Maribor, Slovenia 2000
Fifteen kilometres south of the Austrian border, and 57 km from Graz is an interesting Slovenian City, Maribor, that in it's area has got something that every S.C.I.J. member would like to have in one's own backyard.
No, I do not mean the vineyards but a ski resort with over 1000-meter vertcal drop. Maribor is probably the only city of 150.000 inhabitants in the world that can offer that.
Difficulties in getting there
Our arrival dayhappened to be the day in Europe when snow closed at least runways if not whole airports.
Airports were packed with people trying to find new connections to their destinations.
After leaving home in Turku at 4 am I reached Maribor with the rest of the Finnish team at 7 pm to see that the illuminated slope was open and tempting. However, as the insatiable Moloch's mouth of luggage handling had denied to spit out our equipment we decided to admire the slope through the restaurant windows of hotel Arena and have our long-waited-for supper that had been waiting to be waited for us.
During the night and the next day other teams arrived and our happy skiing family reunion was able to begin.
Stare at their eyes
Hotel Habakuk proved to be a real jewel in Pohorje's crown. All being in the same hotel suited us very well. One didn't need to move many muscles to get to the restaurant, swinning pool, exercire room, sauna or disco. All the energy could be saved to the dance floor. In addition to the slopes and ski trails, of course.
The naturalness of the nudist-minded sauna proved to be a bit unnatural to some of us. Natural verbal communication without any protecting uniform was somehow forced and keeping one's stare at the interlocutor's eyes was even more so.
Anyway, skiing is what matters
Hotel Habakuk is situated fifty meter from the nearest lift. What excellent exercise in the morning. Just enought, not too much. The nearest lift takes skiers almost to the top, near the old hotels. Surprisingly they can be reached by car too.
From the lift you could see the old downhill slope that because of lack of artificial snow making equipment was closed. It's steepnes and natural curves made the slope look most entertaining but of course we had no chance to test it. The over 1000 meter vertical drop could be reached from the uphill hotels to Habakuk and the terrain was very varying with easier and more difficult parts and it ended to the terrace of Hotel Arena.
Women world-cup races are held on the same slope and so were ours.
The track was a bit hard but like someone told the track is snow it you can make your skiing stick stand on it. If not, it's ice.
Anyway the races were organised efficiently. Injuries were mainly mental. Some hassle was caused by a runner-up who couldn't believe that he was so good. He would have liked to be third.
Busses took us up the hill above the slopes. The high altitude could have been demanding to the lowlanders among us but the anti-cyclone made breathing easy and the warm sunny weather made the race more like a picknick with some summer sking. As usua the Dutch team nourished us with their excellent pea soup.
The pea soup proved to be the appertiser. After the race a lunch-tent was erected for us with too much food and wine and the after-ski lunch coul've easily turned to an after-linch nap.
The vineyard of the Romans
Hot-air-balloon trips to Mariborean skySergi about to have a bite
Viticulture in the Maribor region is over 2000 years older than skiing. It is known to have started during the Etruscan time, long before the birth of the city state of Rome.
The Roman Caesar Probus ordered to plant vine in all sunny hillsides, which made Maribor a very important wine producer.
The fall of the Roman Empire destroyed the very profitable industry but later the increasing immigration of Slavs revived the viticulture.
Nowadays Maribor is called "the City" in the middle of vineyards".
In the Middle Ages Maribor's reputation as quality wine producer spread wide and viticulture became the main means of living in the region. As the mountains in north and south prevented transport by land, the wine was floated in ferries along the river Drava.
Stara trta, the Old Vine
The most virile greybeard is the oldest vine in Europe that still produces grapes. Even though it's been planted in 1560 it still grows grapes more that fifty kilos a year.
However, fifty kilos is so little compared with the demand that the nectar of the Zametna Crnina grapes is mixed with other subspecies.
The grape harvesting the first Sunday in September is a big carnival and important guests of the city and the state gather to celebrate along with the people of Maribor.
The wine is pressed with an old wooden mill and taken to the Vinag wine cellar to be bottled after six months in quarter of a litre bottles with a long neck.
The mayor of Maribor gives them important guests and what's left will be sold to collectors.
The Pohorje Hills
Maribor is in the immediate vicinity of the Pohorje range. From the base there is a brisk walk of about an hour and a half to Hotel Bellevue or you can take the cable lift, a ride of some fifteen minutes. The upper station of cable lift at Hotel Bellevue provides a pleasant stroll along the road or through forest paths to the lookout tower (1148 m), which affords a panoramic view of Maribor and surrounding areas. Within an area of some 60 minutes of walk there are many mountain cottages and hotels (accesible by cars, too).
And in winter Pohorje becomes the greates skiing centre in northeast Slovenia. There are wonderfull skiing areas that are suitable for begginers and skilled skiers, for alpine skiing as well for cross-country skiing. It is very difficult to find a city of such size in Europe, where people can mount their skis some 30 minutes after leaving their homes or offices. As the altitude is relatively low (800 - 1200 m), people of Maribor, regarding skiing as the national sport, built the Ski Stadium at the base of Pohorje and so (with a help from compact-snow machines) the skiing season lasts for at least 120 days of the year.
One of the greatest sport events in Maribor is the Golden Fox - the Wold Cup Race in Alpine Skiing for Women. It is one of the oldest Ski World Cup race (from 1964) and definitely the best visited Ski World Cup contest in the world (there are never less then 10000 people and the record is some 20000 people). The Golden Fox race has its heroines: among some slovene competitors who won their first World Cup victories here (like Mateja Svet, Natasa Bokal, Urska Hrovat) there is the six time winner Vreni Schneider from Switzerland, no doubt one of the best skier in the world for all times.