I’ve been in Ljubljana for three weeks now, and while I can’t imagine getting bored of it, it was time I explored Slovenia. So this weekend, I have ventured to the Slovene coast.
I told my colleague (the one who wants to experience “Authentic Slovenia”) that I was planning to come to Piran, she immediately jumped at it. She decided to do a day trip. I would make a weekend of it and book a hotel, because I’m worth it. There aren’t many hotels in the historic town of Piran itself, so I found a deal in the beachside resort town 2 kilometres up the coast, Portorož.
We went to Ljubljana Bus Station this morning. Now, in general, Ljubljana is very tourist-friendly, but not the bus station. There are no visible timetables. And no display boards with arrivals and departures. There are signs hanging from a rusty chain above each bus stop with a list of potential unpronounceable destinations written on each, but no times, routes or prices listed. The whole bus parking bay was filled with tourists of a variety of nationalities asking each other which bus was which, what times they were leaving and what types of tickets were available. Public transport for the psychic.
We found our bus and boarded. We were in the front seats so even though we didn’t have the street cred of those in the back, we had great views of the Slovenian countryside.
The driver was involved in a conversation with the conductor who was sitting beside him that involved quite a lot of gesticulating. This didn’t bother me, but my colleague leaned over to me and said nervously, “I see the rule about not talking to the driver doesn’t apply here.” It was true that as he looked into his co-worker’s eyes and waved his arms to emphasis a point, we were speeding down a three-lane motorway. I laughed and my colleague bunched up her face when he stopped talking in order to answer a call on his mobile. And there was no hands-free kit. It was lovely that we got to Piran alive.
The driver wasn’t afraid to share his taste in music with the whole bus. It was Slovene pop. But I have a feeling it wasn’t the most up-to-date Slovene pop. It featured a lot of accordion-playing. And was in a rhythm that would suit Cossack dancing well. And the chorus of every song had at least one chance for the whole band to shout “Hey!” very loudly. We don’t have enough accordion-based pop in Western Europe.
As we approached our destination, Piran, we passed through the resort I had booked a hotel in, Portorož. My colleague looked scandalised. There were beaches absolutely covered with umbrellas, there was big hotel after big hotel, all of them looking the same. There were hundreds of people wandering around in swim gear. It was very Costa del Sol. This was not her kind of place at all.
And I know I’m not meant to like places like that. People who have Masters degrees from snooty universities don’t like resort towns and beach holidays. But I’ve got a little secret. Some of my favourite TV shows are “Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents” and “What happens in Kavos”. I secretly love the idea of an entirely hedonistic holiday. Of a week on the beach, with the “lads”, getting regrettable tattoos and staying up till sunrise every morning and finding somewhere on the sea-front to get a proper fry-up and drinking so much that your pee smells of Smirnoff Ice and pulling a Rep and spending a night in the Magaluf jail for peeing all over a church flower bed during mass. So I do the expected thing and I tut tut at the idea of those kind of holidays, but deep down I imagine doing tequila shots from a Colombian barman’s belly button on a Greek beach and I sigh and think of all the things that will never be.
Anyway, Piran is nothing like that. Piran is phenomenally beautiful. It’s a medieval Venetian port at the end of a peninsula and is spectacularly preserved. The central piazza is lovely, with a statue of the town hero, a violinist called Tartini. You’ve gotta love a town whose greatest citizen was a fiddler.
We had lunch on the sea front, watching the little boats sailing along the Istrian coast, and basking in the beauty of it all.
Apparently, the best views are from a church tower at the top of a hill over the town. We climbed the hill. It was over thirty degrees. Sweat dropped from every pore of my skin. I felt as if I was leaving a slime trail behind me like a snail. Having climbed the hill, the next task was to ascend the 146 steps to the top of the church tower. I did it. And the views were indeed amazing. It really is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been.
It came time to go down the steps again. The steps are wooden. And old. When I was going up, all I could think of was how tired my legs were. On the way down, it was quite different. The wooden bannister was shaky and was not attached to the wall. The steps felt soft and had a bit too much give for my liking. Everywhere I looked, there were holes in the wood and little patched-up bits. My feet kept catching in the steps. There was a long drop down to the bottom of the tower. There were 146 steps. My life flashed before my eyes approximately 145 times.
We sat in the square and recovered with ice-cream therapy. Eventually, I walked my colleague to the bus station, so she could return to Ljubljana and I could go to Portorož.
We saw an ad for a little street train that runs from Piran to Portorož. My colleague was disgusted. She hates those little trains. They’re really touristy and inauthentic. I think they’re darling. How could anyone hate miniature trains? All miniature things are adorable. Even baby crocodiles are lovely.
We went our separate ways and I got to my resort town. It’s buzzing. It’s only partly a partying, drinking town. It’s also a family resort and there were lots of little kids around too. And everyone was on holidays. It’s so nice to be somewhere where everyone is relaxing.
My hotel is amazing. I have a balcony and air conditioning and a TV and all the things I wish I had in my own flat in Ljubljana. I luxuriated for a while and then went out to have dinner.
I went to an outdoor restaurant with “live entertainment”. It was a Venga Boys tribute band, made up of a bald man on a keyboard and a woman who sang, played the tambourine and played the maracas. It was amazing. There was a middle-aged stiff-backed Slovenian couple who stood up and waltzed together in front of the whole restaurant and everyone else on the sea front. They waltzed to “The Venga Bus is Coming”. And they waltzed to “Boom boom boom boom”. And they waltzed to “Shalalalala”. And they waltzed to “We’re Going to Ibiza”.
I love this place.