My pre-exchange travels consisted of jumping from two very distinctly different regions of the world for no real reason but some strange path that appeared in my head. This included traveling from the south of Thailand up to Bangkok. From there to Slovenia and down through Croatia to Dubrovnik to eventually fly to Madrid where I will be undertaking my exchange. For this blog I wish to focus on my brief but amazing visit to Slovenia that I think was the highlight of my trip.
My first afternoon in Ljubljana (Capital of Slovenia) was after 26hours travel that included 3 flights in a row from what can only be described as the polar opposites of culture and landscape as my previous destination was Bangkok, Thailand. Arriving around 6:30 in the afternoon I was informed on check-in about a free language and culture night happening in the common area of the hostel. With just enough time to drop my bag in the room, I was straight off to explore a language that seemed very foreign to me. While sampling some local bread and wine a very charismatic and determined young Slovenian lady overwhelmed the diverse group with Slovenian words, structure and sayings.
Going around the room asking people where they are from she eventually asked me how do I think they spell Australia in Slovenia. My replay of ‘AJ UJ SJ…. ‘ did not seem to have the reception I imagined. Being the only native English speaker in the room my joke fell on deaf ears (I am using lack of understand as my defense against what was more likely just a very lame joke (possibly could be labeled a Dad joke)). I was not half wrong though with one ‘J’ appearing in the Slovenian work for Australia being ‘Avstralija’. After much more phrase learning we finally got the important part of the night. How to order a beer in Slovenian. With much practice I finally nailed it. Armed with the essentials I went to test out my newfound information on the locals. Unfortunately it did not work exactly as I planned, with the waiter at the first bar I ordered in, replying in Slovenian (much to my confusion) and then bringing out different beers to what I ordered. Easily please I was just happy to be close enough and considered it a successful first 3 hours in a new country.
For my first day I decided to make a trip up to Lake Bled located 2 hours north of Ljubljana. This allowed me a first taste of the Slovenia landscape. Nestled between Austria and Italy to the north and northwest, and Croatia to the south. This geographical location sees vast mountains, valleys and rolling green hills similar to that of a ‘Sound of Music’ backdrop. Upon arrival in Lake Bled you are immediately overwhelmed by the beauty and hit by a sense of contrast from the cozy cobbled city of Ljubljana against the pristine nature of Lake Bled. A day filled of swimming, amazing pizza and ice cream, and visiting a 17th century church that inhabited the island in the middle of the lake was enough to please this lonesome traveler. As the sun began to disappear it was time to head back to the capital to check out some nightlife.
Assembling a crew on the bus ride home we traded stories of past travels and quizzed each other on what was to come of the night ahead as none of us knew where to go or what to do. It was decided we were to meet at one hostel and check out some bars in an alternative area of Ljubljana. With some good food in our belly and a few beers in we decided to wander around for a funky nightspot. We searched aimlessly before stubbing on some music coming out of what can only be described as an abandoned building. With much discussion with a host out the front to find out what was going on we managed to enter the show for a reasonable 5euro with the only information extracted was that it was a hip-hop band from Belgrade. All I can say is when did the Beasty Boys turn Serbian. With locals rapping their hearts out you couldn’t help but be infected by the positive vibe of the room. With no understanding of what was really being said we all seemed to assume out own meanings and were able to blend and dance along with the enthusiastic crowd.
My last day saw me venture 2 hours southeast of the capital Ljubljana to a place called Postojna caves. This touristy destination is very touristy for one good reason. It is amazing. Traveling 5km into the cave by Indiana Jones style train cart, then walking 1km though the caves you experience vast cabins full of stalactites, stalagmite and columns that take thousands of years to form. It being a good 30 degrees outside I was defiantly not prepared for the 9 degrees inside the cave. My awe and amazement for the beauty of the cave provided no warmth for body which started to move into the early stages of hypothermia by the end of the tour. Shivering uncontrollably my only savior was a gift store that I had to awkwardly stand in and not buy anything while waiting for the next train to take us back out of the cave.
Having to move southwards towards Croatia I can say I had an amazing 3 days of miss interpretations (bad jokes), beautiful scenery and a Serbian hip-hop show. Slovenia a must do on any travel bucket list.