July 30, 2010

Unfortunately, this is the end.

To be perfectly clear, I was not ready to leave Slovenia.  I am very grateful to have had the experience of the past 6 months.  But 6 months was not enough!  There is still so much more I would have liked to have done.  However, I will just have to keep repeating to myself what several friends told me over the past week: NEXT TIME.

I did have quite a lot to do with trying to sort, pitch, pack and ship the accumulated contents of my flat, but I tried to balance that unhappy task with some fun in my last few days.  I managed to squeeze in one last trip to the beach in Strunjan with my Danish friend Laura.  I went hiking on Vremščica with Miklavž (who’s name, I found out, I have been misspelling for the better part of two months).  This un-pronouncable  mountain in the karst has a spectacular view of Istria (the entire Slovenian coast plus Italy and Croatia) in one direction and the peaks of the Julian Alps in the other.  It seems this is a fairly “local” place, because  I can’t find it in any of my guides.  And, I went to a concert in Izola by an apparently somewhat notorious Croatian punk band.

Istria from Vremščica

Towards the Alps from Vremščica

I will admit that, after I ran out of food in my flat, I tried an Ameriški hot dog from the vendor across the street from my flat.  I also had dinner one night at a restaurant in Markovec (a suburb across the gulf from Koper) that a friend had recommended for their Serbian-style ćevapčići.  We had the ćevapi on lepinja (a flatbread) with a yogurt dressing together with a Serbian salad (similar to a Greek salad with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, etc.).

On the way home from Vremščica, I think I had one of my most authentic gostilna experiences.  We decided to stop at a little gostilna in a place called Lokev.  Clearly we were not locals, so the proprietor brought us a plate of fresh local porcini mushrooms and gave us a brief overview of the 320 some years in which the establishment has been in the hands of his family.  In addition to the mushrooms, we also had kruh (bread), a creamy scrambled egg and mushroom dish, veal with the chopped/baked potato dish that I can never remember the name of, and fresh borovnica (the small wild blueberries, not to be confused with our plump Ameriški borovnica) with vanilja sladoled (vanilla ice cream).

When it was finally time to leave, I arrived at the airport outside Trieste only to find out that the Italian airline was convinced that I did not have a ticket on the flight to Rome – despite the printed confirmation from its American partner through which I had purchased the entire itinerary that said otherwise.  I ended up having to purchase a new ticket for that flight just so that I could make it to Rome and make my remaining flights.  Still, they would only check my bags (2 suitcases!) through Rome, which meant that I had to pick them up, take them across 3 terminals and re-check them in a less than one and a half hour layover.  Honestly, I have no idea how both my bags and myself made it on to that flight.  But, in the end, although I was still sad to leave Slovenia, I was just happy to actually make it to my destination as scheduled.

I am going to miss all of the friends that I made in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, as well as the other Americans I met along the way.  I’m going to miss living on the sea.  I’m going to miss teaching in a classroom where I get to look out over the red tile roofs of the old town and the water.  I’m going to miss Evropa pekarna in Koper, not only for their kruh and pastries but also the girls who work there that giggle when I attempt to order in Slovene.  More than any one type of food (although if I had to pick one it would be Istrian pršut), I’m going to miss “experimental eating”.  I think it’s going to take me a while to get out of the habit of mentally describing the food that is in front of me so that I can tell you about it later.  And I’m going to miss all of Slovenia’s amazing landscapes.  It is an absolutely beautiful country.  I am sure that my descriptions did not do it justice, but perhaps some of my pictures over the past 6 months gave you some indication.

But, now that I’m back, I suppose that there are some things I can look forward to – like visiting my family in Ohio, catching up with my friends in Texas, eating cheeseburgers, using Ziplock bags, listening to new American alt-rock, and moving into a flat with a dishwasher!  Beyond that, I will look forward to going back to Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia to see all of those places I didn’t get to and all of those people that I will miss until then.


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