the best end possible
01.08.2014 - 05.08.2014
I got to Zagreb at about 6am, broke and freakishly hungry. Wandered around the station trying to find something to buy with less than 1 kuna LOL. Eventually I gave up and bought 2 disgusting choco banana things for breakfast. Had 20 cents left over. But the bananas were so bad that I only ate one, and even that I had to force down so I could get some sugar into me at least. Blegh. It hadn't been a good night, so I sat on the station bench, hugged my bag, and tried to sleep. I had about an hour or two before my bus out to Ljubljana.
The day dawned bright and fair. Okay, I mean it was hot as usual. I walked from the bus station all the way to my hostel, which I had trouble finding because it was inside some apartment thing. But my bunk was nice enough. I went out to catch the tour, S hadn't wanted to since they'd already walked around. Sadly it's been a while so I don't remember a whole lot about the history of Slovenia.
Ljubljana is a gorgeous city though, having an amazing mix of the old and new. Everything felt rather upbeat and cool, maybe because it's a uni town. Compared to Split, which is filled with the old and middle aged, and so has a charm of its own. But yeah, Ljub has both cobbled and bitumen roads, and has old buildings next to modern glass-and-steel kinds. Dragons, long, sleek, arched, and spiny, daydream in the sun. Eclectic statues and modern artwork adorn the many bridges.
One thing I really liked was this museum thing that we ended at. Unfortunately I can't remember the name, but it's a art nouveau building with 'colonial' columns and arches. (I'm sure about the art nouveau, but please don't quote me on the columns) The tour guide said that they usually have free movie screenings, and wanted to show us the inside of the building, but it was closed for renovation. He was honestly really disappointed that it was closed. Since I liked the exterior so much, I can only imagine how much I missed by not getting to see the interior!
Walked back to the city center to have lunch. Was going to try a local place, but was distracted by the international food fair at the square! Wanted to eat everything. EVERYTHING. But I had the double limitation of money and stomach. Unfortunately. I bought a cheese dumpling (there were other flavours too) and a plate of creole food. There was lots of amazing food around though, like this stew, and a meaty orange goulash. There was Chinese food too, haha, but I ain't got time fo dat. (money, actually).
Met S and A briefly to have a chat, but then decided not to spend the day together haha since we had a completely different itinerary for the day. So we just agreed on a time and place to meet the next day. They'd decided to go get the car that evening from the airport, and spend the night in the car to save on money. Then they'd pick me up the next morning near the bus station. With that, we split up.
Walked up to the castle. Nice walk, not even too tiring. Most of the castle is free to explore, with only a few paying sections like the art gallery. Again, it's lovely old architecture that's been updated in modern times. Wouldn't I love to live there! I spent quite a while in the museum, which was interesting, but I was soooo tired that I had a bit of a headache and I couldn't concentrate. So I left :/
Bought a durum Doener at a nearby shop and ate in the hostel haha. I also got a strawberry yoghurt! yayyy. And that night I met two Singaporeans! They were in my bunk, a guy and a girl. Pretty cool, it was nice to hear singlish again hahahahaha. Slept early that day, was so tired.
The next morning I woke up pretty early to get picked up by S and A, but I think I got my bearings wrong or something because I was in the wrong place. And by the time we left we were like 15 min late. And then it took longer to reach there than expected! So we were late, and the rafting people were a bit fed up haha. But oh well we made it.
And enjoyed the ride on the way. It's so beautiful! Slovenia is so mountainous too. I was so mistaken, geography fail, cos I thought it was some corner of the alps, but of course it's the Balkans!
Despite being very late and having a few calls and texts from the rafting people, and also them having to bounce us to the equipment shed and then to the raft point, we managed to get there before the rest of the group got annoyed enough to leave us.
The rafting itself was alright, it was boring in fact! And my first time rafting too. But but but but but, some big buts here, because the view was absolutely tremendously beautiful.
Even half a year later I'm breath taken with the memory of it. That bright blue sky with warm bright sunshine, that icy fresh sharp blue green of the water, the white complementary sand and gravel. Breathtaken with the way at certain points the water would get almost pastel with chalkiness. The way the water numbs your limbs after a minute in it, and the way you feel absolutely alive once you're back in the raft with your life blood coursing through your veins. The warm pull of your muscles on the paddles, and droplets and laughter and sun on your friends' faces.
After rafting, we took a few obligatory photos in our full wetsuits. On the short trip back to the shop, the trekking guides told us about this short trek up to a waterfall that we could try. You could either go a slightly easier way that didn't go to the top, but in which the waterfall looks nice, or a slightly harder way which led you to the pool near the top, but from which you couldn't see the rest of the waterfall at all. It was on the way, so they pointed it out as we passed by. It was a toss up between that and Bled for us. For me it was okay because I could still go to Bled the next day, but it was unlikely that they would be staying any longer in Slovenia.
Eventually we just decided to do it. We drove over, parked, and found the little marked trail. And then we started on what was supposed to be a half-hour walk. LIES. Or they were just a million time fitter than we were. The trail was really twisty and not very well marked; we lost it a few times and rejoined it but only by scrambling up some scary unstable turf. The terrain was mostly dirt trails winding up the steep hill, and the rest of the time it was on bare rock, literally on the hillside. S, who is really afraid of heights, had a really tough time. We were all also super tired, like exhausted because it was really steep. We wanted to give up so many times, but luckily the terrain kind of hid the top from our view, so it always felt like just a bit more.
S wouldn't cross a really scary part that hung over a sheer drop. So we left her at a little grassy open area to catch her breath. We went on, passing some people along the way who swore it was only another 15min. We hung on to that so hard, cos we'd already been hiking for an hour. When we finally got there, we were a bit disappointed. It was a pool indeed, but the bottom didn't look safe to step into. There were also spiderwebs all around which was gross. And when we tried to go in, it was absolutely freezing. At least 10 or 15 degrees C colder than the river water. He climbed in but got out 20s later because he froze up. Not very safe. I stuck my legs in long enough for a photo, and by then I could feel the pain of the cold.
We climbed back down, which was scarier, naturally, and he went to comfort her because she was still feeling shaky. Got back on level ground, clambered around the river bed of the beautifully blue water. Photos, had some bananas and refilled our bottles from the river.
We thought we had enough time to return the car to the airport at 5pm, so we stopped along the way at a random restaurant. As it turns out, it was tripadvisor-certified haha. We ordered, but before the drinks could come, we realised we didn't have enough time so we ran out and drove like mad to the airport. Got there on time, starving, and had a lame sandwich from the airport place.
Took the bus back to Ljubljana, had an Indian dinner (because they're vegetarian) which was really good. Then I said goodbye to this good friend and roommate of mine, and took my leave. Will I ever see her again?
I woke up the next day very sad. My last full day in Europe! But at least I would end it doing something cooler than most people would do. I caught a bus to Bled, and on the way made friends with a Slovenian girl. That was really cool. I was almost hoping to spend the day with her, but she was going to spend the day with her friends so okay la, I'll have my last day alone )':
I took a walk around the beautiful lake, rationing my time since I had the whole day. And anything worth doing here besides the lake was too far away.
Went up to the castle, explored as much of it as I could without actually going inside and paying. So I went around it on small trails. Took some nice photos.
Then I stripped off my tank top, and stuffed it into the huge army ziplock I'd brought from SG specifically for this purpose. I checked that everything was waterproofed, and then I slung my stringbag across both shoulders, and began my swim to the island. The first 10min were excruciating. I was exhausted because I was trying to keep the bag 'secure' on my back. Later I realised I could just hook one shoulder-string in one arm and then swim that way, with the bag bobbing in the water behind me.
Got up on the deck, gasping. Lay on that hot wood for a while to dry off. Put on a long-sleeved shirt, and wanted to go up the bell tower. Heard you could ring the bell for luck. But found out I had to pay and was like ahhhh whatever. Bought more hazelnut ice cream and enjoyed that summer sunshine. I felt like I was in paradise. A slightly lonely paradise, but a paradise nonetheless.
I swam back, this time much more comfortably. But as I got off the deck, I cut myself on some wood splinter. I had no choice so I swam back with it bleeding and flapping open. Which is probably why it got a little infected lol. Oh well, I bear the scar of a good time. A reminder of my time on exchange haha.
Looked for somewhere to have lunch. Decided on this expensive looking restaurant. Got myself some amazing fish with a great live band playing in the background. Chilled. Got wifi. Told the guy who told me about swimming on the lake that I'd just done it, and asked about the famous cake.
Walked over to get cake and lemonade. Went to the dock and lay on the wood for a few hours, thinking, feeling sad, watching the sunset.
Caught my bus back to Ljubljana, and would you know it, the same Slovenian girl is on the same bus! What a coincidence! Talked more until she got off at her hometown of Kranj. It was a good conversation, but I can't remember a thing because it's been more than half a year. Dropped off back at Ljub. Tried to eat at a nice place I saw while walking around a few days before, but it was closed. So I had another lame dinner of a pizza or something. Good pizza though.
That night I packed with a heavy heart. The dream was going to end. Real life was about to start again. I was going to have to face things I'd been trying to avoid for a while. No more travelling like mad. Sigh.
The Journey Home
That morning I took the bus to the airport, and then the flight to Frankfurt. I got to Frankfurt at about 1, and took direct bus to Darmstadt HBF. I'd arranged to meet E about an hour after that, so while waiting, I went to buy a jar of Ovomaltine for a good friend of mine. He complained that it was really expensive in SG, so I told him I'd buy him a cheap one from Germany haha.
"We love dreamers"
At the appointed time, I went down to the bus stop to meet E. And there she was! I went with her to her place to collect my crazy heavy luggage. She was such a dear, she helped me to pull it along because I had my heavy backpack as well. And then we had an early dinner at an Italian place she recommended. It was good talking with her again, suddenly now I miss her! I wonder how she's doing.
I got on the bus back to Frankfurt Airport feeling even sadder. Noooo why am I leavinggggg. At the airport I frantically repacked my luggage so that I could put the Ovomaltine in it. Haha this weird scene is something that so many exchangers have done! And my luggage is so packed that I stereotypically had to sit on it. I paid 100 eur for the extra weight too. Oh well. That done, I felt much easier. No need to lug that fear-inducing weight around.
At the gate I just moped around. On the plane of course I had a new goal, which is to watch as many movies as possible haha. I think I managed almost 4.
I landed in SG on 5 Aug 4pm. I won't be forgetting that in a long time. While my family waited for me at the arrival gates, I went alcohol shopping at duty free haha. And then I was in their arms again, and it didn't feel so bad to be back.