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Slovenia’s Changed But is Still a Gem

(above) The Novaks hike Joe’s favorite trail in Slovenia, “where the water flows so clear, you can drink out of the river.” (l-r)Nettie and Joe Novak with cousin Mili and friend Joe.

By Joe Novak

We just returned from Slovenia where we stayed in an Airbnb apartment one block from Ljubljana’s central market, my favorite market in the entire world. The pedestrianized central city is a true people watchers haven where visitors from everywhere converge to shop, eat, drink and mingle. The food is a bargain and so delicious it makes my taste buds dance with memories of past meals. 

The river view where we sat most mornings sipping our coffee and eating peach filled croissants right out of the oven was delightful as the locals walked or biked by on their way to school or work. Did I mention the pretty girls?

It was wonderful visiting my cousins, who treat us like royalty each time we show up. They never seem to tire of my jokes and their grandchildren don’t mind my teasing them. We lost one cousin a few months ago and he is dearly missed. I have reached that place in life where losing loved ones is the norm and I am hoping we meet again in heaven someday.

I amazed myself by renting a car with a stick shift transmission, something I have not driven in 25 years, and managing to never stall it. If only my memory for names would have the same recall. 

The dragon is the Slovenian mascot that sits on Dragon bridge; in fact there are 18 dragons on that bridge, most are smaller.

My wife and I have a standard answer when people ask us what we did in Slovenia. We say we ate, walked, talked, then started over again. My wife does not speak the language and sits patiently while I converse with family. I stopped to translate on occasion, especially if there was hardy laughter. The family does try to include her with their best English so she does not feel left out, but she’s a real trooper and never takes offense for having to sit and guess what the conversation is about. Most people under 40 speak excellent English so navigating the city is easy. 

Slovenia, along with Ljubljana, the capital, is extremely safe any time of day or night; one is more likely to get hit by a bicycle or scooter than get accosted. Pick pockets are common in Europe but less so in Slovenia; being discreet, prepared and aware is always smart when traveling. 

I think this was my last visit since international travel is grueling and there is so much in America the Beautiful that I still need to see. I have always loved traveling, especially with the love of my life by my side. I will start planning my US bucket list soon and hope I can check off a few places before my time is up. Life is like a spool of thread; we can’t see how much thread is on that spool and don’t know if we have one inch or one hundred; we only know someday it will run out. I know of no one who on their death bed stated, “I wish I had not visited so many places around the world.”

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