Slovenia And Croatia - Part 1: Caves, Halloween, and Prison

You may have thought I wasn't writing because I didn't have any stories, but that's not true.  I had stories, I just didn't have time or internet.  I'll try to give you the highlights.

Day 1:  I left Békéscsaba to stay in Pápa, Hungary for the night.  I got out of school early and had plenty of time to pack.  But, whenever I'm early, I always move slowly and end up late.  It's a curse.

I left with just enough time to make the 20 minute walk to the train station and life was good.  Halfway there, I realized I forgot to put on my shirt.  That's right, I was only wearing an undershirt and left my polo shirt at home.  Since I only had three shirts for 10 days of travel, I needed it.  I ran home, grabbed it, and literally ran to the train station.  Then I had three shirts, and one of them already smelled.

I arrived in Pápa and it was like a scene from a Halloween movie.  There was a big, tree-lined street that was devoid of any other humans, but I could hear screams and dogs in the distance.  That seems to explain why so many horror movies are set in this neck of the woods.

Day 2:  Joined by my two travel companions, Angie and Heather, we started our journey south.  After crossing a river of the famous Red Toxic Sludge, we got to Ukk, Hungary for a five hour layover.

The conductor chased us off the train to make sure we were in the right place, but he didn't speak English.  Since we don't speak Hungarian our conversation consisted of one word, "Ukk".  He would say it, we would repeat it, he would say it again, and so would we.  The changing of tones convinced us he thought it was stupid to get off here, but we were sure it's where we needed to be.

He was smart.  Ukk was tiny.  I mean really, really tiny.  We couldn't find a town.  After an hour or two in an empty, one-room train station I couldn't take it anymore.  I started wandering and found a small town on the other side of a cornfield.  We looked so out of place that a very nice, very toothless man stopped his car and got out to try and help us.  Again the language barrier got in the way, but it gave us more faith in humanity.

Eventually, we took the train out of there.  We had a relaxing ride to Ljubljana, Slovenia, but I only had one beer to drink on the train.  Ukk not having any stores had really messed up my plans.

Day 3:  Slovenia is on the Euro, so I watched my money fly out of my wallet.  We saw a castle, ate lunch in the rain, and went to a bar full of skeletons.  It was Halloween after all, so it seemed like destiny that there was an underground bar full of dead people.

That night, we took a bus to Lake Bled.  It wasn't a giant, red lake, but it was awesome.  We couldn't find the place we were staying, so we had to wander in the pouring rain for a while.  Fortunately, a dog adopted us and happily followed along.  Angie named him Happy and wanted to keep him, but Heather tried to kick him.  Someone tell PETA.

We found the place on a very Halloweeny street.  It was dark, rainy, and scary.  Instead of a typical hostel, it was just a house where the rooms were rented out.  If you want to see what it looked like, just close your eyes.  Imagine you have a grandmother who lives in the former Yugoslavia.  This is what her house would look like.  I had a room all to myself with the coolest picture of a monkey on the wall.

Day 4:  We went to a castle on a cliff.  We went to a church on an island.  We hung out with some other American teachers we know.  We drank hot wine while walking around a lake.  We ate desert first and dinner second.  We had a beer in a shopping center named Gaddafi.  We slept in the same place two nights in a row.

That sums up that day.

Day 5:  We got up really early so we could catch a bus to the train station.  It was where I began my new hatred of buses.  The landlady had helped us check times on the internet, but this particular bus no longer existed when we got to the stop.  Instead of being warm and comfortable in my room with monkey art, I watched high school kids chain smoking in the rain.

It wasn't a waste of a day though, because we went to caves.  The first cave had a roller-coaster-like train to take you deep inside - it was just like Indiana Jones.  There were a million tourists, and most of them were from Korea.  But, don't worry, they made sure to tell us they were from South Korea, not the North.  Then they pushed us out of the way.  Now that I think about it, they seemed to be more interested in pushing people than seeing the cave.  Maybe that's why the Koreans don't get along with each other.

Next, we went to a castle.  A different castle, though, because this one was in a cave!  It's probably the coolest castle I've ever seen.  You should go there.  I don't remember the name, but you could always push your way on to a bus full of Koreans.

There was a free shuttle from the train station to the cave and the castle.  On this shuttle, we met a guy from India.  He was obsessed with finding the internet.  He literally asked everyone - including people in the cave - if there was internet he could use.  He also asked for our e-mail addresses.  On our way back to the train station, the bus driver said, "That guy from India was nice, but he wanted my e-mail address.  I wasn't sure why, but I gave it to him."  I can't wait to see what he sends me.

We spent that night in prison.

But, I'll have to finish the story tomorrow, because I need to get some rest.