On my way to Ljubljana from Spittal, I made one of those major train errors which have always seemed to happen to other people, but not to me. In my excitement to board the train that would take me to see my family, I failed to realize that not all cars on this train were headed to Ljubljana. Only after I had settled comfortably in my compartment, window seat overlooking the green Drava river to my right, did I notice the paper which read: SPITTAL-VILLACH-KLAGENFURT-WIEN. Uhh, wait a minute. I was traveling southeast to reach Ljubljana, but Klagenfurt is almost directly north of Ljubljana, and Vienna is way northeast of Klagenfurt. Shoot. I walked my way back down several cars (leaving my heavy backpack behind), climbing over luggage left in the aisles, until I reached a car with LJUBLJANA printed on its timetable. It was quite a ways back. Great. I would just need to return to the front car, grab my backpack, then find a new seat in this car.
Except everyone was now leaving their seats and compartments and clogging to aisles to disembark in Villach, which was quickly approaching. I clambered past, trying to make it back to my original car. I did not want to be stuck in a different part of the train when the cars separated and went in their respective directions from the train station! Luckily, I reached my car in time, grabbed my backpack, jumped off the train and ran to the Slovenia-bound car in time to get a seat before the detached trains started moving. Travel is a humbling experience.
I was excited to see my mother’s cousin Majda and her daughter Katja waiting for me at the train station in Ljubljana. (Katja joked to me that they just had to look for the tallest person getting off the train in order to find me!) It was amazing to see the sheer number of backpackers getting off the train. I have not been to Slovenia in six years, and the majority of the time that I have spent here was in 2000-2001, before Slovenia adopted the Euro and before it became a major tourist destination. I braced myself to see some huge changes when I went into the city.
Back at the house, my mother’s cousin Anka and Majda’s husband, Rudi, welcomed me back and got me settled into my usual sleeping quarters: Katja’s old bedroom just off the landing of the staircase. The tiny room has tall wooden cabinets, paintings covering the walls, and a huge bookshelf built into the wall over the twin bed. This is where I have stayed every time I have come to visit, and it feels like home. I was so happy to be back.
The night before school started, I went into the center (of Ljubljana) with my “cousins” Katja and Suzi. We parked in the underground parking lot beneath Zvezda Park where Katja works and saw the town on foot. The bus lines have COMPLETELY changed since I was a student at summer school here, and streets that were once full of traffic have now been pedestrianized. The banks of the Ljubljanica River have always been lined with cafes, but now those cafes stretch farther than ever before to an area where steps and footpaths have been built along the river. I wistfully thought, “Man, 21-year-old Becky would have loved this!”
Suzi and Katja along the Ljubljanica
Never thought I would see a hanging klobasa sign, but hey, it works.
For the next two weeks, I would be taking Slovenian language classes at the Faculty of Arts. (More on this in another post). My typical plan was to take the bus to and from school, arriving back home in time for lunch, the main meal of the day. Majda and Anka cook fantastic meals (mostly using vegetables from their huge garden out back), so I definitely never went hungry. I was, however, concerned about my waistline when most of my favorite dishes were potato-based! Mmmm, so delicious.
Lunchtime with the fam (Rudi, Suzi’s son Črt, Suzi, Anka, and Majda)
Cheese and potato dumplings, zucchini and potato fritters, and cucumber-potato-onion salad: the makings of a food baby
Katja informed me that shortly before my visit, the cat gave birth to five kittens in the garage. I would visit them almost every day (if mama cat would allow me).
No, not a cat, but a visitor that Katja found in the yard
I was able to visit with my mother’s father’s side of the family, too. We went for a lunchtime visit one afternoon (with more delicious food!). My mom’s cousins Helena and Anka (yes, lots of Ankas here) also took us for dessert at the cafe at the top of the nebotičnik, or skyscraper, downtown.
There are so many people from my home town of Cleveland that are now living back in Slovenia. I got to visit my friend Monika and her husband and meet their little daughter Ema, who has inherited Dad’s musical talent.
A friend of my family, Mark, has opened a burrito restaurant in Ljubljana. My mom joined me and one of my classmates for lunch there after my last day of school. Check out Burrito Loco if you happen to be in Ljubljana. Good stuff, Mark!
Other friends of my family, Nande and Meta, now spend half the year living in Florida and the other half of the year in Slovenia. Majda, my mother, and I visited them at their house in the hills overlooking Ljubljana. I looooove their house (and the view doesn’t hurt either!) It was so good to see them again.
View from Nande and Meta’s house at sunset
In between all these fun visits, I *did* have to get some studying done. More on than in my next post.