Friday, July 2, 2010

safe and sound in sLOVEnia

I survived thirteen hours on a train, and arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia just before six this morning. Staying in a sleeper car was quite a novelty. It's more or less like a hostel on tracks... just a bit smaller! I ended up with the top bunk- I am a top bunk kind of girl- but that also meant I had the least space. It was a little cozy up there! But then again, this is coming from a girl who seriously considered moving her bed into the closet... so yeah, I kind of liked the close quarters. On the train, we met a couple from Greenville who was en route to Zagreb (then Brussels!) and two British guys that were absolutely hysterical. I crashed fairly early- despite the fact that I was feeling better, I'm still a bit run down, and I slept surprisingly well. The directions that we had to our hostel were good (phew!) and we arrived there with no trouble at all. We were able to leave our luggage there until check in, and set off exploring the town. Ljubljana is fairly small- population of about 270,000- so the city is easy enough to see. After wandering a bit, we headed up the mountain to the castle- which didn't open until nine. So we spent about an hour, if not longer, exploring the grounds- there was plenty to see! At nine, we headed in. After exploring the art exhibit in what was formerly the main entrance to the castle and checking out some pretty sweet cannons, we bought tickets to go up to the viewing tower, visit the virtual museum (actually a 20 minute, 3-D historical tour of the city, very neat), and enter the Slovenian history exhibit, which was fascinating. Everyone working there was very helpful- they all spoke at least a little bit of English (phew!) and they made the whole experience even better. On our way back, we stopped at this open air market that is, as a passing tour guide put it- their pride and joy. And I can understand why! The fruit was absolutely beautiful, the vegetables looked delicious, and the flowers spilling out of the stalls were just stunning. And so cheap! I bought a nectarine and raspberries and they were so juicy and delicious- absolute perfection. I haven't had fresh fruit other than bananas and strawberries in such a long time! They were wonderful.
When I return to class on Wednesday, I have a book review paper (yes, they apparently still make you write those in college) due on Milan Kundera's novel The Joke. It's quite a good book, in my humble opinion, and after spending a very relaxing afternoon in the part reading, I've made excellent progress. I'm planning on writing the paper Tuesday on the train, but I do have to finish the book before then. With less than fifty pages to go, this is more than doable. I also picked up another novel at the last minute before leaving Prague. I spontaneously decided to drop by one of the English bookstores, and it's a good thing, because I'll need something to keep me busy! It's a spy/thriller type novel, and who doesn't love a good spy story?
I also had the privilege to watch a musical theater group rehearse. Right now, there's a festival called Ana Destnica going on here, and basically, it just means there are a ton of freestreet theater performances, all day long! It's pretty awesome. The group- who happen to be staying at our hostel- were pretty awesome (far better than what I watched tonight... but more on that later). Eventually, I decided to head back inside and settle into my room. There is just one other person staying in my room with me. She's a Swedish freelance journalist, and is such a fascinating person. Very kind, and very knowledgeable. We chatted about a whole slew of things, and eventually parted ways (she was off to a jazz performance that she was writing about, and I was just setting off on yet another adventure). I soon found myself at a cafe, and quite happily spent (a delicious) dinner people-watching and sipping tea. The couple that ran the place were so sweet, and the ice cream there? Fantastic. I took a cone with me as I headed towards the main square, and savored every bit of it.
I apparently eat my ice cream cones like a freak, but hey, it keeps me happy. The cone has always been my least favorite part about ice cream in a cone, but you allegedly have to eat it last. Well, who am I to follow standard protocol? I've take to licking (never biting, ever) the ice cream until it's about level with the top of the cone, and then eating the cone from the bottom up. Yes, it's a risky move. But I like living life on the edge. And it is so much more satisfying! I hung out in the square for quite some time, making friends and watching the world go by. Eventually, a group began to perform the the square. I didn't understand a bit of it (neither did the Ghanan guy standing next to me- I'm glad I wasn't the only one baffled). It involved a forklift and strange music and a round cage and fire (clearly the best part) and a random telephone and some guy who was dressed in robes and apparently controlled the music with his hands. I am not sure if speaking Slovenian would have helped me to understand it... I think probably not. Not long after, I headed back to the hostel to settle in for the night. Originally, we were supposed to go to Trieste, Italy tomorrow morning. But as far as I'm aware, the only bus there leaves at 5 am, and all the trains there take 5-6 hours (the bus only takes 2). So we would have to wake up wicked early AND miss the free breakfast here at the hostel. Instead, we're just going to take a train to Rijeka tomorrow afternoon. I think it will be far simpler, and much more pleasant! It would have been cool to make it to Italy, but I think Italy is going to be a giant trip later on down the road for me (Want to come along? You're more than welcome. We'll have fun!). I would love to explore more of Western Europe... well, and Eastern Europe too. I want to see it all! All in good time, I suppose. All in good time.
For now, I am exhausted, and still sicker than I would like to be! But before I leave, enjoy some pictures!
Feel free to add this to the list of reasons why you love me. Discovering dino gummies? Major high point of my life. Waiting at Hlavni Nadrazi (Central Train Station) in Prague for the platform number to be announced.
Sunset over the industrial part of Cesky Budovice
One of the four dragons on the Dragon Bridge
The Ljubljanica River from the Triple Bridge
The Triple Bridge, part of Ljubljana, and a hot air balloon!
"the servants have the power" inscribed on the pavement at Ljublanski grad, the Ljubljana castle
Stairway to heaven?
Ljubljana and the Alps- stunning much?


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