24 hours in Slovenia

Was in Ljubljana on Thursday for a brainstorming session with Balkan NGOs. Three outside speakers: me and two Austrians, one a young guy who does similar work to me, the other a prince who is almost 70 and had a famous diplomatic career. The prince of course got picked up at the airport by the Austrian ambassador, and they offered me and a German participant in the meeting a lift into town. Interesting linguistic observation – the two Austrians happily talked German until it became clear that I was perfectly capable of speaking German to them; then they switched to English. (My German friend was so confused by this that she started speaking French!)

At the hotel it turned out that we were too early and none of our rooms were ready. Except that mysteriously it transpired that they could bend the rules for the prince, whose room suddenly was ready after all, but not for the rest of us. So I went and ate a large slice of chocolate cake – I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, but Slovenia is very good at pastries – which completely spoiled my appetite for lunch.

The meeting went as such meetings go, and we eventually went for a jolly dinner to what we were told was the best restaurant in Ljubljana. Hmm, I thought, and experimentally ordered snails for my starter and horse for my main course. The snails were overcooked and covered in burnt and greasy cheese, not quite my idea of escargots au gratin. The main course was OK except that the waiters seemed a bit uncertain as to whether they had in fact served us horse or beef; and certainly it tasted pretty much like beef. I have never had horse before, and for all I know I may not have had it yet. Anyway, if not my totally best culinary experience, certainly far from my worst.

I asked the prince about being a prince. He pointed out that in Austria they weren’t allowed to use their titles at all, unlike in Germany where although it was formally abolished they are allowed to heep the “Duke” or whatever as part of their surnames. So as far as he is concerned he is the son of someone who was once a prince. He then told me that the last time someone had referred to his ancestry was a rabid anti-Turkish speaker in a debate on Turkish EU membership (of which the prince is the most visible advocate in Austria) taunting him by asking what the five famous cardinals among his collateral ancestors would think of his pro-Muslim position. I realised this was a sore point, and dropped the subject.

The ambassador turned up again to drive us personally back to the hotel. When I expressed an interest in the Monument To The Unknown French Soldier Of The Napoleonic Wars Who Died For Slovenia’s Freedom he took a small detour so that we could look at it; pretty decent of him, especially since the Unknown French Soldier was killed in battle with the, er, Austrians.

I had to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning and asked the hotel to do me an emergency breakfast bag. They did, at no extra charge; meant I could eat a breakfast sandwich in the airport and then sleep on the flight. They also, of course, gave me some Slovenian pastries for breakfast which I couldn’t quite face; I gave them to Anne for her lunch, and she reported that the Slovenian pastries were, indeed, as good as I had predicted they would be.

For my next trip, I am off to Serbia on Monday afternoon; then flying to MAcedonia on Tuesday evening, and back home on Saturday morning. Backdating this entry to yesterday so that it sits in the right place chronologically.

One thought on “24 hours in Slovenia

  1. Um, champagne is supposed to be served in flutes, tall and very narrow. Serving it in those wide-topped glasses (which I think of as martini glasses) makes it go very flat very quickly.

    And I am passably confident the whole idea is a form of urban myth, anyway.

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