Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Becalmed at Lake Bled

How recent history repeats itself! Six months ago, the day after our wedding, Theo and I were both afflicted with various maladies, namely a stomach bug (in both our cases) and severe laryngitis in mine (which had robbed me of my voice for my wedding day). Today, half a year on, we have postponed our planned return to Italy because we've both been struck down by a chest infection. Well, struck down is maybe a little overdramatic. We don't feel too bad, but our lungs are rather tight and tickly and our voices have taken a husky dive into our boots. You would have thought with all this fresh mountain air and our reasonably healthy lifestyle would see us in the pink, but no. Still, you can't argue with Lake Bled as a stunning place to convalesce. The nights have a distinct autumnal nip in the air, but the sky is blue and it feels very warm in the Slovenian sunshine. Even the snowy caps on the alps overlooking the lake have quite melted away. We are now doing what invalids are supposed to - eating grapes, lazing around and reading books - while taking advantage of the pause in our journey to do a bit of laundry.

So I thought I would mention one of the other attractions of Slovenia aside from its stunning scenery. The Slovenians themselves.

The fact that they are multilingual, with just about everyone able to manage a bit of English, German and Italian as well as their own language, makes life much easier for the visitor. But time and time again we have also seen how friendly, helpful and kind they are - as well as having a sense of humour we can easily understand.

When we shopped at the large outdoor market in Ljubljana, one stallholder threw a few extra onions and small bulb of garlic into our bag after we had paid, another gave us each a generous slice of cake on the completion of our transaction. In Italy you get that sort of thing all the time if you happen to have a small child in tow, but this was just us.

You never get the impression that tourists are a necessary evil to be simultaneously endured and ripped off, as we have found in some other places. Here, the attitude is welcoming and patient. Letting visitors endlessly ring the bell in the church on the island in Lake Bled would surely drive most people crackers quite quickly, but here they encourage you to have a go. Mind you, it makes life confusing if you happen to be wondering what the time is.

Which leaves me wondering why my bank views Slovenia with suspicion and won't let me access my bank account online from here. Of all the Balkan countries, it's easily the most up-to-date and efficiently run.

Still, what do they know?

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