For reasons that will become clear later, we secretly left Salzburg under false passports and aliases. We had a mission to accomplish in Slovenia before heading home at the end of Part One of the sabbatical. Maintaining radio silence, we travelled by train through the spectacular alpine region of southern central Austria which merges into the Julian Alps of northern Slovenia. We were heading for a safe house in Ljubljana, the capital, which turned out to be false intelligence - it was a hostel in a very poor state of repair. After three nights, we decided to retrace our route back up north to Lake Bled. Here, we stayed in “Andrea’s House”, a group of apartments run by the lady herself. She couldn’t have been a nicer host which was just what we needed as being on the run for such a long time had become wearing. She told us all about the surrounding area on the edge of a wonderful National Park with plenty of trees for cover. More than three-quarters of the country is covered in forest and, with spectacular rivers, mountains and lakes, increasing numbers of visitors are discovering its beauty both in the summer and winter skiing months.
However, the “D-Day” for our mission was Monday 21st September. It was on this day, 60 years before, that my parents were married. To celebrate their Diamond Anniversary, they had decided to go on a cruise down the Adriatic coast and were due to be in Koper, the main port of Slovenia, from 7am to 7pm that day. I had contact with the ship on its satellite phone to find out if they had booked any organised tours for the day, but they had not. How to intercept them but still keep the element of surprise, crucial for the success of the mission?
We found a room the night before in the old town. A quick reconnoitre revealed that, fortuitously, it was just down the street from where the MV Discovery was due to dock the next morning. I was up at 7 am, just after the ship had docked, to make sure that they hadn’t decided to go on a tour at the last minute. Groups of passengers began disembarking to join coaches on the quayside but my parents were not amongst them. I decided to make my move. At 08.00hrs precisely, I phoned the ship again and asked to be put through to their cabin. Fortunately they were still there. My father answered and he was delighted to be wished a Happy Anniversary. I asked what they were planning to do that day. He said that they were just doing their own thing - looking around the old town of Koper then retiring to the boat in the evening before it set off further down the coast. It was at this point that I launched the killer question, “Would you like to join Sue & I for lunch?” The initial effect of this was confusion, followed by bewilderment. What did I mean? Where were we? We couldn’t possibly be…could we?
Reunion on the quayside followed and we spent a lovely few hours over lunch catching up with the happenings of the previous 10 weeks since we had left home. Despite the uncertainties of the previous week, the mission had been a total success thanks to meticulous training and planning.
This was to be the final act of Part One, for we were keen to get back to base in Blighty for the christening of our niece, Imogen, in Yorkshire the following weekend. We bade farewell to my parents in the late afternoon and caught the bus to Trieste, over the border in Italy. Needless to say, we met with little resistance, and were able to progress from there by train to Venice. Here we caught the overnight “sleeper” to Paris. We were sharing a 6 berth couchette and were treated to the World Premiere of Concerto for Snorers and Hiccoughonist in E flat minor by Insomniofsky. It was a long work, only brought to a conclusion by the conductor announcing that we would be arriving in Paris imminently. A quick coffee and croissant later, we were on another train to Cherbourg, ferry to Portsmouth (disappointingly, no crowds lining the entrance to the harbour) then train back to Dorchester. After 10 weeks on the road, we'd come full-circle. Nothing beats being back in your own bed again.
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Tune in again around November when we will be heading off for Japan and then, hopefully, India for more fun and japes. Roger and out for now.