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A treasure on the Slovenian coast
Member Name: Morgenhund
Advantages: Relatively unspoilt
Disadvantages: not that easy to travel around by public transport, no beach
Piran is probably best reached by car, since public transport options are somewhat limited. Although the main centre of Piran is pedestrian only (I would defy anyone to get anything larger than a moped through its narrow streets!) arriving by car would still be the definite preferred method of transport, making the route from Italy, Austria or Croatia, or even Ljubljana an easier one. Otherwise you are very dependent on the bus routes, which whilst being reliable (fairly punctual give or take 5-10 mins) can be a very slow way of getting anywhere. Coaches leave Piran for Ljubljana (two and a half hours, with several each day – including an excellent trip through the Triglav National Park), Pula (Croatia 3 hours – 1 daily) and Trieste (1.5 hours – several daily) as well as frequent shuttle services to Koper (via Portoroz – 40 mins).
Trains are not a lot quicker, as you can only get as close as Koper and the bus connections do not seem to dovetail that well really, although during the high season, when the buses run more frequently from Koper to Piran. Finally there is a third alternative, the hydrofoil from Venice, which is a great way of travelling, although this again is only seasonal and dependent on conditions in the Adriatic.
Slovenian accession to the EU has meant that there are a couple of new viaducts being built at the moment which will make the journey quicker than it currently is - and should be finished in early 2006, and will take a sizeable chunk off the journey time.
There is a lot of accommodation, both in the form of self-catering rooms and hotels, and prices start at around EUR 35 per night (off-season) for the self catering option for a 2* self catering flat – ultimately all you need really, given that it was only really a place to sleep at night or to write postcards. There are also private rooms available and booking is best done via the website www.turistbiro-ag.si which is in English, Slovenian, German, Italian and Swedish. My booking bore a EUR 58 reservation charge, although this is then deducted from the final bill. Alternatively the site www.maestral.si offers a similar service.
Friends who were also in town for shorter stays opted for hotels, with the majority staying in the Hotel Tartini (www.hotel-tartini-piran.com) which is a three star hotel, right in the main square (Tartinijev Trg), both hotel and square being named after the violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini. Otherwise there are other hotels available, including the Hotel Vile Park (pronounced villa not vile!) which was another popular one with friends who were staying. The site www.portoroz.si (as in the resort about 2.5km from Piran) has information on accommodation for Piran too.
Piran has been inhabited for close to 2000 years, with the Italian influence from when it was governed by Venice still being very prominent, with a Venetian campanile dominating the skyline. The campanile is up a hill and the view allows you to see over towards Italy and Croatia (in Piran you can get mobile signals for networks from three countries – and could save you some money on your roaming bill if you can get a better rate via an Italian network than a Slovenian network).
The accompanying church is has recently been restored as is, I believe now opened, but the view over the city is well worth it. For an even better view, then the fortified walls of where the castle formerly stood offers you an even better view in terms of elevation. There is a small aquarium which might be a worth a visit on a wet day – although I have always been very lucky with the weather and chose to travel to Pula and Trieste rather than have heel kicking time. There is a cloister that is open with frequent services, and a remarkable choir, although don’t be fooled that you can hear them singing in the cloister continuously, the sound comes from some very cleverly hidden speakers.
Tartini Square is pretty with various cafés lining its sides, and the town hall also contains the tourist information centre, where you can also find out bus times – a better bet than the bus station, whose opening hours are very erratic. The town hall is licensed for weddings, with weddings (registry office) being conducted in Slovenian but with interpreters for German and English as required.
There are a large number of restaurants going out towards the tip of the peninsula, many of which offer a wide range of seafood, the freshness of which is second to none, although I was unable to eat seafood due to an allergy. The fish was excellent, with seabass being my regular favourite, and a modest dinner with wine (often Slovenian merlot or refošk) costing often about SIT 3500 (GBP 10).
Going out for coffee is an excellent and very cheap experience – a large cappuccino sat overlooking the breakers in many of the cafés should set you back about 60p (SIT200) and it actually practically makes sense to eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are various places offering burgers, pizza etc. too but I would advise people to be a bit on the adventurous side (in Ljubljana I had some great venison, boar sausages and would have had a foal steak, had they not had any left). In case you are in fear and trepidation about not knowing what to order, most restaurants have English menus, although the translation of them can often be a bit misleading... Just a note of caution, namely drinking lemonade and coca cola in restaurants can be quite expensive – SIT 700 (GBP 1.80) for a half litre, when a pint of beer will probably only cost SIT 450. (still only about GBP 1.30!) and food prices having been edging up. Nevertheless a large starter (can be consumed as a main course) seems to be around EUR5-6 (SIT 1300-1600). Coffee remains about half the price of Vienna cafés!
Unfortunately Piran is not really a clubbing paradise – the only club Tri Papige (three parrots) was down an alleyway and appeared not to have windows, so I didn’t investigate. The Theatre Café (quasi Irish Pub) serves a lot of British beers (Bass, Tennents, Newcastle Brown etc.), and has a great terrace and music to watch the girls go by... Night owls are best off heading to Portoroz (the taxi fare is about SIT 1000) for cheesy discotheques. Piran is really more of a couples place or for the older tourist, with a lot of pleasant bars and cafés but no vibrant night life to speak of.
If you have a car, then travelling around is a snip – there is a lot to see within easy driving distance (e.g. Triglav National Park, Trieste, Pula, Opatija), but if you don’t the public transport options can limit you to a certain extent, although there are frequent boat trips to Koper and Strunjan around the corner. There is also a hydrofoil to Venice, which it well worth doing, as a long day in Venice can allow you to see a lot, whilst you are not ripped off over the accommodation.
There are a lot of vineyards in the surrounding area and the one which I visited in Baredi does some very reasonable red and white wines, some of which I brought back. Being undiscovered, Slovenian red wine is very drinkable although the refošk – similar to an Austrian Schilcher - is not to everyone’s taste!
I thoroughly enjoyed Piran, as I went just after the high season, so the droves were away, although when the hordes descend I think it could detract from the magic of the place. Granted this isn’t for your hardcore clubber, but for those wanting a relaxing few days by the sea, and a cheap break away, or a slightly more unusual destination as part of a multi-country holiday, Piran is well worth taking a look at.
Summary: Well worth a trip or short stay