Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

A Farewell to Slovenia

 

Bled Castle

As much as I loved Perú, there were some shady Peruanos.  Shit, there are sections of Lima where Peruvians won’t even go (unbeknownst to my little brother, who was robbed there twice within 3 hours).

But I have yet to meet a Slovenian who is not generous to a fault and worthy of your trust.  I mean that.  Granted, there are only about 75 of them, but…

The free tourist guide at the Ljubljana airport says there is no real crime to speak of in town and, “…The only real threat to safety in the city comes from out-of-control cyclists and negligent drivers not paying attention to pedestrians. Perhaps a secondary menace are slow-to-react automatic doors that seem to be installed in shops across Ljubljana – causing hurried consumers much grief and the rare minor injury.”[1]

(You think that’s outrageously funny until you actually ram your stupid beak into one…)

But the point is well taken:  Whether in South America, Western Europe, Croatia, or Slovenia itself, I have yet to find a people whom I adore and trust more implicitly.  No one will take care of me like the Slovenians have.

I returned to Ljubljana through the Croatian countryside after the madness of Hvar Island and the contrast was hard to swallow, despite the scenic beauty of the journey.  Driving inland, you quickly notice burned out and abandoned homes, first one, and then in groups.  Later, as I got closer to the Bosnia-Herzegovina border, it became entire villages, crushed, burned, abandoned.  After the decadence of life on the coast, this is a kick to the skull; the evidence of a long and very ugly war is unmistakable, and less than 100 km away from where we partied like it was 1999.  Perspective can be a motherfucker.

After returning to the friendly confines of Ljubljana, we made plans for one last romp in the Slovenian Alps before I had to head east.  As we headed northwest towards the Italian border, I kept thinking, “Wow.  These little towns remind me of beautiful little Alpine villages.  Amazing.”  Until I realized that they are little Alpine villages.  The four joints we smoked on our 2 hour journey could have had something to do with it.  Or maybe I’m just stooopid…

Bled, Most na Soči, Tolmin, Kobarid, Soča, Bovec, Breginj:  I would put these mountain villages on par with any of the incredible towns I have visited in the Rocky Mountains, Patagonia, the Cordilliera Blanca, the Cascades, and the Grand Tetons.

We spent our first night in the town of Kobarid.  The Italians surprised the Austro-Hungarians with their entry into World War I and came storming across the Alps and conquered Kobarid on their first day.  Then they bogged down in these hills and died by the tens of thousands for 29 straight months.   (Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” was written about the Battle of Kobarid.)  There is even a famous bridge here that Napoleon built over the Soča River.  Of course, the only reason I know all of this is that I made the surprisingly logical decision to not chase Slovenians up the mountains and to make a loop around the town instead.   (My directions were, “It’s nothing.  Go there, then there, then that way.  With a little cunning, I think even an American can do it.”)

Kobarid is also home to one of the finest World War I museums in Europe, a particularly haunting experience and something I won’t soon forget.  The letters home were particularly disturbing.  One was from an Italian lieutenant who had a company of 151 in the hills above Kobarid describing for his mother how winter struck and 54 of his men lost their feet in the first 30 days.  I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, but I don’t follow direction very well and you will see some below.  Careful…some of them are quite graphic.

We also finally made a quick run through the famous town of Bled and its beautiful lake and castle on the hill.  Probably the most famous tourist attraction in Slovenia, we gave it all of 20 minutes because, per usual, we had 14 other places to be that evening before catching our usual 5 hours of sleep.  Slovenians may love the destination, but the ones I am traveling with aren’t so much keen on smelling the flowers along the way.  Oh well…

After an extraordinary weekend in the mountains – some said the most beautiful October weather in the Soča River Valley in nearly 100 years – it was time to pack up and head for home.  I sent a box of colder weather gear and camping equipment back to the US to lighten the load for (hopefully) a semi-permanent move to Southeast Asia.  Not that I’ve ever been there before or anything…

(And many thanks for the job Pošta Slovenija did taking care of my personal effects…see photo below.)

 

“Hey, where are you headed?”

“Oh, I’m moving to Thailand today.”

“Wow!  From Slovenia?  Cool.  I’ve never been there.”

“Me neither.”



[1] Excerpted from In Your Pocket Slovenia guide: http://www.inyourpocket.com/data/download/ljubljana.pdf

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