Opatija to Ljubljana

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

It was time to say goodbye to our Christmas home and move on to see in the New Year in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
There was no hurry for us to vacate our apartment - Kristijan has allowed us until 11 to leave, which gave us time to get ready then go to the nearby café for a morning coffee before getting on to the bus to Rijeka to meet the train that would take us to Ljubljana. It was an interesting experience to lug 6 bags onto a normal city bus, especially when it was full of people, but we managed, and the bus driver was very helpful, allowing us to keep half of the bags at the front of the bus, near his door.
We made the train with heaps of time to spare, which allowed us to leisurely get our bags on board and find a compartment. The seats are arranged into little compartments with exactly six seats in each. It was lucky we had boarded the train early, because we were able to grab a complete compartment just for us. We shut the door and shut out the rest of the world. With more than a half hour before the train we due to leave we realised that
a) we were hungry, and
b) there was no food served on the train
With the last of our kuna Cameron did a mercy run to find us something to eat. He found a bakery and brought back a full bag of goodies and still more than 50 kuna left over. We ate a few of the pastries before the train had headed off and Cameron again headed out trying to spend the last of the kuna. He came back with more food and still some kuna. Seemed like there was no getting rid of it. We decided to keep a couple of the 20 kuna notes (about $5 each) as a souvenir if we can't use them in Slovenia.
The train took us away from Rijeka towards the Slovenian border. About 40 minutes into our journey we stopped suddenly and I realised that not only would I be adding to my tally of land border crossings, but I would be doing so for the first time ON A TRAIN. 'Woohoo' I thought, but it turned out to be pretty much the same as doing it on a bus. We stopped for ages at the Croatian checkpoint where the Croatian police eventually came to us and took a quick look at our passports and sent us on our way. The train got moving and after maybe five minutes came to another stop - the Slovenian border. The customs man was first through asking if we had anything to declare, then the Slovenian police stamped us non-European people (Maggie, Georgie and me) and just glanced at Cameron, Jean and Jess's European passports.
As we headed into Slovenia we noticed that both the landscape and the architecture changed. Craggy rocks gave way to rich looking farmland. Houses appeared larger and better kept. Also, as we headed on we got into deeper and deeper snow.
As Ljubljana approached we gathered our things together and got ready to get off. Getting our luggage off the train was relatively painless and we found a conveyor belt that helped us get our bags down the stairs, and a lift to get back up to street level, By, Slovenia was looking pretty good by now!
The temperature outside of the train appeared quite cold, and there was snow lying on the streets all around from the quite large falls they had received on Christmas Eve.
Our hostel was only 300 metres away, but I needed a quick consultation of the map to work out exactly which direction to walk. It was pretty cold so I wanted to make sure that we would be walking as directly as possible. In the end it was very easy to find.
Hostel Celica is apparently one of the hippest hostels in the world. Under the Yugoslav regime it was a prison, but as now been converted to a glamorous hostel. Each of the cells has been converted into a double room and has been decorated in the theme of different artists. We had the 'apartment' booked, which is not decorated like this, but is very comfortable nevertheless. The first thing I noticed when we walked through the door was the buzz of energy. Well, actually the FIRST thing I noticed was how lovely and warm it was in there compared to outside, but next came the energy.
We all felt a bit self conscious as we trundled our big suitcases across the lobby. Once we had picked up our key we then had to heft the bloated bags of pain up four flights of stairs. Christmas had made my bag a bit lighter, but it was still no picnic. Anyway, we made it all the way without dying. We caught our breath, checked out our new abode and then discussed the relative merits of bed allocation. The room is described as an 'apartment' but I would say it is a very small space - really just two rooms and a bathroom, and because the ceiling is sloping with the roofline, there is nowhere to stand up straight. Next it was time to head out for a meal and a look at the town.
We had been hanging out for some different kind of food so we couldn't believe our luck when the first eatery we came across was a Chinese restaurant. We considered whether we would go in for maybe 2 seconds then went straight in. It was only after we had taken off hats scarves and jackets that someone asked what time it was. As luck would have it it had reached 5:30 by this stage, which we considered a reasonable (if early) dinnertime.
What we had was a very tasty meal for a reasonable price, so I was pleasantly surprised, even more so when I learned that they took Visa, because I had not yet been to the ATM to get out some Euros. It was so good we decided to have dessert too, even though we had all just said how full we were. Some Jasmine tea topped off a nice introduction to the city for us.
Next we decided to walk a little further on towards the centre of town. The closer we got the busier it became. As we neared the main square we could hear live music and a large crowd. The Christmas craft markets were all still operating much to our happiness so we walked for some time checking them all out. We stopped under a brazier and had a mulled wine to warm us up. A few more market stalls and we started to get cold so we headed back to our hostel.
Ljubljana looked like it was going to be a great place to visit!
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