I flew into Slovenia mid afternoon. I was still under the (misguided) assumption that my ride wouldn't show + I'd have to hitch down to Split to get my flight back to London. So when I walked out of the arrivals gate to find no one there, I wasn't especially surprised. I sat down in the (gloriously warm) sun and had a wine to figure out what to do. Apparently waiting was a brilliant idea, because not five minutes later a big red van pulled up out front, ready for me to climb into.
It was awkward, at first. I wasn't sure where I stood with the Jimmy who came to pick me up. But Jimmy was polite, and he was tanned (I was well jealous) and was full of stories about the adventures he'd been on since I last saw him. We picked up a few supplies, and I spent my first afternoon outside of London baking the sun. I think its important to mention the gorgeous, amazing phenomenon that is being warm in the sun. London doesn't have that. London is predominantly grey + dreary. You wear layers at every opportunity. So, that I could be in shorts + a singlet AND warm? No jumper required? Colour me gobsmacked.
I don't remember much of that first night, to be honest. I know I got well plastered on some ridiculous 40% Slovenian vodka. I know that I drank at least 1/2 of it myself, and I know that the bathroom of that poor little campsite bar is not going to be the same. How I made it into the tent, I don't know. I do know that I felt horrid the next morning. That the pattern of the tent really did my head in. But the rest of the day? Phenomenally better.
We explored the river near the campsite. There was sun, and it was gorgeous. Little tiny fish (and slightly bigger fish) swam in the warm shallows. The river was pretty wide, and there was swift current moving through the middle of it. We went swimming, which was ridiculous, because the water was as good as frozen. Still, there's something brilliant about standing mid-river with a human heater. Everything is quiet and amazing. I couldn't believe I was there, really. Gorgeous open water, warm enough to be standing in bikini in a river. My mind was completely blown after the dreary greyness that was London.
I spent some time building little rock towers on the shore, and then we moved away and threw rocks at them, trying to bring them down. Jimmy tried to teach me to skip rocks, and was mildly successful (I got two skips). We built little rafts, and watched them drown. We walked down a track used by horses and men walking their dogs, and down an even smaller track where people had funny little garden allotments.
That night we hit up Ljubljana. Ljubljana is gorgeous, it's filled with all this amazing art. Both sculptural masterpieces, and graffiti type pieces too. There's the Triple Bridge (basically three bridges all connected together) which Jimmy took quite an interest in. We walked across all three. Mostly I enjoyed wandering about. There's a canal which runs down the middle, and large willow trees hanging over the side. There were gorgeous little markets, and buskers and restaurants and cafes that sprawled out over the sidewalks.
There were bridges with locks of love and so many cute little sculptures everywhere. It was a really gorgeous town, and was filled with brilliant textures and buildings that had a ridiculous amount of character. Often the window sills would hold flower baskets with red and yellow flowers pouring over the sides. There were random pillars, and gorgeous paved walkways.
We climbed up to the Castle, which is this old medieval giant which sits on a hill above the town. It's large, and fairly gorgeous. The ride up and way into the main square is not at all medieval, but this gorgeous carefully designed mix of industrial piping + tension ropes and old wood + gardens. There were these gorgeous grape vines heavy with fruit, and an abundance of fig, pear and apple trees. The view from the wall was gorgeous, and there were at least three weddings happening in the main square.
We had dinner later at one of the many little cafe's spilling out onto the backstreets. Chicken Stew + Goulash. It got cold enough to wear a cardigan, but nothing more than that. I was impressed, and adored the heat. A few quiet drinks. Mostly we wandered throughout the town. Down little alleyways, past buskers on bridges and old, impressive buildings. Ljubljana was definitely one of the prettier places I've been.
On the way out the next morning, we packed up camp (slow, we took our sweet time. It's what you do on holiday) and we hit up the Škocjan Caves. It's one of the largest underground canyons in the world, apparently. There's a river that flows through, the Reka River. It was pretty phenomenal, it was maybe a two hour walk through the caves. You start at a ridge + go down, low enough to see the river + then you start the hike back up again. It was filled with some amazing stalagmites (the ones that start from the floor) + stalactites (the ones that start from the ceiling). There were giant underground caverns, there were terraces, and there were bats.
Then there was a bit of a walk back to the carpark, through this super lush cavern where the ceiling had fallen in. Nature had taken it back, and it was pretty lush. It was a pretty pleasant way to to spend an afternoon, actually.
Soon after we were back in the van, headed towards Croatia. Another post to come!