Sunday, May 23, 2010
I was curious as to what Slovenia felt and looked like. While in Austria we rode along the most Eastern part, along the border with Hungary. The new map from the ADAC had us pass through the most South Eastern city of Bad Radkersburg in Austria but we were close to the large Slovenian town of Maribor (Marburg). We could have stopped for a day or two at Bad Radkersburg, an old walled city with wonderful quiet streets and a relaxed atmosphere. Yet we wanted to end up in Slovenia so Maribor was a consideration for our fist stop in the Balkans.
It is always an experience to enter a new country; immediately the language changes. All the street signs are in different colors. The curbs are even painted differently. All signage is new to the eye and it takes awhile to get used to the new. The roads seem new, different and unusual. This is not the case when one drives from PA to NY but there is a much bigger difference over here in Europe. We crossed the open border without showing our passports. The old installations for passport control are still in place but all gates are open and we rode past those old aggravations.
Our first town after crossing the border was the town of Šentilij. I noticed the hat-check over the letter S, a special character that changed the pronunciation. Now my German, English, Spanish and a little French do not help at all. I do not know any of the Slavic languages spoken in the Balkans. Lucky for me, a lot of people speak English so that is what we will use from now on.
Riding thru Maribor made it clear this is not the town to spend the night. Maribor is way too big, way too busy. An hour west is the town of Dravograd and a pleasant ride along the Drava River brought us to the Information Bureau, still open, even on a Sunday. The best hotel they could find for us was Euro 96 per night, which included breakfast. I asked for a different, less expensive place and they guided us back to Muta or about 9 Km back on the same road we just travelled. Ok, off we went again. We had a price from the Travel info place of Euro 29 per person but when we got there is was the price for groups, not individuals. The proprietor was nice however; we compromised on 32 Euro per night, incl. breakfast. Wow! What a place it turned out to be. Wonderful! (www.gostilna-prilipi.si) our room was large and very comfortable with a view of the mountains surrounding us. The food served to us was outstanding in that it was all natural. It was Slovenian food; picked fresh that day and used in the kitchen to make delicious meals. The next morning, our breakfast was as astounding as the dinner we had the night before.
Next door to the gostilna (family run place) was a small church from 1052 which was dedicated by Pope Leo the 9th. One needed an appointment to get inside this jewel of a church but we were lucky, a painter who was working on the church let us in, free of charge. Should you ever come past this place, give it a try. Located right next to the road it is hard to miss. Muta itself is not much of a town but then, neither was Dravograd, the town we did not say in.
One more note about Maribor or Marburg. Before World War 1, this area was under the influence of the Austrian Empire, the Habsburgs, as they were called. German was the main language used at the time. A lot of towns had German names that were later changed to Slovenian names. Slovenia has a long history but I will explain what I know later.