Istria

Eight-thirty came way too early but we managed to get up and get on the bus. An hour later we were at the Postojna where we were going to tour the largest cave system in Europe. We arrive and because we’re a little thick headed we follow the Let’s Go guide again walk past the building it mentions to a square and take a left to get to the caves. Note that it doesn’t actually tell us which square or the name of the street to follow. At this point I’m 99% sure a girl wrote it because a guy would never expect you to read his mind when you were wondering which street to take. We follow the directions to a tee and walk for 30 minutes. A passerby points in the direction that we came when I showed him the name of the caves. We head back to find another square to take a left at. I ask for directions at a Tourist Info center and they tell us to turn right and walk along the street until you get to the square then turn left. That first part seems to be vital. After fallowing the second set of directions we arrive at what seems to be Disneyland with a huge parking lot and a billion tourist busses.


There were tourist shops everwhere selling junk and the food was marked up 100% from what it was in the city center. My kids had never seen the inside of a cave before so we ventured on. I got a 50% discount on all three of them because they’re under 18 and it still cost $60 to get in! Had they been to a cave before I would have flipped them the bird and walked away. They were also renting wool coats because of the super cold temperatures of the cave (50 degrees F) for $4 ea. I got one just in case it actually was unbearable (it wasn’t). We and half the people from the tour busses got on a train which took us through 2 km of cave were we ventured on on foot with an english speaking guide. She told us that artificial light was causing moss to grow so we couldn’t use our flashes. Half of those billion people were using their flashes anyway and nobody said anything. Me knowing a few things about cameras knew the flash was worthless so I whipped out my gorillapod and wrapped it’s legs around the railing and started taking pictures. One of the workers jumped all over me like I’d stollen the crown jewels from the Tower of London. She said that the caves were government property and it was against the law to take pictures and that there were people who checked cameras before exiting. This I took as a load of BS because everyone was taking pictures and nobody said anything. The difference was I had a tripod and wasn’t using my flash and they didn’t. The real difference was mine would come out and theirs wouldn’t. The effective difference was I would be the only one not buying anything in the gift shop. My theory about what motivates the world is strengthened. Later we get to the “Gallery” where pictures are allowed. There wasn’t anything to take pictures of except for one small section of stalactites with a professional photographer camped in front of them charging 6 euros per picture. Apparently this section of the caves wasn’t in Slovenia because it wasn’t illegal to take pictures in it. Funny how the law only exists when someone wants to enforce it. Disgusted and really pretty ticked we exit the caves vowing never to return. The caves themselves were impressive but really look about the same as any other so if you’ve ever seen caves before I’d recommend you avoid these. If it’s been a while since your last fleecing I’d recommend you hit any property belonging to Disney for your fix. At least you might get to take pictures there.

Back at the bus station we get tickets to Piran. I really wanted to go back into Croatia to Rovinj and Pula but time ran short and Piran is as far as we could get into the Istria region. Istria is Slovenia and Croatia’s Tuscany. They grow a lot of grapes and olives there. As a matter of fact the Taran sauce I had at Lake Bled used wine from this region. As we progressed further into Istria I was amazed at how much it even looks like Tuscany. I think the hills are higher but outside of that it’s very similar. You have hilltop villages, red clay roof tiles and hills full of vines and olive trees. If you didn’t see a road sign in Slovenian you wouldn’t know that you weren’t in Italy. As we approach the coast the road signs start having multiple spellings for each town on them. Most towns were in at least Italian and Slovenian and sometimes in Croatian as well. Piran is Piran in Slovenian and Pirano in Italian. Pula had three names. Why the different languages? Because Italy was all of 50 miles to the north and Croatia was 10 miles to the south. Twenty percent of Pirans residents are actually Italian. I have to say that I like Istria a lot. I’d rather live here than in Tuscany because you get the grapes, the olives and pleasant people. In Tuscany you only get two of those things, I’ll let you decide which two.

Piran

Piran itself looked like a small venetian city on the water. It was about 10 degrees hotter than Ljubljana. Since we didn’t have any other guidebook we decided to go with what we had – the Let’s Go guide. It managed to lead us to the main city square which according to the guide there was a tourist information center in the corner of it. There wasn’t. We checked the exact address and it wasn’t a TI. We were hungry and wanted to eat at a place in the guide that had great squid but we didn’t have time to follow any wild goose chases so we put it away and ate at the first place we found. The Let’s Go guide outlived it’s usefulness. We’ll use it again once we get to Hungary since a different author wrote that section. I also brought a guide just for Budapest so we have a backup. We got into Piran so late we had to eat and catch a bus back. There were 5 people on the bus so we stretched out and slept. That night we packed the bags, found food for the train and slept. Our train the following morning was at 8:30 or so we thought….

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