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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Piran, Slovenia
SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24
Piran, Slovenia, October 9-11, 2003

Slovenian Flag SLOVENIA

October 9-11. PIRAN  It felt good to sleep in and take it easy after so many hectic days.  Being in a clean and comfortable place made it easy.  We went out for coffee on the northern side of the little Pirano penninsula where a concrete deck had been built out over the rocky shore to allow for swimming and diving into the Adriatic.  The cafes put large padded wicker chairs on the patio and we sat there for hours drinking bela kavas (white coffees) and watching blue blue waters of the Adriatic and enjoying the warm sun.  Trieste on a sliver of Italy was in clear view to the north.  

Positioned between Croatia and Italy with Austria just over the mountains, Piran reflects a colorful history of influences.  First mentioned in the 7th century among the Roman towns of Istria the town didn't really become inhabited until after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. It became a fortified city under Byzantine rule in the 7th century and was colonized by the Slavs in the same century.  At the end of the 8th century Piran was conquered by the Franks but by the middle of the 9th century it had become an Italic Kingdom.   In the mid-10th century it became part of the Germanic Empire under the Bavarian Dukedom.  In 933 it, and other towns along the Adriatic, signed a "protection" agreement with the Venetians and was eventually conquered by the Venetians in 1283, under whose rule most of the Adriatic towns suffered.  The 15th century brought the Turkish threat but they were never conquered by the Turks.  From 1797 to 1805 Piran was occupied by Austria but the French took over in 1805 in the domain of an Italian Kingdom.  From 1809 to 1813 Piran became part of the Napoleonic-Illyrian provinces but eventually fell again under Austrian rule.  After WWI Piran came under Italian rule and then following WWII it was assigned to Yugoslavia.  In 1991, it finally became part of independent Slovenia.  

The chain of historical events is completely mind boggling.  Nonetheless the most evident of Piran's cultural influences are from the Venetian and Italian people.  The architecture of Piran still reflects the Venetian period and the campanile is modeled after the one in Venice.  The town square is dedicated to the composer Guiseppe Tartini, born in Piran in 1692 but certainly of Venetian/Italian descent.  Many people are bilingual in Slovenian and Italian and a steady flow of tourists from Trieste keeps the town full of Italians on the weekends. And, not least of all, the food is very Italian influenced, much to our delight with our only complaint being that the gelato in Piran just never met expectations. 

Piran was an ideal place to take it easy and soak up some long sought after sun.  If felt like a little vacation in the midst of our constant traveling.  We couldn't afford Ivo's fore every meal so we tried the Piran version of fast-food from our neighborhood restaurant downstairs and took the opportunity to cook in our little kitchen.  We started to feel just a little bit at home during the few days we were there.  However, we did learn that being on the first floor of a stone town with narrow streets was the lack of light.  On the bright days it was nice enough but on the overcast days it was quite dark.  We did some laundry and used Lote's well designed clothes lines that he strung across the shutters in the kitchen.  Our socks were drying for a couple of days.  Doris offered to wash a few things for us and on their deck upstairs the things were drying in no time.  The other drawback to our charming location was the echo.  Kids had fun lighting firecrackers in the alleys and it sounded like the town was being bombed.  And, we could hear nearly ever person that walked under our window talking, even with the shutters closed. 

After a couple of days of bela kavas, strolling the streets of the marble town, walking along the coast to the nearby resort town of Porto Roz, watching sunsets and taking in some cable TV we investigated some other attractions in Slovenia.  The agency where we rented our apartment, Maona, turned out to be the most helpful place in town, over and above the actual tourist information center.  We hoped to find a way to visit the Skojan Caves but transportation wasn't very well set up for the independent traveler.  Taking the LP directions we searched out the return bus from Piran to Ljubljana which would pass by the turn off for the caves.  The bus drivers would drop people at the turnoff and you had to walk to rest of the way.  We had been given different bus times by Moana and the tourist information office so we got to the bus stop early enough to catch the earliest time we had been given.  We waited from 10:10 until noon and no bus ever came.  It was meant to come at 10:30, at the latest but we were there and saw nothing but tour group buses pulling into Piran.  

After noon had passed we went to Moana to look into a rental car for the day but they wanted a small fortune for a compact car.  It was looking discouraging but another trip to the tourist information office got us some details on a train.  The long distance buses didn't run on Sunday but the local ones did.  We could catch a bus from Piran to Koper and then get a train to the station closest to the caves and walk from there.

October 12. PIRAN "Park Škojanske jame"  The bus came at 8:30 as scheduled and we were in Koper in about forty-five minutes.   The train left at 10:05 so we had a coffee and waited.  The train, a slick new commuter train, left on time and took about an hour to get to Divaca where we the ticket window readily provided us with a map to the caves.  We walked from Divaca across the highway and through a tiny little village where the dirt road turned into park trail.  Within about 45 minutes the path came to a lookout point over a deep narrow ravine.  At the bottom was a small body of water and we could see trails of people coming out from under the overhanging rock wall near the bottom of the ravine.  Signs led us to a park office at the top of the ridge where tours were being assembled.  We made it in time to sign up for the 1:00 tour and grab a bite to eat beforehand.

My knee had been giving me trouble from some kind of a strain so I gimped along and winced every once in a while but the tour was actually a very easy, if a bit slippery, walk.

The vast space was impressive.  It wasn't as large as the largest cavern in the Wieliczka Salt Mines in Poland but these were naturally made caves, not man made.  Slovenia has a total of some 7000 caves and the Skojan cave system consists of eleven interconnected chambers on a kras.  Kras is where the word "karst" was derived, "an irregular limestone region with sinks, underground streams, and caverns."  Thinking that the auditorium-sized room was our highlight I wasn't sure if the caves had been worth all of the effort it took to get there but we hadn't seen anything yet!

Beyond this massive and impressive auditorium-like cavern was a chamber that was truly enormous on a scale so many more time what we had just seen that it was awesome.  To call it a cave just didn't do it justice.  It was an underground canyon and as the trail bent around along the inside of the cave we got a real sense of its size and depth.  The largest part of the cave was some 200 meters high and the trail clung to the side of the cave more than half way up.  We crossed a land bridge from which we could easily see the small river that passed through the canyon. The trail continued to traverse the side of the canyon until we climbed up the far end and back out into the light.  It has definitely been worth bus, train, and hike that it we took to get there.  

The walk back to Divaca seemed to go more quickly and just as we arrived at that station we saw a bus pulling out with a Piran sign on the window.  We waived it down and climbed on.  We were told the long distance buses didn't run on Sunday but this was going to Piran and made our return trip so much easier.

We stopped in Porto Roz to use the Internet service at a bar there and got ourselves some gelato before walking back to Piran via the highway that went up and over the hill.  We reached the top of the hill just in time to see the sun go down.  It was our last night in Piran and we relished our comfortable little apartment and made dinner in.  Lote came down to say "good-bye" and tell us where to leave the key when we departed the following morning.  He appeared at the door in his jockeys which told us that they were feeling pretty comfortable with us after being neighbors for a few days.  They were a nice couple and we hope their retirement in Piran is a long and happy one.