The Balkans

Slovenia: October 2015

Slovenia: October 2015

Slovenia probably doesn’t feature in anyone’s list of their top 5 places to visit in Europe but I have to say that the country was exceptionally good to me. For one week, I either got myself a Börek or a falafel for about €2, endlessly walked those cobbled streets of Ljubljana, crossing the pink church or the canal in that wonderful autumn chill and life just seemed dandy.

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Slovenia: Piran

I am certain this was an instagram caption for one of my Slovenia pictures but I’ll state it here too: I didn’t know Slovenia had a coast until I was told by Mr. N at the Indian consulate. First things first: It was stupid of me to think that I could’ve made a day trip out of this. I probably should’ve spent a night here because I ended up paying close to a €100 on the way back since I missed the last bus and the train. And that’s a pretty standard price. If Europe has taught me anything, it’s that cab fares are astronomically high so unless you have all that dough to waste because you’re bleeding to death or are made of money, avoid them. 


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My first encounter in Piran? An elderly man who struck up a conversation with me on the bus inviting me to his house to stay. He said it had the best view of the entire coast and the bus driver didn’t disagree. Then I met a local artist who I ended up wining and dining with in his studio. Some local wine and vodka, grilled steak and we were set. He didn’t speak much English but he seemed happy with the company. Safe to say that he almost fell off his seat when he saw my SLR. 

He ran across to an old trunk and stared digging up his cameras! He said that he could never find time to venture out and buy film so when I offered him an extra film that I had, he was so ecstatic, he have me one of the camera! A Voigtlander Best Rangefinder. But since it requires a 120mm film, I unfortunately haven’t gotten around to shooting with it as yet.

We were visited by a couple of his friends who I thought were just a tad bit shady. So far the conversation had been light and casual but his friends (a man and a woman) were rather persistent that I stay the night. It wasn’t that I felt fear of being killed or robbed but let’s just say that they seemed like they were planting some intentions into their friend’s head. I mean, you don’t need to speak the same language to get the gist of things. This push-and-pull conversation was what led me to missing my connecting bus to Ljubljana and setting me back by a good €100 which, if I have to be honest, is still painful.

I think Piran during the summer would be beautiful. I sat right below the walls of a church and had my lunch (bread and cream cheese. Sorry. It doesn’t get better than that) with the view of (what I think is) the Adriatic. A cool blue with a boat in the view. There was such a peaceful energy in that crisp autumn air and I couldn’t think of being there with anyone but by myself. More often than not, I truly do prefer solo travel. I do think that there are some places where I would love company for but so far, solo traveling and living has been lit! 

The town of Piran is like any European town. By which I mean perfect cobbled stone laneways, picture perfect coloured houses and a sunset like no other. There are these amazing stairs that lead you right into the ocean if you want to take a dip and I have to confess, I really wanted to. But because I didn’t see anyone else, I just wasn’t sure. Had I been there earlier in the day, perhaps? It reminded me a little of Clovely Beach in Sydney with the concrete platforms perfect for lazing life away. And if you’re like Anakin and don’t like sand, it’s an added bonus.

Slovenia is definitely still a hidden EU gem so I would do what I haven’t done so far: I recommend ye visit!


In the meantime, let's let the photographs do the talking shall we?

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Slovenia: Bled and Bohinj

I am going to write about autumn in Slovenia but in real life, I am in South east Asia where I am sweaty, hot and sticky. Bonus? The electricity is out. I would probably trade one of my kidneys right now to experience some Balkan autumn/winter because I miss the cold desperately. But self pity is not going to get me anywhere and besides, I digress.

So let’s go to Bled. 

Growing up in the 90s, interior decor in my hometown consisted of framed posters of Jesus, a scenic picture with (or without) a biblical quote and sometimes, as it were in my case, jet fighters and war pictures. Basically, our house had all of them. One of them was what I like to call the Disney castle. An overhead picture of a castle surrounded by a perfect blue lake and pines. It was a cliche. But really, it was beautiful. It was picture-perfect, so secluded, so far away and so serene. And never did I expect to ever see something like that. Yet, I did. Kind of. Bled came pretty close to fulfilling this vision from a childhood memory (reverie).

Bled is one of the most famous and visited tourist spots in Slovenia. It’s not off the beaten track whatsoever but there’s a reason why there’s a list of “must-see” and “must-do” for every country. Repeating myself for the 983621383854000 time but: You’re kidding yourself if you want to be a new-age, non-touristy traveler because you’ll be missing out. For real.

The Bled lake is one large circle and the Church of The Assumption is within the lake. Fun fact: The church is the only island in Slovenia. Yessire, you heard it right here folks.

I guess because it was somewhat of an off-season, it wasn’t as crowded when I was there so I hired a bicycle and got around the lake. I completely forgot that the driving side in Europe was the reverse so I had a funny incident with another lady who was on a bike and coming from the opposite direction. But just as it is with most things, you get the hang of it. Riding through those perfectly crisp, red autumn leaves was satisfying to say the least. You grow up watching all those cartoons and TV shows where you have kids and parents getting ready for fall, raking those leaves, halloween and thanksgiving; all this amidst a perfect backdrop of trees turning red and orange. And there I was. All the moving images that I had stored away as a child came rushing back and it was (dare I say once more) magical. I parked my bike against a tree and sat on the edge of the lake for a while just taking it all in. It was fascinating.

I met Bobi further down the lake in a spot where he has been sitting for the last 27 years. Bobi was an artist working with water colours and he has been painting the scenes at Bled all this while. I sat with him, had a conversation and bought one of his paintings after which he offered to paint me at the back of the painting I had bought. File that under one of the best souvenirs. The view that he saw everyday, he called that his window. 

I did a quick hike to the Lake Bled castle and by quick, I mean that it was barely 45 minutes and though uphill, it's not one of those where you break into sweat or something. The castle is of course, distinctly European and very fairy tale like but you need to pay to enter it. So I just decided to walk around it and get that top shot/top view of Lake Bled and the "island". Aside from that, there isn't much to do.

I saw a couple of boys who decided to take my place as I was leaving my secluded spot to smoke some pot. As you were boys, as you were.

Bled is about 2 hours by bus from Ljubljana. Further in is Bohinj which is within the Triglav national park, home to the Julian Alps and Lake Bohinj. I didn’t have enough funds for the trek in the alps but I did have the free time to walk around the park, the lake and for a quick sub-zero swim. It was a Sunday and there was silence all round. An empty church, two drunk boys on a canoe, perfect autumn colours, the snow-capped peaks in the distance and a never ending road inviting me to walk on further. I would have gone on but the last bus out of Bohinj was at 4:00PM, one which I would’ve narrowly missed had I not jogged back. Good for the cold if anything! 

Bohinj is definitely much more impressive and I can't tell you how many pictures I took that day because this was autumn. This was the vision of autumn I've always had thanks to watching cartoon network and them American movies. There was no one around for miles so the quick sub zero dive was an invitation I accepted. Honestly, I don't think I lasted five minutes in the water but it felt like I was in there for an hour! IT WAS FREEZING!!!! I remember wishing I was near a bonfire. After a quick change, I got on the road again. After some initial jogging to warm up myself, I was on my way, my endless walk. I could see the Julian Alps in the distance and I wished and still wish I could've hiked my way around there. 

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