Sunday, July 04, 2010

Day in Zagreb

In Zagreb we had again the same experience with local people: polite and friendly. Youngsters speak English, the older generations not so much but they seem more talkative the less English they speak.

Zagreb turned out to be rather big. It's a long way from the historical center to the shore of the river Sava. Spaces are large in the city: the squares, the avenues and the parks: all very much extensive.

There are dozens of open air cafes. And most of them serve all the typical Italian food.

We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. It is a huge structure, geometric and open. The permanent exhibition includes many Croatian artists and the collection is extremely interesting.

Back to the youth hostel, the same Jamaican atmosphere.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ljubljana to Zagreb

Project Fi Ta Ro 400, day 3: we had a cappuccino by the river Ljubljanica in the morning. All the stylish bars by the river that are open in the evenings and nights become nice outdoor cafes in the mornings and afternoons.

We have to mention the great politeness and friendship of the people of Ljubljana. Ljubljana is a small and perfect city with people that are not only correct and polite but also talkative and friendly.

Next we headed to the caves of Postnoja. There had been two car accidents on the highway, we got slowed down for some minutes.

Postnoja caves are immense, spanning more than 20Km inside a mountain. The journey in the caves start with a train ride. The obvious comparison is with one of the famous scenes of ˝Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom˝: running through stalactites and stalagmites at high speed on a feeble train. The caves are huge, one feels (s)he is in another planet.

Nine kilometers further from the caves there is the awesome Predjama Castle. This castle was itself built partly inside a cave. The whole structure is protected by an immense cavern mouth. It is a castle with its own private caves, or a cave system that includes a castle as a beautiful man-made appendix.

After the castle, there was a storm. Because of the extreme heat of the afternoon, the roads were emanating a dense fog during the storm.

A great part of the highways from somewhere after Ljubljana in the direction of Zagreb was new. And for the first time since Firenze there were no lengthy truck convoys. We crossed Slovenia from West to East and passed forests surrounded by mountains.

We arrived to the hostel in Zagreb at about 9pm. This is the type of place where people prefer to stay meeting other people rather than going to town. While crossing it in the direction of the hostel, the city seemed to be well organized and big. The extremely long avenues with five lanes were impressive.

We had spaghetti we brought from Firenze and also some canned pesto genovese. There is a huge difference between fresh pesto and this canned thing: the fresh version is much better. We also had Chianti Colli, the red wine from Firenze. It is amazing how this wine survived so many extremely hot hours inside the car.

Friday, July 02, 2010

One Day in Ljubljana

We spent the day in Ljubljana. The historical centre is small and impeccable. People were educated and correct without being strict or cold. People spoke English (also the older generations). People were very much willing to talk, very easy to be approached.

Ljubljana made us think "I also want a city like this, I also want a country like this". Absolutely faultless, absolutely beautiful. And incredibly cheap prices and, at the same time, incredibly high quality of service.

Also, there are free lunches here: we had a free guided tour (tips accepted at the end) and there is a free transport service in little golf cars: one just asks it to stop and tells some place to go within the historical centre.

The castle was great and the nightlife incredible: we had never seen so many bars open with tables on the streets in the center of the historical center of any city. The relaxed/party atmosphere was also wonderful.

Ljubljana is a city with always many activities running in parallel. For instance, these days there is the street theater festival and the jazz festival. Ljubljana is the European city of books for 2010.

The right cafe culture: in Ljubljana one can sit for hours in a cafe and paying just one coffee, no one will complain because that's what caffeterias are for. Living in extremely expensive and extremely fast Italy, today I remembered in my flesh how much I miss that cafe culture that exists here in Ljubljana and also, for instance, in Lisbon (Portugal). Spending time, letting time pass, let the pages of a book flow while people walk in front. One coffee, so many time: ideas, words, contacts flowing unconstrained through time. That's something practised here in Ljubljana.

Project Fi Ta Ro 400

We are going to travel from Firenze (Italy) to Tallinn (Estonia) in a Rover 414 Sli. We left yesterday at 10:11am and arrived to Ljubljana at 1:00am of today. You see: č, ć, ž, š, đ: we are in Slovenia.

Day 1 was complicated: there was a huge truck accident on the highway to Trieste (Italy). Police sent all vehicles out of the highway in the exit of Portogruaro. At that time I realized brakes were making an horrible noise. We stopped on the first auto-mechanic, a huge Fiat and Volvo service and had them repaired by 5:30pm.

In Portogruaro and around there were huge traffic jams. Then a second incident happened: the key of the car stopped working in the ignition! After some minutes waiting in the traffic jam, we couldn't turn the engine on again! Can one imagine worse and stranger thing to happen?

A tow car came, the car was removed, some guys tried to fix things. As a result, the whole mechanics of the turning-the-engine-on-key were removed and now anyone who happens to break into the car can start it and drive.

Portogruaro turned out to be surprisingly interesting: a city with no ¨Michelin Guide" references had a nice small city centre, a very modern and interesting church and its landmark was a tilting bell tower.

Now we arrived to Ljubljana. Our first impression is that it seems like a Tallinn of the South. The houses seem to have been taken from some fairy tale. In a more residential part, there were buildings seemingly of the good soviet style: kind of big and geometric but not that heavy and very elegant (needless to say that even though once communist, Slovenia was never part of the Soviet Union).

Some parking signshere do not really have symbols but whole paragraphs (but not so bad as in Italy).

Highlights up to now: there were many youngsters on the streets yesterday night. There was a boy going full monty and running on a central street, there were nice girls explaining that the parking paragraph meant that one cannot park during Winter.