The Slovenian coast is only 42 km wide, rocky piece of land, trapped between Croatia and Italy. Half an hour each way and you are in Italian Trieste or Croatian Umag.
Portoroz translated means the port of roses, and it’s relatively modern town near the sea, although the first mentions of it are as long ago as 1251. The posh Kempinski Palace Hotel, many cafes and restaurants, a port with a place for yacht docking and the best sandy beach on Slovenia. Piran, or how Italians call it, Pirano, is the complete opposite. It’s like returning back in time, an old medieval town, considered to be the most beautiful historic town on the Adriatic coast. Up until middle of the 20th century the main spoken language here was Italian. The town has not changed much, as is surrounded by sea like a breakwater, but people have changed, and now everyone speaks Slovenian here.
It’s a hot July afternoon when I arrive from Ljubljana to Portoroz. The way takes an hour and a half, during which I have the time to observe bright green fields, valleys and mountains with churches on the top, and true majestic rocky mountains. Actually, it’s much easier to get to Piran and Portoroz from the Italian Trieste.
The streets of Portoroz are empty, everyone is hiding from the sun, but in the evenings the beach is full of people. The air is filled by cicadas and smells like warm wood. You would never guess that this is not Italy, as roofs, cypresses and heat reminds of it so much. Even more, the signs are in Slovenian and Italian, and you hear Italian on every corner.
Where is everybody? There are not too many people at the pool either. The water is almost as warm as air, but still offers some relief. Actually, its seawater filtered and pumped into the pool.
With the sunset we are headed to Rizibizi, a restaurant smartly hidden on the slope. It’s like a TARDIS, bigger on the inside. We sit on the terrace and eat a meal for the royals, consisting of five courses. First octopi salad, then peas soup, later pasta with fresh truffles, continued by fish with delicate puree, and finally an amazing semifredo. The sun has set, cicadas continue to fill the air and the starry sky, and it feels even more hot than before.
I cannot wait to get to Piran the next day. Every twenty minutes there is a bus that takes you from Portoroz to the border of Piran, it costs 1.50 eur. Immediately you can see a small bay with yachts and a postman dressed in a yellow shirt, delivering the mail on his moto roller. I only notice a few other tourists and a couple locals walking their dogs.
The first stopping place is the Museum of Underwater activities. There are two suits on display outside the museum, which attract the attention of the little Italian boys. The suits are very impressive, seem to be some 50-70 years old. The entrance to the museum is a bit pricey, 4.50 eur, considering that the museum is quite small and you are not allowed to take pictures. The girl at the door says that maximum one picture per person, but hearing that I am a diver myself and would like to show some stuff to those at home, let’s me take three. There are enormous suits on display, with unbelievable heavy looking boots, diving belts, the first dive computes and a thorough description of local diving history.
When I was searching for information about Piran, a few people mentioned that Tartini square (named after baroque composer and violinist born in 1962, Giuseppe Tartini) and St. George church are extremely packed at all times. But it’s all empty and quite. I buy a few postcards at the store in the central square, the rest of the visitors are locals, buying lottery tickets. At one point there is even a line, must be a big cash pool. Later, walking in the city and notice postcards of just about the same quality, but three times cheaper.
I drop off the expensive cards at the postbox right in the Tartini square, and continue to walk to St. George church. Narrow, paved streets where it seems like you can extend your hand and touch both sides of it. You can only see the church through metal bars, but at least the entrance to the bell tower is open. A lot of pigeons live there. You can see the whole city under your feet. Just below the church walls there is a beach, where small, round pebbles are visible. Yachts slide over the calm surface, they must be going to Venice, which is only 90 km away from here.
After the St. George church I am headed to the city walls. The first walls to protect the city were built in the 7th century, now visible in the old town, as the city expanded, the walls were build further away. The walk to the walls is quite steep and I admire the senior citizens briskly walking up to their apartments on the upper parts of the city. Right next to the walls there is a coin exchange machine and an automatic door, the entrance costs 1 euro. You can see the city from a bit different angle here, seeing the small stretch into the sea even better.
I take a bit different route when walking down, and suddenly notice that all the other tourists pour into a square. It’s the St. Francis church and cloister. Majority of people leave right away, but I proceed to go in. Suddenly the room is filled with deep, strong music, Vivaldi – Winter. The feeling is surreal, it seems the music was activated by a sensor, as only begun when I walked in.
I reach the square again and notice that I am running out of time, but still so many things I want to see! The seashell museum, the aquarium and the lighthouse at the end of the city! I decide to briskly walk a bit towards it. There is a beach on this side of the city too! Hundreds of people lie there, right on the concrete walls, which protect the city from the sea. There are stairs to climb into water, but some people jump right in. I wander how beautiful this place must be in autumn, when it’s windy and too cold for swimming.
The short period of time that I have had in the Slovenian coast has passed and I must run back to the bus. The streets are a bit more full, some locals sit below the trees in full bloom, the lady from the museum is standing outside and watching them. A man joins me in my run to the bus, and we both make it!
During the few free hours that I had on the Slovenian coast, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this country. It’s definitely worth to stop here when driving by the Adriatic coast, and surely worth a visit on its own. It also has diving traditions going way back, so next time I visit, I will surely plan a bit more time in order to dive!