Slovenia: A Fantasy Land Nestled in the Mountains - My Family Travels

Sweat is dripping down my back and as I sit slumped on the sofa, the book on the coffee table seems to mock me. On the cover, in big bold lettering, the word Slovenija spans across a picture of a tiny church on a tiny island surrounded by radiant turquoise waters. I look out the window and watch the sun’s scorching rays beat down on the limbs of listless trees.  I can’t believe that this is the same sun that, thousands of miles away, gently warms the tops of lush mountains speckled with the crumbling remains of Slovenia’s once stately castles. As powerful memories overwhelm me, I can almost feel the cool mountain air enveloping me and transporting me far from this merciless heat…

My family and I have journeyed to Slovenia multiple times (my mother is Slovenian and her entire family lives there), but each trip is a completely new, refreshing adventure. The adventure always begins at my grandparent’s house, in the town of Tržic, 30 miles from the capital city of Ljubljana. Cow skin rugs, still in the shape of the animals they once embraced, line the floors, ready to welcome four extra pairs of feet into the little red-roofed house. The smell of flowers and freshly baked bread mingles occasionally with the pungent, yet strangely comforting smell of compost and manure from the barn. Also from the barn drifts the sound of cows, pigs, and chickens; after a few nights this racket seems to melt into the surrounding silence. Fields of crops undulate through the village, leading to thick woods where a strange tree fort begs to be climbed. A quick bike ride in the opposite direction leads to the Alps, where cafes, chapels, or castles are perched on nearly every peak.

During our trip, my family and I visit an array of tourist attractions and local haunts. Lake Bled boasts aqua waters similar to those pictured on the cover of Slovenija; we sit by the water’s edge with chocolate ice cream cones and though the cones are small, my little brother has enough to smear over his face and my clothes. A hike through Zadnja Trenta, a valley deep in the Julijske Alpe, is equally memorable and thankfully less messy. In Ljubljana, we walk over a bridge guarded by a fierce green dragon and I feel like a medieval princess at Ljubljanski Grad (Ljubljana Castle). In the city of Kranj, cobble stone streets are dotted with quirky shops and outdoor cafes shaded by large, colorful umbrellas.

Our ventures are not limited to places within the country. We take day trips to museums and zoos in Austria; we almost make it to Venice, but a massive downpour prevents us from visiting this city on water.  However, every trip always brings us back to my grandparent’s house. Moments spent there are the ones I love the most: riding in my grandpa’s tractor; playing unnecessarily elaborate games of hide and seek with neighborhood kids; eating barbequed cevapcici for dinner; feeding pigs the green grapes that dangle from lacey vines; exploring the attic on rainy days; watching blue-green mountains blur into the vast sky…

Slovenia and my home of Rockville, Maryland feel like two distant worlds. Sometimes I wonder if my imagination has spawned false memories, turning a fragment of former Yugoslavia into a fantasy land. Yet when I close my eyes, I can picture Slovenia in details too vivid to have been imagined, and when I open my eyes again, Slovenija lies on the coffee table, affirming what seems impossible.   


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