The Final J is Silent

Trip Start Jun 08, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Slovenia  ,
Friday, June 18, 2010

(Estute readers will notice I'm embedding a pronunciation guide for Slovenian in my entry titles.)

This morning I left my hotel bound for Kranj, Slovenia's fourth largest city, but I'm easily lured off track when tourist maps circle things in purple. One of those Siren circles was around a church just west of town, so  I took a detour up a windy hill country road to reach the Church of the Annunciation in Crngrob (the Slovenian plaque translates it as "Lady Day's Church" from Cerkev Marijinega Oznanjenja). The church was closed, but I did discover it had the original of one of the murals I had seen the day before in the Škofja Loka museum. It's hard to tell on the unrestored church version, but the mural was intented to show illiterate parishoners everything they were not allowed to do on the Sabbath.

So on my way back to Kranj, while making one of my patented "wait, I think I wanted to go there I wish I had a GPS" U-turns, I ended up stuck on a side street in a line of traffic that was at a dead stop. I had passed the front of the line while looking for a spot to U-turn, so I knew there was no accident or construction holding things up, just a cop directing traffic.

After a few minutes of going nowhere, I began to realize there must have been a better explanation than this police officer was the world's worst traffic director. I started to suspect we were being stopped for a bike race. There were a few people just standing along the side of the main road, and a couple had bikes, so that was my key clue. I was just pulling into a parking lot to get closer to the main road when I saw a few motorcycles and a car with a bike rack go by. I think I missed the leaders, but I managed to get in position in time to see the peloton go by. (For those of you not familiar with biking, the peloton is the main clump of bikers. I watched a lot of bike racing last summer because my TV at home only got about 10 channels, and one featured major bike tours.)

When the racers cleared, it was on to Kranj. Kranj fit the same basic description as Škofja Loka: old town area on hill with churches and castle, although Kranj's castle was more of a small manor. There were a few things old-town Kranj had to distinguish it from my stop of the previous day. For one, it had several works by my new favorite architect, Jože Plečnik (and I'm not just saying that because he's the only architect whose name I know). The works aren't as grand as some of his Ljubljana commissions because they date from the Communist era, when he was shunned for being religous.

Another stand-out feature of Kranj was a Gothic church from the 1400's. The city also had a few kilometers of tunnels running under the city that had been dug for shelter during WWII. Finally, it was also the haunt of France Prešeren, and there were several sites and exhibits related to him. Those are the highlights. Fun fact: the inventor of glass photography (Janez Puhar) was from Kranj.

I focused my attention on Plečnik and the churches. I skipped Prešeren as I don't have much interest in poetry I can't understand (regardless of language). As for the tunnels, you could only visit them as part of an evening tour in Slovenian. If the tunnels had been from the middle ages, I would have probably been interested enough to spend an hour underground trying to look intrigued by stories I couldn't understand. Actually, there weren't a lot of people in old-town Kranj today, so maybe it would have been just me and I could have requested an English tour. If I get a craving for tunnels whose brochure features large cave spiders, I'll go back one of these next few evenings.

On my way out of town, I stopped at a Mercator. It's Slovenia's major chain grocery store. I've been going there a lot for food and ATM access. I was walking across the parking lot when I heard an explosion, followed by fireworks. I've been around ceremonial cannons, but the Slovenian's must have been firing a ceremonial tank round. Based on the timing, I decided it was either to signal the start of their World Cup match for the day, or to mark the first goal they scored in said match.

If you haven't been keeping track of either the World Cup or Slovenian sports, they won their first World Cup game ever last week by beating Algeria. Everyone was very excited about it, and all the bars I passed by this evening were filled with fans watching the game. I was definitely rooting for Slovenia. They were playing some team from ZDA...

When I got to my hotel and turned on the game, I was able to get a closer look the the uniforms and it turned out they were playing the USA. Oops. Well anyway, Slovenia cared more, so I still wanted them to win. The game ended up 2-2. Slovenia was ahead with just a few minutes left, but the US tied it up. Ties are lame, and probably high on the list of reasons Americans don't like to watch soccer. I'd definitely like to see Slovenia vs England, though.
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