Putting this brief interlude behind us we headed for Slovenia, our target for the day being Ljubljana, its capital city. We'd crossed Slovenia already and had noted that clearly no love was lost between Slovenia and Croatia as the motorway ran all the way to the Italian border where it changed to a single file road across 25 minutes of Slovenia before Croatia picked it up again with a motorway of its own. This time though we headed inland and after a while picked up motorway and the remainder of the journey to the 280,000 person capital city was a breeze. Even finding the hotel wasn't a major problem this time as somehow we drove up to it almost at once.
It was hot though and making an immediate mistake in having a beer in the sun compounded things to the point that torpor set in. Ali decided he needed a nap while I took a look round, pretty sluggishly and was pleased to find that Ljubljana was in fact a lovely city set aside a little river running through it. There was of course an old town but without walls as they'd been overrun more often than, well I can't think of anywhere right now actually but it had been an awful lot and they seemed pretty resigned about the whole thing. There's only 900,000 of them in the whole country so they probably couldn't make much of a fuss anyway even though the country is pretty much 100% mountains. The Austrians had been the overlords longest so their architecture seemed to be most dominant.
We found a place to eat specialising in suckling everything but it had been a busy night so they'd sold out but could help us with the local specialty -- horse or young horse (i.e. foal). Gently declining the 'colt tartar (a house specialty)' we ate sparingly as the search for the real wiener schnitzel would take place the following day as we were headed for Vienna.
|Colt Tartar anyone?|
|The ferris wheel in Prater Park|
|What a hunk!!!|
I'd found reference in the tourist book to a place where prominent locals ate. It said that the ambience was interesting but don't expect fine dining. It was a little out of the centre but on the subway so we headed out that way and tramped around for a bit before finding what looked like a church hall (forget the name, sorry). Inside were cheery, red faced Viennese drinking all sorts of stuff and chowing down on large slabs of something that on closer examination seemed to be schnitzels. A table at the back was found and we ordered beer and bog standard wiener schnitzel and looked around at the other patrons.
The place was jammed. At one table were 8 young people all eating and drinking. One young lady at the end started accumulating all the uneaten hunks of schnitzel looking stuff and with the waiter's assistance began wrapping it up -- and there was a lot of extras. The 3 person table next to us clearly ordered the meat combo as the waiter brought in an enormous platter piled high with schnitzels, sausages and other meat like looking substances that they managed to finish less than half of. As for us we'd already eaten schweinhaxe and sacher torte so were not really ready for an onslaught but it came anyway in the shape of plate size schnitzels (2 each) and a bucket full of fries.
Not sure how we managed but we did (not the fries though) and the whole thing was laughably inexpensive too. However we weren't able to converse much for the rest of the evening and suffered a bit during the night too. Not helping at all was heading back to Prater Park to go on the famous ferris wheel. We were the only people there at the time so the show was all for us. The operator stopped the wheel at odd places throughout the cycle but the longest was right at the very top. Given that the wind was howling and the compartments were shaking and shimmering, this was not the most comfortable of experiences on a stomach in any state at all, but when said stomach was filled to the brim and beyond with haxe, sacher torte and schnitzel galore, well ... This said, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
|"Don't ask how I am feeling right now"|
On the way out we drove by a WWII flak tower, one of 6 erected by the Nazis against bombers and which were so well built could not be torn down after as the damage it would cause to the nearby buildings would be absolute. Some 30-40% of Vienna was flattened in the war.
|Flak tower still standing|
The first bunch on our table were locals who'd been there for 3 hours and it showed. One young chap said "you English make fun of us, you call us krauts. After the cabbage." Ali asked what the Germans called the English and he replied "you drink too much and it is always raining"... fine talk coming from him, we pointed out. Also it was raining outside. "OK" he said and we got on famously. Next were a family from Emden ("the furthest top left in Chermany you can go. It is 12 hours drive tomorrow") and finally a family of all things from Uruguay. The oom pah band didn't play as much as we liked but after several more steins of beer, it was clearly time for bed and the headache that followed.
We did the tour bus and discovered that over 90% of Munich was flattened in WWII and what the town did with the rubble was scoop it up and make hills good enough to ski and sled on in the section of the city that hosted the 1972 Olympic Games -- the so-called 'Munich Hills' for other than this it is as flat as a pancake. Great tour again and ideal for a lazy day. Ali took over the navigating and marched us around Munich in the sun until we found it was time for a mid-afternoon haxe and beer in the English Biergarten preparatory to the last wiener schnitzel of the day and a reasonably early night.
|A modest snack|
Next is Milan and the show!!!