Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Where is Slovenia?

That's a question that nags Veronica while she is dying... in Paulo Coelho's "Veronica Decides to Die". Incidentally, that's also the question that took me to the land.. I was once alone in this little town of Timisoara, in Romania. For reasons I don't know yet, I'd keep reminding myself that it was the farthest, remotest place I've ever been from home. But travelling through the local trains stopping by at the remotest villages in Slovenia, I couldn't help but feel that this was the closest I've felt to being at home. It is a country that keeps English as a pidgin just like India does. I wish it the best but I personally dislike its joining the EU and subsequent turn to just another expensive place. This also seemed to be a land where the inhabitants were picked out from everywhere and placed with care.. if you are a Slovenian, you had to have the kindest heart for the fellow traveler. Day one was the journey into Ljubljana. Never mind if you can't pronounce it right the very first time for you can rest assured you'll love to say it to yourself the rest of your life. The terrain doesn't change as you enter from Austria into Slovenia riding over the glorious alps. Its only the homes that do. Poorer, wealthier. As you pass through ill-kempt rural train stations, you can't but think of your own places in India. And when your fellow passengers open their lunch packs and share it with you, you know you've crossed the west and entered east Europe. With its warmth, I never realized I've been walking around Ljubljana for four hours when I had to go to another town - Maribor. For once, I was travelling with a specific destination in mind. My local host whom I'd been writing mails to. She is the kindest host I'd ever met. Well, this blog ain't meant to be a minute by minute account; so I can't find place for all the nicest people I met on my way while I lost it again and again but felt like I had found better ones. The next day was a trip to my host's grandmother's place and then her aunt's. A bike ride of about 2 hours on each way.. The shopping rounds, the ice cream, the ride alone by the long and winding river..... the evening on the streets of Maribor...umm.. etched forever in my memories. I was back in Ljubljana the next morning, basking in the warm sun in the youth hostel that was once a prison. The guitar strumming fellow travelers make you feel that the world that you see through the iron bars is the one that is imprisoned and you are the one that's free!!! A bike ride discovering the Sunday market, the most beautiful castle and the baroque chapels is worth every drop of sweat. And when one books a city tour by boat, one hardly expects the special treatment I got. Incidentally, I was the only one in the boat that day; a boat that could hold about 30 happy hearts. The sparkling wine and a nice guide; and you can only feel like a prince. I am not sure if it was the beer by the best live music which had its effect; but I just found that I could strike the warmest conversations with almost every new person that passed by my table. My feet were asking for more after I travelled three pubs, one restaurant and countless open air eateries with live music. That left me with time for one last honey brandy to fill my heart with. They say.... err..heck.. I SAY.. it’s never a place that you like but it’s the time that you spend in one that makes you like it. But with Slovenia, I've got to say it can make you have the best of your times. I now know where it is.. and can't wait to go there again...

It's in my fondest recollections...

 

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