Slovenia: Ljubljana World Cup and Beautiful Bled
I had an excellent mix of work and play in Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia!
I stepped off the shuttle bus in Venice and thought about how much my travel style had changed. When I first traveled solo, I planned almost every step of my journey in advance, took screenshots on my phone, and even printed out paper directions in case I depleted the battery on my phone. Now, however, I only knew I had to travel from Venice to Ljubljana and a shuttle company ran a bus every few hours. I walked up and down the street that doubled as a bus station until I found a minivan that read “Ljubljana” on the side. I approached the driver, asked how much, hopped inside, and thirty five minutes later the bus left Italy for Slovenia!
I enjoyed the beautiful scenery as I made my way to my twenty-first country. Upon arrival, I found my hostel, dumped my backpack, and wandered around the small capital city. The city has many bridges, beautiful old buildings, and a castle located on top of a large and steep hill. I returned to my hostel, declined an invitation to visit a local brewery, and instead watched Pacific Rim Championships podium training.
The next day I ate breakfast in the hostel, watched highlight videos of podium training, and then headed to Stozice Arena for the first day of the Ljubljana World Challenge Cup. The organizers provided me with a press pass and a seat with a desk. A staff member brought me official results with rankings and difficulty and execution scores and also bottles of water. I did not have internet access nor a computer in Cottbus, which resulted in my taking paper notes and typing up on the results andthoughts later. The desk and press wifi allowed me to provide results and updates in between rotations and take much better notes than the ones I had scribbled in Cottbus. I returned to Stozice Arena the following two days to view and report on the conclusion of the competition, which did not contain as high a level of competition as it had in previous years. The Rio Test Event took place the next weekend and many gymnasts and federations chose the Test Even rather than the small Slovenian competition.
While in Budapest in December, someone suggested I visit Bled, Slovenia and showed me a picture of a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains with an island in the middle. I did not head towards Slovenia then but left Bled on my list of places to eventually visit. I decided to visit Bled at the conclusion of the Ljubljana World Challenge Cup and the small but beautiful town did not disappoint. I remained in the town for three nights during which I walked around the lake multiple times, watched the sunset from the castle nestled on a cliff high above the lake, visited a beautiful gorge, and hiked the to amazing panoramic viewpoint that provided the most amazing view of the lake and mountains. I also tasted the famed “Bled Cake,” which did not agree with my stomach seeing as it comprises of cream on top of cream on top of cream.
Additionally, my Danish friend Lisa and I rowed a boat out to the island in the middle of the lake where I found peanut butter gelato, an amazing surprise seeing as Europe does not really understand peanut butter. I explained to Lisa that in the United States one could purchase hundreds of varieties of peanut butter and that I nearly cried when I returned to the United States and visited the peanut butter aisle of the Upper West Side Whole Foods. I had been overwhelmed at all the different options after so many months of having the option of sugary crunchy peanut butter, sugary creamy peanut butter, or no peanut butter. Lisa and I opted not to venture into the church to ring the wishing bell and instead rowed back to the mainland, which took us quite a while seeing as we could not turn the rowboat in the correct direction even with a very attractive gentleman yelling directions from the dock on the island.
I greatly enjoyed temporarily escaping city life and spending time in a quiet area out in nature but after a few days I got kind of bored. The same evening I ventured out to the island I watched The Talented Mr Ripley on Netflix with a British couple in the hostel because I could not find much else to do. The next day I woke up to gray skies, which I took as my cue to depart and I caught a bus to Ljubljana and then another bus to Zagreb. After three attempts, I finally reached Croatia!