Slovenia, the native land of America’s first lady, didn’t thrill me like I had hoped it would. Well, in a couple of areas it did. Perhaps it’s not fair that I’m comparing it to Croatia and Zagreb, specifically–it could be totally better than other Balkan countries–but that’s my only reference point. I was expecting the country to be a cool place simply based on the cool sounding name of its capital, Ljubljana (lube-lee-ahna), but it wasn’t, at least not in the immediate feel, first impression kind of way. What disappointed me the most is that overall, the people aren’t as friendly here and, sadly, as I read in a museum this morning, the xenophobic feeling of Slovenians, which existed for many centuries, is making a comeback.
I liked a few things about the country. You can drink the tap water. That saves money. Drivers are courteous, stopping to let pedestrians cross at every crosswalk where no stoplight is present. The scenery in the countryside is picturesque, some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Even better than Portugal which I was sure couldn’t be surpassed. On the bus from Zagreb I saw hillside houses, farms and fields and thought how nice it would be to live there. Oh, and the beer. The pivo was one of the two highlights of my time in Slovenia. (More about that in the food section.)
The other one was five young people I met with whom I was able to engage in lengthy dialogues. This is one of the benefits in traveling during the off-season when crowds are smaller. Speaking of crowds, I truly believe half of the foreign tourists in town right now (as opposed to national tourists) are from Asia. Japan and China make up the majority, but one store owner told me lots of Koreans, Indonesians and Malaysians also visit. Back to the young people.
The two guys in the photo below are students. They work at a kielbasa shop and we chatted for almost an hour as business was slow in mid-afternoon. They’d like to find jobs abroad. Leah is a bartender who wants to attend a dance academy in Amsterdam. Auditions are next April. Lidja, another bartender, was applying for a higher paying job and when she heard me say I was an English teacher, she asked me if I would help her with her cover letter, which she conveniently had with her. That was total fun. And finally, my waiter at a restaurant near where I was staying told me that he lived in Miami for six years when he worked on a cruise ship. I told him that he probably lived on the ship more than in Miami. He laughed and agreed. The time I spent talking with these locals, well, it was special.
I’m sad that I’m writing about Ljubljana and I still have 2 1/2 days here. I’m manufacturing things to do to get me to Tuesday. One thing I’ve learned in my travels is that not every destination lives up to the self-imposed hype we place on it. My track record has been top notch, but I missed the boat with Slovenia. Two more posts, activities and food , will follow shortly.