Following the marathon, I headed to Maribor, the second biggest city in Slovenia. Actually, if I am being honest, I hobbled there. Avoiding stairs at all cost for the next few days, my legs slowly began to feel normal again. Maribor is home to one of the biggest shopping malls in Slovenia and so I spent an afternoon checking out the stores. If you know me, it’s no surprise that I spent a majority of my time walking around the HUGE grocery store that was attached to one end. By far the biggest supermarket I have been in since leaving America, I sauntered around and stared at the separate counters for cheese, meats, bread, sandwiches, coffee, desserts and other delicacies. As I headed toward the exit, feeling as though I was officially in civilization again, I almost took a picture of an escalator. I stopped myself because I realized that would be a very strange thing to do. Right? My scale of normalcy is so skewed, I am not even sure it’s working anymore.
Other than nice stores, clean buses, bathrooms that don’t make you cringe, numerous garbage cans and no water schedule, the biggest shock I have experienced is crosswalks. For the past two years of my life, I have become adjusted to cars having the right of way. As a pedestrian you absolutely did not step in front of a moving vehicle to cross the street. You would get run over. As I made my way through Slovenia, I began noticing the copious amount of crosswalks. They were everywhere and if I was waiting to cross the road, a car would stop for me and wait. What an amazing concept! I have to admit, I still do not trust drivers, and I continue to stand there until the car has come to a complete stop. Resulting in the occupants staring at me like I am an idiot. Bear with me American drivers, it’s a bit of an adjustment!
A few days later, I headed to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Known as the next next Prague (According to Rick Steves anyway), it is a small and picturesque city. Ideal for walking around, it contains numerous cafes and restaurants situated along the river. A castle overlooks the buildings that belong to the 270,000 residents. I spent the rest of the week walking around, learning about Slovenian history and meeting people at my hostel. One evening I sat amongst eight other backpackers who were also traveling alone. Originating from America, Canada, Germany, Croatia, Korea, Australia and a few places in between, our backgrounds and professions were just as varied. As local wine was passed around, we shared trip plans and traded travel stories. A passion for traveling seems to provide a cohesiveness that offers an instant sense of comfort amongst strangers.
I am constantly searching for my next adrenaline adventure so you can imagine how excited I was to head to mountains of Slovenia. As their only national park, Triglav is home to an abundance of adrenaline based tour companies. Within one day you can travel to the highest pass of the Julian Alps, trudge through snow, continue through the park and by the afternoon, be swimming on the banks of the Soca River. That is exactly what I planned to do during the four days I spent there. Unfortunately, my time in the park can be summed up with one picture…
I did take advantage of the bad weather for a day and a half where I curled up indoors, hogging the Wi-Fi and laundry machines. At that point I reached my limit of ignoring the outdoors and set out to explore. I wasn’t going to let a little rain, or a lot in this case, stop me from hiking the beautiful untouched countryside of Bled.
Luckily, the last day I spent in Slovenia cleared up enough to join a group of other tourists for a full day of sightseeing in the park. We drove on some very windy roads, which provided us the most beautiful views of the mountains. For lunch, I was able to try a local specialty of river trout. Which provided my native Slovenian guide entertainment as he watched me try to pick through the bones, obviously having no idea what I was doing. Eventually we made our way to the riverside so we could all go whitewater rafting. They grade rivers on a scale from 1-5, with five being the most difficult. The river we were on was a level 3, which was perfect since most of us were first-timers. I had an amazing time and cannot wait to go again!
Slovenia is known as a country that loves sports and the outdoors. I was constantly reminded of that as I made my way from one end of the country to the other. In the Triglav National park, there is a ski slope that sits on the southeastern border. It allows you to ride the lift up, ski down the opposite side into Italy and return for a cup of coffee in Slovenia. All while soaking up the awe inspiring Julian Alps. The very idea of that perfect day will undoubtedly be calling my name to return in the future.