Photos from the fifth congress of Lista Marjana Šarca, which took place on April 6, 2019, at Delavski dom in Trbovlje.
Fifth congress of Lista Marjana Šarca in Trbovlje
Best Christmas Markets of 2018
It’s no secret I love Christmas Markets, I’ve been visiting them since I was a child. Christmas time has a special place in my heart and I love spending it with my family and loved ones. If I find some spare time during holidays, I try to visit at least a few markets near my hometown, so this year we’ve decided to visit Christmas markets in Ljubljana, Zagreb, Budapest, Klagenfurt, Velden am Wörther See and Bled. I’ve ranked them based on my experience and personal preference.
#1 – Zagreb
City streets are decorated with lights and many cute ornaments, all of which make a stroll around a special experience. The whole market is well designed – vendors sell beverages and Christmas delicacies (at a reasonable price) at Ban Jelačić Square and homemade souvenirs at Park Zrinjevac, where events also take place. Couple of public trams are decorated with lights and you won’t believe it, but Santa’s driving them!
- city streets and squares are beautifully decorated,
- wide variety of delicacies and beverages at affordable prices,
- everything is well connected together,
- lots of events happening every day.
- very crowded.
#2 – Velden am Wörther See
During Christmas time a town situated at the western shore of the Wörthersee is transformed into a Christmas fairyland. A huge Advent wreath floats by the shore, where the vendors, a small stage and a cantilevered wheel are also situated. Couple of metal containers are places around the town where people can make campfires, enjoy mulled wine and homemade delicacies.
- very pleasantly decorated with nice details,
- wide variety of delicacies, beverages and homemade souvenirs.
- no events,
- markets around the town are not well planned (not connected).
#3 – Budapest
Budapest is an amazing city. I’ve visited it before, but never in December. Their Christmas markets are gaining popularity, so I’ve decided to see for myself what the fuss is all about. The main market is situated at Vörösmarty square. Floor in the middle section are slightly raised, with tables and vendors in the centre, who offer variety of traditional dishes and beverages (but beware, they don’t display a price list and prices are very high!). The very popular (and probably also most instagrammable) Christmas light tree is situated at the St. Stephen’s Square, with an ice ring in the middle and food/beverage vendors around. Other smaller markets around the city mostly consist of vendors who sell mulled wine, Chimney Cakes (Kürtőskalács) and souvenirs.
- vendors mostly sell traditional hungarian delicacies,
- every (even smaller) market has its own Christmas tree and Advent wreath,
- prices outside the main market are quite reasonable.
- the city is decorated without any taste,
- weird opening hours (different every day),
- prices vary a lot from vendor to vendor,
- markets are located far apart.
#4 – Klagenfurt
The main Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt) in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee is located at Neuer Platz. The city is not over-decorated with flashing lights and Christmas trees, but is decorated with taste. Placement of wooden houses with vendors is a bit confusing, but a wide variety of homemade Christmas delicacies and souvenirs can be bought there, as well as figurines for Christmas cribs (bigger wooden ones are being made at the market). Neuer Platz is quite small and wooden houses take up a lot of space, so it can get quite crowded, but you can always find a table to enjoy a cup mulled wine.
- the city is not over-decorated,
- really tasty homemade delicacies,
- small, but pleasant.
- when crowded, very hard to move around,
- wooden houses placed without any order,
- hard to find a parking space (if with a car).
#5 – Ljubljana
People seem to enjoy Christmas decorations in my hometown, but I don’t. Streets and squares are decorated without any taste, by principle more is better. Sometimes more is not better and that’s the case in Ljubljana. The sky is illuminated by thousands of lights in different color, which do not connect dislocated markets with the main one. Prešeren Square is packed with vendors and a huge Christmas tree, while the nearby Congress Square looks almost deserted. Pogačar Square, which is also packed with vendors and a smaller stage, can get really crowded during live musical performances. Vendors around the city mostly sell imported souvenirs, cheap mulled wine (made from powder) and low quality food. Most events take place between Christmas (25.12.) and New Year’s Eve (31.12.).
- many vendors around the city center with long opening hours,
- Slovenska Street is nicely decorated,
- a lot of things happening between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
- decorated without any taste,
- markets are scattered around the city and not connected with Christmas decorations,
- low quality items being sold by the vendors,
- some squares are packed with vendors, other look almost deserted.
#6 – Bled
The popular tourist destination is poorly decorated, with a small Christmas market located on a closed street by the lake. Vendors selling homemade delicacies occupy one side of the street and the other is occupied by chairs and tables. A small stage is located in the middle. The market is too small for such a popular destination and can get really crowded.
- homemade delicacies being sold by the vendors.
- poorly planned,
- can get really crowded.
How to Make Potica
Traditional slovenian pastry Potica (Walnut cake) is usually made during Easter and Christmas holidays. Since it’s holiday time I though I’ll share an old family recipe for our traditional pastry. I usually don’t weigh the ingredients so I won’t write the quantity of each ingredient.
Ingredients for dough
Plain white flour, yeast, milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, vanilla sugar.
Ingredients for walnut filling
Walnuts, milk, sweet cream, sugar, chocolate powder, rum, egg whites.
Crush the yeast into a medium size bowl, add some milk, sugar and flour. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it in a warm place for about 20 minutes.
Sift the flower into a big bowl, add white and vanilla sugar, melted butter, whipped egg yolks, yeast and milk. Mix the dough well and leave it in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Grind the walnuts and put them in a big bowl. Add sugar and chocolate powder. Make a mix of milk and sweet cream, heat it up and pour it over the walnuts. Add rum and egg whites, then gently paste the mixture.
Prepare a mixture of raisins, rum and milk. Let it sit down for couple of minutes.
Roll the dough (about 5mm thick), grease it with melted butter and walnut filling. Drain the raisins and sprinkle them on top. Grease the baking dish with butter, roll the dough, gently put it into the dish and grease it with a mixture of butter and egg white. Heat the oven to 180°C (356°F) and bake it for aprox. 80 minutes until medium brown. And that’s it, your Potica is done. Enjoy!
Zasavska Sveta gora
Zasavska Sveta gora (Sveta gora nad Litijo; 852m) is a hill near Litija with the Church of St Mary’s birth located on top and Mountain Lodge Zasavska gora nearby. One of the most visited spots in Zasavje Region offers amazing views on Triglav, Pohorje and Snežnik. It can be accessed by car, but I’ve decided to hike the trail from village Vače. Pleasant walk through the woods and past the pastures takes around an hour and a half – a great way to spend an autumn Sunday!
Kamniški vrh (1259) is a mountain located in Kamnik–Savinja Alps with a steep and grassy southern slopes overlooking the village Županje Njive. The hike from the village takes around one hour and offers amazing views. I didn’t had much luck with the weather, but the sunset was breathtaking!
City authorities of Kranj (Slovenia) placed the Blockchain monument, a statue shaped as a Bitcoin logo, at the roundabout near the city center. The metal construction was made by Aleksander Frančeškin and Selman Čorović and paid by two slovenian tech companies 3fs and Bitstamp.
Welcome to Balkan
We decided to spend our summer vacation exploring Balkan Peninsula and enjoy our time-off at Albanian Riviera. In two weeks journey we drove across Croatia and Serbia, made a short stop in Belgrade, and continued to Macedonia. Our first destination was the capital of Macedonia – Skopje, which was recently reconstructed and after that partly lost its charm. We stayed in Skopje for three days and made a round trip to Kosovo on the second one – explored Ferizaj, Gračanica Monastery, Priština, Peja (Peć), Patriarchate of Peć Monastery, Monastery Visoki Decani, Gjakove and Prizren (Prizren Fortress). Kosovo might be a young and diverse country, with open ethnic conflicts and very poorly developed tourist infrastructure, but offers a unique view on traditional life at the Balkans. A great destination for any adventure traveler.
After Kosovo we drove to Ohrid and around Lake Ohrid (on Macedonian and partly Albanian side). The town itself was quite crowded (we traveled there in high season), but we found couple of small villages around the lake and lots of deserted beaches. Water was crystal blue and cold .. and that’s all you need at 40°C (besides cold macedonian beer). We tasted some of local culinary specialties (mainly fish), visited St. Naum and drove thru National Park Galichica to Stenje, where we swam in Lake Prespa. Later in the afternoon we continued our journey by driving around Lake Prespa and into Greece.
Our final destination in Greece was town called Kalabaka, which is situated right in the heart of Central Greece (Trikala region) and on the foot of the Meteora peaks. We planned on camping in Camping Vrachos, which we visited and can highly recommend, but changed our planes and reserved a room in a small guesthouse (Guesthouse Arsenis) right by the road to Meteora monasteries. After making all the plans (with the help of the guesthouse owner) for exloring the area, we drove to a viewpoint near the guesthouse .. amazing ! Exploring Meteora monasteries and the area around them was definitely the highlight of our journey.
Next day we drove to the greek-albanian border, enjoyed some beach time at Sagiada (Παραλία Κεραμίδι) and continued to Sarandë (Albania). We booked an apartment at Heaven Beach Apartments, which are located around 6km south of the city, offer a private beach and great sunset / city view. Sarandë is a touristic city, lot of hotels and restaurants, so we didn’t expect to see much, but nevertheless found couple of sights worth visiting. One of them is Lëkurësi Castle, which is located above the city and offers great sunset view. Beaches around Sarandë are beautiful, but very crowded. That’s why we also explored the coastline from Sarandë to Ksamil – we recommend checking Pulëbardha Beach and Plazhi i Pasqyrave – and Ksamil itself. We also planned to see Buthrotum, an ancient Greek/Roman city, but changed our mind (because of the summer heat) and headed up north instead. Our next stop was a water spring named Blue eye, which we also recommend visiting, and after a swim in the cold water we continued to drive over Muzine pass and to Gjirokastër, where we explored Gjirokaster Castle.
We continued our journey along Albanian Riviera, visiting different beaches (Krorezit Beach, Lukovës Beach, Borshit Beach, Spile Beach, Gjipe Beach, Dhermi Beach and Palasa Beach), over Llogara Pass and to Vlorë, where we booked a room in Vlora Backpackers Hostel. The city is very modern, lots of shops and cafes. Best beaches are located a bit outside the city, at Zvërnec Peninsula, which is located near Zvërnec Island. The bridge connecting both ends is being renovated and is not safe to pass, so you can only admire Zvërnec Monastery across the bay. Our next stop was Berat, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities. Quite a charming city, with old stone houses, couple of museums and the Holy Trinity Church. We escaped the summer heat by making a side trip to Cobo Winery, which is situated near Berat – great wine and rakia, highly recommended – and later continued to Durrës, where we explored the Old Town and Durrës Amphitheatre. After a long day we took the highway to the capital of Albania – Tiranë. We stayed at Hostel Grande House for one night, which was probably the cheapest option with free private parking (around 3km from the center). Tiranë (Tirana) is a huge city and we only had one day to explore, so we started really early. City streets were almost deserted at 5am and got really crowded at around 9am. The Skanderbeg Square, Et`hem Bey Mosque, Enver Hoxha Pyramid and Mother Teresa Square are just a short walk apart and worth visiting. After a long morning hike across Tiranë we drove to Shkodër, around Lake Shkodër, to the border crossing with Montenegro and to Podgorica. Quite small, but lovely city, with just a few sights and a great restaurant – Pod Volat – where we had lunch and can highly recommend a visit.
Montenegro in summer? Beach time! We headed south to Budva and found a camping spot at Crvena Glavica, which is located near Beach Galija and St Stefan islet. Beaches, restaurants, hotels, bars, streets, .. in wider Budva area were very crowed. Charming old stone houses, little churches, restaurants and bars with breathtaking views and delicious food are probably best to explore outside the main season, that’s why we didn’t stay long and quickly headed up to Bay of Kotor. Our first stop was the city of Tivat, where we booked a room at Tivat Apartments. A small town with couple of restaurants, shops and a wealthy neighbour – Porto Montenegro. We didn’t take the ferry across the bay, but rather drove around it. Old villages, small beaches by the road and breathtaking landscapes. Kotor and Perast are amazing little cities and well worth a visit.
We ended our journey by visiting Dubrovnik .. which we didn’t like. The town itself is lovely, but crowds are indescribable and prices are rocket high. We watched the sunset by the Old Town and drove to Slovenia via Bosnia and Croatia.
Lake Podpeč is a popular summer gateway situated near Ljubljana, between the hills of St. Lovrenc and St. Ana, known for holding wide variety of different fish species. I visited Lake Podpeč on the last day of year 2016 and waited for the sun to rise .. and when it did .. magical!
One way to Iraqi Kurdistan
Planning a trip to Iraqi Kurdistan could be challenging. Lonely Planets Middle East guidebook offers some limited information, but is outdated, as are information on the internet or anywhere else. The situation changes everyday and anyone thinking on visiting Iraqi Kurdistan should follow news about the region. I should also warn the reader, that visiting Iraq means entering a war zone and I only recommend doing that if you’re an experienced traveler.
I started my journey in Istanbul on 26th of March 2016. I took a 5am bus from Taksim Square (in front of Park Hotel) to Sabiha Gökcen Airport and from there a flight to Mardin (Pegasus, 2 hour ride, around 20 EUR/one way). I arrived in Mardin at 9am, took my bags and went outside the airport. I’ve read on the internet, that there should be busses (blue color) outside the airport terminal, but couldn’t find any. I later found out, that there are busses outside the airport complex (200 m from the terminal), but by then I was sitting in a metered taxi and on my way to Mardin bus station (otogar). The taxi ride took around 30 minutes and costed 58 TL (17 EUR).
Bus from Mardin to Dohuk
Mardin bus station is situated in the middle of nowhere, but looks quite new. Each bus company has its own ticket office inside and you should buy a ticket before departure. I asked around and was directed to Özlem Cizre Nuh bus company, which operates a line from Mardin to Erbil, but also stops in Zakho and Dohuk. The young salesman at Özlem Cizre Nuh ticket office didn’t speak any English and was not interested in my questions, so I didn’t even bother. I just said “Dohuk”. The ticket price is 60 TL (18 EUR) and the bus should leave at 11.00am, but is often late.
The bus ride is quite nice in the beginning, and as I remember, only stops in Midyat and Cizre (around 4pm). When it starts approaching the Syrian-Iraqi border, check-points get quite frequent and the bus must stop at every one. The bus operator collects passports from everyone and shows them to the military. At one time I was the only person who, accompanied by a solider with a AK gun, had to leave the bus and was searched from head to toe. I was also questioned for half an hour, my passport was checked several times and my backpack was searched, but I somehow convinced them to let me continue.
We arrived at the border complex at about 5pm. The process doesn’t take long. You have to leave the bus at the turkish border (without luggage) and get your passport stamped and the process repeats at the Iraqi border. The visa to Iraqi Kurdistan is valid for 30 days and is free (the officer even explained how I could extend it). Officers at the Iraqi Kurdistan border are very friendly, but you have to follow the procedure – first you have to get a “card” (right booth) which which you get into the line on the left. Wait in front of the left booth, when asked approach the officer and hand over your passport with the card you received at the right booth. After getting your photo and fingerprints, he’ll give you a 30-day visa and welcome you to Iraq. The bus will wait outside and you’ll drive right off.
First stop – Dohuk !
We arrived in Dohuk after sunrise at 7pm. It was raining and the bus driver stopped at the crossroad far away from my hotel. I stayed at Hotel Parleman, which was recommended by Tripadvisor. The hotel is quite hard to find – just follow the main road and turn right at the Bazaar. Continue for couple of meters, turn right and go up the stairs. You’ll get a friendly welcome from a receptionist who speaks English by using Google Translate. Rooms are basic, with squat toilet and hot showers, and cost 20.000 dinars (16 EUR) per night. Owner of the hotel later welcomed me, bought me a kebab and offered me some liquor. He worked in Germany for a while and speaks German and English fluently. Next day I explored the city by foot (I don’t know if there is any other option). I walked around the Bazaar, which is quite nice, bought some sweets at bakery shops and had some tea with the locals, who invited me for a chat. People in Dohuk are very friendly and are eager to speak with foreigners.
Lalish, Mosul and Erbil
Hotel Parlemans owner, who I met couple of days before, arranged a taxi driver for me. He picked me up early morning at the hotel and drove me to Lalish and later to Erbil. The ride from Dohuk to Lalish and back costs 50.000 dinars (40 EUR), but the ride from Lalish to Erbil costs just 30.000 dinars extra (80.000 dinars, 64 EUR), so I decided to take the second option. The taxi driver didn’t speak any English, but was eager to learn. He also bought some drinks and snacks. After arriving in Lalish he found a local, who showed us around. Don’t expect to see much in Lalish or you’ll be disappointed. Since the war zone in Mosul is near, the village is full of Peshmergas (Iraqi Kurdistan soldiers). We looked around, had a cup of tea with couple of soldiers and took off to Erbil via Mosul. We arrived in Erbil at 3pm and went straight to the hotel – Hotel Madera, which is situated in “New City”, 25 minute walk from Citadel and the Bazaar (taxi ride costs 3.000 dinars). The hotel looks new, is very clean and costs 40$ per night (western toilet, LCD TV, fridge, etc.), breakfast included (very basic).
Erbil (or Arbil, Hewler) is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and a home of many Westerns, who work and live there. The main attraction in Erbil is the Citadel, located above the Bazaar (entrance is on the opposite site of the hill). The complex is being renovated and is not worth visiting – you can not even get a view of the city, since everything is closed. Other things worth visiting are the Bazaar, which is quite big and very crowded, and couple of parks. Most of the bars are located in the part of Erbil called Aikawa – you can get a taxi from Madera Hotel to Aikawa for 5.000 dinars (4 EUR). Most popular bars there are T-Bar and German Beergarden and Restaurant (near T-Bar), which is operated by a german guy (price of one 0.5L beer is 12.760 dinars (10 EUR)). There are many restaurants in Erbil, mostly quite good, but very far apart, so you have to take a taxi every single time (day fee = 3.000 dinars / ride, night fee = 5.000 dinars / ride).
I continued my journey to Sulaymaniyah, which is located near the Iranian border. I took a taxi (3.000 dinars) to “Sulimany Garaye” (a shared taxi parking lot from where taxis depart to Sulaymaniyah) and was on my way to Sulimany within 5 minutes (15.000 dinars (12 EUR) for one person). The ride was awful, taxi driver was in a hurry, overtaking other vehicles and speeding, we even drove through Kirkuk and stopped in the city (we had to leave a passenger there), but luckily arrived in Sulaymaniyah in one piece. It was raining heavily when we arrived and I had a hard time finding my hotel – Hotel Dolphin. Nobody knew where it was, I was soaking wet when I eventually found it – located in a narrow street at the end of the Bazaar (few meters in front of an underground garage). Rooms are small, but clean. Price for one person is around 30$ per night. Dolphin Hotel is very popular among tourists and you’ll see many at the reception using WiFi.
Hotel Dolphin is located near the Bazaar, which is a very interesting place. I suggest visiting it early morning, when things are being prepared – chicken slaughtered, vegetables cleaned, bread baked, etc. People at the Bazaar are very friendly and will welcome you inside their shop to take photos and look around.
The main attraction in Sulaymaniyah is an old prison – Amna Suraka (Red Security). Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services imprisoned, tortured and killed tens of thousands Kurds there. It opens at 9.am, closes at 12.am, again opens at 1pm and closes at 4pm. The main building is being renovated, but the military equipment (tanks, cannons, etc.) behind it are impressive. There is also a small museum inside, which is worth visiting.
Sulaymaniyah to Sanandaj (Iran)
Finding a transportation from Sulaymaniyah to Sanandaj (Iranian Kurdistan) is a tricky one. There should be a bus that connects both cities, but I couldn’t find any – I asked around but nobody knew anything about it. The other option is taking a shared taxi – from Sarazu Garaje (Baghdad Garaje) to Panjewan (7.000 dinars / 5.6 EUR). When I arrived at Sarazu Garaje I just shouted “Panjewan” and they directed you to the right car. I arrived at 12am and waited only 5 minutes till departure (taxi leaves when it gets full). After arriving to Panjewan I had to take another shared taxi to the Border Crossing – it was parked near the intersection where the taxi from Sulaymaniyah stopped. The ride costs 2.000 dinars (1,6 EUR) and takes around 10 minutes. The taxi driver stops before the complex and we had to walk across – first into Iraqi Offices (procedure is the same as on the Turkish-Iraqi border), across the bridge and into Iranian Offices. Right after entering Iran everyone gets searched – passport and all of the luggage. A guy in front of me had an empty whiskey bottle inside his case and had to carry it back to Iraq. After that we entered the main building – that’s where you get questioned and searched again. I should note, that I already had an iranian visa inside my passport – you can not get a visa at the border crossing.
After exiting the main building I got approached by taxi drivers, money changers, etc. I just ignored them and went straight to the complex exit (aprox. 200m). I found a taxi to Marivan (Maradin) there, which costs 250.000 rials (7,3 EUR) and takes around 20 minutes. Marivan (Maradin) looks like a nice city and you might get a room there quite cheap, but I continued to Sanandaj straight away. I found a taxi driver (shared taxi) who agreed to take me to Sanandaj for 250.000 rials (7.3 EUR), the ride takes about 3 hours. I left Sulaymaniyah at 12am and arrived in Sanandaj at 7pm. After arriving in Sanandaj I went straight to the bus station and bought a ticket to Tehran for 440.000 rials (12,80 EUR). There are many bus companies operating at the bus station – look around, find the best one (ask for departure time and price) and buy the ticket. Buses to Tehran are quite frequent (one per hour), there are also buses to Esfahan, Tabriz, etc.
I continued my journey to Tehran and then through North-West Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan is an interesting place, a little bit expensive for that it offers, but nevertheless worth visiting. The highlights would definitely be Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah – very small but interesting cities with a great bazaar and friendly people. Amna Suraka is also worth visiting if you’re interested in history and are familiar with the fallen regime.
People of Iraq
What do you think about, when someone mentions Iraq? War? Terrorists? Iraq is so much more than that. People actually live normal live there .. and they are Iraqis most valuable asset. People in the Middle East are know for their friendliness and hospitality, but Kurds are, by my opinion, among friendliest in the region. As a traveler, you’ll often be invited to a cup of tea or offered sweets, some will even offered you a place to stay. The war has affected their tourist industry – there are almost no tourists. You’ll see a journalist, photographer or a hippie here and there, but that’s pretty much it. People are not used on seeing a lot of tourists and are eager to meet them .. except journalists. They are tired of journalists who are building careers by selling their sad life stories, but are not interested on helping them. “It’s sad when people are making money out of our misfortune,” they say.
I’ve traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan in April 2016. I started my journey in Istanbul, where I took a plane to Mardin, a small city in East Turkey, near the border with Syria. After collecting my bags at the airport in Mardin, which is quite a hassle, since people are apparently eager to leave the airpot as soon as possible, I took a taxi to the nearest bus station. Small rounded building is situated near the main road and heavily guarded, buses to Syria and Iraq leave quite frequent, so I didn’t have to wait long for a bus to Dohuk, Iraq (which leaves at 11am). The bus route is interesting – right by the turkey-syrian border, which is heavily guarded by soldiers and a high concrete wall. We had a short lunch brake in Cizre and continued to Silopi border. Check points from Cizre to Silopi are quite frequent and as a tourist you can expect to be interrogated almost every time. One time I was the only one called off the bus, my passport was checked, couple of turkish soldiers with AK guns were questioning me and searching my bags .. believe me when I tell you that turkish soldiers are not exactly friendly. Border formalities are simple – you get a 30-day visa to Iraqi Kurdistan without much hassle. Passport check, photograph, fingerprint and a warmly “Welcome to Iraq”. I’ve continued my journey to Dohuk, after that to Lalish, Erbil, Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. There is no point on pointing out the sights I’ve seen, hotels/hostels I’ve slept in and restaurants where I ate – use Tripadvisor. I’d just love to show you the faces of people that made traveling to Iraqi Kurdistan the most enjoyable experience in my life ..