Book Ends

After the final days in the north of Portugal we spent a short time in Venice, Italy before training it to Slovenia, where we have now been for a few days, neatly book ending our time in Venice.

In Portugal we stayed in the Douro valley region for a couple of days but were mostly in the Peneda-Geres National Park, which was refreshingly different to the places we had already visited and though having a fair bit of forest is a decidely granite landscape littered with small villages and slightly bleak landscapes. Although a bit more mountainous it was to me slightly reminiscent, at least a little, of parts of Dartmoor, which is a good thing. We even crossed through the north west corner of Spain briefly in a large loop that we covered but, apart from the usually better roads on the Spanish side, couldn’t tell where one ended and the other started (the border signs were a dead giveaway though).

Venice was a bit of mixed bag. Sunny was at first wowed by the exoticness and the fact that it was Venice and I didn’t have particularly high expectations, considering the 80 000 odd tourists a day that trundle around it in the summer season (like, when we were there!), cruise ships being the biggest offender. It was interesting at first with all the alleyways, bridges, canals and gondolas and I couldn’t help always thinking of that humorous “travelogue” short film that played with Monty Python’s Life of Brian at the cinema when it was first released (you’ll know the part if you saw it and I won’t repeat the relevant phrase here). After a few days though, I found it a bit tedious with so many streets dead ending at canals and having to constantly back track to find you way around, but it was more like exploring at first and it would probably only take a couple of months to get to know all the lesser thoroughfares if you lived there. The place was full of tourists of course, but also fashion tragics (probably mostly tourists too) and apparently pick-pockets, which we didn’t come across because we go out much earlier than the crowds.

For a change there were a few tourists out and about by 6:30-7:00 am but the shops and even the gondoliers weren’t open for business before 9:30-10:00 am which, considering the heat of summer, was crazy. In the end I don’t think it was worth seeing but we were both glad (sort of) that we did get to Venice and very sorry that we briefly added to the tremendous load the 20 million tourists per year put on the small city’s resources. At least we didn’t stay in Venice itself but on the mainland instead and either went on the bus or walked (2hrs) over the causeway to Venice each time.

From Venice we took the train to Trieste then a short hop on the bus to Villa Opicina where the train from Italy to Slovenia leaves only three times a day. It really is much more relaxing and fun to travel by train and for these short trips fairly inexpensive. The scenery on the way to Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana is quite pretty and it’s one of the most forested areas we have seen in Europe.

Ljubljana itself is only a small city but has a great, relaxed vibe, if a little trendy. It’s full of icecream shops and cafes, which are well patronised, and has a river running through the old town which is very pedestrian and bicycle friendly. The architecture noticeably changed on arrival from the Mediterranean to more northern European style but the churches though of different design externally, are still of the over-the-top Catholic variety inside. 

We now have several weeks to explore a few more areas of Slovenia and that is what will constitute the next post when ready.

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