Tues 6th Aug
As Tina was back from her travels she had no commitments and offered to show me around her city. She came from a small town north-east of Ljubljana (said Lub-lana) but always had a connection as her family were always there, including her cousin who she lived with. She was a yoga teacher.
We had breakfast with Turkish coffee (fresh from her trip) out on their balcony. We talked about plans for the day and she said later there was a meal with some family for a birthday and asked if I’d like to come. I was happy to meet the family but said I would be worried about being unredressed. She said not to worry, as her uncle usually walked around topless.
We cycled into town on old rusty ladies bikes they had there. The first place on the list was the castle, which overlooked the city and full of history. We locked the bikes up and started up the steep hill. Like any other day it was hot, so getting around anywhere was staggered with getting water and aiming for shade.
The castle was beautiful and had views in all directions of the city. We looked out to the north and Tina told me about the history of Slovenia and Yugoslavia. 25 years ago, the countries; Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, were all united under the federation of Yugoslavia. Slowly these countries became divided and in 1992, it was made official, with the break up Yugoslavia and the introduction of six new countries, often referred to by Westerners as the Balkans.
Slovenia did quite well from this break up, with a strong economy small land and stable political landscape, they seemed to benefit from the break, allowing them to keep their profits to themselves. In other countries it wasn’t as good economically or otherwise and tensions began to rise, sparking many riots that still occur today.
I had a lot of questions about this, what things were considered Slovenian over Croatian, food, languages etc. The languages all had a similar Slavic backbone, shared with Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Russia etc. but were different. It was similar to England breaking up and Cornwall becoming independent again.
There was so much I wanted to know, that would come with time, but now I had a foundation to learn and ask more upon. She also mentioned that all the neighbouring countries of Macedonia, verbally claim it as their own.
Ljubljana was a perfect stop off for me. The food was good and inexpensive, people were nice and one ice cream place we went to was better than most Italian ice cream, and home to some peculiar flavours, namely the black onion seed. I had lemon and mango.
We went back down into the city, looked around the markets and town and then met up with Tina’s cousin for lunch. They had vouchers for a Mexican place so we went there, it was good. We went back to the flat to get ready for the meal, then there was a few places the girls knew of for a night out.
The girls told me about Slovenian wine which surprised me, then they told me most of the countries around here produce their own wine. It was hot enough in Slovenia that they could grow their own melons and watermelons, making them quite cheap and delicious. A new favourite snack.
We cycled to their parents for dinner to celebrate the birthday of XXXXX’s mother. As Tina had said, her uncle was topless and wearing a robe. Their family was very warm and funny and made a good effort to converse with me and make me feel like part of the conversation. The father (Tina’s uncle) of the family was a giant man who seemed to be a bit of an academic and was quite intimidating, but had a sense of humour as he was usually making jokes and making tricks. During the meal, he said we needed a contraption from ‘A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ that sat in the centre of the table and translated everything that was being said between the languages being spoken. I think it was a fish.
We all ate well with about twelve of us round the table and had white wine that was produced by one of the family members present. Then for dessert was more ice-cream, this time homemade mint. It was delicious and the maker declared it was her first time.
More beer-drinking, conversations passed, before we left heading into the city for a few more drinks. We went to a bar that was joint with a hostel that was formally a prison, but was apparently worth staying and very popular with the trendy kids. We didn’t stay and went to another place that had music. We got beer and went outside. I was amazed by the amount of people out on a Tuesday, also the amount of young people here in this city that was previously unknown to me. There was a vibrant energy and it was exciting to be there. Inside was a large room with a DJ playing techno and electronic music. We drank outside and somehow I got talking about what it was like being in London for the Olympics. I had applied for tickets and not got anything, but the buzz in the air at the time was incredible, as I was living and working so close to the stadium that was the centre of attention to the world. I talked about cycling around London when it was going on and how alive the city felt. Another guy latched on to the conversation but didn’t say anything.
We went inside and for a bit and then came out and went home.
On the way back I heard some english accents, from a young group going in. Obviously this place was undiscovered, but I had never known anyone that went here before.