Last week I executed another family trip with my sister, mother, and Matt. This one started in Vienna – where we had some family business to attend to – and moved on to Ljubljana, Friuli, and Carinthia. This latter part of the trip was a birthday surprise for my sister.
There is nothing like a summertime Mitteleuropa tour through border regions.
We met at my favourite Vienna cafe, the modernist temple otherwise known as Cafe Prückel.
We stayed two nights in an apartment at the budget-friendly Hotel-Pension Wild. When the receptionist found out that our arrival date coincided with my mother's birthday he produced a small bottle of sparkling wine and three flutes. This struck me as an immeasurably sweet act.
What to say about Vienna? It's always densely nostalgic to return, overwhelmingly comfortable with episodes that remind me how very strange the city can be. Here's Jonas-Reindl (Schottentor), my favourite public transportation hub of all time.
We did some sightseeing. I visited Vienna's Central Cemetery for the first time and we took the bus up into the Vienna Woods and then ate a lovely meal at Hengl-Haselbrunner, a heuriger discovery from last summer. The city was pleasantly warm and crowded.
From Vienna we ventured on by train to Ljubljana. It was a lovely long train ride and we had a compartment to ourselves for most of the journey. In Ljubljana we checked into a beautiful Airbnb apartment in the centre of town.
In Ljubljana we walked the old town, took the funicular up to the castle, and saw an exhibit at the castle on the remarkable travel writer Alma Karlin (1889-1950).
Then came the heart of the trip, a car journey to San Floriano del Collio/Števerjan, a little village just over the border in Friuli, to a country inn called Gostilna-Osteria Koršič. Here we ate a delicious, hearty lunch, which started with local prosciutto, was guided by a sophisticated, super local wine – the entire wine list is sourced from within a five-kilometer range – and ended with plum dumplings. The waitstaff and the chef were kind and patient and quite personable, and the flurry of languages (Italian, Slovenian, German, English) was satsifying.
After our long meal we walked around the village before driving back to Ljubljana through extraordinary rain storms.
After another night in Ljubljana we took the train to Klagenfurt via Villach. We explored Klagenfurt and felt the pangs of melancholy that grace the close of a particularly lovely journey.
I'm already planning some tours by train and bus for next summer. I like the idea of travelling from Banja Luka to Vienna, taking in Vojvodina, Slavonia, Baranja/Baranya, Lake Balaton, and Burgenland along the way. Or from Budapest to Vienna by way of Kosice, Lviv, Krakow, Olomouc, Ostrava, and Brno. Or from Skopje to Cluj, with stops in Niš, Severozapaden, Oltenia, and Mureș.