07/06/2010 09:47 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What I Did on My Summer Vacation


1. I went to Slovenia. There were other stops before and after, but the core of the thing was more than a week in Slovenia.

2. Answer questions about why we were going to Slovenia. Some people get it. They say, "Oh! Goin' off the grid, huh?" or "That's pretty, right?" And they are correct on both counts. Slovenia is off the grid, although I must say they do a better job at universal internet than either France or Italy.

3. Look at hay dryers. Not hair dryers. Hay dryers. They're one of the national symbols of Slovenia (see picture above). You take your cut grass and put it on these big rigs that look like a collection of towel bars, and the grass dries and turns into hay. Then they do something with the hay. I have no idea what in the world one could do with so much hay, but there must be a business model somewhere.

4. Drink Slovene wine and eat Slovene food. It's all very excellent, particularly the Slovenian wine. Did you know that 92.5% of all Slovenians, if asked, will tell you that their wine is the best in the world? It's true. Also they will tell you that Slovenia is the second most forested country in Europe, the first being Finland. More than 55% of Slovenia is covered with pretty, dense, sweet-smelling trees. That statistic was offered with some regularity also by Slovenes we ran into. It's clear they're doing a very good job over there with internal communications.

5. They also have alps. The Julian Alps. They are very craggy and covered with snow even now. These Alps are approximately 65% less expensive to enjoy than the ones provided by Switzerland. The people who live around them are also a lot nicer and less yodely than their Franco/German counterparts in Zurich and Bern.

6. You can't really rely on getting an automatic car to rent anywhere in Europe. I don't know if you know this, but listen carefully. When you make a reservation with Hertz over their international internet system, or even on the phone, they are making promises to you that their local affiliated office can't keep. Like, if you have a printed sheet of paper that says, "You have reserved a Mercedes Benz with Automatic Transmission, and here is your Reservation Number," it really means, "As far as we're concerned in this office, you have the car, if it exists, if it's where it says it is, and if you get there before they run out of it." I think this is pretty much a worldwide phenomenon, because it happened to me in the U.S. several times before. Usually you get an upgrade if they don't have the car you were promised. In Venice, however, which is quite close to Slovenia, they had NO cars for the people who came in with their reservation numbers. We were lucky. We got a new Peugeot sports can with a stick shift. The Russian couple to our right got the last Fiat. The rest of the gang had to wait until cars came in from other parts of Europe. You can't blame the guys in Venice, either, who looked at every reservation confirmed by Hertz as if it were a death sentence. And automatic cars? They look at you like you're crazy. So take my advice. Learn to drive a stick before you go, or take trains.

7. Ate a lot of Bambi and Thumper. Got some chicken, finally, when we got back into Italy, but the Slovenians don't seem to have discovered it as a potential source of food. Rabbit. Deer. Pigeon. Prawns (always served complete with eyeballs, pincers, heads and tiny hats). But no chickens. I never ascertained whether this was because chicken was considered too high or too low on the food chain to serve to guests. Perhaps they see it as caviar or something like that.

8. They have yet to discover air conditioning in Northern Italy. This would be fine except that when we were there on our way home, it was 110-degrees until about midnight, when it cooled off to 90. I don't mean to complain. It was very nice.

9. Italian drivers do not fear death.

10. It's hard to come home. Let me put that another way. It's easy to come home. It's hard to go back to the office. And, of course, get back to work. I guess I'll do that now.