Today is the sort of halfway point of our adventure in Europe. This was our fifthish day (depending on how you count the day when we arrived mid-afternoon) and we have five full days to go before we begin our journey back home. For the first time all trip, we did not hit up any big attractions and we were not in some city center with millions of people. However, in no ways did that make today boring.
We actually started the day a little later than we had our days in Prague, not getting the show on the road until 10:15 a.m. From there we took a short walk up the hill to the Mariborsko Pohorje Ski Resort. I was thrilled when our Slovenian tour guide, Cory, began talking about how the site hosts FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup events (except this year because there wasn’t enough snow … Ames probably could have worked out a trade). It probably did not thrill the rest of the group, but I enjoyed the skiing talk. Though it is a ski resort, they had plenty of afternoon activities ready.
We took the ski lift up about 800 feet (we were already at about 1,000 feet above sea level) to Adrenalin Park, a ropes course that is open during the summer weather seasons. Though there was a lot to do there, we took part in two activities so we did not wear out the legs for our match later that night.
One of them was to climb a wooden pillar (with safety harnesses and helmets). There were two challenges to the pillar, the first was that the spikes that stuck outward to help you make it up continued to get smaller and smaller. The third was the mental block once you get to the top. I did not have a good estimation on the diameter of the pillar, but it was definitely less than a foot and you are nearly 40 feet in the air. You have to regain your composure and find the confidence within you to stand up on the pillar. Once that is done, you then get to jump and be pulled down by your teammates.
Our second activity was the giant swing. It was a pretty simple concept, you are strapped in to a harness and then you are pulled up to the top of this contraption by your teammates. Once up there, you have a cord you pull and once you yank it you are swung about 30 feet in the air over the view of Maribor. It was an incredible thrill and gave an absolutely awesome view of Maribor. For those who were a bit more up for adventure (or are crazy, however you want to see it) you could do the giant swing upside down. You miss out on the view of Maribor, but apparently the adrenaline of doing it upside down was worth it.
After those adventures, we had lunch at a little café that was next to the ropes course. The meal was fantastic, with a main course of Ćevapčići, a pork and beef-mix enjoyed in the region and prilogo, or as we call them fries, along with salad and fruit. The owners were wonderful people who had served many volleyball teams over the years (the owner was listing them off a one point) and the team took a picture with him so he can add to his book of teams that have visited. The one regret there is that the actual interior (we sat outside) had hats from all these different people, places and companies all over the world. No one had an Iowa State hat on them, and I don’t have one with me. We might have to assign our next reader who is in Slovenia to deliver a hat there!
Once we got done with lunch, it was back to the thrills as our way down the mountain was an alpine slide. Kind of a mix of a roller coaster track and a bobsled in that you have some control over it, the alpine slide goes down the mountain at nearly 30 MPH. Instead of describing the experience, I filmed it for you to see. This made my trip down particularly difficult because I was trying to film with one hand and control this thing with the other. I was in pretty good shape but that final jump nearly ended the video and the camera. I then blew through the stop sign, which is why everyone was freaking out at the bottom, but I was in total control. Watch the fun here.
The hotel we are staying at, Hotel Draš, has a couple of gyms attached to it so that allowed us to get in a quick practice this afternoon. One of the challenges of the European trips is not getting to practice. As planners, you don’t want to take away too much sightseeing and experiences, but we are also here to help our volleyball team get better, not for a 10-day vacation. Christy had the chance to watch both of our matches en route to Maribor and had plenty to work on during today’s practice.
After a short time off, we returned to the gym to take on HAOK Mladost, a Croatian club side based out of Zagreb, the nation’s capital, and the 2013-14 Croatian A-1 League champions. Read more about the match here. Not the best day on the court, but we still have chances to bounce back on the trip.
Wednesday we are back to sightseeing, as we will be visiting downtown Mariboar. After that, we are going to be taking a gondola higher up the mountain we visited today for lunch. That afternoon/early evening will be our match against the Slovenia Junior National Team. After that, we will be having dinner off-site.