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Report 866: Castles, Caves and Cablecars

By wendy lynn from California, U.S.A., Spring 2005

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Page 11 of 16: Radovljica, Begunje and Ljubljana

photo by Joe

Julia at Kamen Castle in Begunje

We started the day with a big breakfast, typical for Tanja: bread, butter, sausage, honey, jam, pepper relish and Turkish coffee. We decided to start exploring nearby and end the day in the capital city Ljubljana which is about an hour and a half away from Psnak.

First, off to Begunje and the ruins of Kamen Castle. Tanja told us that the castle was “not so good” meaning that it was in ruins, but that was fine with us. It sounded interesting and was quite close. Thank goodness for Tanja’s map. We only had to stop for directions once, and even then we found out that we were on the right track. Luckily we had the map to point to since our pronunciation of names leaves a dazed and confused look on most Slovenians. When we pointed to the word, they broke into smiles of understanding.

On the way to Begunje, we found ourselves in Radovljica where we had intended to stop on the way back. Radovljica is home of the fabled beekeeping museum…written up in the Lonely Planet book (alert!!) and a New York Times article Wendy had read awhile back. It was a nice medieval town with a lot of old buildings and a peaceful atmosphere. Beautiful weather and vistas enhanced its beauty.

The beekeeping museum was not too extensive and hardly justified the 1000 SIT we paid to get in, but it was charming and we had the place completely to ourselves. They had a glass beehive which was cool as well as several oddly shaped beehives and painted beehive panels which is characteristic of the area. We had noticed painted beehive panels on Psnak’s beehive house. Wendy found some cool ceramic tiles for our backsplash that turned out to be made of wood. We bought one depicting two medieval guys jousting.

Back on track to Begunje. Within fifteen minutes, we found the Kamen castle. We did stop by the conveniently open Begunje information room which seemed out of proportion to the small size of the town. There were no less than five women inside, but it seemed to also house local art, which might have explained the manpower. Strangely enough, this was one of the few places we would see that had a good selection of maps. By this point, though, we had Tanja’s maps, so we merely took note of the fact. Wendy bought a few postcards.

The castle was pretty cool—an old ruin of a 12th-15th century castle that had been partially dismantled hundreds of years ago in order to build the church in town. In the town center itself there was a more recent castle that we did not have time to explore. Outside the castle (which was reached by a gravel road), there was no parking lot, just some weedy gravel. The only vehicle parked there was a scooter that belonged to a young couple who promptly left when we arrived.

Another strange part was that someone had taken up residence in the small section of the castle that was weatherproof. We explored for awhile and then left. Some of the wooden structures and balconies looked a little dicey. We read the only informational panel in the castle which told us that one of the jousters on Wendy’s bee plaque was the most illustrious past resident of the Kamen castle.

On the way to Ljubljana, some guys in a Slovenian truck started honking behind us. It wasn’t clear if they were honking at us or someone else. Then they started chasing us. We pulled over, and one of the men presented us with Julia’s sweater, which they had recovered from the road. We initially blamed Julia for leaving her sweater on top of the car. Then Brother fessed up: “I frowed it out the window.”—said with a smile. Of course, he knew he had done something wrong and broke down immediately in guilty tears when reprimanded for his offense. We thought it was so nice of those men to follow us, especially when we had ignored their initial honking.

Off to Ljubljana. Friday afternoon traffic was a change of pace, but not so bad. Ljubljana's old town was charming and probably deserved a little more time than we gave it, but really was just another old city at best. We looked around the big open air market and ate some strange, pasty desserts that incorporated honey and colored sugar crystals. We looked for a place to eat lunch and were directed to a decent Italian place called “Julija.” Julia saved a napkin in its honor.

We thought one of the best aspects of Ljubljana was that it appeared to be a real working city where real Slovenians lived and played. Although Salzburg was fantastic and we would love to return, it did seem that it’s main purpose was to cater to visitors. You got the feeling that most people living in Salzburg were somehow involved in tourism, even if it was extremely tasteful and well done. It wasn’t the same with Ljubljana. It may have a decent amount of visitors, but it had a feeling of real Slovenia. A nice contrast, we thought.

We then headed for the castle overlooking the city. Joe thought it would be a waste of time, but we felt obligated to check it out. It was a nice walk up the hill (covered with “regular” houses right up until the very top), but the castle itself was a little too modernized for our taste, and we were a bit tired of castles by this point anyway. On the way down, we stopped at a playground. Some little girl said something in Slovene to Brother who said, “That girl say something. I need to tell Mommy ‘bout that girl.”

Then back to Psnak. Unfortunately we were too late for Julia to ride horses, and it was unlikely at this point that the timing would ever work out for her. Tanja told us that her husband was around much of the summer but that autumn was his busy time. We opted for just some sausage and bread for dinner. We took it up to our room. Tanja later brought us some Slovenian doughnuts that looked a lot like Krapfen. We packed up to leave the next morning and were off to bed.

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