Sadly there was little change in the weather overnight and the early morning check revealed grey clouds and steady light rain so it didn’t look too good. Micky had been out for a walk already however and although we were beginning to lose confidence in his weather predictions was still promising improvement over breakfast.
Today we had decided to take the short journey to what is claimed to be the most perfectly preserved medieval town in Slovenia, Škofja Loka, and we left the hotel and made the short walk to the bus station to buy our tickets. This was a relatively straightforward procedure and the bus turned up and left on time and we set off out of the city in a northerly direction towards the smaller towns with interesting names, Kraj, Preddvor, Jesersko and Radovljica, which were on our route.
The rain had stopped by now and it looked as though Micky might well be right today for a change.
First we had to drive through the suburbs of Ljubljana, which was predictably a lot less attractive than the city centre. Here there were rows of featureless concrete high rise blocks of apartments not dissimilar to those that we had seen in Riga and Bratislava and which had the grimy mark of the communist past indelibly stamped upon them. They looked as though they had been built hastily, I guessed in the 1970’s, when the population of the city was beginning to grow as it became more prosperous.
On the edge of town I was surprised to see a rugby club, because I had no idea that they played the game here. I don’t suppose I should necessarily have been surprised because they do play to a very high standard next door in Italy. Actually (and this is surprising, I think), out of the one hundred and ninety three countries in the world Rugby Football is played in one hundred and twenty three! The International Rugby Board, which is the games governing body, has one hundred full members and twenty-three associate members. In the world rankings Slovenia is 78th and its Balkan neighbours Croatia are 45th, Serbia 74th and Bosnia Herzegovina is 90th.
I have also discovered (and this is even more surprising, I think) that Slovenia has a national cricket team and has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council since 2005. There are slightly less cricketing than rugby football nations but the ICC lists one hundred and one countries as members, including Croatia but not Serbia or Bosnia Herzegovina. This list however includes Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey, The Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands, as well as Scotland, none of which are independent sovereign nations; so taking these and others into account the list reduces to only ninety-one.
As we passed out of the city and into the countryside the views began to improve and we passed through sweeping green meadows flanked by towering snow capped mountains, vivid green fields surrounding semi Alpine villages with traditional farmhouses and churches. The towns too were interesting even though they were mainly unattractive, scarred by ill-conceived industrial areas and rows of bleak apartments that had been constructed with no time for or attention to the principles of style and design.
The weather was overcast but there were prospects for further improvement and the bus arrived exactly on time at an untidy little terminus at our destination. The bus station may not have been very exciting but the little town was quite spectacular. It is a European cultural heritage site and although there is evidence of fifty years or so of neglect there was a lot of restoration work taking place and when all of this is finished it will once again be a very attractive town.
The first place to visit was the castle. It was quite a walk up to the fortress and the museum but it was well worth the effort because once at the top the views were spectacular across the mountains and valleys that surround the town. What we didn’t know, until we reached the entrance, was that the museum doesn’t open on Mondays so with our visit terminated prematurely we descended the path back to the town and stopped off at a little bar that was built into the old town walls before we continued our trip by walking into the main town square. The sun was trying to make an appearance now and it was becoming quite pleasantly warm as we walked back through the town to return to the bus station.
On the way out we crossed a six hundred year old stone bridge across the Selška Sora and in the middle is a statue of St John Nepomuk who is supposed to be the bringer of good luck. Well the sort of luck that old St John brings I can happily do without. The man, who built the bridge, a certain bishop Leopold, fell off it shortly after completion and he drowned in the river below. Where was St John on that particular day I wondered?