Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Trip - Day 8: Rijeka, Croatia & Ljubljana, Slovenia


Friday June 18, 2010

This has by far been my most interesting and eventful day… definitely a fun one.
After being exhausted, to say the least, from having not gotten a decent night sleep in the past two nights, I meandered around Rijeka for an hour or so in the morning while waiting for the bus headquarters to open.  I asked them if anyone had returned my wallet and after getting the expected response of “no” I gave them my email address in case it turns up.  I then went to the police station to do the same thing.  At the end of the day I 1) don’t believe my wallet will actually be returned. 2) Even if it is returned, don’t think that I will be emailed about it. 3) If I do happen to be notified about them getting my wallet, I don’t know if I would be able to return to Rijeka (unless it were very soon) because I’m leaving the city in a few hours.  And 4) if I did happen to come back here to pick up my wallet, I don’t think that any of the money would be left in there…. So I did lose my driver’s license and student ID but I guess that’s a part of life.  One of the unfortunately things is that now, while traveling around Europe, I’ll have nothing to identify myself as a student so I might not qualify for the many student-discounts that are available.
I then walked to the train station where I waited for my train to Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia).  I slept the entire train-ride and because it wasn’t crowded at all, I had a room/booth all to myself and was able to lay down and actually rest.

The train arrived about an hour before the game was to start so the first thing I did was take my American flag out and wrap it around my neck & backpack as I walked down the street.  I quickly went to the hostel I was going to stay at, put my stuff down and ran to the river where there were going to be plenty of public-viewing places.  I arrived within the first 10 minutes of the game and just made my way through the crowd to get a decent view of the tv.  I, of course, got plenty of looks because of my American flag.  The whole scene was very fun and the energy was unbelievable when Slovenia scored their goals… even more so than in Germany.  During the first half a woman approached me and asked if she could ask a few questions… she was a reporter from a local newspaper and was wondering (along with everyone else) what an American was doing in Slovenia, as well as my thoughts on the game.  I kept on looking out for any other American fans but didn’t see a single one.

At one point during the game another random guy (Rene) was videotaping the scene with his iphone and wanted my comments on the US losing by 2 goals.  We ended up talking and hanging out the rest of the game.  Toward the end of the game I saw a couple other Americans and chatted with them for a bit; one was a guy (Scott) traveling on his own for an entire year.

Short backgrounds:
  • Rene is 26 from Belgium and had been in Slovenia for 2 weeks for a film festival. He is the absolute most outgoing person I’ve ever met and talks to every single person we pass.  He would ask for directions even if we knew exactly where we were going, and then try to chat up the person… he would insist on telling some non-relevant story to strangers all the time (so through the time I spent with him I heard the same stories at least 20 times).  It is a good quality but he was very very over-the-top with it.
  • Scott is 23, recently graduated from Texas and is not traveling the world for 11 months.  He started in Hawaii, then went to China & Nepal, now he’s in Europe for a few months and his next flight scheduled is from South Africa to Brazil, in November so he’s doing a combination of hitchhiking/rideshare/couchsurfing/backpacking until then.  After Europe he’s going to go down the East coast of Africa also with nothing booked/scheduled.


Right after the game ended, a news reporter asked if he could interview one of us Americans about the game.  Rene answered for us Americans and told him to interview me.  The clip was live, so I had my 15 seconds of fame on Slovenian tv.  There were a fair amount of people giving us some jeers and a few middle fingers, but it was pretty passive and all in good fun.  On our way out of the city center we were walking along the street and passed a couple bars, all which had TVs outside and a bunch of people at… Scott and I were proudly cheering for our country, as all of the locals were either chanting for Slovenia, or “fuck USA”.  Well I thought it was all in good, cheerful fun but I guess I’m too optimistic about the power of the World Cup, because before too long a few guys walked up to me and tried to grab the American flag from my hands.  I was a little too prideful for my own good because I refused to let go, until there was a decent commotion and the guys (who were very drunk) got pushy and physical. 
Eventually a bunch of other people came over to try to ameliorate the situation and help us out.  These guys told us to get away from the situation and wait down the street while they retrieved the flag.  The majority of people were very friendly and we were offered to go into a bar and have a few beers, to show that the bad few don’t reflect the whole country.  Even though I was probably dumb by holding onto the flag for so long, it was a matter of principle to me opposed to actually caring about keeping the flag (which cost 4 euros).  The police also came over after the altercation to ensure we were okay.

We walked on to that same hostel Rene was taking us to, on the way Rene convinced us to stop at this museum/exhibition for some free drinks, because Rene had made some friends with the people who worked there the day before.  While we were having some drinks outside in the courtyard, we happened upon a kid’s birthday party.  Rene started talking with some of the parents, then the kids, and before I knew it we were all playing soccer with a bunch of 7 year olds.  The teams were us 3 guys against about 20 kids… all of whom were adorable.  We let them beat us 6-5 and all the parents were so grateful that we tired all of the kids out that they gave us some cake and the rest of their (alcoholic) punch for the road.

Finally we made it to the hostel (I’m still confused as to why we were going there in the first place) that Rene insisted we check out.  We ended up making some friends there and playing a pickup game of basketball with some guys there, and eventually got on our way back to my hostel.

Rene invited Scott and I to stay at this apartment of his friends who was out of town where we could stay for free.  I had already checked in to my hostel so I was going back there to see if I could cancel the reservation and get my money back.  After some haggling, the manager gave me ½ of my money back and again, us three were on our way walking.

On our way to the friend’s apartment (which happened to be a college dorm) we passed by an opening of a wine-store and, as always, Rene started chatting people up and next thing I knew we were being handed glasses of wine, champagne, cheese, mini bottles of champagne to-go.  We talked to the people there for over an hour… I met a couple who lived in LA for years and now are back in Slovenia.

Finally we were on our way to the dorm and yet of course… Rene had to talk to a group of kids hanging out drinking outside in a park.  Well in the conversation, he introduced Scott and I to these kids, telling them that I’m from California and Scott was from Texas.  Well they happened to point out that a guy standing on the other side of the group also happens to be from Texas.  Well if this day wasn’t crazy enough, that other guy from Texas happened to be Scott’s good friend from college and was the reason he was in Slovenia… to try and meet up!  Unreal day.

We finally got to the dorm and I got to shower and do much needed laundry.  We hung out with some other kids in the building for a bit and then I got my first sleep in a real bed in a while.

Some general notes about Slovenia: I was very impressed with the amount of English that everyone spoke.  With a few exceptions, people of all ages spoke English really well… much more so than any of the other cities I’ve been to recently.

2 comments:

  1. Hahaha oh dear, Rene sent me to your blog and to this post in particular. I too met this talkative character when travelling through Ljubljana and have similar stories of adventures to castles, Bled and college dormitories. I can't believe your day, sounds amazing! Glad you got out of the confrontation on the right foot and I hope you found your wallet. Good luck on the rest of your travels...

    Suze

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  2. Haha. :) You guys are way too funny here. ;)
    Ross, man I hope we can shoot a movie about your trip one day. When I find the time I will definitely read the rest of your stories... For now I just scrolled through and glanced at some pics. That trip seems to have been the trip of a lifetime!
    Who feels like coming to Belgium, Leuven for the 'African Film Festival' ? Start: Fri. 25th of March - End: Sat. 9th of April. I am with the organization. I can assure you it would be worth the while to fly, sail, drive, ride, swim, run, walk over... You can get a formal invitation in your letterbox if you indicate when you can come and of course specify your address. www.afrikafilmfestival.be

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