent, have supermarcato grub, and take a ferry to Venice. 30 mins later, having seen the Basilica di San Marco by accident [Aside: we're now collecting apostles, now having been at the tombs of St Peter and St Mark], we're hopelessly lost! Without anything other than our noses we miraculously return to our little dock bang on time for the next boat, and get back to our tent, which is pitched 15 feet from the water's edge (several gigantic freight ships passed right by us) with 2 bottles of chianti and a double bottle of rose. Got mildly drunk, yet still manage to talk so much shit so loudly, arguing for two hours after Ollie said 'exhaustive' instead of 'exhausting', so much so that a German girl gets out of her tent and asks us to be quiet! Me and Julie sleep in relative comfort in the tent (amazingly, it's too cold) while Ollie sleeps in the open air, whch turned out to be a bad decision.

Aug 30

Awoken at 9am by the freezing cold inside the tent, I get up in search of breakfast. I get ripped off in the campsite breakfast bar (8000 lira, £3.20, for a bowl of cornflakes and coffee) and return to the tent. And then it rained - aargh! Three people and every possession we had inside the tent waiting for it to stop raining for an hour.

Amazed at the bad weather we lounge around the campsite, eventually deciding to return to Venice proper on the ferry to find out details of how to get a train to Slovenia. In true professional style, we get off the boat at 4pm, make our way through the labyrinth city to the Stazionne FS, get the info and make it back the way we came for the 6.10pm boat back (there's only one per hour).

Stuck to a minimal residue of lira, our only nightcap is a bottle of wine between three, my part of which is drank through the sawn-off bottom of a plastic water bottle! We go to bed early, partly in anticipation of getting up early and partly through lack of drink, and the tight squeeze in the tent, even with the rucksacks outside, becomes a nightmare when it starts to rain and doesn't stop all night. Unable to move to one side as Julie is there, and the drenched wall of the tent to my left, I lie perfectly still waiting for the morning.

As it turns out, I wake with a headache from using my towel as a pillow, and clamber out of a soaked sleeping bag to a miserable Venetian dawn, though we can't help gawking at the amazing sunrise.

Posted by BillLehane 09:19 Archived in Italy Tagged churches trains food venice religion verona italy wine holidays europe rail blog interrail Comments (0)

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