First Few Days in Maribor
The Malaysian group to the World Youth Chess Championships traveled to Maribor, Slovenia from Penang and Kuala Lumpur via Singapore, Munich and Graz where we were met by the organisers and taken some 38 kilometers by bus over the border to our hotel.
It was a very easy and pleasant trip overnight on Singapore Airlines and our hotel is the excellent Mlada Lipa which is a 20 minutes walk from the two tournament venues some 3.5 kilometers from the city centre.
No baggage was lost, the hotel check in went smoothly as did the accreditation process.
Maribor is a small town of some 100,000 people in a country with a total population of just 2,000,000 but is also the European Capital for Culture for 2012 and therefore very well set-up for tourism - for example our ID tags give us unlimited travel on a very good public transportation system and there are information points staffed by multilingual volunteers throughout a city that is a pleasure to walk about.
We have settled into a routine with games at 3 p.m. daily. So breakfast is at 7.30-8 a.m. and then by 9 a.m. some players do a bit of preparation while mothers get together and bus to town for some two to three hours of sightseeing and shopping. Lunch is usually at 12.30 p.m. and most prefer to take a refreshing walk to the tournament hall around 2 p.m.
So far the weather has remained relatively pleasant although it can be quite cold at night and few opt to walk back from 6-8 p.m. in the dark and wind when the games for the round and day generally finish.
For the trainers (and most fathers who had baby sitting duties in the morning while their wives enjoyed the city), it is around 3.15 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. when the games have started and everyone has settled down that it is their turn to jump on the bus to enjoy an hour long stroll in the historical heart of the city.
There are some frustrations of course, some unavoidable as a result of the organisers having some 2,800 players, parents and officials scattered in over 20 hotels located all over the city and having two separate and rather smallish tournament venues, but others have been unnecessarily caused by a certain inexperience and inflexibility regarding accommodating the realities of the challenges arising from having so many young children playing.
But all in all everyone is happy and much of the credit has to go to the wonderful couple who run Mlada Lipa as they have gone out their way to make the Malaysians feel at home from cooking rice daily and making children friendly meals to getting hold of things like soya sauce!
Furthermore Maribor and indeed all of Slovenia is inexpensive especially when compared to most of Europe and has the advantage of being an unspoiled and a very green, nature friendly country.