Slovenia: at home in a country that is not my own

[Hacer clic aquí para la versión en español]

One day I read about a country where there was a castle built in an island in the middle of a lake. The more I researched about it, the more I noticed how in this country nature always seemed to be the main focus.

We arrived to Ljubljana’s tiny airport confident with the next steps of our journey but without our backpacks. Instead, each of us came out carrying a small bag with a toothbrush, a t-shirt, a deodorant, a comb and a tampon, all courtesy of Turkish Airlines, who left our bags in Istanbul (they were delivered to us the next day, though, so everything was fine).

In Ljubljana, the European green capital, there was an air of environmental conscience, plants, bridges, water, history, music, narrow streets and a castle from where one can see the whole city and its surrounding valleys. After navigating it almost in its entirety, we came to internalize its famous slogan:

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We wanted to wander through different parts of the country during the rest of the trip, so we rented a car that would serve us as a means of transportation, fridge and closet. We got on the road and followed the River Soča’s path, a bluish-greenish river that crosses several of the country’s mountainous regions and which took us through landscapes that became more and more rural.

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It’s funny how as I go through my memories of this trip I think of Slovenia as a place just out of a fairytale. It seemed as if every spot we found quickly got impregnated in us as our own personal discovery. This is why I give each of the spots their own separate attention:

Postojna Cave: This cave is one of the biggest ones in Europe. It’s so big that to visit it we had to first spend 15 minutes in a small electrical train to then continue the route by foot. The two hours we spent inside were a true experience for the senses where we explored hundreds of stalactite and stalagmite pillars and curtains, with different shapes and colors. Plus, the cave keeps a stable 10 degree Celsius temperature throughout the year, which came as a shock after facing an insane heat outside.

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Predjama Castle: A castle with a ‘hybrid’ body; built partly by the natural mountain rock, partly by human beings. The structure, which comes out of a deep cave’s mouth and is located in front of a river and a precipice, was mesmerizing and drew our attention at first sight and as we went up a hill to visit it.

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The coast of Piran: That same day, we left for this small town located on the southwest coast. There, no cars can get in, the houses are colorful and the streets very narrow, and everybody seems to know each other. It was our first time seeing the Adriatic sea, so as a way of commemorating this and following what seemed to be all the other visitors’ custom, we swam topless on the clear blue water, while looking at colorful fishes all around.

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Lake Bohinj: On the fourth day of our trip, we continued our river-led journey and went through severely curved roads while immersing ourselves among the Julian valleys and going through parts where the tree cups seemed to almost hit the car. After several hours of this, we ended up finding a campsite in front of lake Bohinj and set our tent among tall and slim pine trees.

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This place in the middle of Triglav National park is without a doubt the one I hold dearest to my heart.

We opened a bottle of wine in the pier in front of the water while being safeguarded by valleys, fog and a little piece of moon, and just set ourselves to observe our surroundings.

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I’ve always had a fascination with watching the world wake up. Dawns and early mornings in general are my favorite part of the day, so at 5:00am on the following day I snuck out of the tent and went to the pier to do yoga and take some pictures. A little while later, I started to notice how the world around me started to move and although the noises gradually became louder, they also showed signs of a peaceful coexistence between nature and humans. That memory still resonates in me. I know I already left, but a part of me still remains there.

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Lake Bled: Our last stop was that lake with the island and the castle I had read about. But surprisingly for us, it wasn’t what we were expecting. Landscape-wise it was impressive, but the feeling around it was a bit too touristy. Anyways, we still stayed there and camped, and a night storm story was added to our experience:

My dear travelling partner has this special power for creating different scenarios in her head, so as she begged me for us to leave the tent and go sleep in the car, she also went on detailing what could happen if we stayed: the camping tent could fly away with us inside it, the lightning could cause a tree to catch on fire and fall on top of us, mud could slide from the valleys and drag us all the way to the lake (?) and so on…all of them stories worthy of a journalist’s imagination, I believe.

But at the end, as good friends trying to find balance, I laughed listening to the rain while she kept covering her ears. We finally went to sleep without letting go of each other’s hands…and we lived to tell the story.

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We went back to Ljubljana to return the car and take a bus to Croatia. But since it seems that the adventures never end, my friend Linda told the people from the Rent-A-Car about us and our trip, and they ended up offering to take us to lunch and give us a ride from Ljubljana to Zagreb in one of the company cars that had to be driven back to the offices there. During lunch, we had some beers while laughing at the incredible situations we ended up getting ourselves into. Slovenia had been good to us.

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[It’s worth mentioning that I will be forever grateful to our Couchsurfers, Luka and Tadeja, for opening their home to us and to the people of the Rent-A-Car for helping and ‘escorting’ us with a smile on their faces from one country to the other. People like these, who make you feel at home in a country that is not yours, without expecting anything in return, are the ones who give me faith despite all the craziness we see daily.]

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