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Day 15: Koper, Izola, Piran and Trieste

It wasn't our original intention on this holiday to go to Slovenia, but once you're in Trieste it's just so tempting. Trieste is located on a strip of land just a few miles away from the Slovenian border, and there are regular buses to the Slovenian seaside resort of Koper (Capodistria in Italian), making it really easy to cross the border.... or so we thought!

When we investigated the online timetables last night, it turned out that the regular local buses only run Monday - Friday, and so the service between Trieste and Koper is significantly reduced at weekends. That didn't seem like a huge problem though, because there were still a couple of long-distance buses scheduled to link the two towns. We found one which was departing Trieste at 08.45, arriving in Koper at 09.34, and so decided to make an early start.

It felt very early indeed when the alarm when off, and after no more than a quick coffee and application of suncream we were walking through Trieste towards the bus station. We were there on plenty of time to buy our tickets, which cost us €3.50 each for the journey and an additional €1.60 for the seat reservation. Always good to have a seat reservation. We popped into the neighbouring train station to buy some provisions for breakfast, with the intention of eating them during our nice peaceful bus journey to Slovenia.

Unfortunately it didn't quite work out like that! We have caught buses in Trieste before with a minimal amount of hassle, but this morning the bus station managed to achieve Balkan levels of disorganisation. The bus we were waiting for was originating in Zagreb and travelling to the ultimate destination of Pula via Trieste and Koper, so we were on the lookout for a Croatian bus. There was a considerable crowd of other people waiting for the same bus, and mass confusion ensued when several buses which looked like they might be going to Pula (but seemingly weren't) pulled in and out of the station. 08.45 came and went and there was no sign of our bus. At 08.50, what looked like a 15-seater minibus, branded with the logo of the company we had purchased tickets with, pulled into the station. Our hearts sank, as we had seats 25 and 26; it seemed like this experience might be reminiscent of when we tried to catch a bus to Budva in Montenegro.

Fortunately, a driver got out of the minibus and explained that we all needed to wait for another bus which was coming. Towards 9am the other bus finally arrived, and it was the size of a proper coach, but unfortunately it already looked very full. More confusion ensued as although the bus was run by the correct company, the painting on the side of it indicated that it was going to Padova and Venezia Mestre. Hmmm. There were hordes of people running backwards and forwards with luggage trying to establish whether this was the right bus or not. Eventually we established that it was and squeezed our way on, only to find that all seats were taken and people were already standing in the aisles.

It was now rather reminiscent of the time we took a bus from Bar to Belgrade, as the seat reservations didn't seem to be worth the paper they were written on. When somebody else queried the fact that someone was sitting in their reserved seat with the bus conductor, he just shrugged his shoulders as if this was a sad inevitability of life.

So much for breakfast on the bus! The only positive thing about the journey was that despite setting off 20 minutes late, the bus still managed to arrived in Koper on time, and so before long we were sitting in the Slovenian sunshine eating a rather belated breakfast :)

Our ultimate destination for today was actually not Koper but Piran, a small town situated at the end of a peninsula further down the short Slovenian coastline. Tim had previously visited Piran with his Dad, and it looked absolutely beautiful in the photos. There are a small number of local buses which connect Koper and Piran, and luckily we were able to catch one of these with far fewer problems and were even able to choose a seat :)

We arrived in Piran around 10.30 and started exploring. It didn't take us long to find the main square, Tartinijev Trg, named after the violinist Giuseppe Tartini who was born here.


No part of Piran is far away from the sea, and you can see it even from the main square.


The sea was a wonderful shade of blue today, although not as calm as it looks; little waves were splashing over the rocks as we walked along the peninsula.


We walked along the sea front, towards the church of St. Clement.


It's a very distinctive church in a beautiful position, right at the tip of the peninsula.


There were some lovely views of the sea from there as well.


It was an extremely hot day, so we walked back to the main square to have a drink.


We could see the tip of another church tower above us, so we decided to explore.


It was a bit of an uphill climb...


...but eventually we arrived at the church of St George, with its enormous belltower.


As we stood in the churchyard we could see an impressive fortification on the hills behind us. These are the town walls of Piran, which were built to protect the town from Ottoman invasions.


A lot more walking uphill was required in order to reach them, but when we finally got there, the views back across Piran were spectacular.


Some of the staircases we had to climb were a little bit scary though!


The higher we climbed, the further we could see out to sea.



Piran was a beautiful place but we were aware that bus connections back in the direction of Koper were quite limited on Saturdays. Around 1pm we decided to take a bus back as far as Izola, a town which we thought was on the outskirts of Koper. We figured we could easily walk back to Koper from there.

Izola was very pretty...


...but it turned out to be quite a bit further from Koper than we had imagined. We began following the coastal path, but to start with we couldn't even see Koper in the distance.


We walked for several kilometres and eventually had a nice view of Izola behind us.


Then we came to this sign...


3.7km didn't sound like too far... until we realised that we were exactly the same distance from Izola!


A lot of walking in the sunshine later, we saw Koper appearing on the horizon :)


Koper itself is a beautiful town.


We just had time for a quick stroll through the main square, before we had to head back to the bus station.


It was a lot quieter than last time we had been here, when the whole town had been swamped by the arrival of a cruise ship.


We made it back to the bus station on plenty of time for the 16.56 bus back to Trieste, which - funnily enough - was the returning Croatian bus from Pula which we had been on this morning. We weren't surprised to find that it arrived with an impressive 20 minute delay, but an Italian couple who were also waiting for it (and obviously hadn't had the benefit of past experience!) were most put out, pacing up and down and asking Tim whether he thought it was definitely coming.

It did arrive in the end and we even managed to get a seat this time (despite not having a seat reservation!), which made the journey back a lot more pleasant. Once we arrived in Trieste there was just time to cool off with a shower before we set off to our favourite restaurant again for another round of gnocchi and goulash :)

As we walked across Trieste, we took the opportunity to take a couple of photos.


One of our favourite buildings here is the enormous Orthodox church.


We walked across the canal...


...and into the main square.


Trieste may have the main square to end all main squares; the buildings are incredibly grand.



We've had a wonderful holiday in Italy, Switzerland (and Slovenia!) and today was a perfect day to round it all off :)


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