152-153: Quick Silver: Idrija Mercury and Lipica Lippizaners

What an amazing weekend ūüôā

152- Saturday 19th Sept 2015: Quick Silver – Idrija Mercury Town

A relatively slow start and no a.m. run … we were on top of a steep hill after all! ¬†We free wheeled down to the town and went into the TIC, our usual first port of call. ¬†Yes, everything open, BUT three smaller museums are satellites of the main museum in the castle and you need to book one of the guides from there to open them up for you. ¬†OK, so we re-planned¬†our itinerary. ¬†Castle, 3 satellite museums, cycle the Kanal to see the Wild Lake, lunch and the the mercury mine. ¬†However, the museum was actually really interesting and we¬†spent longer there than planned so our itinerary became:

  • Castle Museum: ¬†built for the Austro Hungarian administrators and as the mercury store. ¬†The museum contained the history of the mine:¬†mining started in 500 and¬†closed only in 1987, when the toxic health effects became too unpalatable. ¬†It is the second largest mercury mine in the world (No.1 Being in Spain). ¬†Also info on the lace making, the interwar occupation and geology. ¬†Given a helpful quick intro and orientation by one the students working there.
  • Lunch and back to the castle to pick up the student guide. ¬†Him on his moped and us trying to keep up on bikes after wine! He was actually excellent and openly¬†answered our inquisitive questions on partizans vs collaborators today, politics, sense of national feeling etc.
  • Francis Museum of Technology: ¬†mercury being such a valuable commodity, the mine was the cutting edge of technology and the machines of late C17 to present are preserved.
  • Miner’s House: ¬†ground floor furnished. ¬†Would have housed 3-4 families.
  • Kamst Wheel: the preserved biggest water wheel in Europe. ¬†14m diameter. ¬†It drove the mine water extraction pumps, was erected in 1790 and operated until 1948! ¬†Also displayed are some of the above ground engines.
  • Anthony Mine: ¬†30 min film about how the Mercury was found here and its uses – still used in fluorescent lamps, computer chips etc despite its massive toxicity. ¬†Miners started work age 15 and we lucky to make 40! ¬†Donned hard hats and jackets and went into the mine. ¬†Side shafts showed the different eras of mining: clothing and kit, with sound and dust amplification. ¬†The guide explained how shafts were back filled and a new one opened up. ¬† As the hill of the mine is so riddled with tunnels, there is a LOT of ground movement and when the mine was closed, they used the probe to establish lightly back filled shafts and then fill them with cement. ¬†¬†12 miners are still employed to maintain the areas open to the public and continue the cement filling.
  • Cycle to the Wild Lake and back along the narrow canal that fed the Kamst water wheel. ¬†The Wild Lake is a natural phenomenon:¬†divers have reached a depth of 160 m below the surface., which as deep as they can physically go to explore the lake. ¬†The emerald green surface of the lake is usually idyllic and peaceful, but only a few days of strong rainfall and the water starts spewing out and there is a bubbling dome. ¬†It was all calm when we arrived … shame would have liked to see the turbulence.

Back up steep hill to Chardonnay  Рso steep, we had to push the bikes!  When we arrived a quick chat to Lyn and Ian, parked next to us and with such good taste, they have a Bessacarr too!

Iron ball floating in mercury. The mercury has oxidised hence its milky colour. H&S actually kicked in here - the museum covered the dish with glass as ladies kept dipping their hands in and their rings were melting!

Iron ball floating in mercury. The mercury has oxidised hence its milky colour. H&S actually kicked in here – the museum covered the dish with glass as ladies kept dipping their hands in and their rings were melting!

So much wood was needed in shaft construction, that the mine had acres of forest. They used to damn the river, store the timber below the damn and let the fast and sudden flow of the released water carry the logs down to the town. These spikes 'caught' the logs in the town. It all stopped in 1926 when they flooded the town.

So much wood was needed in shaft construction, that the mine had acres of forest. They used to damn the river, store the timber below the damn and let the fast and sudden flow of the released water carry the logs down to the town. These spikes ‘caught’ the logs in the town. It all stopped in 1926 when they flooded the town.

After a few months of Italian 'ownership' between World Wars, the populace were 'Italianised"!

After a few months of Italian ‘ownership’ between World Wars, the populace were ‘Italianised”!

All these lace bobbins .... we'd struggle keeping track of four!

All these lace bobbins …. we’d struggle keeping track of four!

But is was most beautiful. And the women and girls had to make money somehow where the menfolk died so young. There is a lace school now in Idrija.

But is was most beautiful. And the women and girls had to make money somehow where the menfolk died so young. There is a lace school now in Idrija.

A map of an Idrijan company's businesses .... James' questioning hand .... where has Ireland gone?

A map of an Idrijan company’s businesses …. James’ questioning hand …. where has Ireland gone?

Cutting edge of technology restored equipment.

Cutting edge of technology restored equipment.

Cutting edge technology - Skoda built

Cutting edge technology – Skoda built

Cutting edge technology - as miners spent so long under ground they were vitamin D deficient and were 'radiated' with these lamps ... as if the mercury poisoning was not enough!

Cutting edge technology – as miners spent so long under ground they were vitamin D deficient and were ‘radiated’ with these lamps … as if the mercury poisoning was not enough!

Typical miner's house

Typical miner’s house

The Kamst - largest surviving wooden water wheel in Europe

The Kamst – largest surviving wooden water wheel in Europe

Massive wheel ... massive tools! And our lovely student guide.

Massive wheel … massive tools! And our lovely student guide.

Liquid lunch!

Liquid lunch!

Idrija

Idrija – church and top of Francis shaft

.. means good luck, which is what all the miners used to day as they descended to work.

.. means good luck, which is what all the miners used to say as they descended to work.

Each miner given a numbered token and told where to work, so if the token did not reappear at the end of the shift, hey knew where to look.

Each miner given a numbered token and told where to work, so if the token did not reappear at the end of the shift, they knew where to look.

All kitted up ... but no 'off to work we go' for us!

All kitted up … but no ‘off to work we go’ for us!

Mercury found in pure liquid form .. you may just make out two small dots, or as a compound with cinnabar that had to be heated to 600-800 deg C to be turned to gas and then captured.

Mercury is found in pure liquid form .. you may just make out two small dots, or as a compound with cinnabar that had to be heated to 600-800 deg C to be turned to gas and then captured.

Compressed air used here

Compressed air used here

The Wild Lake. It is very small and I could not get a shot to show how steep and high the rock walls are.

The Wild Lake. It is very small and I could not get a shot to show how steep and high the rock walls are.

Our pitch for two nights and our new neighbours.

Our pitch for two nights and our new neighbours.

Panorama of the view on top of our hill - we had been 98m below our pitch in the mine!

Panorama of the view on top of our hill – we had been 98m below our pitch in the mine!

 

153: Sunday 20th Sept: ¬†Quick Silver –¬†Lipizzaners

We arose early to drive to Lipica – the home of the Lipizzaners Stud farm. ¬†Under Hapsburg¬†rule,¬†a stud farm was established in 1581 and they have been developing the breed there ever since … with some ups and downs. ¬†The wars and Italian¬†rule of the area all caused problems with horses being moved, stud books being held by other countries and lack of investment. ¬† The Slovine government sees this as a major part of the country’s heritage and subsidies their work to the tune of 60% and several million on current redevelopment. ¬† They now have several hundred horses and cross breed with other Lipizzaners stud farms worldwide.

We did a tour of the stud stables, which was not brilliant Рguide spoke fast with a heavy accent and was too full of facts of breeding.  We went back to Chard for a rest and lunch, but then the MAIN EVENT started.  The annual show.  Beautiful sunshine and about 10,000 people watching the dressage etc.  Amazing to watch the stallions doing vertical leaps and jumps on their hind legs.  But the best part was the guest performer.  Lorenzo Рa chap from France who is essentially a horse whisperer, who gets his horses to do amazing tricks just by his voice, hand gestures or a gentle flick of his whip.  Really stunning!

Another motorhomer told us that we could stay in the Lipica carpark, so we did.  J had paid to watch the All Ireland Football Final РGaelic, that is.  So we watched in the Lipca Hotel with free wifi, a splitter, two head sets and a bottle of wine and something to eat.  A most excellent day:  amazing horse training and the Dubs won!  Up the Dubs!

Mares are bred every two years. Foals are all normal horse colours, but 98% turn grey / white by the time they are about 2

Mares are bred every two years. Foals are all normal horse colours, but 98% turn grey / white by the time they are about 2

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And the Great Lorenzo!

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149-151: Motor and Medical Maintenance!

149-Tuesday 15th Sept:  Chardonnay Engine Maintenance

Early start for us as we took Chardonnay to the Fiat dealer for her BIG 40,000 km service. Fortunately no additional work needed to be done РI was slightly anxious that my putting Chardonnay in a ditch in Norway might have warped the chassis.  Amazingly the breaks were fine given all the mountains we have traversed.  Bill was EUR412, which included a single wide front mat, as we are conscious of the wear and tear on the cab carpet.

Whilst Chardonnay was being ‘done’ we bought a EUR2 bus card and loaded it with 4 bus trips i.e. there and back for both of us. ¬†We then caught the bus to the centre… the fact we did not know where to get off meant that we circled the old town and then had to ask how to walk¬†to it.

Coffee and lunch to kill the time. ¬†K bought a skirt from a secondhand shop – an unusual event … K wearing skirts!!! ¬†Once we found out where the bus went from, someone KINDLY told us our destination was really close. ¬†The next stop in fact. ¬†So we decided to walk and it was NOT the next stop, nor the one after that! ¬†It was quite a long walk and we got slower and slower!

As we did not manage to buy a cheap travel bag or a 2tb ext hard drive in the city centre, so we went via the largest retail park either of us had EVER seen. ¬†Lots of different malls and big sheds. ¬†Hard drive purchased from one called ‘Big Bang’ ūüôā

Back to our now home from home … our 6th night at the Restaurant in Sostros CamperStop.

 

150 РWednesday 16th Sept 2015:  Chardonnay Habitation Repairs

Early start for the second morning running ūüė¶ ¬†Up to pack and empty toilet, grey and fresh water. ¬†Chardonnay is being spruced up and repaired:

  • Bumper crack in fibre glass x2
  • Hole repaired in fibre glass for our incident with an overhang
  • Blind repair, so we can actually lift the blind: damage from when we were broken into in Copenhagen
  • Bathroom door lock replaced as it locks itself when over bumpy roads and we can’t open it from the outside. ¬†We have been travelling with a pillow wedging open the door.

We had booked our first Airbnb in Ljubljana having decided against camping. ¬†Camping would have meant that we had to carry all our laptops etc with us all the time and the tent is a bit small for us, luggage, cookers etc and no where to sit if it rained. ¬†Having caught a taxi to the Airbnb we dropped off what seems like masses of luggage …. we were only coming for two nights – honest! ¬†Hosts just lovely and relaxed. ¬†Room fine for the price, but ¬†we are missing the comfort of the sprung mattress and memory foam topper in Chardonnay. ¬†Interesting stairs (steep, and I mean really steep) to get up to the attic room. Location brilliant as 2 mins to bus and train stations and 10 mins from old city centre.

Weather forecasts can be so wrong.  A shower predicted for 10.00.  It chucked it down till the middle of the afternoon.  We had another coffee to take shelter.  No sign of a let up, so we braved the rain, hugging building overhangs as much as possible until we could buy an umbrella.

We went into the National Gallery.  The temporary exhibition was Slovine art that had been repatriated from Yugoslav embassies and consulates.  Really interesting:

  • Paris: lots of expressionist 1920’s oils
  • Berlin: ¬†dark and red, suitable for a Bier Keller
  • Madrid: pencil drawings of little merit
  • Vienna: ¬†pastoral scenes
  • Italy, Trieste to be more precise: ¬†loads of everything. ¬†Anything to do with the way in which the embassy acquired art through non conventional channels?!

We met Louis from Los Angeles, who was on a free time day on his Baltic Tour. ¬†He had been recommended the same restaurant as us for lunch … so he joined us, or did we join him? ¬†Fab meal: ¬†fish soup, salad, sea bass with spinach and potatoes, followed by a pear and only EUR11.50 … just yummy. ¬†Louis’ guide book said the Serbian Orthodox church was a must see and then he wanted to see the National and University Library, so we attempted to get into the reading room. ¬†Having been told it was just for students, Louis darted in as a student vacated. ¬†Somehow, Kerstin had gained entrance some weeks ago … but that is Kerstin! ¬†We completed our tour with a carafe of wine and people watching. ¬†Lots of discussions on wide ranging subjects …. trying to find something we disagreed on!

Back to the Airbnb…. lovely chats and wine with Sandra, one of our hosts.

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151 – Thursday 17th Sept 2015: ¬†James Medical Maintenance …. again

We ran to the Tivoli Park – 4.3 km and very humid. ¬†J’s leg wound healing nicely so it was his first run for a little while.

The Ljubljana TIC had suggested Kamnik as a train destination out of the city. ¬†As we arrived, we had that deja vue sort of feeling. ¬†We had stopped off here to find a pharmacy for ear drops, or was it eye drops, for James some weeks ago. ¬†However, this time we did the town properly: ¬†walking tour of castles, town wall and Franciscan Monastery. ¬†The lady in the TIC had suggested a lunch venue, frequented by locals. ¬†We both had a daily special at EUR4.30 and 4.50: pork in sauce with noodles and ¬†buckwheat pancakes with leeks and the local Velkina Planina cheese, both with salad and both yummy … and washed down with a carafe of white.

James had mentioned that his gum was bothering him a little …. we visited the same pharmacy and he bought some numbing gel. ¬†However, when we got back to Ljubljana, our Airbnb host told us of a dentist 3 doors along…. the dentist could not see James tomorrow, but he could see him NOW! ¬†Uncomfortable cleaning of the inflamed area, and padding which has to be taken out at 7.30 am tomorrow and an x-ray … feeling a little battered! ¬†Strong antibiotics and pain killers. ¬†A quiet evening.

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A James Joyce plaque on one of the station platforms – he visited here!

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The fall manhole cover with some of James Joyce’s lines … not sure what a manhole cover is supposed to indicate!

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These were some of the smarter trains … a lot are heavily grafitti’d

 

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J on board

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Kamnik looking towards the Julian Alps

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When we stopped by a few weeks ago, the benches had rolled up magazines to read. Now they have cushions …. lovely ideas.

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Lunch stop recommended by the TIC

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Waiting for the return train … note the grafitti

152 РFriday 18th Sept 2015:  History Tour

J visited the dentist again for a check at 7.30 am! ¬†We then walked 2 blocks for an X-Ray: film and digital copies …. EUR10! ¬†Packed up from our B&B and caught a taxi to drop all our luggage at the motorhome repairers north of the city.

Then bus back to Tivoli Park Рone of the museums Рthe Contemporary History Museum.  It covered from WW1 up to the present.  Really well done with lots of films and individual narratives.

J (resting) waiting for K to exit the museum on a thoughtfully cushioned bench

J (resting) waiting for K to exit the museum on a thoughtfully cushioned bench

We decided to wander back to the restaurant we lunched in two days ago as a) it was close and b) tasty. ¬†We wandered past the Parliament building as a slight detour … you can see why it is not on the main tour routes!

The Slovenian Parliament Building

The Slovenian Parliament Building

Parliament entrance doors: statues of the human struggle (very Communist era)

Parliament entrance doors: statues of the human struggle (very Communist era)

Another human struggle building we passed

Another human struggle building we passed

Having bussed it back to collect Chardonnay, we set of for the Partizanska Bolinca Franja near Cerkno. ¬†Clandestine hospitals were set up, hidden from the Germans, Italians or Hungarians (depending on which bit of Slovenian had been carved up) to support the Partisan resistance Movement. ¬†There were incredibly 120 such hospitals, but this one was never discovered by the Germans, despite fighting nearby. ¬†It was also unusual that it had its own defences … gun battlements along the ravine. ¬†At one point it was caring for 100+ wounded. ¬† Wounded were brought up a difficult ravine by stretcher bearers at night, having been blindfolded ¬† The townspeople of Cerkno supplied wood, use of the sawmill, food, medical supplies etc … and yet a neighbouring village had known collaborators, so it had to be kept very secret. ¬†Satellite facilities provided medical care for less damaged partisans … all very moving.

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A short drive to a Parking with amazing views overlooking Idrija. ¬†Basically we are on a couple’s parking alongside the¬†barn. ¬†Provided with electricity, a wifi code, a welcome drink of homemade fruit Schnappes!! ¬†Whilst we stood imbibing, our host explained all the main attractions of the area … he would have acted as our guide tomorrow, but he is off tonight helping family harvest grapes … leaving us on his land with all trust! ¬†Again, we marvel at the warmth of the Slovine people.