The fact that these two conferences run back-to-back seemed a perfect opportunity to experience both, at the expense of a single long-haul flight. Their taking place at amazing locations on the Istrian coast which I had never visited before sealed the deal. I submitted abstracts and was delighted when they both accepted me to speak.
I landed in Zagreb after eighteen hours in transit, picked up my rental car, and crossed the Croatian-Slovenian border on my way to the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. The city was beautiful, but I was only able to spend about half an hour looking around before exhaustion kicked in and I retired for an early night.
The Slovenian conference was held on the town of Portoroz, and I had heard about some cave systems, Postojna and Skocjan on the way. I had planned to visit both, but on the way to the Postojna, I saw a sign to a cave at Planina so I decided to check that out. The public accessible area only extends a couple of hundred meters inside (much more is accessible with a guide) but it was really cool just being alone in the quiet and pitch darkness.
Postojna Cave is a complete contrast; you take a 20 minute train journey with hundreds of other sightseers deep into an amazing cave system, followed by a 40 minute guided tour, before taking the train back out again. After these two experiences I’d had more then enough of caves, so I decided too skip Skocjan and head direct to the conference venue.
The speakers dinner was held at an fantastic restaurant, Na Burji, and the meal was accompanied by bread baked by the multi-talented Jože Senegačnik. I was thrilled to finally catch up in person with Jure Bratina, the first subscriber to my blog (!).
Both were fantastic hosts, epitomizing the warmth of the all Slovenian and Croatian people I met on the trip.
After the two day conference I drove with ‘Mr SmartScan’ Roger McNicol back across the border to Croatia and the town of Rovinj.
The Croatian conference is held at Hotel Istra, on Red Island, a 20 minute ferry trip from Rovinj. There are actually two islands joined together by a causeway, and you can walk the circumference of both in about forty minutes. They must have been spectacular before the hotel was built!
Most days during the conference I managed to swim in the morning and evening, one morning completing the 75 minute swim around the smaller island with Kamil “Let’s do it quickly before we realize it’s a stupid idea” Stawiarski!
One of the highlights was a guided trip to the historic town of Pula, followed by drinking and go-karting, organized by the larger than life figure of Davor Ranković.
The above description makes everything seem like an amazing holiday, which indeed it was. However in addition, I saw so many excellent and informative presentations on topics such as Oracle database, Application Express and Oracle JET. Being able to interact and make connections in person with so many incredibly knowledgeable and talented people from both inside, and outside of, Oracle corporation is very empowering, and something that is just not possible through the internet. Without exception I found that everyone was so welcoming to me as a new speaker.
Thanks everyone that made it possible, or made it special just by being part of it!