It is the last day of August and the weather in Bavaria is dismal ……….but looking on the bright side, the COVID incidence figures in most European countries remain low and with the borders open, I have decided to take full advantage of the geographical uniqueness of the Alps – just three hours drive away, passing some dramatic mountain landscapes and traveling through one of the longest tunnels in Europe, the weather has changed to this:
Finally I am coming good on my promise to visit a few friends and colleagues in Slovenia……
Gliding in my by now slowly aging carriage (with right hand steering of course…) through a picture postcard landscape, I am passing Ljubljana and I am heading further South, where my first stop is the animal clinic of Postojna, a referral center for veterinary cancer patients from Northern Italy and from the Balkan countries.
A team of dedicated veterinary professionals are providing here high end diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for canine and feline patients.
Underneath one roof the center houses radiography, CT and MRI imaging facilities and patients can be treated surgically, with chemo and with radiation therapy at a level which equals the care provided to human patients.
Numerous photos and notes from grateful owners are lining the walls in the waiting room.
My journey continues further South to the little stretch of Mediterranian coastline which Slovenia calls its own. At the Hotel Marina, right next to the little habour of Izola my local colleague Lara Kralj has reserved a room for me and the day is finished off in style with local seafood and regional wine.
The next day I have been invited to visit Lara’s clinic, where her all female team is providing first and second opinion care for the local pets, which includes a fair amount of patients coming over the border from nearby Trieste. All team members seem to be bi- (or probably tri-) lingual communicating with pet owners in Slovenian, Italian and in English.
I am having my first (thankfully not direct) encounter with emetic eyedrops and with an entero-protectant developed by the Russian army. You might think that you have seen it all and along come developments you didn’t even imagined would be useful…..
I also notice the close proximity to Italy both in the more colorful outfits of the team (compare this to the plane and possibly somewhat dated dark green of British VN uniforms…) and even in the body dressings of the patients following surgery, which , I think, were real fashion statements.
Once I had a guided tour of Lara’s place and after we had finished the day’s surgical list, Lara took me for lunch to her favourite seafood place right by the marina and I couldn’t help being envious about all the amenities that the location of her clinic offered.
I then had the opportunity of visiting the famous Salina of Secoveljske which is right at the border to Croatia and which made a great background for some nice sun set images.
The next stop on my “Veterinary Tour of Slovenia” had to be the Vet school in Ljubljana where one of my veterinary heroes – Ana Nemec – one of Europe’s finest veterinary dentists, was already waiting for me (I was a bit late coming from an little alpine detour, but more about that another time….). Ana had been helpful with a lot of tips and practical advice for my own cases in Virginia Water and we had been communicating already for a few years, before meeting for the first time in person by coincidentally sharing a taxi a couple of years ago in Thessaloniki. Ana is not only an outstanding dentist, she also seems to run a secret branch of the Slovenian tourist office judging by the stunning mountain landscapes she is posting on a regular basis on her social media sites.
A joint photo at her purpose built dentistry table – a place from where countless veterinary students and graduates from all over the world were educated online about veterinary dentistry – was a must, before here too I was treated to an excellent lunch in the historic centre of the Slovenian capital.
After meeting with some more colleagues in Ljublana in the evening (yes, more wine and great food was involved….), it was an early start on the next morning as I was heading to the North Eastern corner of this small country. After 2 hours driving I was standing in front of an architectural statement that would have made Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus movement proud – the clinic of Natalia Hercog Gerbec in Maribor.
This is what happens I thought, when veterinary medicine is meeting with the love of art and interior design: a place both humans and animals feel comfortable in. We often forget that or clinics are the place where we as vets will spend probably the longest time of our lives at and only a few of us try (but all too often fail….) to make it more than just a set of functional rooms with a lot of pipes and cables running along the wall and stuffed with various machinery.
Natalia’s love for warm colors on a white background, combined with small playful features or with famous quotes, keeps the eye busy and provides a calming ambience despite the functional outline of the building. You can’t help feeling inspired and wanting to change something in your own home after visiting Natalia’s clinic.
My trip to Slovenia finished in truly Mediterranean style, with some more wine and with home made food at the mountain hut of Neca Jerkovic in the forest near Pokljuka, which became a rather crowded place with so many veterinarians and with Neca’s price winning family of Great Swiss Mountain dogs all under one roof.
The hiking together with these gentle giants the next day in the Triglav National Park was the icing on the cake for the by then exhausted traveler and it was hard to leave this small but so beautiful country behind at the end of a so memorable week among friends.