Jan. 3 – Komenda, Slovenia
Run your finger up the back of the Italian boot, keep going up until you reach the upper curve of the Adriatic, and you reach Slovenia. However, far from being the ass of the Mediterranean, this small country boasts a pretty coastline, green plains dotted with tidy villages, and its own Alps. There are plenty of reasons for any traveler to come to Slovenia – its outdoors, its cultural blend on the borders of Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary. But yet again, it is the Games diaspora that has led me here.
I’m with a former colleague and her young family, in a small community north of Ljubljana, where white-capped mountains beckon skiers and hikers. It’s the sort of place where neighbors invite you for a hearty glass or three of fruit liqueur after your morning walk, where the kids know the horses’ names, where locals work together over years to build each other’s homes. With children and a semi-obedient Labrador around, I stepped out of my observer/writer’s role into that of family guest. And like all families, this one does family things; grocery shopping, haircuts and doctor’s appointments, dog walking, marathon bedtime story sessions and sprints for the school bus. Less common, there has been a ladybug infestation in the guest room, a contentious family ping-pong tournament, and the Labrador ate my jeans. I contributed to the Holiday cheer on New Year’s Day by mistakenly hot waxing all the cross-country skis with grip wax.
With late nights, late morning starts, and few daylight hours, I have mostly seen Slovenia in the dusk or at night. Fortunately, we are in the centre of the country and easily reached some worthwhile destinations. Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, has an unhurried air, and the promise – in this soggy winter climate – of glorious springtime café culture. Lake Bled, famous for its island church and azure waters, hosted the World Rowing Championships this year. We skied at the Nordic resort of Pokljuka, with the crack of rifles echoing from the biathlon range. And we drove to the Mediterranean coast at Portoroz and Piran, and walked through rain-slick cobblestone alleys, waves lapping gently in the dark night. If there is one place my journey has not done justice, it is this country.
Blogging note: for 61 days straight, I posted a new story from somewhere along my route, and that streak came to an end on New Year’s Day. I will no longer be blogging daily, as I will be visiting friends and family. But there is plenty more neat stuff to see and posts will still be frequent – stay tuned!