Four months ago I’m not sure I could point out Slovenia on a map. I already had plans to be in Venice, so when I met Boštjan in September while he was surfing my friend’s couch outside of New York, it wasn’t too far-fetched to add a few extra days in Slovenia and see a country I might otherwise never get to know.
Nova Gorica is a small town by New York standards, though one of the biggest cities in the country. It’s nestled up against Italy to the west, a fact that seems to really bother the residents I spoke to. It was in Nova Gorica that I learned the most about the history and culture of a country, probably much more than the other places I visited combined.
Boštjan and I took trips to Ljubljana (the capital) and the largest cave system in all of Slovenia, the Postojna Caves. They aren’t kidding around. Postojna has 20 kilometers of caves. We didn’t quite get to go spelunking, but this place is nonetheless worth spending some time. Dark caves and cell phones don’t really translate into blog-worthy photos but, well, you get the idea.
Ljubljana felt much like a modern Bratislava. A castle on the hill and a river running below it. Ljubljana is another city where it isn’t necessary to sight-see, it’s best experienced with a leisurely stroll, even better with a Slovene boy himself. The Christmas markets were still up and running so we grabbed some food, I ODed on vin brûlée, and we watched the sun go down and the lights come on.
The biggest thing going for Slovenia though is clearly it’s outdoors. We spent an entire day driving around the Soča Valley with the stunningly bluish-green Soča River in sight from practically any point on the road. To see a river this color in a nearly land-locked country feels strange. The water looks like it’s from any Caribbean beach, and it’s easy to picture all the swimming, kayaking, and rafting activities that take place in it during the Summer months. The entire valley is peppered with small villages, each one with it’s own quaint little shops, unique look-out points, and maybe a wooden bridge or two. I’ve never been to Vermont, but I couldn’t help but think the two are very similar: a skiers paradise in winter, and a lush, green, mountainous beauty when it’s warm.
I have so much to thank Bostjan for, especially with all the driving and taking me to the airport and such. The time I got to spend with Boštjan’s friends and family made me feel really lucky, and I learned so much about Slovenia that I definitely wouldn’t have ever known. It made for a New Year’s I’ll remember for a long time, although…. the embarrassing dance with his dad is one part I wouldn’t mind to forget. ;)