After spending a couple of days in Zagreb, Croatia, it was time for a new adventure. The city and its people were great, but there wasn’t much to do after a couple of days of exploring. Since we didn’t have a rental car, my friend and I had to rely on public transportation to get where we needed to go. We headed to the train station in Zagreb that afternoon and purchased a ticket to Melania Trump’s birth country, Slovenia. It would be a 3-hour train ride that included a stop to have our passports reviewed when we crossed countries.
Slovenia was a wonder! I’m 9 for 10 when it comes to perfect weather this year (Cartagena was a beast), and Slovenia was no different. September was the perfect time to visit as the summer crowds had died down, but the weather was still warm.
Our landing point was Ljubljana, a city with a pronunciation I have yet to master. The j is supposed to make a long e sound, but the locals said it quickly and made it sound like they skipped the j altogether. At any rate it was the perfect city for exploring on foot, and I spent quite a bit of time wandering the pedestrian-friendly streets. There were tons of little boutiques, cute restaurants and desert shops. We found lots of places for ice cream, and I obtained my love for forest berries ice cream there. We also stumbled upon a unique ice cream shop called Sisters kurtoš that used something similar to a cinnamon roll cone in place of a traditional waffle cone.
On my way to dinner the first night, I walked past an outdoor restaurant. There was a man seated at the table, and he shouted, “Hello! Hello, neighbor!” I was caught off guard because I didn’t realize he was speaking to me at first. I managed to mumble out a hello and kept walking. I was confused about him calling me neighbor. Did he see me at my Airbnb and lived next door? Were we figurative neighbors? Was this more of a term of endearment? Either way, he looked as though he wanted to engage in conversation, but I was just too socially awkward to stop walking and chat for a moment.
Another day, my friend and I stumbled upon an outdoor market. We were sampling honey wine from one of the vendors when a different man approached us cheerfully and began chatting. He loved southern United States and our accents, and asked us about how we liked Slovenia. His made jokes and told us his wife worked for the “company that makes viagra.” It was one of the funniest and most random encounters.
Ljubljana was beautiful, but we were most excited about taking the bus to Lake Bled, about 45 minutes away. We arrived at mid afternoon, rented bikes for the day, and biked around the lake. We made stops here and there to admire the beauty of it all, and just take in everything. It was one of the most beautiful days despite the forecast calling for rain.
On a whim we decided to take a rowboat to the church in the middle of the lake. Do. Not. Recommend. I still get upset thinking about the experience with the owners.
We arrived at the dock and spoke the man who gave us the price of 10€ per person per hour. I found it to be expensive, but my travel partner was set on going so I obliged. We handed over our money, he handed over a Post-It note with our boat number and the time. He wrote down the time we left and our boat number on a separate log that he kept, we got a quick lesson about how to row from a young guy, and we took off to the church. At some point, the Post-It note flew out of the rowboat.
As novices, it took us forever to row to the middle of the lake. We walked up the steps of the church, took a break, admired the views, and had ice cream and beer. By the time we rowed back to the dock, the man was gone, and an elder woman was his replacement. The younger guy who gave us the rowing lesson helped us off the boat and told us to turn our Post-It note to the woman. When we told him it fell in the water, he just told us to let her know our boat number.
A family of four had got off another boat prior to us, so she was handling them. When she was finished she asked for the Post-It. I pointed to our boat number listed on the log, and we let her know the wind blew the Post-It into the lake. The language barrier was unfortunate, but we could read her body language well. She became enraged, and was speaking in Slovenian. We looked over to the young guy for assistance since he spoke English, but he was preoccupied with customers. Despite her Slovenian, we were able to pick up her threat to call the police. My travel partner was like, “Hold on a minute. There’s no need for all of that.”
I, on the other hand, was like, “B***h, you must not know about me. I’ve got time today. Call the police!” Had I been alone, that would have been the end of me speaking to her once she threatened to call the police. If I was going to be on an episode of Locked Up Abroad, I’d rather it be in a Slovenian jail than one in North Korea.
Do what you have to do, then, sis. I’ve got time.
In the midst of all of that, she was still fussing in Slovenian, but I was able to discern we went over our allotted time by 30 minutes, and owed her 5€ each. I calmly – which was surprising to me – explained this to my travel partner, and we handed over the money. My travel partner tried to speak to her in English and explain that she was rude and we were guests in her country, and she didn’t need to threaten us with the police. As we were leaving, she was still fussing in Slovenian knowing full well we couldn’t understand, and then she said something about Africa.
In the words of Issa on Insecure, “I don’t know what you just said, but [do] you know who does? God.”
Now although I couldn’t interpret what was said, I know it wasn’t intended as a compliment. First of all, there was no point for her to even bring it up. Nothing about the conversation would have referenced the continent. Second of all, neither of us were from Africa – we were damn near 10 generations removed from it. Third of all, she was ugly lol! Those were fighting words to me, and I was furious. Added to that were the group of patrons waiting around in the location – many of whom probably could speak both English and Slovenian – who laughed at the entire situation as if it was a joke instead of offering assistance.
My energy had shifted by that point, and I just felt drained. I took a break underneath a tree while my travel partner took a ride on a rollercoaster. That incident with the rowboat was the negative experience we had in the entire country, but it left such a bitter taste in my mouth. I think about that more than I think about the beauty of Lake Bled, and all of the smiles and warm welcomes we received. I hate that this mishap spoiled my overall wonderful time in the country. I never expect people to show pity on me for not knowing the local language, but I also don’t expect to be threatened with police contact for a misunderstanding.
I was feeling better once my friend was finished with the rollercoaster. We finished our bike ride around the lake, and returned our bikes. We got suggestions for dinner and desert from the guy renting out the bikes, and got a decent meal, including a famous desert from a shop called Slaščičarna Zima. There we had a kremna rezina, a cream cake that is traditional to the area.
We made it back to the main station before sunset, and started our crowded bus ride back to Ljubljana.
Back at my Airbnb, I was awakened every morning at seven o’clock to the sound of church bells ringing from a church down the street. It rang quickly and quietly about every 15 minutes all day every day. But when it struck seven o’clock, it rang for a full minute. It was a signal to wake up, and I hated it with a passion. There should have been some sort of noise ordinance against that church. People can’t even sleep late on the weekends because of that thing. I kept my window open to allow fresh air into the room, so it was especially annoying to me.
We had plans to meet up at Metelkova Art Center after so many people recommended this spot to us as a great locals hang out. My friend arrived before I did, and she messaged me right away to tell me not to come. To her it felt more like a sketchy area for “dirty hipster squatters” than a cool place to hang out. Instead, we went to a bar named Shooters, where we met a former member of the Slovenian mafia who was trying to figure out how to get to London and start a new life. I don’t know what made him volunteer all of this information to us, but it made for an interesting conversation.
We left Shooters because we were getting hungry, and we found ourselves at Patrick’s Pub, a basement spot that looked like it something right out of Dublin. We ate what I felt was the best meal of my entire time in Eastern Europe – chicken wings. Prior to that, I hadn’t been impressed by the food choices since I arrival. Nothing was seasoned in the way that I’m used to having it seasoned as a girl from Louisiana.
If I have an opportunity to visit Slovenia again, I will definitely take it despite having one negative encounter on my first visit. The country was breathtakingly beautiful, and it was nice to visit a place that wasn’t heavily touristed. There was a few things that I missed that I would love to experience on my next visit like Vintgar Gorge, Triglavski National Park, castles, and caves. Next time, I’d spend at least one night in Bled, and then make my way to Piran.