Breakfast lunch or dinner if Bojan was in the kitchen, it was a main event. There is no such thing as a small snack and after the third day I knew I was in big trouble – the “comfy” dresses were barely fitting and my jeans had transformed into an angry boa constrictor squeezing the life out of me. Our relatives fed us like they loved us –lots.
One of my favorite pleasures was the Turkish coffee black and strong and made in a small pot. Your cup would be gritty but there was just enough sweetness to make it all come together into a cup of heaven. As I sat at the kitchen every morning savoring my cup I would remember how we used to beg for coffee when we were small. My grandmother would make us a cup of coffee sweetened with sugar and milk and crumbled a slice of bread into it. We would it spoon it out. I was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t actually coffee but a form of chicory she was giving us. Fooled again!
We would beg my aunt Stefka to read our “coffee” grounds and tell us what wonders the future held. She considered herself a bit of a psychic, and we were in awe as she had never married and had even lived common-law – unheard of in that day! She was a free spirit. I’d visit her in her suite (our grandparent’s house was actually a fourplex back then with the family below and two suites above for tenants. I’d play with her perfume bottles and powders while she combed her long hair with a stiff brush. Everything about her was exotic. She also had a great imagination and would share gruesome stories that had me looking under my bed well into my twenties. Come to think of it, so did grandfather. Ahhh, how we would lay awake at night cowering afterward but still we would beg for more!
After a few days in Maribor, Vesna and Bojan said it was time to do a road trip and see Slovenia.
Bled took us by surprise. Tucked away in the foothills is this amazing glacier lake with an islet. In the centre of the island is the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria. Traditional wooden boats from a long ago era bring visitors to the church to ring the bell for good luck. This is a popular site for weddings. Local tradition has the groom climbing up the 99 steps carrying his bride. This was the ancient site of Ziva (means Alive), a goddess of love. How fitting, as we had fallen for Bled.
Perched on top of a great rock bluff is the 11th century Bled Castle. Today visitors will find an excellent museum, chapel, and restaurants as well as a unique wine cellar stocked with domestic wines.
With the snow-capped Julian Alps a dramatic backdrop, this truly is one of the prettiest places you will see as well as being steeped in ancient history.
We climbed the walkway to the castle and the views just got more and more amazing.
We truly enjoyed this magical palace, and with our newly found family, we knew the magic wasn’t a fairy-tale. It was real.
We could easily have spent several days there, but after visiting the shops, the museum and the wine cellar, we headed to our other cousin Bojan (Vesna’s younger brother) and his wife Lidija home for more stories, and some home-made slivovica, a plum based spirit that is the national drink.
Oh and by the way, that bottle of slivovica that Bojan gave us when we left, never did made it home. 🙂