By my Spanish friend Nacho and who else I wonder. As the second biggest city in Slovenia, I was surprised when Nacho told me before I knew myself that I was actually coming here, to not bother. 'There is really nothing to see there and really nothing to do', he proclaimed.
Worryingly, and as I spent an entire day with Nacho, I know that he is 'worldly' and an intrepid explorer himself so I am perplexed by the difference in opinion we have on Maribor. Incidentally, the job of a local Policeman in Spain seems to be a pretty good one! I'm not sure how many of our lot would say that back in the UK? Joe P? Gary? Before you answer that let me tell you that Nacho does not do night-shifts. This is his choice he says not needing the "extra" money they would pay for this cover. The absolute latest he works is till 11pm. He says crime is low and further more, holiday is structured so that he can take a month off at a time which he uses brilliantly and travels an entire month in different countries!!! Nice.... I also got the impression he travels more than one month a year.
Thinking back he really was emphatic when he stated not to bother coming here. Strangely though, I ignored that but admittedly it was on route to my next destination. Mind you, I didn't have to stay a night but I'm glad I did. In fact, let me tell you that I have stayed for three nights! Nacho drove through the town in several hours. Don't get me wrong, you don't have to stay three nights but equally, you very easily could if time was on your side. In fact, it was worth coming to Maribor just for the calming and beautifully picturesque train ride.
So my dearest Nacho, I'm guessing during your 'drive time' into the city, you didn't spend any time down by the Drava river and take the time to admire the pleasing surroundings and various bridges? You could have even paid for a ride on a jet ski. I totally wish I did this now.
What about the little city itself? Did you wander through it at all and take some simple touristy snaps?
I bet you didn't see a street full of young children spellbound by several flying drones! There were some women dancing but don't let this quick snap fool you, all eyes were on the drones! :-)
You could have even used Maribor as a base. But to where you might ask? Well, how about Austria! There are car sharing options available as well as buses and trains that run during the day.
Maribor also has a popular thermal spa too which costs around 10 euros for the day. This provides sun loungers and a couple of different pools, some heated. Sounds super-relaxing but instead, and for some unknown reason, I decided to hire a bike for 5 euros and cycle along the Drava river for a few hours in 34 degree heat. If ever you needed a sign that I'm losing the plot that might be it...
Also something that Nacho didn't have going for him was good old fashioned luck. When I checked into my hostel, the lady said that I had literally chosen the best start of the week for the entire year! It transpires this week is what they call the LENT festival. You know it's a big thing for the area when you randomly see a guy wearing a pretty cool looking 'LENT 2015' festival t-shirt. Yes, granted that's a really strange choice of name for the Catholics amongst us.
Indeed down by the river loads of mobile units setup and cook food and serve drink. Perfect. Well, it was until I discovered they were charging 6 euros for a bugger and 9 euros for a mixed grill style meat-feast and let's be clear gourmet burger this was not! Still, I enjoyed the atmosphere and the live music and settled for the more affordable but less healthy pizza slice and ice-cream.
Maribor is proud to have a sizeable open-area known as Mestni Park as one of its main attractions. This park is also occupied during the LENT festival and so there was a similar setup going on here to what there was at the river the day before. I found the natural beauty of the park as interesting as the events going on...
The park also leads on and up high to 'The Piramida' (The Pyramid). The images you will soon see certainly do not represent a Pyramid but back in 1821 there was a Pyramid-like Obelisk but it was demolished that year in favour of something far more holy.
The white monument had caught my eye when I entered the city as it was hard to miss being so high-up. I knew I'd hike to it and so it was a case of when, not if. The view during my ascent and at the summit did surprise me a little and these couple of hours ended up being one of the highlights of my time here. Furthermore, most of the entire way up I was surrounded by Vineyards which was pretty cool knowing I was at the origin of a lot of very popular and mass-produced wine.
And the reward for this small hike were stunning 180 degree views out onto the city.
Oh, and as for what The Pyramid actually is, well it's a chapel with the Blessed Virgin Mary on the other side facing the city:
When I came back down from the walk I was parched and so there was nothing better than to sit amongst the happy people in the park with one of these:
The occupants of the stage were banging on some instruments and there were no vocals so instead I took to my trusty music device to deliver me additional enjoyment. I managed to sink that pint after Simon Webbe's 'Free' (how apt), Coldplay's 'Fix you' and The Killers' 'Mr Brightside'. That's a pint in less than 15 minutes! An unlikely occurrence for an unlikely traveller... :-)
There you have it - hardly a town with nothing to see or do and that doesn't even factor in the hostel itself (Minihostel) which was quiet, convenient, they provided a basic breakfast and pretty much offered free laundry. Result.
You probably won't need more than a couple of days here depending on your schedule, time and money. Instead, just bring a positive mental attitude and the town's your oyster. Nacho, as we say back home: 'You've had a shocker'.
So with over ten days spent in Slovenia, I think it's now time to finally move on from this surprisingly charming country.
So where next? Central Europe here I come!