Bled and Bohinj

Everyone in Ljubljana has been telling me to visit Bled and Bohinj and I finally had the chance to go! I woke up early in order to have sufficient time to explore, but things never really go as planned for me. Blindly trusting google maps, I ended up at the wrong bus station, walking around completely lost. Waiting for another bus took an extra 20 minutes and by the time I arrived at the correct bus station, my bus had departed. Two hours later than I had intended, I was on the full bus to Bohinj. Pushing through people, I snagged a window seat and I’m so glad because it was the prettiest bus ride imaginable. Slovenia is seriously such a geographically gorgeous country.

DSC_3056Edit     One by one people stepped off the bus until I was the only one left. Starting to think I was hopelessly lost, hearing the bus driver say a bunch of Slovenian words ending with “Bohinj” was so relieving. DSC_3011EditI got off the bus and started wandering around in the mountains around the lake. Hiking through the woods brought me upon several beautiful streams and waterfalls, I’m so glad I chose the lesser traveled path through the woods instead of by the lake. Walking around in the woods was so relaxing and wonderful. I’m used to walking around in the woods back in Missouri so this was a nice transformation of scenery. I didn’t actually take very many photos while at Bohinj because I was so entranced by my surroundings and also I had to run back through the path to get back to the bus to Bled.

Once at Bled, I stepped off the bus into the cutest little town settled around a lake, with a beautiful castle on a hill overlooking everything. Wanting to get the best view, I trekked up a million stairs up to the castle. There was a cute little museum, a restaurant, a blacksmith shop, and a gift shop, but the most appealing aspect was the view. DSC_3100EditOnce atop the castle, you can overlook the whole lake with a nice view of the mountains. I can’t really capture the essence of being there, but hopefully the photos do it some justice. You can kind of see a little island in the middle of the lake with a little church on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go out onto the island and see the church even though it would have been extremely interesting. Maybe I’ll take another trip to Bled before I leave Slovenia.DSC_3091EditDSC_3107Edit.jpg

Before the day was over, I had more bus troubles. My bus was scheduled to come at 6pm or technically 18.00 here, but they didn’t have one come until an hour later. So, I walked back over to the lake and snapped some photos of the castle at night and then wasted an hour at a small cafe. DSC_3304EditBack at the bus station, there were about 5 people waiting at the bus station. One of them happened to be a girl my age, so I went over and asked her if she was also studying in Slovenia and she replied in an American accent that she was studying in Germany but visiting Slovenia. This is the first American I’ve met here and she happened to be from North Carolina near the same area my sister and brother-in-law used to live, sort of a weird coincidence. We spent the whole hour bus ride back to Ljubljana talking. It was nice to talk with someone from my country for a little bit, but it made me appreciate my experiences with meeting people from all over the world a bit more. It’s much more enriching to have a conversation with someone from a different culture, learning about differences and similarities between customs and norms. Anyway… it’s really late here and I’m falling asleep. Thanks for keeping up with me!

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Abandoned Buildings Wherever I Go

At home, I love visiting abandoned places and it never crossed my mind that I would find one here in Ljubljana. Originally, I planned on going to the center of the town and attempting to find a bridesmaid dress for my sister’s wedding but my day turned out completely different. As soon as I had gotten to the bus stop, I received a message from the girl who lives in the room next to mine asking me if I wanted to go on a walk with her. She is from Lithuania and seemed amazingly nice so of course I said yes. We ended up walking across town to Tivoli park which is basically woody hills with walking/hiking paths. Stumbling upon an impressive abandoned building, we began inspecting ways to get closer. Climbing up the hill to get closer, we realized the whole building was surrounded by fencing to keep people out. Personally, I was ready to jump the fence and enter into the creepy old building but wasn’t sure if she’d be down for the adventure as well. DSC_2939Edit.jpgShe ended up telling me about an abandoned building she used to visit in Lithuania which ended up getting torn down and how she wanted to go into this building as much as I did. So I hopped the fence, went on in and she followed after. The building looked like an old hotel or maybe apartments, we both discussed how it was a shame it had been abandoned. We climbed up the three flights and discovered the top had been burned, explaining the abandonment. Finding a patio, we climbed out a window and onto the landing then into another section of the building. DSC_2957Edit.jpgA creaking door slammed shut behind us and we had a brief moment of terror, we chalked it up to the wind but still disturbed, climbed back through the window to the main section of the building. Turning the corner into what looked like an old bathroom, she gave a little shriek, apprehensive I hurried over to see what had startled her. There were red, bloody, dragged handprints on the walls thanks to a previous disturbed graffiti artist. After a laugh, we went back down the rail-less cement stairs and left. I will have to come back later when it’s not freezing and take some sweet self-portraits.

Next, we went to one of the two Mexican restaurants in Ljubljana. We sat down, I expected a waiter to come bring us chips and salsa as per usual in America but they never came. I explained how in our Mexican restaurants, we always get free chips and salsa before our meals and she thought that was amazing and also abnormal. I ordered taquitos because it seemed like a safe choice that couldn’t be messed up… I was incorrect. Mexican food here is so incredibly disappointing, hahaha. IMG_1029We take it for granted, but we are truly blessed by the rich hispanic culture in America and benefit greatly through wonderful food. They served my taquitos with nacho cheese, like sports arena nacho cheese. So weird. Also, the taquitos tasted like nothing, so bland and plain. Maybe I’ll try the other Mexican cantina and see how that one holds up. Although, I may just stick to the pizzerias and Italian food. I’ll keep updating you guys with my food adventures here in Ljubljana. I need to try some actual Slovenian entrees soon. I’m a little hesitant though because it’s a lot of soups, meat, sausage, and potatoes. The only thing on that list sounding appetizing to me is potatoes so wish me luck.

Dancing and Desserts

First week of classes is in the books. My first class was Critical Theory of Culture and the professor dived right into his four hour lecture on human consciousness, Hegelian dialectics, commodity fetishism, phenomenology of the mind, and all sorts of other fun convoluted theories. Pretty intense way to start my semester, I’m going to need some serious concentration to stay awake during his lecture. Next day I had an 8am class called Media Criticism and we watched Citizen Kane in it’s entirety during the first class, I was ecstatic. I definitely look forward to whatever this professor has in store for us this semester. After this class, I went to find the bookstore to buy my textbook. The problem is I had no idea where the bookstore was, so I was just wandering around aimlessly around the faculty. Luckily, I noticed another girl from my class also wandering around aimlessly. I watched as she went up to a Slovenian student to ask where to buy the textbooks and slyly joined them down to the copy shop. The Slovenian student ordered three copies of the book for our class and then relayed the message to us that it’d be 20 minutes until our books were ready. I ended up having coffee and pizza with the girl who was from the Netherlands, and the Slovenian student from my class. It was nice to chat with new people for a little while, until our books were ready. Prepared to spend $100 on my new textbook, I was happily surprised by my 10£ book! Europe’s higher education system is most definitely treating students better than I’m used to. I told several people how much I’m used to spending on textbooks each semester and they were all equally astounded by the figure.

Wednesday night, the faculty of social work put together an event for foreign exchange students where we learned dances originating in Resia Valley. There was a girl playing the violin and a man who played the cello and taught us how to do the dances.

There were about 40 foreign exchange students spinning, clapping, and stomping together. Normally, I never would have thought to take a classic Resian dance class and I even considered skipping out on this event but I’m so glad I went because it was a fantastic experience and not one that I’d imagine many have the chance to say they’ve done.

This morning I went to an organic, Slovenian food tasting. The providers of the food told us all about their mission to provide fully organic products to the people in Slovenia. Discussing using recycled boxes and better packaging, I became excited about how many people are working around the world to reduce waste and make our earth a better place.  Besides the inspiration, the food they brought was fresh and delightful. Bread, cheese, oils, honey, and fruit, I didn’t even need to go get lunch today!

The best part of the food tasting was dessert. They gave each of us a Krofi which is a doughnut-like pastry with a marmalade center, covered in powdered sugar. I will be determined to get another of these at a bakery before the week is over. After filling my belly with food, I traveled by bus across town to buy myself a bicycle. The thing about traveling by bike everywhere is I haven’t ridden a bike in years and honestly it’s never been my greatest strength so honestly, I’m a bit nervous about it. So I buy the second-hand bike from some guy and wobbly ride it away. Things are going swell until my pant leg gets caught in the gear and I realize I’m going to be forced to walk my new bike an hour back across town to my apartment. Exhausted, I finally made it to my temporary home and was able to get the gear oil stains out of my pants. All in all, it was a good but also terrible day.

Settling into Studies

The past couple days have been very busy with getting ready for classes, filling out paperwork, getting a bus pass, signing up for student meals and other not very fun things. For quite a while, being in Ljubljana has felt somewhat dream-like, that any day I will wake up back in Kansas city. More recently, as I prepare for lectures, it’s becoming reality that I will be living here for five months. This will hopefully become a home away from home. Is it silly that I can already see myself coming back here after a couple years? Maybe with a friend or family member, showing them all my favorite things about Ljubljana. Ah, that sounds nice…but first I need to make it through this semester.

So I’ve had a few interesting experiences at stores here in Ljubljana. The first grocery store I visited was tiny. So incredibly tiny, and stocked full of foreign products with labels all written in Slovenian. Who knew grocery shopping would be such a challenge? Certainly not me. I had a little basket full of simple groceries and also a couple liters of coca-cola because my soda addiction spans the distance of the seas. When I get to the register, the cashier speaks only Slovenian so I try to keep the conversation restricted to hello and thank you until my card gets declined and she continuously says “ne, ne, ne…” with vigor. Thankfully, I brought euros with me and was able to pay and get the heck out of this nightmare. As I go to leave, I realize there are no plastic sacs to put my items into. Re-usable bags are in the hands of all the people behind me in line. Apparently, everyone is expected to have their own bag when they go to the grocery store, which is wonderful for the environment, but terrible for me in this very situation. Defeated, I walked back to my apartment with a package of bread hanging out of my pocket and a pair of 2 liters in my arms.

So, I mentioned a few blogs before a Japanese girl I met in line waiting for my dorm assignment who was super lovely and gave me chocolate when I was starving. Certain I’d never find her again as we are both studying at different faculties, I had forgotten about our meeting until she messaged me on Instagram! We met up and ate lunch together and talked about the city and classes and her dorm. It was really nice getting to talk with her again and perhaps we will meet again sometime in the future. I also met some people at the faculty of social sciences today who I’ll have classes with who were very cool. One of the girls I met at the social science classroom was in my city tour group today and we talked during any down time of the tour about our mutual love of learning and hatred of math. It’s incredible how many amiable foreign exchange students there are here in Ljubljana!

Wish me luck in my first full week of classes!

Finding Narnia… Or Maybe Some New Friends

DSC_2708EditMy newly found friend and her friends let me join along on their trip to Soča Valley where Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia was filmed. I was ecstatic to go along because I love Narnia and read all the books as a child. So after having some rough times in Slovenia thus far, this was the best thing to experience. On the drive to the valley, four girls, all from different countries enjoyed listening to music and singing along. It was fantastic and eye opening. The truth is, even though all of us are from different backgrounds and countries(Ireland, Germany/Slovenia, Belgium, and America),  we all love the same things and got along so incredibly well. The sad thing is, they are all leaving because they studied first semester and I am studying second semester. Oh well, it gives me hope that maybe I can find some more cool Erasmus students during the semester. So we get to the mountains near Soča Valley and the car is struggling to get through the snowy drive and we decide to go back down the mountain because the car won’t go any further. DSC_2793Edit.jpgWe stop at Kranjska Gora and it is unbelievably beautiful! So incredibly sunny, mountains, and crystal clear water. So excited to get photos, I started walking across the snow and ice, into streams(on accident), and over rocks. The water was freezing but it was so clear that I wanted to bend down and take a drink. The views were amazing and I will be sure to go back in the summer even though I know there will actually be people there and I’ll have to share the beauty. After exploring, we sat in a little coffee shop in the valley. It was so nice, and also great coffee.

We still had time in the day so we went to the city of Kranj and walked around the downtown area while getting a slew of fun facts from my new friend whose family lived in Kranj. Beautiful little city with lots of history and charm. At this point, I hadn’t eaten much in Slovenia yet and when we stopped at a little shop for lunch I had no clue what to order. IMG_0821I ended up ordering a pizza burek and it was delightful. Not sure what exactly was inside, but it was delicious and I want another one right now. I will not rest until I find another. Anyway, we went back to Ljubljana and had dinner together and with one girl’s parents. There I learned a couple of things. First, I can’t finish an entire plate of spaghetti to save my life. Second, when people do a cheers with drinks you are expected to look into the other’s eyes that you are clinking with and I failed because I’m awkward. My embarrassed American self will always look people in the eyes when my glass(of water) clinks another’s glass.

Also, I got a new place to live and it’s so much better. I am already remarkably happier. It is more expensive than I was expecting so that’s financially daunting, but students get to eat at the restaurants for only 4.20 Euros which is crazy cheap so hopefully it will all work itself out. I will be careful to not buy much except for some towels and socks because those are very necessary and I’m lacking. Classes are going to begin soon so I probably won’t have as much to write about, unless you want to read about my studies. Thanks for reading, see you soon!

Ups and Downs in Ljubljana

Today I woke up super early to find an atm for the 300 euro cash deposit I needed to make for my dormitory. Then, the lady who owned the AirBnb I was staying in, drove me to the dorm office. Arriving at the dorm office was a bit intimidating as there was a huge line of foreign exchange students waiting outside the office to receive their dorm assignments. I started a conversation with the girl in front of me which is outside my comfort zone, but that’s why I’m here, right? She was a cute Japanese girl with short dark hair and short bangs. We shared common concerns regarding moving into the dorms, I wish we could be dorm mates. She was so sweet and was trying her best to understand my english, she did understand that I hadn’t eaten anything so she gave me a dutch chocolate bar with hazelnuts in it. I wish I knew how to find her again.

My silent taxi driver dropped me off near my new dorms, I got out and struggled to lug my giant suitcase down a bumpy side street to my new home for the next six months. As I opened the door to the floor level, I was hit with an overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke. To the third floor I went to find my assigned room. I opened the door and was greeted again with smoke mixed with old food and trash. I looked into the 4 person shared bathroom and noticed the toilet seat was up. Then I further inspected the kitchen decorations consisting of heavy metal and zombie posters. It finally hit me that my other two roommates were DUDES! WhAt? Defeated, I opened the fridge and found nothing but bottles of liquor, no food, just booze.

Trying to forget about his predicament, I messaged this girl I found through Instagram who studied at the Uni last semester. She met me at my bus station and helped my buy my own bus card before showing me which bus to take downtown. She showed me around town, gave me advice, and provided some much needed conversation. She is from Belgium, but speaks english very well because in Europe almost everyone learns to speak english at a young age. fullsizeoutput_5fe9.jpegShowing me her favorite places in Ljubljana, she took me to a pizzeria called FoculuS and it was amazing! Fun fact, they did not cut the pizza for me which is abnormal in America. The cheese was so fresh and delicious. Mmmmm. The whole pizza costs only 4.20 euros($4.74 for my American readers) plus access to a salad/soup bar. So cheap right??? And that is almost every restaurant in the city, they all let students eat a meal for the same price. We then met up with two of her friends and they were all so nice. They took me to the center of Ljubljana and to an ice cream shop called Cacao. SzDDtKF%Q7+w4wKGyngw3w.jpgI got raspberry ice cream which was blissfully delicious. America is doing ice cream wrong, that’s for sure haha. The more I talked to these girls, the more I felt comfortable. They were sarcastic, loved Disney movies, enjoyed art, loved all the puppies, and also wanted to shop at H&M. So they were basically friends I’d have in America only they were all from different countries with fun accents(I’m sure I have a fun accent to them as well) and a background of different culture.

I’m back in the dorms and struggling with fighting my asthma and terrible, never recovering from cancer lungs to breathe in this smoke-filled dorm. My eyes are burning from the smoke, do you know that feeling? Maybe not, but it happens to me anytime I’m around smoke for too long. I am going to try and change dorms if possible, for my own health concerns. Today was stressful and frustrating but also fun and hopeful. We shall see what this adventure has in store for me in the next coming days. Thanks for reading y’all(yes, I have faked a Southern accent for someone here).

Sunday Stressing

I woke up super late today, turns out my body is not yet acclimated to the time zone. Today is Sunday which means that everything is closed in Ljubljana. Luckily, I took some time today to stress out about moving into the dorms tomorrow. I’ve met a couple of people who are familiar with the student dorms and they all said they are notorious for partying and chaos. I do not like partying, or chaos. Sitting alone, reading a book is my ideal night. Plus, I have to have 300 Euros in cash for the dorm so I have to get up super early and wander around until I find the atms. Nervousness is overwhelming when I think about all the potential terrible situations I could be placed into. Hopefully all will be well, I will update you later.

Culture shock is beginning to set in as the euphoria of being in a new city is wearing off. It is incredibly odd not being able to understand anyone around me. The culture here is very different than America and I don’t think I have fully grasped  how to behave or respond to the local people here. Also, I felt like I haven’t had an actual conversation with a person in a while.

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Window of my AirBnb

Luckily the lady who owns the AirBnb I am staying in asked me if I wanted some tea and an apple from the market so I had the opportunity to sit with her talk for about an hour. It was wonderful to listen to her point of view on issues such as healthcare and the environment. She had so many brilliant things to say about her city and the people living here. Apparently, Slovenia is one of the safest countries in the world! It was so nice to talk to somebody and she also offered to give me a ride to the dorm office tomorrow. So incredibly sweet. No regrets on deciding to stay with a local in their apartment instead of staying in a private room with no human interaction like I normally would have. Look at me benefitting from stepping out of my comfort zone!

While I was outside walking around and trying to stop my overwhelming anxiety, a small friend found me. A CAT! A black and white cat walked up to me and started weaving between my legs.BCDFAD88-E873-410E-975C-CEEB41E924FA As I crouched down to pet the cat, it jumped into my lap! So here I am sitting criss-crossed on a cobblestone street in Ljubljana with a cat on my lap and a huge smile on my face. I love cats. For goodness sakes, my nickname is Kat. It was like God sent me this cat to calm me down, make me feel at home, and tell me everything was going to be alright. I might be looking into it, but honestly that cat made my entire day better.

Wish me luck tomorrow! Thanks for reading.