Fair warning to those looking for our normal wine posts…the first couple are just vacation posts for friends or for Karen and I when we get senile and can’t remember what we did when we were here…
Danny finally graduated which means Italy here we come! We’ve been waiting to take this trip since he graduated from High School but schedules with Danny, Justin and now Justin’s wife, Allison and us just didn’t work out so we postponed it until he graduated from college. For those of you who don’t know, he graduated with two degrees, one in Biotechnology, and one in Chemistry with a math minor. He’s going to University of Michigan for his PhD in Bioinformatics so we are pretty proud of him (at least when he is not annoying the crap out of us). We don’t know where he got the brains. We think it might have been the dog.
We decided to start our trip in Slovenia, just east of Venice. Karen and Ken have been there before and the capital, Ljubljana is stunning. We wanted to show it to the kids before we got started in Italy. Justin and Allison were able to come over from London for a long weekend so they met us as well. First stop after they got in was the Bled area, a rather ominous sounding name for a beautiful area. Bled has three main attractions. Bled Lake, a stunning, azure blue glacial lake sets the stage for the other sites. The only place I’ve seen with similar color are lakes in the high Sierra. Bled cathedral sits on an island in Bled Lake and is reached by 99 steps. Tradition holds that if you get married there the groom has to carry the bride up those steps. Justin was glad he and Allison got married the year before.
After spending about an hour on the island, we headed to Bled Castle which was a defensive castle for hundreds of years, primarily against the invading Turks. It was here that we were obligated to try the local desert, a slightly sweet cream cake that was pretty good but the small portion that the guide mentioned ended up being a pretty big ass piece of cake (hey the guide told us we had to eat it and he was our ride back so who were we to argue?).
That evening we ate at a traditional Slovenian restaurant. Really good food and the weather was outstanding so we ate outside. We had about half of the next day in Ljubljana so we walked around the town and then went up to Ljubljana castle for the view of the town. Of course walking up 300 feet was an ordeal so we had to treat ourselves to drinks on the river. This is where Justin and Allison introduced us to the Aperol Spritz, a dangerous little drink because it’s made with Aperol Aperitif and Prosecco. They are pretty delicious…I get the feeling there are going to more of these on our trip. After drinks we wandered over to the local square where about 60 of the town’s restaurants put on a fair with food, wine and beer samples. It was great to get a cross section of various Slovenian and other ethnic foods, particularly some of those that we don’t usually see in the US.
We had originally planned on driving from Ljubljana to Venice but a 600 euro bill for a single day car rental wasn’t in our future so we took a bus instead. It’s a stunningly beautiful drive and all was going pretty well until we hit the Italian boarder and were stopped for a passport check. The border guard confiscated about 15 passports (including Ken’s) and escorted two passengers off the bus who’s travel documents apparently weren’t what the border guards wanted to see…and still we waited. Just about the time Ken really started to worry about the guards pulling out a rubber glove for a “thorough” check, they finally returned the aforementioned purloined passports and we left. This of course put us into Venice about an hour late which triggered a late check-in charge by the Airbnb host. They had disclosed that checking in after 8:00 would incur a charge but 50 euro was ridiculous. That however, was only the first of the charges specifically designed to snag money from gullible tourists…yep…that would be us.
The flat was OK but much of the floor has cracks in the inlaid concrete. You’d think that if you built a city in a swamp and then put buildings on top of it, you’d use materials that aren’t subject to major damage when the buildings start to settle. News flash…you built in a swamp! Buildings are going to shift significantly! One other point about the flat …it’s said that only a divine being can create life. We now beg to differ because our flat had the disturbing ability to spontaneously generate Mosquitoes out of thin air. We killed quite a number and no matter how much we searched the little bastards out, we still woke up in the middle of the night to the annoying buzz of their wings and itchy bites. Oh well, at least we are in Venice now!