I have now been in Slovenia for about 7 days and the charm of the place has not yet faded. Every first time visitor I run into echoes identical opening lines, “This is not what I expected Slovenia to be like.”
I can’t express enough how delighted I am by this country and its charming people. I feel so at home and welcomed here and the beauty of this country can be found lurking around every corner. Two days in a row this week it rained quite a bit in the afternoons, but that just added another dimension of character to the place. When it started pouring my hostel owner cheerfully exclaimed “It’s raining, that will cool the place down.” If it’s sunny everyone is happy and seated outdoors, if it’s raining everyone is happy and waiting to head back out into cooler temperature. Slovenians are just happy people. As I sat at a nearby restaurant I have now become a regular at, it began to pour again followed shortly after by hail that were small and plentiful and almost looked like snow. Of course the waitress with the smile and excitement of a child says to me, “Look! The little ice from the sky!”
The capital city Ljubljana’s beauty is second only to the people here. There are wide cobblestone streets with only pedestrian and cyclists traffic. I was told today by a local that as of last year they no longer allowed cars to be able to drive throughout the center areas of the city. It is a really lovely idea because people are able to roam with children in tow comfortably and leisurely without having to worry about cars. Which is extraordinary when you consider this is the capital. I did a free walking tour of the city yesterday, oh and while on that tour we all got a very unexpected surprise, one that left our guide a bit flustered. While he was explaining to us about a bridge we were standing on at the time, the mayor who happened to be passing by popped in for a listen. We were all delighted to meet him and he was just lovely, but then left as quickly as he came. On the tour however, we were able to learn the history behind many of the monuments and buildings I had been seeing throughout my stay.
I’ll share two with you. First, there is a statue in the main square (Preseren Square) of Preseren who was a Slovenian romantic poet in the 1800′s, this in itself tells a lot about the Slovenian people our guide shared. The fact that it is not the statue of a general or monarch erected but a romantic poet that is erected whose poetry (well a line or two) has even made it into their anthem. Speaks volumes about the people I think. Anyhow, he was madly in love with a rich merchant’s daughter who did not reciprocate his feelings, a hurt that he carried to his death, so as a tribute, far across the other side of the square is a cast of a woman (his true love) who appears to be looking out of a window , that is fixed to the side of a building. So that he would always be able to gaze at her. Until it was pointed out I had never even noticed it (the woman that is). The other is the dragon’s bridge that has four large dragons (a national symbol here) two on each side. It is said that when a virgin crosses the bridge the dragons wag their tales. A theory our guide told us he was tempted to test on his wife, but knew better lol!
I haven’t even gotten to the music yet! Meandering through every alley way are the sounds of all types of music. Up one street and you may be greeted by the symphonies of an orchestra, down another and the reggae tunes of a solo guitarists and around yet another and the synced notes of a trio may grab your ear. It is just wonderful. I would not consider myself to be an emotional person but the moment that brought a little dampness to my eyes was when a street performer was singing “Hallelujah” the song originally released in 1984 but covered multiple times (my favourite by Justin Timberlake at the Hope for Haiti Now televised event following the earthquake). While he sang to a growing crowd people went up and dropped donations in a bag he had on the ground but there was a homeless man (it appeared) who obviously had no money to donate but loved the music. So instead he went and picked a few flowers tied them together and put in his donation pile. That touched me deeply.
So that is it, well no but I could write forever about Slovenia which may bore you. So I leave tomorrow for Croatia and will miss this country which has taken the spot as my favourite country in Europe thus far!