We walked to Ljubljana’s Central Market yesterday morning just after 9am and it seemed very quiet in the nation’s capital – hardly any traffic, not many people around. The market was closed and a quick online search told us that it was the Feast of the Assumption, a very important day in the Christian and Catholic calendar. Slovenia is around 60% Catholic, and Croatia is over 80% Catholic. Italy is nearby also, so that explained why there were so many people on the move and around the place, making the most of the 3-day weekend to get away.
We drove south from Ljubljana, avoiding the autostrade as we needed some kind of e-tag that lasts 6 months and cost EU35. Probably good value for 6 months, but not for us for just one day and less than 100kms of driving. The roads we drove on were good and we visited a couple of points of interest on the way south – Predjama Castle was built into a cave, and looks totally impregnable. Building commenced in 1202, and much of what remains is from the 17th century. It has all the good stuff – a dungeon, a 16th century chest full of treasure, and holes in the ceiling of the entrance tower for pouring boiling oil on intruders.
Then on to the beautiful seaside town of Piran, which is like a smaller, less touristy version of Venice without the canals. Vehicular access is very limited, which adds to the charm of the place. We parked at the Fornace parking station about a km from the town and walked along the ‘beach’, then through narrow alleyways to the town square. There were lots of people enjoying the fine weather, swimming, sunbaking, sitting at outdoor cafes. Piran was under Venetian rule for 500 years from the late 13th century, and was a major supplier of salt.
And further along the road to Croatia and the Istrian Peninsula. We were aiming for a campgound on the coast just out of the historic town of Labin, but it was completely full. so we backtracked to Labin, to another much smaller campground, Kamp Romantic. Not sure where it got its name (and there has been at least one crying child here most of the time, so not very romantic …), but it is very well-set up with a pool, good-sized sites and a very friendly host who showed us around last night, invited us to help ourselves to vegetables from his garden and shared some of his own white wine with us. A nice drop – he grows enough grapes for 1000L, and buys more so he can make a total of 2000L per year. He and his neighbours share ownership of a grape crusher and other large agricultural machinery, and he presses his olives for oil. Last year was a bad year, he only got 8L – usual yield is around 30L.
We’re spending a couple of nights here, it’s such a nice place. Also, we’re having to rethink our plans – it’s peak season on the Croatian coast and everything is booked out. The downside of travelling the way we do, but we’ll figure out alternatives.