11 September 2008

Day 10: Kočevje–Ljubljana

I found some time today to upload a slew of photos to yesterday's blog, although I couldn't do any manipulation or color correcting to them, so they don't look as good as I would like them to. I'll have to wait for the return to L.A. when I can take some time to fine-tune them all. Until then, here they are, enjoy 'em.

Have I mentioned that driving in Ljubljana is a terrifying experience? I don't just mean parking up on the curb: I'm talking about watching cars fly down narrow roads with pedestrians randomly leaping into the way. A bit like Boston. I wonder how bad Rome is, because I've heard that that is worst place to drive in Europe. This feels pretty damn scary, and I'm only a passenger. I guess that going the wrong way down a one-way street isn't uncommon after all. As for parking, it's very, uh, casual. Does the car fit? Can traffic move past you? Then fine, you can park there.

I'm getting better at navigating the weird way I have to type in order for my writing to translate fast onto a Slovene keyboard—not just the reversal of "y" and "z," but also the confusion with punctuation. For example, parentheses are shifted one key over on a Slovene keyboard.

All right, enough with the technical issues. Back to our story. (Or, as I just typed it for the Slovene keyboard, "storz".)

The morning and afternoon was the requisite "slow time" that I need to have on every long trip. That everybody needs''a chance to unwind on your own. Maja had to take care of some work at the site where her father was building, and Jason went with her, so I stayed in the house, worked on my journals and some writing projects I had. It was extremely relaxing and a good break.

When Maja and Jason returned, we ate pizza again (everybody in Slovenia knows how great the pizza is) and then drove out to Net Café for the swing dance. And again got lost. Maja circled the block, asking five people where to find the place before we finally zeroed in on it. Getting lost in Ljubljana must just be a fashion craze, because everybody does it.

I enjoyed the dance, and did Lindy and Balboa with a number of girls, but in a city as small as Ljubljana, the swing dance scene is extremely tiny and everyone knows each other and aren't used to dancing with new folks. It took some effort to get started, although Maja was always willing to dance with me. She had a harder time getting the men to ask her to dance: they didn't want to leave their comfort zone with the girls they knew. I had the best time dancing with an amicable girl named Natascha, who speaks the best English I've heard so far from a native Slovenian—but she's a linguist, so it makes sense. The music was filled with familiar California bands, including the defunct Indigo Swing and the incarcerated Eddie Reed. They played one of my dance partner Laurel's favorite Indigo Swing tunes, "Baron Plays the Horses," so I'll have to tell her about that. It's amusing to me to hear all these songs from home that I'm familiar with and dance to weekly, and watch a crowd of people dance to them in a setting just like one back in L.A., only to have the music stop and then hear a smattering of a Slavic language from all the dancers. Worlds apart, brought into one world through dance.

Okay Ryan, shut up with the feel-good philosophy.

Back in Kočevje for the night. Tomorrow (or today, actually, since it's past midnight) is Maja's actual birthday, although the party will be the day after. While more preparations are made at the castle for the party, I will probably end up in Ljubljana again and sight-see more, perhaps go to the main art museum.

Oh, here's the Ljubljana coat of arms, with the mascot dragon sitting atop a castle, if you are interested. This flag flies beside the flag of Slovenia and the flag of the EU in places all over the city.