It was Christmas market time again and by undertaking detailed research of the flight schedules and destination options there was an opportunity to visit two neighbouring countries by flying to and staying in Ljubljana in Slovenia and whilst there taking a day trip to Klagenfurt over the border in Austria.
This time the airline was Easyjet and was a late afternoon flight from Stansted so we took a steady drive down, stopped for lunch on the way and arrived at a strangely quiet airport and waited patiently for the flight. I think on balance that Easyjet have got the boarding gate arrangements more organised than Ryanair and boarding the plane was achieved without the undignified rugby scrum situation that accompanies a Ryanair departure.
It seems to me that Easyjet take a much more relaxed approach to air travel. There is not the same frantic haste to rush everyone aboard and get the flight out on time and this makes it a more pleasurable experience. Ryanair seem to be completely obsessed with performance indicators and league tables and it must infuriate them intensely that when they reproduce the monthly statistics in their in-flight magazine that although they can proudly show themselves at the top of the performance leagues very often this is in competition with defiant Easyjet returns of ‘figures not available’.
For a week or so before the holiday, as is our normal practice, we had been keeping an eye on the weather in Ljubljana and although it had been a complete mixed bag Micky was still reasonably optimistic and was forecasting snow and extreme cold and we all hoped that he was right. You can imagine our disappointment therefore when we landed in a wet and soggy Slovenia with a sullen sky full of rain.
The airport is about twenty-five kilometres from Ljubljana, which was a bit too far for a taxi but we found the transfer bus with an obliging driver who drove us the forty minute journey into the city and then took a detour off of the scheduled route to deliver us directly to the front door of the City Hotel and in view of the rain we were grateful for that.
The hotel had been recently modernised and was clean and new with a slightly curious combination of Mexico and Salvidor Dali as a theme in the public areas. After a bit of unnecessary confusion over room allocations Micky was disappointed to find that this hadn’t provided him with the opportunity that he had been hoping for and we all retired to our rooms for the quickest of freshen ups and then a return to the bar in the lobby for a quick beer to familiarise ourselves with the local brewing arrangements.
As we finished our drinks there was a thoroughly amusing incident between a squabbling couple that entertained us with a piece of pure theatre. He was completely pissed and she was very pissed off and after a short exchange of unpleasantries she left the hotel and left him to fend for himself.
In his condition this was extremely difficult and after he had procured a room key from the desk clerk he attempted to use the elevator to his floor. This was a complicated enough procedure when sober so was especially baffling for this man who had a bottle of beer in each hand and a room key pass card that also activated the lift. He got in and after a few minutes the doors opened and he was still there. So he tried again. And again he got absolutely nowhere. The lift hadn’t moved at all but in his state of total inebriation I suppose he found it difficult to differentiate between imaginary spinning induced by excessive alcohol and genuine vertical motion. He abandoned that lift and tried the one next to it but with exactly the same outcome.
We could have watched this for a whole lot longer but eventually a member of staff came to his assistance and helped him operate the lift to the appropriate floor, He obviously didn’t make it to his room though because shortly afterwards he was back in the lobby in a state of complete bewilderment. Luckily for him then that his partner returned at this point, gathered him up as best she could and took him away and show over it was time to venture out into the soggy streets.
Outside the rain had got progressively heavier so we needed our umbrellas for sure as we set off on foot towards the city centre and the Christmas market. It was about ten o’clock now and the bad weather had cleared the streets of people and the city was prematurely quiet and many of the market stalls closed already for the day. Even in the dismal weather however the street lights and decorations looked spectacular with a theme of planets and other heavenly objects all based on a principal colour scheme of bright royal blue.
We walked through the deserted main square and down the left bank of the river Ljubljanica before crossing Cobblers bridge to the right bank where a number of stalls selling mulled wine and gluvine were still open and dispensing drinks. At one of these a group of boisterous young men were waiting under an umbrella that was swollen with rain and waiting for an unsuspecting passer-by to deposit the contents over.
As Micky walked by one of them sprung the trap and a torrent of water was despatched to the pavement missing him by a matter of inches. Good job that it did because although this would have given him a good soaking these boys would have got a lot wetter swimming in the adjacent river if they had successfully hit their target!
It was all a bit wet and disappointing but I suppose if we had carried out our research more thoroughly then we shouldn’t have been surprised because Ljubljana has the dubious distinction of being the wettest capital city in Europe and at one thousand three hundred and fifty millimetres a year (fifty three inches) that would certainly take some beating. Before I knew this I would probably have guessed that it would be Cardiff, in Wales, because that is fairly damp as well but the Welsh capital city is left way behind at only one thousand and seventy four millimetres.
Well the good thing is of course that it doesn’t rain in bars and in the main square just over the Triple Bridge we found a pavement bar with a rigid roof and blazing patio heaters and we enjoyed a couple of final drinks in the comfort of the warmth and the dry while the rain beat out a steady rhythm on the plastic roof sections above. It was about midnight by now and we were the last customers of the day and after a couple of drinks I think the barman was pleased to finally see us go as he hurriedly packed up behind us to make sure that we couldn’t change our minds.
We walked back to the hotel in the rain stopping for photo opportunities and hoped that things might improve in the morning.