It was my birthday on Sunday. Our first full day in Slovenia. Happy birthday to meeeeeee!
I set my alarm early – not because I was filled with excitement at the prospect of turning 32, but because I didn’t want to miss out on breakfast (7.30am until 10) and we had an 8.30am bus to catch for a day of sightseeing.
There were a few hiccups.
Firstly – breakfast didn’t actually start until 8. In my eternal quest for eating as much as possible, I had imagined the 7.30am start time. I had just enough time to chow down a jammy croissant and a coffee (and pack a banana for the road). Rich took a more leisurely approach.
Secondly – we had trouble finding someone at the B&B we could check out with. It’s tricky to do a runner with 20kgs of luggage, and we’re honest peeps, but waiting around for someone was a little bit stressy…
And then… After we finally checked out, with about 4 minutes to spare after arriving at the bus stop, we realised we hadn’t packed our sightseeing vouchers.
As Liz Lemon might say: “What the what?”
Rich ran back to the B&B while I anxiously waited at the bus stop.
8.28am: No Rich. No bus.
8.30am: No bus (due now). No Rich. Probably a good thing.
8.31am: Rich is back!! With our vouchers!!! But no bus.
8.40am: No bus.
8.45am: No bus.
I said to Rich “We must be in the wrong spot. The bus must have left without us. The bus must have forgotten to get us. This is the worst birthday everrrrrrrr.”
Rich said to me “Calm down derbrain, it’ll be here soon.”
8.47am: No bus. I get a little welled up…
8.48am: A bus!!! Hooray!!!!
All anxiety and stress and angst vanishes like a swiftly eaten croissant, and we pile into the bus. Well, minivan. We are the last people to be collected, so we get to sit up front with the driver, Micah. Up front is the best place to be because you are less likely to get carsick, you get the full benefit of the airconditioning, and you get to ask lots of dumb questions about Slovenia (like “What should we eat while we’re here?” and “Where are the best cream cakes in Bled?”).
Micah was hilarious. He said “Have you heard of dark sausages?” and I said “Yes, I think so – what’s in them? Bits of guts and offal, yeah?” and he said “Best not to think about what’s in a dark sausage until AFTER you eat one.” We laughed.
Our first stop was Predjama, which is a crazy castle built into the side of a huge rocky mountain, and has a backyard (so to speak) of a bat-filled cave. It also boasts geranium planter boxes on all the windows and a torture chamber – quite lah-di-dah. An obese beagle wandered around with a bone in his jaws, adding to the illusion of ‘much death has occurred here….’
Next up was a visit to the Skocjan Caves; around 6kms of chambers and winding paths and huge canyons right under our feet. I was half looking forward to the 2 hours in the cave (I’d seen a LOT of pictures of happy hikers smiling under stalactites and putting their arms around stalagmites) but I was also half dreading it. You may already be aware of the fact that I am a bit of a sissy and the closer we got to the mouth of cave, the more I thought “I’m going to fall into the canyon; I’m going to get stuck in a narrow crevice; There’s going to be an earth quake and we’ll all be trapped like the Chilean miners and it would fall on me to sing Elvis Presley songs – and we’re going to trapped with all these screaming children and rude peeps who talk over the top of our guide.”
The thought of being trapped with the rude peeps was actually most terrifying.
In we went. Down a dark, twisting corridor, deep into the bowels of the earth. Constant temperature of 12 degrees. Everyone around us started putting on jumpers and Gortex vests. And they all had hiking boots on. And they all looked at us in dismay: no jumpers. Rich in thongs. Me in Keds. I’m sure I saw a few headshakes…
The first chamber had a steep, downward slope and was referred to as The Silent Chamber. I would have thought this would be the time when everyone stopped talking, and kids stopped screaming and crying and hitting their siblings. But the cavernous space and echoes it created made peeps wanna talk and scream and cry and hit even more. Just to hear the echo.
We learnt the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite and I started thinking about those monsters in The Descent. *shudder*
Down and down, deeper and deeper, we entered the second chamber, which was twice the size of the first, and even more astonishing. The ceiling was covered in shards of knife-like stones, and crazy clam-like rocks and formations covered the floor. I grappled with the notion that a space like this could be anywhere… That is IS anywhere. And everywhere. That below the surface of the earth, there’s this…
No panic attacks now. No palpitations or shortness of breath. Just sheer amazement.
More steps down and around and through and we found ourselves in the third chamber. If I was amazed and astounded before, no words can even describe the feeling I got in here. Huge. Absolutely. Positively. Totally flipping. Ginormous. With a river in it. And the river was 140 metres below us. And there was 100 metres of space above us. And we were, at this point, about a bajillion metres* below the earths surface.
Ah. May. Zing.
How could the day get any more spectacular than this?
Maybe not a natural wonder of the world or UNESCO heritage listed site, but our next stop was probably my favourite of the day…
Micah dropped us off at the top of a steep hill in the seaside village of Piran for lunch and a swim. Rich and I hot-footed it straight to the waterfront for lunch (remember I’d only consumed one tiny, jammy croissant and, given it’s my birthday, I have the perfect excuse for non-stop eating, right?).
We sat down at the first place we saw. Rich ordered two icy margeritas, and we discovered that this was a BAR, not a restaurant. No food here. Just beer and cocktails. Which, on your birthday, or any day when you’re on holiday, or any day when it’s above 30 degrees, kinda makes sense.
Halfway through my margerita, I made the most of the bars wireless internet and skyped my bestie back in Melbourne…. Bliss…..
While I was chatting up a storm with Wa, Rich moseyed inside and ordered… TWO MORE MARGERITAS!!! Flaps up, homies!!!
Feeling refreshed, rehydrated, albeit a little wobbly, we headed off in search of food. A seafood platter, to be precise.
In a town like Piran, it aint hard to find.
A short walk later, there we were. A waterfront restaurant, full of people, shady and cool. Noice.
Two giant beers, a seafood platter for two, a green leafy salad. My fella. Me. Twas absolutely perfect…
We agreed that lunch would actually be dinner today (we didn’t end up eating until about 3.30pm) and that we’d have a special birthday dessert once we got back to Ljubljana later that evening. Rich asked what my ideal birthday dessert would be, to which I replied “Tiramisu, I think. It seems like a good day for tiramisu”.
Rich replied “Tiramisu? Slovenia doesn’t seem like a very tiramusi-y kind of place…”
No less than 5 minutes later, a tiramisu, covered in heart-attack-inducing whipped cream, arrived at our table. With a candle in it.
Again. What the what????
Rich hadn’t left the table. The waiter hadn’t been over. Yet here was this creamy, ridiculous tiramisu with ‘Happy 32nd Birthday’ piped on the plate with chocolate sauce.
Amazing man, is Rich… He’d teed it all up when we arrived, and had taken a punt on the tiramisu angle. What a good egg…
After lunch, we had a quick swim in the Adriatic (holy cow, so heavenly), which may not have been the wisest choice given we were full of fish and dessert and beer, but we managed to stay afloat and it was kinda the most perfect way to end a pretty amazing day.
We met Micah in the town square, and made our way back to the city.
And that, my friends, was the best birthday ever. Adventures with my fella. A chat with my bestie across the seas. Amazing food and drink. And a surprise tiramisu.
*Not actually true. More like mebbe 300 metres…