Contributed by John Dutchman-Smith

The Worshipful Master Bill Holden organised a visit to Slovenia to experience the country and its freemasonry in June 2009

Thursday 4th June 2009

The bulk of the party met at London Stansted airport for our flight to Ljubljana.
Those travelling together were

  • Alan and Vicky Breward
  • Barry and Ann Bryan
  • Peter and Heather Clarke
  • David and Janet Corduroy
  • Brian and Anne Cozens
  • Roy and Joan Hodgson
  • Bill and Jean Holden
  • Royston and Maria Morris
  • Ken and Enid Morris (Guests)
  • Larry and Jaqui Porter
  • David Starbuck
  • Ron Williams and Ann Downing

On arrival we met up with our guide Borut who is a member of Dialogus Lodge and who, together with his daughter, looked after us superbly for the whole week.
Waiting for us at the hotel were

  • Satinder and Sheila Lal
  • Gerrard and Mirjam Otten
  • Chris and Ginny White

who had travelled by earlier flights.
During the weekend we also met up with other members and guests of the lodge.

  • Ian and Geoffoline Charlton
  • Petar Damnjanovic
  • Tercelj Mladen
  • Tony and Gill Lancashire (Guests)
  • Derek Oliver
  • Leo Lusicic

Having settled into the comfortable and spotless City Hotel a large party dined (and wined !) at the AS open air restaurant.

Friday 5th June 2009

The morning was showery but this did not prevent us from taking part in our walking guided tour of the wonderful city of Ljubljana. After Borut had shown us the principal sights during the morning we were all free to explore during the afternoon. Particularly intersting to us was the magnificent cathedral.
In the evening a Folkloric evening of food and entertainment was arranged which we enjoyed. Somehow during the hat swapping dance David Starbuck managed to wear four hats at once.

Saturday 6th June 2009

An early start for a visit to Postojna Caves. These caves created over millions of years, drop by drop, year after year extend for 20 km underground. Quite amazing. Afterwards we drove towards the intermittent Lake Cerknica which is one of the most unusual natural phenomena. This was where we first met up with our hosts from the lodges of Slovenia. We received a wonderful welcome and had a most marvellous time chatting, snacking and drinking before being served a superb lunch in the farmhouse where we met. After a lengthy lunch we climbed onto the horse drawn carts for our trip to the disappearing lake. The kindness of the hospitality we received was truly memorable.

Sunday 7th June 2009

Another early start to what turned out to be a long but magnificent day. We started by visiting the majestic alpine scenery of Triglav National Park by taking the winding alpine road across Vrsic Pass (5,252 ft) for stunning views of the Julian Alps and their valleys. At the pass we experienced a part of Slovenian way of life by stoping for a short walk and a cup of fruit tea and a bowl of traditional soup in a mountain hut. Afterwards we descended the pictureque Soca Valley named after its emerald coloured river. We passed the sites of great World War I battles where over one million soldiers perished. We stopped for a tour of the World War 1 museum. We then continued to Dobrovo where there was the annual cherry festival with a procession of floats and bands at 4.30 p.m. What a time we had feasting on the largest sausage sandwiches ever seen followed by handfuls of cherries being given out by each float and washed down with free cherry brandy which was also being liberally distributed. After much meriment we left for a short ride to our next stop - a wine tasting. Again good wine and fantastic nibbles. Eventually we had to leave to return to Ljubljana but the guide decided to try a "shortcut" via Italy. Unfortunately neither he nor the driver knew the way and we passed through several Italian villages more than once in the next hour. We got back to the hotel safe and sound at 9.45 p.m. A great day out but everyone ready for bed.

Monday 8th June 2009

Not quite so early we left the hotel at 9.00 a.m. to visit Lake Bled the no.1 tourist attraction in Slovenia. It is where natural beauties are integrated with cultural monuments. On arrival we were treated to famous Bled Cream cake, the main reason why Slovenians keep returning to this little paradise. We then spent the day in Bled, a most beautiful place. Some spent a leisurely time on a boat trip to the island and rang the wishing bell in the 18 century baroque church dedicated to the virgin Mary. Others energetically climbed the 350 metres to the 11th century castle that overlooks the lake from a cliff and then descended to almost the same spot and then did the 6km walk round the lake. Others did this by horse drawn cart. We returned to Ljubljana in the late afternoon to prepare for the evening's activities. In the evening all the ladies went out to dine whilst the men donned Masonic clothing and were taken to visit Dialogus Lodge. Here we witnessed a double first degree ceremony of two blood brothers. Quite different and all in a language that we didn't know. The main elements were recognizable though and the closing of the lodge had some interesting elements. As in Holland some years ago there was a musical director in charge of playing recorded music and operating a lighting system throughout. The festive board was home cooked fare and we provided our share of the entertainment.

Tuesday 9th June 2009

Today yet another 8.30 a.m. start and we set off to Ptuj in the eastern part of Slovenia. Our first stop was the pilgrimage Church of the Virgin Mary at Ptujska Gora, a pilgrimage shrine since the 15th century that is considered to be Slovenia's finest example of a three-nave late Gothic church. It contains 15th century carved-wooden sculpture of the Misericordia of the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus sheltering both rich and poor under an enormous cloak held up by seven angels. Ptuj is considered to be the oldest town in Slovenia and it is a town that has a lot to show. Medieval architecture in the city, a 12th century castle with an outstanding museum and the countries oldest wine cellar with the archives that contain the most valuable treasures, among which the oldest wine in Slovenia. On the way back we visited one of the best preserved temples of Mitra from the era of the Roman Empire.

A memorable evening ensued when after dinner a number met up in the outside bar in the town square and danced on the pavement to a rock and roll duo.

Wednesday 10th June 2009

A free day when most spent the day walking in and around Ljubljana in small groups, meeting one another from time to time. An early dinner for most as we later retired to take over the "English Pub" to watch the English football team beat Andorra 6-0.

Thursday 11th June 2009

Our last day and a number spent the morning on an excursion to Sticna Monastery. This Cistercian monastery was built in the first half of the 12th century in a valley that has had a continuous settlement since pre-historic times. The monastery is one of Slovenia's most important historical monuments. It was built in 1136 by Peregrin I, the then patriarch of Aquilea. It soon became one of the major cultural and economic centres of the Slovenian inhabited areas of the time. Back to the city for lunch and then the 3.00 p.m. bus to the airport and home.

Conclusion

A wonderful trip enjoyed I'm sure by all. Thanks are due to our member M.W. Bro Tercelj Mladen for delegating the members of Dialogus Lodge to take care of us and to our own W.M. Bill Holden for his foresight in planning the trip and or his attention to us during it.

 

John Dutchman-Smith
June 2009