Marv & Carole Feldman dine at the “best restaurant in Ljubljana,” Slovenia. Photo provided by Marv & Carole Feldman.
Our “Great Adventures” always start with great dreams of going to an imagined place (in this instance Sydney), then there is the reality of the flights offered to us by the U.S. military. This time, there were a couple of false starts – i.e.: a few flights “on the board” which turned out not to be available! We are used to this and returned to our Jacksonville home to try another day.
Just as Carole began to unpack, we heard the blast of jet engines right over our Jacksonville home! A quick call to NAS JAX revealed that this was an (unscheduled) Air Force C-017 with crew happy to take us on its eight-hour flight direct to Elmendorf AFB, AK! We rushed back to the base and before the first day of our Great Adventure was over, we were in Alaska. What a contrast – from 90 Fahrenheit-degree Jacksonville sun to 50 Fahrenheit-degree Anchorage, surrounded by snow-capped majestic mountains!
Carole at a souvenir shop outside Whittier, AK. Photo by Marv Feldman.
After settling into our comfortable on-base digs at Elmendorf and trying to catch up with the four-hour time change (“jet lag”), we rented a car and drove an hour south of Anchorage along the waters of Turnagain Arm to the coastal village of Whittier. We enjoyed a fresh fish lunch while watching the Alaska Marine Highway ferry glide away from port. It reminded us of our previous Great Adventure in southeast Alaska by ferry. We were amused by the hundreds of birds diving into Prince William Sound for their lunch!
We noticed several cars pulled over, so we joined others and saw what they were looking at, a big moose next to the road! Alaska has some of the most spectacular scenery God has placed on this earth.
In order to “get close up and personal” with Alaska’s magnificent wildlife, we went to the Alaska Zoo. The zoo focuses on Arctic animals. We were only feet away from huge polar bears, brown bears, black bears, snow leopards, bald eagles, etc. Unlike other zoos where they “jail” animals in small cages, here they have huge grounds, lakes and trees where these creatures can roam around, swim, etc.
Later, we went to the glistening new Anchorage Museum where we saw excellent displays on Alaska’s rich history.
Alaska to Europe (via Jacksonville, FL) Sometimes, as Robbie Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglee (go awry)”.
While we hoped that our foray to Alaska would help us (eventually) get to Sydney, our possibilities of connections from there did not materialize. Checking out our options for Space-A flights from Elmendorf AFB, we came to the realization that there was only one offered – a rare Navy C-40 flight directly back to Jacksonville. So, after a great week in Alaska, we were home for the Memorial Day weekend, in time for Tropical Storm Beryl.
Marv stretches out as one of two passengers on a NATO C-017. Photo provided by Marv & Carole Feldman.
It was good to relax at home after our whirlwind Alaska adventure, but our wanderlust beckoned! An unscheduled (C-017) military flight took us from NAS JAX to McGuire AFB, NJ and an immediate connection put us on a most unusual military flight to Ramstein AB, Germany. We crossed the Atlantic on a NATO Hungarian Air Force C-017 (no goulash served!) with crew from Sweden, The Netherlands and USA. This was the first time for us on such a flight.
Slovenia Our luck continued and within hours of landing at Ramstein AB, we were off again on the once-a-week Patriot Express flight to Aviano AB, Italy!
After a good night’s rest on base at Aviano, we left early next morning on a complex (but very enjoyable) journey by taxi/train/bus to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, once part of former Socialist Yugoslavia.
The local tourist information office found a nice apartment for us in a residential hillside suburb of the city, giving us a wonderful opportunity to see Ljubljana through the eyes of locals.
They were very curious about life in the west and as we explored the neighborhood, stopping at a fruit stall and supermarket for our breakfast items. We met and chatted with numerous friendly and interesting people who wanted to practice their English (we don’t speak Slovenian!) and share their life stories with us.
Exploring “just around the corner”, we were delighted by local bakeries with delicious boreks (cheese and spinach pastries) and dined on local dishes quite similar to those we had eaten in nearby Croatia a few years ago.
Ljubljana Ljubljana is a small capital city with a rich history going back thousands of years, from the Celts to the Romans, conquest by Attila the Hun, the arrival of the Crusades, Hapsburg rule for several centuries, occupation by the Nazis during World War II, then under the thumb of Yugoslavia.
Last year, a glittering concert there commemorated Slovenia’s 20th year of independence.
We headed into Old Town (on the local city bus) which was vibrantly celebrating a festival of children, then took a funicular to the castle with its spectacular views over the city. Locals told us that a third of the country of ers, writers and national leaders.
Resting our weary feet, we boarded a small river boat and wound our way through Ljubljana by water. After all this, we stopped at a cafe for coffee and were amazed to see a 16-page menu of tempting cakes and pastries (influence by nearby Vienna).
Imagine how surprised we were to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” sung in Slovenian by a nearby rock band in concert!
Completing our first full day in this beautiful city, we dined on delicious Slovenian dishes while being entertained by folk dancers and musicians in full costume at a restaurant that has operated continually at the same location since 1776.
Carole explores a vegetable market in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Photo by Marv Feldman.
On a beautiful Sunday, we joined thousands of locals enjoying the spring weather in Old Town. Flea and craft markets, singers and musicians, ice cream stalls, and countless sidewalk cafes dispensing endless cappuccinos were everywhere.
While we had previously taken an informative guided walking tour of Old Town, we