I last left you in Venice, where we spent our day strolling along the idyllic streets and enjoying a free gondola ride (although true to form, it took much panic and frantic phone calls to England to actually locate where this was taking place). It was a lovely end to our stay in Italy, which truly is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. Suffice to say, then, Slovenia had a lot to live up to.
We arrived in Ljubljana in the early hours of the next morning and navigated our way through the dark streets. When we arrived at our hostel, which was a former school, we eagerly asked what time our free buffet breakfast began. Needless to say, we were hugely excited at the prospect of being given food that was 1) free and 2) not bread or cheese, our staple diet throughout the trip. Unfortunately, however, our enthusiasm was short lived as we discovered that the meal was not free at all. Well it was, in exchange for money. We did briefly contemplate this indulgence but after having a peek at the sliced gherkin and sausage casserole on the breakfast menu we decided against it. So more bread and cheese it was.
In fairness to Slovenia, we were both shattered from a week of Olympic level sightseeing and thus spent our first day there napping in our comparatively luxurious private dorm room. On our second day, we resolved to see more of the city, which was marred a little by the rainfall and our continued exhaustion. The place was very pretty in an Eastern European kind of way – but coming from the kitsch quirks of Berlin and the sublime beauty of Italy, some of its charm was definitely lost on us. Apart from a few pastel coloured buildings, the place just seemed a bit grey, and all of the people were either miserable, in possession of a bad haircut, or both. Honestly, I never knew so many variations on a mullet could exist. Forget business at the front and party at the back, there were crimped bits having a rave on one side and dyed blobs making an appearance on the other. It was truly a sight to behold.
We then began the next part of our journey, travelling to an island in Croatia that my equally disorganised sister described as ‘paradise’ on her return from the place four years ago. In fact it was so magical, she couldn’t actually remember its name. We had been promised (by her) that we would step off the ferry and be inundated with adorable Croatia landladies offering us their stunning beach apartments at bargain prices, and were thrilled at the thought of some quality sun and sea time. Surprisingly, or rather unsurprisingly, this did not quite work out.
We had travelled overnight and taken two trains and a ferry from Slovenia in order to reach our destination, and when we stepped off the boat, there were only two remaining landladies waiting at the docks. The first one we approached spoke no English but seemed to be offering a private room and bathroom in her house with use of the communal kitchen for a reasonable(ish) price. After consulting the only other seller there, we opted for the first place. And what a grave mistake that turned out to be.
We were bundled into the car by Hada, (or Hades as is much more fitting) who had decided not to wear underwear for the occasion, and her husband who did not have a single tooth in his mouth. Not one. We arrived at the house to find it was a pretty grotty room with a double bed, which in this case translates as a slab of wood with a paper thin mattress over it. I have never before feared spinal injuries after waking up in the morning, but hey, this trip is all about new experiences.
I do not wish to overexaggerate the cruelty of her nature. But she was the epitome of all evil. She barked at us in Croatian whenever we crossed her path, tried to add extra charges to our fee at every opportunity and generally made life there rather miserable. Between our bra-free fuhrer and the tropical storm we got caught in on the island in which tree branches and roof slates were smashing all around us, things got pretty scary.
Particular highlights of her abuse include her agreeing to drive us to the ferry port only to refuse the next day unless we paid her gummy hubby a hefty sum for the five minute trip, shushing us in the ‘communal’ kitchen as we searched for the utensils she failed to show us and scooping a cockroach off the wall, stamping on it and tossing it down the toilet with reckless abandon. The ominous black smudge left afterwards was ours free of charge.
It also transpired that her and her husband not only wore the same clothes every single day (in his case a rather fetching luminous orange t-shirt, and in hers, no bra. Ever) but also slept in the kitchen, where she spent all day every day staring at the wall. Oh, except for her morningly excursion to the local bakery to shout at anyone who would listen before returning to the house for another scintillating day of wall-watching. I kid you not.
Our departure was the kind of emotional goodbye you would expect in a relationship as close as ours. She shouted ‘OKAY’ in our faces as we made our getaway -truly a precious moment. In fairness, it was the only English word she knew (although she seemed to only have about five words in her Croatian repertoire that she shrieked at us on an incessant torturous loop), so I suppose in some sense, she was making an effort.
So our relaxing beach break didn’t quite go to plan, and as we travel to Bosnia on a bus, ferry, coach, train and car, I look forward to what the next few days has in store. Until next time…