Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, October 28, 2016

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The first stop on the walking tour was at a restaurant where there was a chance to sample some local food. Our guide asked us to introduce ourselves and say what brought us to Slovenia. I hesitated. A final chance to use my passport before being forced to pay £85 for a new British one which allows me to buy a visa and join the long queue at the border? After all I have been given a ‘Brexit high five’ when we checked into the hotel. I could have said that I was here for the beer, which wasn’t strictly true, but a welcome added extra to the trip. Our first hotel in Ljubljana was a small place in the suburbs, but when we went into the bar there was a beer menu with a choice of 90 different brews. Amongst the five on draught was Adnam’s Ghost Ship, which complemented the bottles of London Pride, St Austell Proper Job, a couple from Oakham and a wide selection from Belgium, Germany and other parts of Europe. I opted for an unfiltered draught beer from Union, the big brewers in the city which was not only tasty but relatively cheap. This was not an isolated case. Wherever we went in the country, a wide range of beer was available and there were no end of craft beer bars. There was also the option of a beer tasting trip to the brewery which offered a sample of 8 beers, three types of local food and a trip round the brewery museum, but as always on trips, there was not enough time for everything, and I had planned a trip to the football. Not the desperately exciting display by the England team, now presided over by one of the bar wife’s ex pupils, but instead a second division game up in Kranj, a thirty minute rail replacement bus ride away. Kranj doesn’t rate a mention in the Lonely Planet guide but I think the quality of the local museums and tunnels dug as air raid shelters in the Second World War just about allowed me to get away with suggesting a trip to the middle of nowhere on a rail bus to watch a minor football match in the pouring rain. Just to be sure I chose a restaurant specialising in local food on our return to the capital. I was both surprised and pleased that my order of a type of goulash from the north east of the country was accompanied by a suggestion of the ideal beer to complement the dish from the young lady who was taking the orders. The dark lager was perfect, and I wonder how many waiters in Britain would have the knowledge and initiative to do something similar.

From there it was down to the coast at Piran to find there was a ‘Golden Years Gym Festival’ taking place with around 1,800 people from all over Europe attending. The highlight for us was the afternoon performance in the square outside the hotel where the dance troupes (crews? posses?) went through their routines. After the sight of 120 Norwegian women of a certain age all clad in blue strutting their stuff, and their men, immaculately dressed and probably all over 70 years old dancing the Can Can, a drink was definitely in order. The Lord Byron advertised 140 beers, but by this stage I had decided that paying twice as much for a bottle half the size was not my culture and contentedly stuck to the local brews contemplating the beauty of this wonderful country.