The mystery is finally solved! Župančič, Zoo-pan-check is the correct spelling & pronunciation. As it turns out, I am a distant relative of a famous hockey player and there is a street in the capital city, Ljubljana, named for my family…or maybe it’s named for the actual meaning of the word, “mayor”? Whatever the case, it was a thrill to finally see some validation of my heritage and explore my roots. Now I know that we were/are some very important people who came from a friendly, welcoming, and incredibly beautiful country.
And what was the very first thing we saw after crossing the Slovene border? A tractor driving down the road, it felt just like home!
The village where we stayed, Ratece, was like a movie set. Snow was piled up to our ears, old ladies greeted each other on the wooden bridge at the end of our lane, we awoke to the ringing bells of the local church, the picturesque Julian Alps filled the horizon, cross country skiers skied uphill mere feet from our balcony, and the cozy village restaurants served only delicious home cooking. Our neighbors in this unspoiled landscape? Haystacks and Lipizzaner stallions….
The first full day of our stay, we went skiing at Kranskja Gora. The quaint ski town was almost as nice as ours but far more commercialized with big hotels, shops, and restaurants. In the evening, we rested our tired bones in the thermal healing waters that Slovenia is famous for with an alpine aromatic bath. Tracey & I shared the bath (in our swimsuits of course), giggling all the while, but it was still soothing & calming nonetheless and especially nice on a cold winter evening.
The next morning I had my first full body chocolate massage – yes, it smelled wonderful and no I did not try to lick myself. After I was properly relaxed with the lingering smell of cocoa on my skin, we took a road trip to the enchanting Lake Bled and Bled Castle. The glacial lake contains the only island in Slovenia on which stands the Church to the Assumption. Tricky to get to in the best of weather, it definitely wasn’t happening for us in late February! On the rocky cliff high above is Bled Castle with spectacular views and an amazing 5 star restaurant where the day of pampering continued with a scrumptious steak lunch, the only thing that was missing was a some local vino but as the responsible driver I had to put that indulgence on hold until we got home.
We intended to spend our last day on another excursion to Ljubljana, but since our rental car was “100% frozen” (official diagnosis provided by the local tow-truck driver) most of our day was spent waiting for our SUV to thaw. It was disappointing to lose so much time, but it was hard to be too upset with the beautiful, serene scenery all around.
There were only a few hours of daylight left by the time we arrived Ljubljana, the name derived from the word “beloved,” after visiting I can see it was so for very good reason, but we had enough time to get the vibe and see the major sites. I really enjoyed seeing the ornate door of the Saint Nicolas Cathedral, strolling along the old town promenade of the Ljubljanica River, and tasting a krof (fruit filled, powdered donut) near the Triple Bridge.
I was sorry there wasn’t more time to enjoy Slovenia, but now I know it really is just as beautiful and interesting as I imagined. I should have no trouble persuading others to join me for another visit in the future, preferably summer next time.
Now it’s off to Venice and the second half of a truly amazing holiday!