Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Report from Kranjska Gora

Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Watercolour postcard
©2000 Charlene Brown

We left Prague May 10 and spent three days getting to Budapest, with stops in Cesky Krumlov (which I painted last year on a virtual repeat visit) and Melk in Austria. We climbed up to the Melk Abbey, an awe-inspiring place, and the most extremely baroque church you could ever hope to find, but my husband didn’t get far inside the place – his hiking boots made so much noise on the polished wood floors he carefully squawked and squealed his way to the back pew and stayed there. 
Besides the expected attractions of Buda and Pest, there was a (then) new place, Szobor Park. Unlike other formerly-communist countries, which have mainly dumped their Soviet-style sculptures, Hungary has gathered them all together in one place, and it’s quite an impressive sight. I mean, some of those hummers are huge!
Heading west after Budapest, we found a wonderful pension, high up in the vineyards and orchards overlooking Lake Balaton –the first time we’d actually followed our plan to just stop whenever we saw a perfect place – and decided to stay a couple of days. While there we visited Heviz, a huge thermal lake, to ‘take the waters,” which we shared with water-lilies, quite a lot of floating moss, algae, a few hundred other people and ducks. Spent three hours floating around contemplating the many flights overhead and trying to agree on which might be EK001, EK035, and EK016 out of Dubai.
When we left Hungary we were unable to obtain any Slovenian money (remember these were the dark days before the Euro was introduced) but proceeded for almost an hour without any difficulty – until we realized we’d been traveling on a toll road! The folks in the tool booth were not interested in our leftover florints.  They would have accepted Austrian schillings, but we only had 18 of them.  DM and SF would also have been okay but supply buried in suitcases somewhere. Tentatively waved an American $5 which they not only accepted with smiles all round, but gave us 645 tolars change! Next booth, shorter road, paid another $5, got 930 tolars change. Obviously this wasn’t going to be enough for a B+B, so when we reached Kranjska Gora (by turning right just before Ljublyjana and heading toward some great-looking mountains) we took the trouble to find a hotel that accepted Visa.
The second day we drove up to Gorski Prelaz Vrsic, the highest pass in the Julian Alps, and the scenery was about the most spectacular we’d ever seen. In our road atlas the road up the pass was white – same colour as your knuckles if you go up it – which apparently indicates a paved path with squared cobblestones on the near-vertical switchbacks. But it was worth it. Finally painted some postcards here, after our triumphal return from the pass, to the thundering beat of The Best of Communism, a CD we picked up at Szobar Park.