Friday, September 29, 2006

Ljubljana and home

We needed to turn in the car in Ljubljana (capital and largest city in Slovenia) by 10 am on Monday so we left Plitvice and drove close to Ljubljana and stayed in another farm house for one night, then one night in Ljubljana then a six-hour train ride to Munich, one night in a hotel near the Munich airport and then fly out on Wednesday.

The drive to Ljubljana was relatively uneventful except for evidence of the feud between Croatia and Slovenia. None of the freeway exits in Croatia mention Ljubljana even though it was fairly close. We missed the exit and had to double back a little. The freeways have long distances between exits, sometimes 15-20 miles.

We had a little run-in with the Croatian police. When I rented the car the guy showed me where things were in the car and said that I had to have my lights on all the time while I was driving. He even had a little check list: start the car, turn on the lights, put on your seat belt. We had gotten a little careless and we turned a corner and there was a police car parked there and they waved us over. I had no idea what the problem was but it was the lights. A 300 kuna fine, about $45, to be paid immediately in cash. I had two 200 kuna bills and he gave me change out of what appeared to be his own wallet. But, what can you do. I knew it was the law, I had been warned and almost all the cars you pass have their lights on. We figured it was a donation to a war-ravaged country.

Speaking of that, on the road to Plitvice and then to Ljubljana we save lots of lots of newly repaired buildings, and lots of apparently bombed out ones, and buildings with visible bullet holes in the walls. The guide book said the first person killed in the war was a Plitvice park policeman and the Serbs occupied Plitvice Lakes from 1991-1995. It seems kind of strange occupying a national park though.

Ljubljana was a nice city, quite pleasant. We saw the castle and some nice views but didn't have time for much else. We walked to the train station the next day and saw a bit more of the city.

The train ride to Munich promised to be very relaxing. We had a nice new coach and a compartment alone. The seats recline and Wynette was ensconced for the journey. A British couple got on at the Bled-Lesce station and we chatted with them. They were in Bled for two weeks and taking a day trip to Villach. We went in the long tunnel that took us to Austria and the Austrian conductor came and checked our tickets. He informed us that there were repair crews on the lines and we would have to: get off the train at Villach, take another train to Spittal leaving from the same platform, at Spittal go to the front of the station and get on a bus which would take us to some town with a long German name beginning with B and then get on the train for Munich there. Austrian efficiency: the whole thing went off without a hitch. At Villach we got off and the train to Spittal was waiting. It left about five minutes after we got in. On the train the same conductor told us to get the yellow-marked buses in front of the station. At Spittal we all got off (maybe 50 people now) and found the buses in front with the yellow marks. The conductor stayed with us. The buses left in five minutes. We drove 1.5 hours to The B-town and the train was there waiting. We got on and left within five minutes. We got into Munich as scheduled. Buses are not as comfortable as trains but I was impressed with the whole operation.

European trains are, in fact, very nice and quite efficient. A six-hour train ride is no big deal and not an ordeal, nothing like the eight-hour plane rides where you are crammed into a a seat the whole time. Too bad they don't run across the Atlantic.

We stayed in a small, family-run hotel near the airport. We met a nice young woman after getting off the S-bahn who told us about the bus we needed to take. It happened she was getting off at the same stop. She was an accountant in Munich but didn't like living in the city so she commuted.

The trip home was long and tiring but uneventful. We had a great time but are glad to be back.