Obcutek: OCARAL Z DOPADLJIVOST
(Translation: Feeling Captivated by the Quaintness).
Saying goodbye to Budapest broke my heart a little, but luckily our next night was to be in a country that I was greatly looking forward to – and that most definitely didn’t disappoint.
Now, Slovenia is considered one of the best countries to go to in a bid to get “the best bang for your buck”, so to speak. 2015 saw a good two million tourists travel there to explore, a number which has been steadily rising by at least six per cent every year. Its biggest drawcard? Its natural beauty.
Slovenia is very small, cute and cosy and is said to be extremely easy to navigate; half the size of Switzerland, it is cosseted by Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and a little portion cushions the Adriatic Sea. The culture is rather Germanic if it was to be defined, though it does receive a lot of influence from all of its surrounds as a medley of all.
Slovenia sparked a bit of flak during the post WWI political climate when instead of siding with Germany it formed an alliance with its Eastern roots – that being the Slovakians, the Croats and the Serbs, to become Yugoslavia. The years of 1941-1945 saw the kingdom torn apart and dismembered, with an ongoing struggle with the communist regime until 1989. In 1990 to 1991 it declared independence as Slovenia, recognised on a world scale in 1992.
The communist rulership gave way into a democratic style, and it soon became one of the most up and coming countries in Europe. It went from being a country having to borrow money from other countries to being a lender. It joined the EU in 2004, adopting the euro in 2007.
(Interestingly: I always thought people from Slovenia were referred to as “Slovenians”; not the case. Rather, they are “Slovenes”).
So Slovenia; a true success story. And there we have our “word” – Successful!
One the way to Ljubljana (honestly, the number of times I’ve hear that uttered, I still can’t get it right. When Henio was in hospital with his mangled ankle I went up one afternoon to keep him company and spent the whole time replaying Google pronounciator to try and get it right – alas to no avail). (Though I think Oldmate Keith in the bed next to us now has it pretty spot on) we stopped off at Lake Bled for an hour.
TGTaz had said for all those game, jumping into the fairly freezing lake was up for offer. “No regrets, one shot,” she said, all that Contiki lark. A handful of others enthusiastically bobbed their heads and packed towels and what not in their day pack, pumped to be able to tick that off the list.
We were driving down the windy road, everyone gasping out in wonder at the snow-topped mountains and sapphire-jewel lake below, when I suddenly felt devoured by this yearning to throw myself out there and plunge into life head first.
I didn’t say so out loud, but as we pulled up to park the feeling gathered momentum. It lessened a bit as I disembarked the steps and felt the chilly wind whipping around, but then Melbourne Maddi slung her arm around my shoulders and said, “Pop are you getting in? If anyone is going to, it’s going to be you”. And that sealed the deal.
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like the cold. I go all out to avoid it in any which way I can, with winters in Cambridge seeing my dressing gown as the most utilised piece of attire in my wardrobe (not going to lie, at Uni in winter I used to take my transportable hairdryer to class and upon getting up to the towers from the train, would spend a good ten minutes heating myself up. “Hairdryer girl” was not uncommon to be answered to). So to find myself whipping off my North Face puffer (best buy EVER; that thing is the goods) and my shoes and socks to throw myself into the sub-zero waters was rather thrilling.
Along with a couple of others already in, I lined up with Jumping Jade, Bounding Brea and Tumbling TGTaz and we dove in.
Mate. That shit was cold.
But I’m so glad I did it.
I mean, I could’ve stayed snug and such in my clothes with the majority of others who opted out. I could’ve laughed as those who plunged screamed at the insane arcticness and struggled to get back out up the mossy bank with their blue lips and numb feet.
But how good was it to be amongst it all? (however wintry). (And Alicia got some stellar shots, see below. How good is my footwork on my dive?).
Afterwards a group of us trooped along to one of the cafes lining the lake for them to indulge in the original Bled cream cake – the originalna Blejska kremna rezina (came about as a result of some fab fella chucking all the remainders from other cakes into one and inventing a kind of custard-square like creation). There was a fruit bowl sporting some mammoth oranges on the counter and when I asked the lady how much for one, she apologetically told me they weren’t for sale, then placed one in my hand and said it was a gift. (So glad I was present!).
On boarding the bus, I was just so damn happy. Ridiculously so. All just felt so right in the world. I had a massive to-do list, eons of things to sort out, but I just didn’t give a fuck. Life was brilliant and I was there in the moment. And it felt fab.
We finished the last hour appendage to Ljubljana (Lib-li-ana – there we go!) and hustled to our hostel. When TGTaz had said we were right in the centre of the city, she wasn’t lying – we were literally in the midst of it all.
After a quick refresh and pop in to the next door H&M, the group gathered in the lobby to do a short walking tour around the sights. We passed the Three Bridges bridges (literally a triple bridge connecting the Old Town with the Main Square), the statue of France Preseren (the Slovenian national poet who is to the people what Goethe is to Germans, Dante to Italians, Pushkin to Russians and Shakespeare to English), the Butcher’s Bridge (a “love lock” footbridge which also boasts a sculpture of Adam and Eve being shamed and banished from Eden, a disembowelled Prometheus gaping the scene after giving mankind the knowledge of fire and a number of eerie frogs and skulls), the Ljubljana Cathedral and the Dragon Bridge (dragons as from Ljubljana’s coat of arms symbolising strength, courage and might, also nicknamed ”Mother-in-law” because of its fiery nature. According to legend, should a young virgin frolic over the bridge the dragons will walk their tails – suffice to say when our lot ambled over the four concrete creatures sat staunchly still).
We then had a few hours to do as we pleased, so a crowd of us meandered along looking for a place to plate up. Along the way I exclaimed out in delight upon seeing a corner pub named “Pop’s Place”; the man outside saw my excitement and when I told him my name was Poppy, he heralded Sheri and I in for a free glass of red each. (What is up with me just hustling in all these freebies atm? I said to Sheri and said how I wished it was because I was this sexy, big boobed beauty, but more the truth is that I look like a little kid seeing snow in my too-big Nikes – though they actually do fit, my size 9’s just are not in proportion with the old bod – and want to play the giving-the-lollipop part).
After downing our drinks, we continued to try and find a place with traditional Slovenian food but to no avail; instead, we rocked to the Spar next door to our hostel, hurriedly hustled together a gathering of goodies and proceeded upstairs to picnic on carrots, broccoli, strawberries and a drumstick for Sheri.
We met the crew at the Cutte Kar bar a lane over for a night capping tipple or two and exchanged some pleasantries, then headed back to the hostel to sink into slumber.
I think out of all my days so far, this was right up there as if not number one, then tip top on par. Life just seems so grand. I have so much going on in the background but for once it was completely overthrown by being in the here and now.
So it’s not just Slovenia that is successful, it’s me too in such a regard. One overnight here is nowhere near enough – I’ll be back in a big way.
Success all around.
And onto Italy!
(A really random insert that I have been meaning to nudge in for a fair while; something that really trips me out – get that pun? – upon cavorting the countries? The Shells! (As in petrol stations). What with the downfall of Shell in NZ and it being bought out by the all new “Z” – that is zee, not zed as I was gutted about – seeing Shells all about is like a flare from the bygone). (At your service).