May 19-20, 2002
Looking out the train window there's glances of all sorts of pretty little farms, abandoned factories, remote castle like mansions, towns and hill top churches, but mostly green tree covered rolling hills. This is Slovenia, Austria's back yard. They'd probably be happy with that description as well since they'd much rather been seen as part of main stream Europe than Yugoslav.
I was looking to find something distinct in Slovenia. Maybe food? Nothing special there, a bland mix of Eastern Europe and Italian; however, I'm amazed at how many places, of all levels of sophistication, only sell ice cream!
Ljubliana is a cute capital city (pronounced Luby-yanna) that's tidy even in the run down back streets where dangling shutters and peeling paint add more charm than dilapidatation. I checked into a hotel and made my way about, passing many ice cream vendors until I reached the center and began up the hill towards the modernized castle ruins.
I sat on a bench next to the older, distinctive looking man I saw climb up the hill. Ivan, a retired mathematics professor with an interest in linguistics and a desire to chat moved his bag to further welcome me. It worked out perfectly since I had the time and was lacking contact with the locals up 'til now. We spoke of language history, Scotland and Slovenia. We went on for quite sometime and continued intensely. Heavy rain started and before Ivan could produce his umbrella we found the large tree was perfect shelter while everyone else in the castle courtyard scampered under the roof around the perimeter. It felt like we were picturesque beneath the bright green leaves. I knew this was good, but when the conversation finally began to linger as did the rain, I hinted away to explore more of Ljubliana's streets. Ivan thanked me for my time, though I was glad to have met him and had a warm welcome from a true Ljublianian. All the people I met in Slovenia were very friendly.