Thursday, 24 September 2015

Koper and Piran: We attack at dawn!

Koper, Slovenia (Koper, Slovenija)
On our route down the Slovenian coast towards Croatia, we popped into the quaint town of Koper. Only some ten kilometres from Trieste, we felt as though we hadn't left Italy at all as it was such a quick drive!
Narrow streets were lined with houses of varying levels of faded beauty, and it was quiet even though cruise ships were moored out in the harbour. The difference between the small old town and the dockside new town was stark and I couldn't grasp why tourists would want to hang out in ugly restaurants next to a carpark when venturing just a little way down cobblestones streets led to you beautiful places. 
A smattering of rain added another level of beauty that blue skies can't show. 
Our visit was brief, but a short visit is all it takes to explore the old town. On our way back to the car, we became somewhat lost and consoled ourselves by taking cat pictures. 

Piran, Slovenia (Piran, Slovenija)
Famous for its medieval streets, Piran is understandably flooded by tourists intent on sightseeing. 
As the historical centre is mainly blocked off to cars, we parked in a maybe not illegal spot at the top of a nearby hill and walked down from there. The views were spectacular as the warmth of the failing light showcased the earthy tones of the cluttered buildings.  
The church tower can be seen from the majority of the town and dominates most photographs. A wander up to the church revealed that a concert of Giuseppe Tartini's works would be playing that evening. Strolling through the town led us to believe that Piran was obsessed with the composer, as many things bore his name including restaurants and hotels. 
That's fair enough too, as Tartini was born here in 1692 (then part of the Venetian Empire), and has an interesting backstory: he began to play the violin while staying in the sanctuary of the monastery of St Francis in Assisi. He fled there after being accused of abduction when he married a woman who was favoured by a powerful cardinal. Tartini is believed to be the first owner of a Stradivarius violin, as he bought one directly from Stradavari in 1715. 
Like Koper, thin streets zigzag up and down slopes and look wholly attractive. Though I could see just how majestic Piran was, it was incredibly difficult for me to enjoy when it was swarming with tourists. We devised a plan: to wake up unfathomably early for those on holiday and see the town with fewer tourists, thereby allowing us to appreciate its charm. (Side note - I nearly got shat on while taking the above photo.)
The waterfront was bustling with restaurant touters, ambling visitors and amateur fishermen. With amusement I watched a paddleboarder wiggle around in the water for a while and then either fall off his board or jump off it for a swim, it was hard to tell. We walked to the end where what we first thought was a lighthouse showed itself to be another church. This one was odd in that it appeared to be fortified, perhaps because of its proximity to the sea and potential naval assaults. 
The main square was awash with activity, including a musical event that was setting up, a leader regularly informing bystanders that they would begin at nine o'clock. There wasn't much interest, probably because they weren't playing pieces by Tartini. 
Retiring to our campsite (where as low-paying tent-bearers we had been banished far from the beach onto the 'terrace' where mosquitos flocked), we slept for a few hours before our alarm sounded and we stumbled unwashed back to the old town for our tourist-free vigil. Success! The streets were as sleepy as we were, with only locals walking dogs and deliverymen out and about. It was during this time that I got a good feel for Piran, which has a deep sense of antiquity to it. I highly recommend an early start in order to see the town for what it once was. After sating ourselves with countless gorgeous empty streets we flung ourselves headlong into our tents and slept away our sad memories of a busier Piran. 

Today's post was almost called: Prime Tent Pitches with Terrace Views and Vibrant Insect Nightlife!