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Superb Slovenia !

Published on Friday, June 17, 2022

Superb Slovenia !

Setting off early on the Tuesday morning, bound for Heathrow, I was looking forward to my 2nd trip to Slovenia, to re-unite with old friends and making new ones.

The venue this time was Maribor, an old city in the north of the country; to get there the flight was to Graz, Austria, via Amsterdam, and I would be picked up from there and driven to Maribor.

Left the car at the car park and wandered round to check-in, dropped the suitcase off and went through security, all good so far.  Time for coffee and breakfast before the flight due to leave at 0840.

Settled in on the plane for a short hop across the Channel to Schiphol airport where I had an hour to change planes for my onward flight to Graz.  A brisk walk through Schiphol to the gate for my connecting flight, arriving with time to spare and sit and relax.  No need to collect my suitcase and check it again as I had been reassured at Heathrow that it would be transferred all the way through (ha ha ha !!).

Boarded the Graz flight and waited, slight delay in preparing to leave but soon we were taxi-ing to the runway and then the captain’s voice came over the tannoy “sorry ladies and gentleman, we have a slight technical fault developed with the onboard computer, we are going to park here for a few minutes whilst the engineers fix it remotely”, ok I thought, not a problem, better to be safe than sorry !  A few minutes later it was announced that the problem had been rectified and we set off again for the runway.  Couple of minutes later the captain was back on the tannoy, the same fault had developed again but this time they had no option, we could not continue on that plane and we would be returning to the terminal to change aircraft. Groans all round but obviously the safest thing to do.

Arriving back at the terminal we waited expectantly for the stairs to arrive and doors to open, we had been told that the plane we were transferring us to was directly opposite us, great we thought, not too much of a delay then !  Unfortunately there were no ground crew around to bring the stairs over, so after about 10-15 minutes the captain cheerfully announced that the stairs had arrived and we could open the doors but, sadly no baggage handlers were available to transfer the luggage to the new plane; well you can imagine the groans and moans and attitude of the passengers !  So we had to sit and wait and wait on the plane, eventually being given a small bottle of water and a coconut macaroon as refreshments !  After another 30 minutes the captain announced that they were starting to transfer the baggage and we would soon go over to the new plane, except that we weren’t allowed to walk there, oh no, a bus had to take all the passengers over to the new plane, a distance of about 50 yards ! Cue laughter and amazement all round.  Ok lets just get this over with and get us airborne!  The journey from one plane to the other for some bizarre reason took 15 minutes as the bus took some weird roundabout detour (?) half way round the airport and back !

Eventually we were all settled in our seats and luggage loaded (or so we thought) and we took off for the 90 minutes-ish flight to Graz.  We landed almost 3 hours late into Austria but it was still only 1630 and it was only an hours drive to Maribor so plenty of time to be there for the umpires briefing at 2000.  Switching my phone back on, having previously let the organisers know about the delays, I received a message from one of the French umpires who had been due to arrive around the same time as my original flight to say that there would be no-one at the airport to meet me as they had all gone on ahead to the Hotel in Maribor !  Waiting in the baggage hall along with several other passengers for our luggage which shortly started coming through and then it stopped and the doors closed.  All the baggage had been claimed, except mine hadn’t appeared !  I went over to the information desk to enquire and was informed that there hadn’t been enough time to transfer my case from the Heathrow flight to the Graz one.  What ?? After a delay of at least 90 minutes on top of the hours transfer ?  Sorry but yes, and to cap it all, there was only one flight per day from Schiphol to Graz, so the earliest my case would arrive would be the following afternoon.  The customer rep  said that the case would be brought to my hotel in Maribor if I would kindly leave my details, thank you.

My transport duly arrived and I was soon whisked into Slovenia and dropped off at the Sports Centre where the briefing was to take place later that evening, after meeting the referee team, Darko and Dodo, headed to the bar where I met some other umpires; boy, I needed a beer badly !

The 4* hotel was a mere 400 yards stroll from the hall and situated at the foot of a ski-slope ! Fortunately at this time of the year, it’s lush green grass, not six feet of snow as normal.  Adjourning to the bar for a technical meeting my situation was explained to the other assembled umpires amidst peals of laughter but a few sympathetic comments as well.  After the briefing a local umpire made a quick ‘phone call and I was surprised to receive some trousers, shoes and a Slovenian umpire shirt to wear until my luggage arrived (Thank you so much Mateja xx).  Looking forward to the start of the tournament we retired to bed.

The tournament got under way using 5 courts with 2 days of qualifying rounds before the main event, we were very busy.  Lunch and dinner were supplied at the sports centre, chicken for lunch and the chicken again for dinner, ok not too bad, I’m sure tomorrow will be different.

Next day, chicken for lunch and chicken for dinner, oh !  Day after, chicken for lunch and then again chicken for dinner, you get the picture ! Well I suppose they were catering for all sorts of palates, this was the safest option. The evening before the finals, the organisers had arranged a special dinner for the technical team and local officials and we were given a nice choice of beef fillet or fish, with a starter and dessert, it was delicious !!

On the 2nd day, we were given a couple of hours off in a small groups and the local umpires very kindly gave us a guided tour of Maribor, pointing out the various local points of interest and explaining the history, before heading back to continue with our work.

Last day of the tournament began with the semi finals in the morning with a break of a couple of hours before the finals, I was very fortunate to be chosen to umpire the Womens Singles final (the only non badged umpire to be selected to umpire a final).  All too soon it was over and time to say goodbye to those who were leaving directly after the finals.  Those who were staying convened in the newly opened Hotel restaurant for a final meal and drinks. 

Up early on the Sunday morning for the drive to Graz again, time for coffee and goodbyes to new friends with promises to meet again somewhere.

Great tournament, fabulous friends, exceptional memories, thank you superb Slovenia !

Comments (1)Number of views (98)

Author: Ian Johnstone

Categories: Badminton Europe (BE), Tournaments

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1 comments on article "Superb Slovenia !"

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Nigel South

7/20/2022 1:43 PM

Never mind the chicken, beef, or fish for dinner, did you get your case back?

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