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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 6 of 16: Klagenfurt and into Slovenia

photo by Wendy

Psnak tourist farm

We were up late again (according to Joe) and off to the salt mines in nearby Hallein. Wendy didn’t want to go back to Salzburg for just a half day. Unfortunately, we discovered that only kids over age four were permitted on the salt mine tour so we skipped it. We did manage to buy some salt souvenirs for friends and a few rocks of salt “ore” for Joe and Julia.

Just a few steps away from the salt mines was a recreated Celtic village, which included a very modern playground, so we stayed and played for awhile. Julia was scared that the mannequins in the village would come alive. A few of them did, although we suspect this was caused by electrical design, not the supernatural.

Setting out for southern Austria, Wendy followed directions from “Frommer’s Best-Loved Driving Tours,” which led us on a 40 minute detour to a ski village ghost town without any adventure park in sight. Back on the highway, we didn’t have any CDs and the radio wasn’t so good, so we took to singing Elvis songs and replacing some of the words with “eishohle.” Alex kept demanding that Joe sing the “hair cut song.” We never figured out what he was talking about.

After an hour or two, we wound up in Klagenfurt: Capitol of Carinthia near the border of Slovenia and considered by many to be the cradle of the Slovene culture. Unfortunately, it was Sunday in Austria--so everything was closed. Wendy was disappointed, especially because we had seen no signs for Minimundus or the affiliated Europapark, another amusement park that never materialized.

Although the city was deserted, we found an open Wienerwald. Julia proclaimed the trademark roast chicken to be the best in the world. Both kids and Joe had ice cream for dessert. As usual, Julia believed she had gotten the short end. Brother tried Joe’s Vienna Eiskaffee and almost puked.

On the road to Slovenia, we were amazed by engineering and choked by exhaust as we passed through the lengthy tunnels that had been bored through the Alps. At the border, the somewhat unshaven, chainsmoking Slovenian border guards seemed skeptical about our claim that we were going to Slovenia for sightseeing, but let us pass nonetheless when we told them we were staying at the Psnak tourist farm in the Julian Alps.

We discovered Farm Psnak on the section of the official Slovenian tourism website dedicated to “tourist farms.” Tourist farms are, for the most part, small working farms or rural family homes that offer rooms or apartments for rent. Most offer a homecooked breakfast and/or dinner and allow for low-key and affordable accommodations with a local family. Just what we were looking for.

Finding Psnak once we got to Slovenia, however, was no easy task. We quickly and easily got to the small but quaint town of Mojstrana, but beyond that it was confusing. The streets were only wide enough for one car with houses close on either side. There were few street signs, but none of them or the street numbers matched our destination. We retraced our steps a few times and finally found a resident who pointed up the road and told us to “go, go, go!” despite the fact that the signs in that direction and the gravel road suggested we were leaving town. Hmmm. But we followed her instructions and six kilometers later on a gravel road that eventually turned to asphalt, we found Farm Psnak at the bottom of a steep mountain near a pretty Alpine meadow.

A few locals were hanging out on benches outside Psnak’s gostilna (tavern). Tanja Lipovec kindly welcomed us with homemade honey schnapps and sodas for the kids. The apartment was nice: modern, spacious and clean with its own kitchen. The built-in sofas converted into beds for the kids. The bedding was typical good European quality. The balcony overlooked their farm equipment, which, of course, greatly impressed Alex. Big mountains loomed everywhere.

We had a few hours before bedtime to explore so we decided to go to nearby Jesenice, the closest big town. What a disappointment. Never want to go there again. Very industrial and dark. A true testament to Slovenia’s communist past.

Almost to spite Jesenice, however, it soon became apparent that most of Slovenia was incredibly beautiful. It had all of the natural beauty of Austria, but without the pretensions to grandeur. There’s certainly something to be said for pretensions (along with heavy tourism), however, as they lead to beautiful architecture and good road signs. The ubiquitous alpine buildings with their balconies spilling over with flowers were very charming, though.

Dinner at Psnak was interesting: Noodle soup, beet salad, grilled turkey breast in cream sauce and mashed potatoes. We had more than we could eat, and it was all good tasting and hearty. We tried the two big Slovenian beers: Union and Zlatorog. We were the only guest in Tanja’s small dining room although there was a group of what were probably neighbors having a good time in the other dining room next to us. It was nice to be able to relax and not overly stress about how the kids were behaving at the table.

That evening in our cozy apartment, several guidebooks and brochures that Tanja keeps for guests helped us understand Slovenia and its people. One booklet asked and answered the following provocative questions: “Are Slovenians belligerent? Do they have a drinking problem? Do they like to sing? We’re not making this up. (As a postscript, let us tell you that we didn’t meet any belligerent or overly intoxicated Slovenes, but we did hear one or two of them singing a little too loudly.)

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