Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 12
Friday, November 2nd, 2007
Ljubljana, Lake Bled, and Celje - Slovenia
Got up on Friday morning and Brooke, Sarah and I headed north about 40 minutes to Lake Bled. It is a quaint little town that sits at the base of the Alps, with a lake, a castle on a cliff overlooking the lake, and a church out on an island - what more could you ask for? In the summer the lake is warm enough to swim in - but we just went for a long walk around.

Bled Castle on the cliff...

Living in California for 2 years now, I've started to miss the seasons. So you can understand why I'd be excited about the fall leaves and colors :)

Old house, again the castle in the background...

That evening we drove back down to Ljubljana and picked up Jonny and continued on to another city about 1.5 hours away called Celje (sell-yay - Brooke, did I spell that correctly?). The missionaries in that area had started a Summer English Camp to teach Slovene teens English. They had a follow-up event that coincided with the Holiday; a Chestnut Picnic

Now, seeing as how Sarah and I had never eaten an actual chestnut, we were a bit unclear on what a picnic of said chestnuts entails. Basically, it is like a pizza party, with chips and drinks, but instead of pizza as the main entrée, you roast a crapload of chestnuts until their soft inside - kind of the consistency of a baked potato.

(Sarah with chestnuts)

They trained us well and we ate our fill.

(Ryan with chestnuts)

Roasted chestnuts get charred black ash on the outside - this leads to blackened fingers - that leads to the chestnut picnic version of a food fight where you smear one another's faces with said ash.

(Brooke with chestnuts...)
We also played some English games/mixers. We had paper taped on our backs and as we'd walk around and have discussions (in English, thankfully) we would write encouraging adjectives about the person on their back. The kids pretty quickly learned that Sarah and I are actors in Hollywood... which factored into most of the conversations.

(Jonny... with chestnuts)

After about 30 minutes, we placed all the paper into a pile and read the list of adjectives aloud, then tried to guess who's paper it was. When mine came up it said "Barely famous" at the top and everyone looked straight at Sarah and I and started laughing! Jonny was leading the group and said, "Ok, so let's have a quick discussion about what the word 'barely' technically means."

I saved that paper. Regardless of whether or not I ever am famous, it will be a good reminder to stay grounded. After all... isn't everyone pretty much "barely famous"?

Will someone from OKC tell James Sturgis that I found his younger, slovene brother? I might have creeped this kid out because I kept taking photos of him and telling Sarah "He looks SO much like James."

Afterwards the 4 of us went to get Kebap - which is not a Turkish Pop Group as Sarah and I guessed, but rather a gyro type late-night chicken sandwich/pita thing. SUPER good. Especially when you've had nothing but chestnuts all night.

Also, Brooke's hubcaps got stolen. A bummer of an ending to an otherwise cool evening. But more on that tomorrow...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 - Day 1 in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ok, time to get back into this. Today is going to be quick, some photos from our first day in Slo with Brooke.

Brooke lives with another Missionary named Hailey in an apartment inside Ljubljana (Loo - blee - ahna, the capital of Slovenia, the northern-most country of former Yugoslavia: here's a good map Sarah stayed with the girls, and I stayed with Daniel Psaute who is the Coordinator of Nazarene missions in Slovenia, and Johnny - another missionary and Brooke's new fiance - across town.

Got up that morning and Brooke, Sarah, and I walked into the town square to head up to the castle. They were repaving the square; on the hill behind these workers you can see the castle up at the very top. The bridge just to the right of that white tent is the bridge you see in this photo below, which I took back in 2005.

From the castle we had a great view of Ljubljana and the surrounding countryside.

More of Ljubljana...

That afternoon/evening we went outside of the city to take some engagement photos of Johnny and Brooke. Beautiful, beautiful country. Also, because it was All Saints Day, every church was ringing the bells all day... and there were little churches EVERYWHERE. At first, cool. After 2,723 rings, shouting at each other above the noise... kind of annoying.

The culture in Slovenia (and most of Eastern Europe from what we saw) does not really celebrate Halloween much. But during All Saints, there are a number of really cool traditions we were able to see. One is eating copious amounts of roasted chestnuts... more on that later. Another is the lighting of these candles for deceased family members. Each candle is placed inside a red plastic vase and set around the chapel in a cemetery (like this photo) or at the actual grave (see below).

One problem with this tradition is that the candle eventually melts the plastic enough for it to touch the flame, then it catches on fire. They place lots of little water pots around so you can douse a vase if it catches on fire.... but the whole place smells like burning plastic.
I will probably get cancer from all those dioxins. But hey! That's what traveling is all about........ crazy Slovene dioxins.
More tomorrow!