Before we left the hotel for our journey into Maribor’s City Center, our guide for this leg of the trip, Cory, gave a really interesting speech. He said that this is what a lot of Europe is like, and what a lot of life in Europe is like (apparently Slovenians spend two hours a day drinking coffee. That doesn’t affect me, a staunch ‘no coffee until I have no choice in life’ person, but we may need a new Athletic Trainer if Mary Meier decides to stay for the two hours of coffee per day). While the tourist destinations and the big cities are great and fun, a place like this is where people live and go about their lives without as many of those distractions.
It makes sense. As a life-long Iowan (minus my year at TCU and when I spent four months at Ball State, but those stories are for another day), it is tough to imagine life without Iowa. However, if I was European and had the chance to visit the United States for the first time in my life, Iowa would probably not be high on the list of places to go. It is their loss, Iowa is awesome, but you don’t see tourists bustling shoulder-to-shoulder trying to take pictures at the Basilica of St. John’s in Des Moines like you did at St. Vitus in Prague and St. Stephen’s in Vienna. That exact thing happened today in Maribor when I visited the Maribor Cathedral, the Church of St. John the Baptist, it was empty except for one person in one pew praying. That is what Europe is to many people, just like how a place like Iowa is what the U.S. is for many people.
This was a good time in the trip to have a, ‘you can’t blend in with tourists that don’t exist’ stop. We have been here for nearly a week and have been to plenty of captivating places, we would be able to handle ourselves in Maribor. It was pretty much a free day to explore the City Center and see what there is in and around Maribor. It was raining inconsistently, but that did not stop anyone from going about their lives.
The one attraction we were encouraged to go see was The Old Vine. Maribor is home to the world’s oldest living vine for producing grapes, at over 400 years old. A Žametovka vine, it is still able to produce about 25 liters of wine per year, which is put in miniature bottles. Apparently some members of the travel party (both team and staff) did not make it to the correct vine, but fear not, I did and I have the picture to prove it!
Being in the Maribor City Center also offered me a chance to resume my soccer stadium adventures that I previously had in Prague. I knew we would be close to the home of NK Maribor, the Ljudski vrt (which, when translated, means “People’s Garden”), but I didn’t realize how close until we literally drove right past it en route to our parking spot for the day. The second we were cut free I was off to Ljudski vrt. It is the third-largest stadium in Slovenia, however, NK Maribor dominate the league’s attendance rankings at 3,089 per match when no other team averaged more than 1,000 this past season. The stadium itself has a very modern exterior that helps it stand out among the architecture in the area.
Once we all gathered back up, we set out on our next adventure, by taking a gondola lift up to the top of Pohorje, which stood almost a mile above sea level. It was another incredible view of Maribor on the way up and when we got there. Among those also taking gondola’s up were mountain bikers. You have to be pretty brave to take a mountain bike down that thing and those guys had some wear and tear, but once they got to the bottom they wanted back up to the top.
We took a short walk to a wooded hut where we were served lunch. The place looked kind of out of place in late May while it is raining, but you could envision it being December or January and you are stopping by there while you were skiing or were staying up near the top of the mountain. Like our friend yesterday who collected hats, the owner here collected mugs. So just like yesterday’s duty to bring the hat, the next Cyclone in Slovenia has to bring a mug to the guy for the wall! This is going to turn out to be a pretty big assignment for whoever is next in Maribor.
We then got some time to rest and then played our second match in Maribor against the Slovenian Junior National Team. You can read more about the match here. Obviously, things went much better this time around. Hopefully the Cyclones can continue to build on this, as a couple of challenging matches lie ahead in Italy.
Speaking of, tomorrow is the first of two travel days in a row for the Cyclones. ISU will leave Maribor tomorrow morning and make the drive across Slovenia and into Italy en route to Venice. The Cyclones will then go out sightseeing and for dinner in “The Floating City.”