My train awaits.

On Monday I go to Italy to pick up my visa, finally. For our remaining month here we're most likely going to leave the country and make our way east. We haven't confirmed what countries we're visiting, but it looks like Romania and Bulgaria are definitely on the list.

Although we've been taking it easy the last few days - like exploring the parks and having friends over for dinner - I'm ready for more exploring. I will have to travel alone to Italy. In all the times I've been to Europe I have never done this. This is exciting and terrifying at the same time.

Also, Ljubljana has been experiencing some abnormally hot weather, slotted between tumultuous lightening storms, which makes it hard for yours truly to find the inspiration to leave our flat. I'm not summer person. But, for the most part, school is finished, and with my trip approaching fast I will have to stomach the humid air and unforgiving sun. These are strange, uncertain times, me hearties.

More to come, yes there is.


I am sorely disappointed.

Just a quick update: On Wednesdays, the school cafeteria has cheap beer. So, since the term is ending soon, Liverpool was to play Milan in the finals and there was cheap beer, Wednesday afternoon constituted an eight hour drinking marathon. This resulted in chipping in less than a Euro for an entire pizza, free french fries (everybody thinks Americans actually call them "freedom fries"), being tossed into an giant inflatable pool, throwing myself in the pool again then slipping out and landing on my skull (I'm fine) and screaming obscenities at the screen during the game.

I am offically an undergraduate student.

I was supposed to go to Trieste today to pick up my visa, but that will have to wait until Monday.


One month to the day, in non sequiturs.

By about this time, one month from now, we will be on a train to Venice, on to Paris and then home to Canada.

Today also marks the official end to our school work and exams. Our last essay, on Wallerstein's World Systems, has been handed in and all we have left are two classes.

The heat of midday has finally broken, and thunder is rumbling over the city. It feels like rain but patches of blue sky are breaking through.

I'm trying not to stress about all the things I want to (or have to) do before we leave, and the decisions we have to make.

For now I'm going to watch the sky for lightning and put off thinking about how short a month really is.


More high school hijinks.

Awhile ago I posted a little question to our Slovenian readers regarding their high school graduation celebrations, namely: does everyone in Slovenia go out a'drinkin' for their graduation party. Anyway, I'm still reeling from all this and trying to get my head around the phenomenon. So, this afternoon we headed into the center to watch hundreds of high school graduates take over Slovenska and simultaneously square dance with each other.

Apparently this is a Guinness World Record. Students from all over Slovenia will dance at the same time to the same music, making it the world's largest dance party. Afterwards, the routine was followed by a loud apocalyptic drum and fire-breathing ensemble playing on top of a roving bus that led the dancing students away.

Why is it that Canadian high school students only get a firm handshake when they graduate and Slovenian students have massive street parties and ten day drinking expeditions?

We later went out for drinks and pizza and hung out at the U.K. Club. They have great magazines! They do!


Late night audio.

I just heard a sound on the street that I realized I haven't heard in five months: a car alarm going off. It forms such a constant background in Vancouver that it becomes a sort of white noise. I'm out of the habit of noticing it (or the sound of car windows smashing in the middle of the night, let's just say that my old neighbourhood was slightly high in nightime car stereo jackings), so it startled me.

The second of the week's wild rainstorms is over. It seems that if students organize an outdoor concert, the cue is given for all kinds of lightning, thunder and torrential rain. Not sure if tonight's event is at Roznik or somewhere else (I can't tell if it's the doppler effect or if the sound is actually closer than Tuesday's concert on the hill). In any case, both the rain and the music have now stopped. The car alarm has also been silenced, a mere 6 seconds after starting up its wail...another difference from Vancouver, where car owners snuggle deeper under their blankets rather than run outside to shut the alarms off.

I was wrong about the music. It's started again. If there's one thing I've learned here, it's that Slovenians know how to bring the party.


The return.

There's talk of us returning for another semester. It's really quite easy: we pay for another five months of storage fees, ship our cat over here and I have to somehow manage being a homeless student for three months or so.

We really want to come back. One semester is not enough.

Also, I want to play football.


The day after.

Although the ache has departed, I still feel as though I've been sleeping in a coffin. No, the ache is gone - all that's left are stiff joints.

As some of you might know, yesterday Lisa and I attended the Liberation Day walk, a thirty-five kilometre jaunt that circumnavigates the fair city of Ljubljana. The trail marks what was originally a barbed wire fence set up by the Germans Italians during World War Two. Of course, the occupiers didn't exactly build it themselves, there were plenty of locals who would do that at gunpoint, of course. You can read a more detailed history here, plus an excellent report of the day.

We started at eight in the morning. The weather was agreeable: cloudy and cool with a little sun poking out out of the hazy clouds. There was already a small crowd forming at the first check point (there were eight in total, each checkpoint stamped a booklet you received at the start and wrote down your time of arrival) when we showed up, and we met our traveling companions as well.

A couple of small events occurred during the hike. We walked past the former Slovenian president. I only caught a glimpse of him, unfortunately. A kindly gentleman was offering borovničke and schnapps at a small table beside the trail. The schnapps had a powerful aroma and small bits of grass were floating in the bottom of the plastic cup, which I ignored as I downed it. It was like jet fuel for humans. Very enjoyable. For me, seeing the city's periphery was the most enlightening.

We walked through quiet neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city, some with handsome and orderly gardens in their backyards, surrounded by old stone walls. Most of the trails were flat and straight, flanked by trees on either side and beyond them fields of tall grass and wildflowers. We also braved the industrial zone, which, really, looks like most industrial zones I've seen. Except, of course, everything is in Slovene - well, I did notice how clean the zone was, and quiet.

The last five kilometres were the most challenging. The first twenty kilometres were fine, but by the time we reached the last stretch my hips, feet and thighs were on fire. We heard the check points closed at 5:00, and we had roughly half an hour to finish the final five kilometres. I picked up my pace, ignoring the searing pain that was coursing through me, and somehow, with the help of Croatian brandy (?) and yelling quotes from army movies, I dragged my abused body to the finish line. We did go out for drinks later that night, but I could only manage about two beer before calling it a night.

Our camera is not cooperating at the moment, hence the lack of pictures. Soon, my friends, soon.


35 km of victory.

But for now: sleep and pain meds. It looks as though our adventure was too much for the camera, so we may not have any pictures from the day, but we'll post something tomorrow regardless.



Today is another busy work day, so nothing new from me. But it's the anniversary of Ljubljana's liberation, and Pengovsky, as usual, has got the story over at his blog. There are some great historical photographs* and a sound clip from Radio KRIČAČ set up in secret to broadcast news and info from the Liberation Front. Slovenia has a fascinating WWII history, and one which I knew almost nothing about before coming here.

*With sources already noted in the text. I'm off to drink coffee and invest in eyewear, and promise to refrain from making blog comments until I do so. :)


The gift.

So today we received a gift! I told one of my classmates that Lisa was very fond of borovničke, a traditional blueberry schnapps. He invited us to meet him for lunch at school (there's a decent-sized cafeteria and two cafes / bars in our faculty) this afternoon and he gave us a homemade bottle of it, courtesy of his grandmother! Here are some pictures to commemorate the latest addition to our liquor cabinet:
The drink has a pleasant kick with a strong fruity finish. Each blueberry is soaked in alcohol, so each one bursts open with a hearty and boozy punch when they're chewed. The perfect summer drink.

And by liquor cabinet, I mean the shelf above the kitchen counter.


Photo Essay: Franja Partisan Hospital.

Pengovsky does an excellent (as usual) write-up on the Franja Partisan Hospital in Cerkno, and since writing another post on the hospital would be a redundant, I offer some photos of our brief but enjoyable visit.

A message from management.

I wrote a quick post on our May Day adventure. Just scroll down a tad. Thanks.

The Bat-Lemon.


Comrade Tito

As Pengovsky notes, today is the anniversary of Josip Broz Tito's death. I'll try to put up a longer post with some pics of our trip to the Partisan Hospital near Cerkno (this being a history-themed week for us), but for now, a view of the Кућа цвећа (Kuća cveća, or House of Flowers), which is Tito's final resting place. We visited it on our recent trip to Belgrade.


Happy May Day!

Today is May Day. The mayor of Ljubljana gave a speech (in his trademark Serbian accent - by the way, he was once chairman of Mercator, a chain of shops that are everywhere in this city) and people were given carnations.

We weren't there.

Instead, last night we climbed a hill in Rožna Dolina for the huge pre-May Day celebration. To be honest, I thought it would be a casual, informal affair. That was not the case. After walking up the path in the dark, we came upon a huge crowd gathered around a stage, flanked by kiosks selling grilled meat, beer and cigarettes. Luckily they were offering french fries or I would have starved.

On the stage, there were speeches from union leaders, followed by a massive bonfire burning dangerously close to the local church. For the rest of the evening we hung around drinking and eating and laughing as band played cover songs onstage. It wasn't until midnight or so (I think) until we stumbled down.