Piran, Slovenian Beach Town

The fabulous bottle chandelier conceptualized by our hosts, in their great room. You can see the not-quite-ripe kiwis outside in the garden.
The windows of our borrowed bedroom and the street they open onto.

Manja’s parents Meta and Branko graciously invited us to stay with them for two nights. This allowed us an entire day to explore their home town of Piran, Slovenia. Manja has featured this town often enough in her blog that I had already fallen in love with the city. The only place in Slovenia that I really, really wanted to see was Piran. And here I was. I made a dream come true.

In the morning we were given a tour of Meta and Branko’s splendid garden. We saw the eggplant, the tomatoes, the peppers and herbs. We were shown the palm tree that was a gift when the old one had to be removed. We ate figs from the tree and grapes from the vine. Meta happily said that this is the house they would live in for the rest of their lives.

When drawing its borders, Italy grabbed several extra kilometers, but Croatia was outright greedy and grabbed up an indecent amount of coastline around the Adriatic. When they weren’t paying attention, Slovenia put down stakes and claimed its own section and got away with it. Though you may be surprised to hear it, Slovenia has 29 miles (47 km) of stunning Mediterranean coastline.

The yellow Tartini Theatre sits prominently on the edge of Piran’s marina.
Manja and Meta walk ahead of us in their swim gear.
Don’t you just love the buildings that are built to fit into funny spaces?

One of Meta’s joys is to swim. The warm sea is so close she simply walks out her front door carrying a towel, and in minutes can step into the sea. She easily talked us into going for a swim. We all grabbed towels and followed her down to Piran’s waterfront, past the marina and the city’s central square. Then we continued toward the peninsula, which was filled with vacationers basking in the sun or already in the water before we were.

Huge pirate flags were on display and Meta explained that the day was meant to be the ceremony called Neptune’s Baptism. Pedro and I were stumped at first. I seemed like since Neptune is a god, he wouldn’t need to be baptized. But it turns out it’s the graduation ceremony for sailors at the local Naval Academy, and it’s THEIR baptism. Due to the pandemic, the ceremony was canceled. Sailors love tradition and ceremony so much, I was sad to hear that a whole graduating class would never get to tell the tale of the day they had their traditional baptism ceremony. I saw a photo of it, and it looks like all the graduates sit in the street and get doused with water. It’s not a religious baptism.

Piran occupies a sharp peninsula that juts into the sea and is reinforced with huge stones all around. But every so often, between the stones, we found steps leading down to the sea. We chose a set of steps, kicked off our shoes, and stepped into the water. To Pedro and I, it seemed cold at first, but soon we were accustomed to it and we swam well out from shore. I went farther than the rest, and noticed a school of fish swimming around my feet. It was pretty cool and I wished for goggles to be able to see them better.

I spotted this clever accent piece on a wall.
The water is clear and aqua and inviting.
Many people had arrived at the water before we did.
I climbed the rocks to get a better view for photos. {photo by Manja Maksimovič}

After swimming, we continued to walk along the peninsula. When we came to the lighthouse at the very end, we decided to climb it. For a small fee we were able to enter and climb to one part, which was hosting an art show. Outside the walls of the art show, I found the lighthouse lights. Adjacent to the rooms with art was the bell tower where we climbed spiral stairs, and then a ladder, up through a trap door into the small platform. It offered incredible views of the stunningly beautiful city, made even more magical under sunny blue skies.

A church along the waterfront and a woman in need with a cardboard sign – very unusual sight in our trip. The lighthouse and bell tower are right behind the church.
Lights of the lighthouse.
Stairs to the top.
And the ladder.
And the trap door.
The climb is worth this view, despite the wire mesh. Here you see how narrow the punta of Piran is; there is water on both sides of the photo.
It’s hard to imagine a beach town more beautiful.
Manja captured my mood. {photo by Manja Maksimovič}
At ground level again, Pedro needed to pee, but saw this sign and reconsidered.

We took our time and looked into churches and museums. There was a major exhibit of Slovenia artist Safet Zec underway, and in most churches, enormous canvases of his emotional artwork was displayed. Zec’s aim is to reveal the deepest of human tragedies, and through his skill he succeeds admirably. The problem for me is that I was on vacation, and I chose to avoid engaging with the artwork that I knew would be painful. Unfortunately, the huge canvases took center stage in multiple churches and were not meant to be avoided.

Safet Zec artwork inside the church.
More of the church.
I love the exceptional and unique ceiling. I don’t think I have ever seen this kind of ceiling before.
St. Roch’s Church with more of Safet Zec’s artwork.
I am a fan of homemade stickers, and enjoyed these pipes covered in them.

We stopped next for refreshment at one of the many outdoor bars catering to tourists. Meta went home and told Marco how to find us. We ate gelato until Marco joined us for a grapefruit beer. I had heard of the drink aperol spritz, and to prepare for having one eventually, I ordered a shot of aperol neat. The waiter was somewhat astonished that it was indeed my order, and checked back several times to make sure it was ok with me. It is a flavorful hard liquor with a bitterness that nicely counters the sweetness.

Marko is enjoying his Union grapefruit beer.
I spotted this fashion choice on a man walking outside the bar.

Refreshed, we all climbed the hill to the eye-catching church that can be seen – especially its lovely bell tower – in nearly every city shot of Piran. It is the St. George Parish Church (yes, the same George that slayed the dragon). Built originally in the 12th century, then rebuilt in the 14th century, the current footprint is from the 17th century. The walk up was interesting and at the top we were treated to coastal views of Trieste, Italy, to the north.

From the beach, we eyed the church we planned to climb to next.
Views on the way up were spectacular. You can see the city of Trieste, Italy, on the horizon.
Three of us are in this photo. Do you see? {photo by Manja Maksimovič}
St. George’s Parish Church atop medieval walls that used to protect the city from invaders.
Inside the church is filled with incredibly beautiful art. The statue on the wall at the left is of St. George.
This altar was built in 1737.
More popular than the church itself is this bell tower that can be climbed for a small fee. We were getting hungry and did not climb it.
Marco, Manja, and Pedro on our way down from the church.

Now it was time to eat again. We three went home to change out of our swimsuits and Marco went on ahead to order food. Our lunch was at a Bosnian restaurant where we ate delicious sausages and bread. It turns out the big beer rivalry in Slovenia is Lasko (goat) v. Union (dragon). We found it amusing how often one or the other was served in glasses with the logo of the other. Manja’s uncle worked his entire career at a Union brewery, and so we all pledged our loyalty to the dragon.

At a restaurant called Sarajevo ’84, we ate Bosnian sausages and bread, and Union beer in a Lasko glass.
Practicing a new method Marco taught me, of pouring beer so there is no head. {photo by Manja Maksimovič}

Manja and Marco were interested in seeing a Ferrari show that was due in town that day. The elite sports cars were travelling, and would stop in Piran for only three hours. We managed to talk them into climbing the hill one more time, in hopes that we could explore the medieval wall first, and still have time for Ferraris. Manja had not climbed the ancient protective walls, but she had found on a previous visit, the quickest way to get there. It was the most deliciously narrow journey we had yet undertaken.

Almost there! We could see the walls ahead.
Up close, we saw the wooden supports and platforms of the stone wall. This one was built originally with stone on the outside, but exposed wood on the inside.
The medieval protective walls of Piran.

Soon we were on the walls above the city and had the best views yet. Piran was never so picturesque.

The Adriatic Sea viewed from the walls.
Pedro and I like climbing things. {photo by Manja Maksimovič}
The views of the city from the walls are unparalleled.
Look at how crammed all those buildings are together! with St. George’s church above it all.
There are some of the pirate flags for the Neptune’s Baptism ceremony that didn’t take place.
Pedro looking out over Piran.
A boat makes its way through the glittering sea.

We had not yet heard the roar of Ferarris, but we made our way back down the hill just in case. Meta met us in the square while Branko stayed home to prepare dinner. We found a cafe near the town square, and got coffee while we waited. I became curious about a young woman carrying a flag that said “Tour Bride,” and wearing a silly bride costume, flanked by other young women, who was talking to people at other tables. I watched her until she noticed me and came directly over and gave her story. She’s a tour guide, she’s getting married, she wants everyone to share in her joy, blah blah. Her attendant gave me a gift of some quail eggs and a small piece of streudel. Aw how nice, I said. And then she said the inevitable to anyone but me: “But I need money for my wedding.” Damn. I had been hooked like a fish. I laughed and gave her money and felt embarrassed. It was the first and only scam of the whole trip, so no harm done. Usually my luck is worse when I travel, so I didn’t mind getting caught once.

View of the bell tower at the end of a street.
The gorgeous Tartini Central Square with St. George’s Church dominating the hill.
View of the marina from the square.
Sunset lights up the buildings along the waterfront.

A hubbub began and we knew the Ferraris had arrived! We walked over to the marina again and viewed them. The crowd was dense and I couldn’t get a good view. I asked Pedro to help me climb onto a concrete post, and from there I got better photos of the cars.

Ah, that’s much better. {photo by Pedro Rivera}
Shiny cars.
Panoramic view of the Ferrari event at Piran.

Marco and Meta left, and Manja took us to see a museum of Piran. There we learned about the history of the town as a salt exporter, and how other towns burned nearby salt works in other towns, to maintain their trade monopoly with Piran’s salt. The museum sits atop underground storage caverns. We were able to walk into part of them, and part of them we could view through a glass floor. We also learned how the protective walls around the city grew multiple times as the city grew. The wall we had visited earlier was the newest of the iterations. Much of the earlier walls are gone, but there are still some prominent gates. I was pleased to recognize one of those very gates as we walked through it on the way home. We quickly viewed a monastery near the museum before they closed the doors for the night.

Inside the caverns beneath the museum, with the projection of a monk at the end, wagging a scolding finger. How did he know?!
More caverns beneath the floor. {photo by Manja Maksimovič}
Cloister of the Piran Minorite Monastery.
The Marciana Gate, built in 1534.
Here’s the gate again the next morning. Doesn’t even look like an old city wall now, does it?

When we arrived home the bestia was there waiting for his chance to ignore Manja. She said hello, and he turned away from her. Yes, we had left him home with his grandparents all day, and he wanted to make her pay.

Branko is indeed the skilled cook we had heard rumors of. He treated us to multiple courses, beginning with one of my favourite treats: stuffed mushrooms. During the main course I heaped potatoes onto my plate, explaining that as an Idaho girl, it was in my nature. We all had a laugh about the way Marco wanted to pronounce my home state as “Eedao” with two syllables, as an Italian would say it. We ate our second delicious fig dessert, a type of custard. The first was a fig pie, that we had eaten at breakfast. After dinner we got out some maps and discussed our big day in the Alps coming up. Branko has a lifetime of hiking experience and had been imagining the best routes with the most bang for the buck for newcomers in the Julian Alps. We discussed landmarks, safety precautions, suggestions on where to eat, beginning and ending points until we had covered it all and it was time for bed.

Table in the garden, waiting for us when we returned.

12 thoughts on “Piran, Slovenian Beach Town

  1. Oh, Crystal, this is quite astonishing, you have written this journal for me too. It is amazing to encounter one’s parents on another’s blog. 😀 I laughed so often and so much, all over again! And how lovely that you start and finish with my parents’ place. ❤ And those greedy Croatians, really. 😀 Yet to call Slovenian coast full of stunning beaches sounds lovely but is not really so. You saw the tiny beach in Piran. So much of our coast is concrete. But I'm sooo glad that you got to see your Piran and through your photos it's even prettier. Always welcome back!

    1. There, I fixed it! Everything I saw was stunning and I guess I didn’t really mean beaches, because I only saw a little bit of beach, but there is a stunning coastline, and you can’t argue with me about that. I’m surprised you laughed so much because I wasn’t thinking of it as a funny post. But I’m GLAD you did. 🙂 I was soooo tiiirrred when I did that post, I was nodding and yawning as I wrote. I spent all day getting the house ready for my next trip and made that post last thing, as it was dark outside and my body was telling me to go to bed. I considered putting it off to today, but knew I’d be on planes all day and wouldn’t have much of a chance. So! How nice that it worked out in the end.

      1. Thank you! I will post some of your photos of us soon. 🙂 I laughed because I remembered all the funny things, like IDAAAOOO, and that peeing sign was funny, and just the way you say certain things. It was not a funny post as such, but a very thorough and warm rendering of your encounter with your beloved Piran, and my folks. 😀 Much fun on your working trip!

    1. I did enjoy the great photos from the day. I had to cut out so many, but the post was getting very long. I’ll make a photo book eventually, for our memories, and I’ll may be able to get all the other great shots into there I think. I think my generous response to the scam was partially due to being so completely surprised, when I’m smarter than that. She caught me at a moment when I was completely blissful and had no guard up, and I thought that was funny.

    1. Normal life, yes, sometimes it felt that way. We barely wore masks in Tuscany and in Slovenia, as most places were not crowded (except the Ferrari event), but in future days, especially when we went to Venice and Rome, we had masks on often. In masks, it stops looking like normal life. But then, after all these months, masks are sorta like normal life now, huh?

  2. Wow, wow, wow!! What a picturesque city Piran is. Thank you for this lovely tour of it Crystal. I’m a bit behind on your posts, but it looks like you and Pedro had a fantastic holiday. And how lovely that you could meet up with Manja and her parents.

    1. ha ha Jolandi, your enthusiasm made me laugh. Yes!! Piran is really picturesque and packed with history. I seriously would go right back in a hot minute. And I sort of fantasize about joining Meta for a morning swim every day for a couple of weeks, or so. Oh, how I wish for an opportunity to spend a month in a place like this.

      During the pandemic I had some travel withdrawals. I not only didn’t leave my country, I pretty much didn’t leave my town (like everyone else). And I LOVE my little place, but 18 months of it was plenty. Anyway, during isolation, I changed my priorities for travel. I told myself that if I ever got the chance to go overseas again, I would use it to enforce friendship connections. Pedro was so eager to go anywhere that he said whereever I wanted to go was fine by him, so I said “Italy!” And viola. I used our first overseas trip post-pandemic, to go visit a blogger friend. (be forewarned – none of you is exempt from my visits…) ❤

      1. Well, I guess we need to start saving up for guest accommodation then, Crystal. 🥰 I can understand your itch. I’ve now been in Portugal for almost a year, and still my residency is pending . . . (long story), which means I’m stuck here. Thank goodness it is an adventure in itself to relocate to a different country, as it makes up for my usual itchy feet.
        My favourite way to travel is to settle in once place for a week, although a month is better, to get a better sense of life there. I once spent a month on Lamu Island, Kenya, and a month in Baktapur, Nepal – two of my best travel experiences ever.

      2. Oh dear, it’s still pending? I recall your mention of how tedious and bureaucratic things can be in Portugal. I agree that it would be so much more annoying except that your days seem often to be packed full of building your new home out of a neglected piece of land.

        I can only imagine how wonderful your time on Lamu Island and in Baktapur were. I rarely get a chance to do that. I was in Japan for 5 months, but stuck on military bases, so I barely got the chance to experience the local life. The only time I ever got to do what you do was two weeks in St. Victor la Coste, in Provence, where I was part of a volunteer work crew rebuilding a medieval castle by hand. We lived and worked in this tiny village, and now I have a sense of why you like that kind of experience.

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