Well I left Italy and now I’m in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It’s pronounced L-you-bill-yah-na, as best as I can gather, but you have to try not to say them as separate syllables, rather try to run them all together into one long one. I don’t know, but people understand where I mean when I say it.
Since we last talked I’ve visited Venice. Venice, Venice, Venice. What to say about Venice? Venice was very much like Florence in the respect that it’s a very big Italian city, almost entirely dedicated to tourists, and therefore full of them. It was, of course, incredibly pretty though.
I actually had a pretty good time in Venice. I’m not entirely sure how much of this was to do with the city itself. I didn’t really realise before I actually went there, that Venice is, basically, an island city, separate entirely from the mainland of Italy. This can be seen here. The city is navigable by boats that transport people around the city and from island to island effectively like buses on water. Unlike the rest of the public transport I’ve encountered in Europe so far, these boats were not cheap and efficient. They were E6.50 per trip, not per day or per hour, but per journey. You could by 24, 36, 48 hour passes etc for varying prices, but the general point is they cost far too much and are financially prohibitive when travelling around the city.
My hostel was on a separate island, Guidecca. I bought a ticket from the train station and took the boat, which took a long route through the city and so the ride lasted a good 30-45 minutes to get to the hostel stop. I realised while standing on the deck of the boat with my backpack on and the wind blowing my face, that I feel very comfortable and at easy on the water, and this has very much made me look forward to the yacht in Greece in a few weeks. But I digress. The hostel being on a separate island was a blessing/curse situation. There was, pretty much, nothing else of any interest or note on that island whatsoever, other than a couple of restaurants and what was, I think, a coastguard station. This meant that there were no tourists on the island and it was pretty quiet, other than the people staying at the hostel – a very pleasant break once returning from the city proper. A lot of the residents of the hostel chilled out on the pavement outside in the evening and it became a de-facto common room where people could meet and chat. It was quite comfortable.
The first evening I was there I got chatting to a girl from Australia and we decided to head back into the city to see what it looked like at night. Neither of us had boat tickets, neither of us agreed that they should cost nearly seven Euro, so neither of us bothered buying some for the boat. We got on, got off, no problem. On the boat on the way back, at pretty close to midnight the conductor of the boat came out to the back section where we were sat with a few other people, asked if anyone needed tickets, to which all said no, and then merrily moved on, so the impression was definitely that they didn’t give a damn. Henceforth I did not purchase boat tickets, so I think by the end of the few days I was in Venice I’d scammed back about the same amount as the fine I received on the train in Genoa, so fuck you Italy, we’re even.
I spent a few days walking around the city with a few different people. The novelty of the canals wears off pretty damn quickly when you realise you can’t get from one place to another in something even remotely resembling a straight line, rather than, perhaps, an M.C. Escher scene as painted by Dali. Aside from that, it was a pretty typical Italian city. I did notice that the gondola driv– pilo– capt– men, all, without exception, looked like complete thugs in black and white striped tops. They were very much the Italian equivalent of London taxi drivers. Stubbly beards, tattoos on every bit of visible skin, smoking, spitting, leering. Maybe I’m missing the point and that’s part of the charm. Either way, all they do is stand near bridges bellowing “gondola” as people walk past in hopes of netting an E80 boat ride.
Other than that, I have very little to say about Venice. It happened, it was pretty, there were canals.
Then I got on a bus (an hour late, gogo Italian transport) and headed into Slovenia, and here we are. Though I’m due to leave Slovenia tomorrow morning on a train to Zagreb in Croatia, so it was a flying visit, so to speak. The city here, Ljubljana, is pretty relaxed and slow, though it appears I chose a really very slow time to visit. I arrived late on Friday night, so I had no chance to do anything other than find a place to buy a roll for dinner and go to sleep. Saturday I went out for a walk around and found that, actually, everything closes its doors on Saturday at one in the afternoon. What’s that about? OK, fine, I’ll wait ’til Monday to check the shops and town out. Monday, today, came and I went out for another walk. Everything, everywhere, closed. I wander into the tourist information office with a bemused look and a “why for everything be closed, womans?” Well, today is a Slovenian public holiday, so everything is shut all day. Shitsticks. No Slovenian shopping for me, not that I needed anything (other than some multivitamins).
Yesterday I visited some caves a few hours away from the city. I was all hopped up with my camera and enthusiasm to get some awesome pictures of the biggest cave ravine in Europe, and at the beginning of the tour we’re all told no photography at all, not even without flash. My face was not happy. I may have thrown things. The cave was actually truly awesome though, in the fullest sense of the word. The cavern inside was huge, and the ravine with the river running through over a hundred metres below where we were walking was impressive indeed.
And thus ends this relatively uninteresting chapter.