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The Way Is The Goal

Finally the Balkans, right?

So I managed to arrive in the Slovenian Capital Ljubljana in just less then four hours. I thought that would be it: I finally arrived in the Balkans. But there is some confusion about this. One person told me it is not really part of the region, but rather Central Europe, and yet another tells me it is. It is clear for me anyhow this country has a bit of everything, it seems to me a nice mixture of Austrian Folklore, Italian style and Balkan Temperament. But one thing is for sure, I arrived in a real hitchhikers-country.

It took me only two cars, after my Graz host dropped me at a rest-area on the highway close to the border, 250 km away from Ljubljana. Whereas the first driver, an Austrian, asked me to hold his beer at the border, the second was a hitchhiker himself.

This time I made a late start. Paul, my host in Graz, could drop me at the highway but couldn’t leave before two. I decided to take it easy, and to rest before traveling instead of my normal routine to start early. Resting appeared to be a good choice.

While the rest-area where Paul dropped me was not full with cars -in fact I only spoke to another Dutch person who was very surprised to meet a hitchhiker around there- I did receive pretty quickly a ride from an Austrian party-freak who has lived in Slovenia for nine years already (“who likes Austria anyway?”). He stopped at the gas-station to buy some beer for on the way.

He dropped me at a spot in the second biggest city of Slovenia, where after some minutes two more hitchhikers appeared. They were standing exactly in the way for my cars to stop, but soon they realized and they moved backwards. They were a Slovenian couple going to Celja, a town on the way to Ljubljana, my destination. I was happy they were respecting some codes…

And then finally I had my first real Slovenian ride as a guy pulled over once the couple had moved. As he told me he was first going to Celja I quickly asked if the other two could join as well, which was ok for him. So there we were, three random hitchhikers in the car of … another hitchhiker.

He managed to get a car for a change because of a second job and through a friend but normally he hitchhikes himself to Ljubljana. And no problem of course to pick up other people now. In this country there is still a great hitchhikers culture, I discovered after I heard some more stories and while spotting more hitchhikers on the road.

The guy was an artist himself, a photographer, sculpturer and a school-teacher for art if I am not mistaken. He is also involved in a project to bring back art to the street in the city where he is from. And the funny thing is that when I arrived in Ljubljana, a group of people were painting on the main square. Art is back, I would say, after two weeks of a bit of Austrian dis-art.

2 Comments

  1. great to hear you made it. Nice story Bro. Have a nice time. Just for you to know, Holland is upset. 🙂
    It’s really warm, high temperatures and it has not been raining for over 30 days now. It’s summer here.
    Ciao

  2. In Slovenia public transport sucks and unfortuatelly you need a car to move around. plus (as it happens to ex-communist transition countries which are embracing consummerism in its primitive forms) car is an important status symbol and a clear sign of how materialism driven Slovenia is. However, hitchiking is a very much accepted and (rather) fast and safe method for young people (especially students) to travel in Slovenia. (many of “now drivers” used to hitchike in their youth so there is a kind of cute solidarity in this respect…)
    Slovenia Balkans? Culturally Slovenia is certainly Central European and this becomes apparent once one travel further south and the influences of Austro-Hungarian versus Ottoman past become apparent in things like life-style, values, food, music, architecture etc. (Slovenia also has a bit of Italian/Mediterranean culture) Yet, in times of Yugoslavia(s) there was a mixing of cultures of peoples of the country (region) with which Slovenia became enriched with the ellements from the south. Also, we still are (southern)Slavs! According to my observations of the region (lived in Slovenia and Croatia, traveled Serbia, never Bosnia, traveled Bolgaria, Romania and Turkey extensivelly) Slovenia is a cute mixture of Italian, Germanic, Slavic and Balkan cultural ellements due to its position close to a cultural border (which after all lasted for nearly 500 years). I think that R. Kaplan’s book Balkan Ghosts shows this very well. I would always describe my country as resembling Austria in many respects but with people more lively, vivacious, hospitable, open and more prone to irrationalities than Austrians ;). (Sorry for such a crude generalisation, but….:)

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