Among the many ghastly offerings given us by PBS, America’s answer to how to stay uninformed and really, really not know it, is a guy named Rick Steves. He is to travel as Doris Kearns Goodwin is to history, all over it like the Rio Grande – a mile wide and one inch deep. His shows offer a brief glimpse of various places, most often in Europe. It’s all done with aging white people in mind, with excellent tips on how to pack (he sells a line of travel books and luggage).
My favorite scenes are those where he pretends to have walked a long staircase to a monument (more often restaurant), gasping for breath after having done the last five as the camera waits. The end of each show is outtakes, or bloopers. Goodness gracious, the humor.
Anyway, we are in Ljubljana, Slovenia, victims of Rick Steves. We bought it, and even rented a car to drive here.
Slovenia is a pretty place, Ljubljana (pronounced “all right Rick, you got us”) is a moderate large city that has awoken in the last 25 years to cars and western dress. At the center of it is an area where cars are not allowed, and which contains fancy clothing stores, restaurants, one of them damned cathedrals (a small one), and three bridges over Ljubljanica River (designed by a famous local architect – if you want to know more, consult Steves. He’s all over Giolvanni Picco.)
Not to be too hard on Ljubljana, a nice place, a bustling city with a long history and many nice things to see and do. But the concept of our trip here, to see the area at the City Center with its shops and restaurants, was Stevism, silliness, a mistake. It is like deciding to visit Colorado, and instead of spending time in the Rockies, spending your whole trip at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder.
Today we are heading north, if we can find our way out of here. This is the first time we’ve rented a car while traveling abroad. It is a mixed bag … we have freedom, but not really. We are bound to roadways with thousands of other cars. We waited for long periods yesterday due to line painting crews at work, backing up traffic for miles. I think that is known as “the illusion of progress.” Steven Weinberg, the astrophysicist, mentioned this. He noted that it takes as long now to drive from one side of Manhattan Island to the other as it did in the old days of horse and buggies.
We’ll head up to Lake Bled, another Steves recommendation, and with that in mind, will drive by it without stopping. We are all caught up on modern dress and modes of dining. Ideally, we’ll wander through the less well-known parts of The Julian Alps and Northern Italy, stopping who knows where for the night.
One very favorable thing to report to anyone wanting to travel Europe: Once we got out of Switzerland, it got very affordable. Fifty euros will get you through a whole day, including meals. Lodging is cheap. Yesterday we stopped at a grocery store and bought two bottles of wine, crackers and vegetables, and the bill was nine euros (about
$7 $11). The wine is not top-shelf, but for my palate, fine wine is overkill. I cannot distinguish between a Cabernet and a Chevrolet. And frankly, in this part of the world, bad wine is a rarity.
Sorry, no photos to show. Consult Steves.