I arrive late at night to my hostel, and reception is supposed to be closed for the night. Thankfully, I am emailed a code to enter. When I enter the lobby, the receptionist refuses to check me in, as he has already counted up the register, but points me to a bed and tells me to pay in the morning. Past eleven, the two-room hostel still bustles with activity as the post-bar crowd struggles into and out of the shower, does laundry for the night, and hydrates to stave off a hangover. I am the most tired, it seems, and after securing my items under the bed in the semi-dark, I fall quickly asleep despite the heat and sweat because I sleep naked under the duvet cover I have already stripped from the heavy down comforter. Hostel life, sooner or later, turns one into an exhibitionist. I sleep well and awake first.
In Bolivia, I had the pleasure of meeting a former Ljubljana free walking tour-guide named Barbara who was happy to give me a Sparknotes version of her schtick while on the free walking tour of La Paz. In many Slavic languages, including Russian and Slovenian, “Ljub-” means “love,” and so Ljubljana is often called the “beloved” city as a result. This title is well deserved. The charming Ljubanica River flows clean and blue along the riverfront walk that spans the city. High behind the banks, however, looms the city’s most impressive attraction: Ljubljana Castle. A funicular, which runs 1.5 Euros one-way for students, takes tourists to the top although the more active can easily surmount the various switchbacks that lead to the summit. Though views are spectacular, the museums and exhibits cost several Euros and do not appear worth it. I happily scale down the mountain as the heat begins to creep into the city.
At Spar, which I gather is the cheapest supermarket in the region, I buy some intriguing local pastries for breakfast. The most impressive is a fat Slovenian strudel that instantly waters the mouth of this apple-picking Nutmegger. The smallest slice feels like eating half an apple pie, and I am sustained until dinner.
When I return to the hostel, the administrator has arrived and she happily checks me in, complaining the entire time that the person last night gave me the wrong bed along with several other guests. She moves me further from the door, and closer to the window, next to where a gorgeous South Indian girl is on her laptop. I decide I have little to do, so I shower and sit across from her, tapping my keys, too, until we strike up a conversation.
While her family hails from Kerala, she holds a Malaysian passport and has been working in Croatia for several years after a brief, disappointing, career in law. She also, like so many folks who inhabit these hostels, exists in a state of transition between jobs that is filled with traveling and self-discovery. We buy beers and spend the day on the terrace along with a Serbian man, who barely understands what we are saying, but smiles and nods along. The administrator has stepped out and the Serb waits with us to beg to sleep on the couch, as the hostel is full and he doesn’t want to search online so he can secure a better rate. He disappears the moment the boss comes back and tells him the beds are all full.
In the afternoon, a couple of German vegan girls stop by and the four of us go to Metelkova, which is listed as an “art and cultural center” on Google, but is so much more. Like Copenhagen’s Christiania, Metelkova is an autonomous district where rules of normal life do not apply. The center is situated in a former military barracks, and spray paint, drugs, and drinking are a part of life like street lamps and coffee. We meet a friend of the Malaysian ex-lawyer, a long-haired man with a week-old beard and a guitar, the exact type of person one would expect to meet in such a place, and he begins singing songs about birds, trees, and whatever objects surround him. The German girls express a desire in buying food, so I leap into this opportunity to get out of such an uncomfortable situation.
For someone who sleeps almost exclusively in hostels, many of which are essentially communes, I find the idea of hanging around while a guy strums whimsical, unprompted ditties on acoustic guitar to be unjustifiably repellent. Why does every party, hostel, party-hostel, and hostel-party have to have so many of these people? I support musicianship, but I often believe live music should be treated like sex: either performed in private between consenting people or, if in a public arena, the audience should be very aware of what is happening. That is to say it should take place in the proper context. Music should also be performed in public strictly by professionals. By the time I return, I am tired, as I have eaten half my volume in vegan food and been cracking 75-cent beers with the Malaysian lawyer since early afternoon. It is time to turn in for the night.
It is early afternoon in Ljubljana when the bus that is to convey me to Budapest arrives late to the bus station. Though many travelers are waiting, relatively few board this bus and I, once again, have a row to myself. On the long drive, I book a hostel west of Budapest, as it is from there that I am to take the bus the following morning to Krakow, and then from there another to Kiev. Now, I am to move eastward until I hit Japan and the easy part being near done gives me a sense of the long road that lay ahead, through places few ever think to visit.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.