We leave Zagreb shadowed in the remnants of the previous nights storm. Tree branches litter the streets and the cold wind blows us through the streets to the rail station. We pause at a bakery to choose some lunch and T has a meltdown that follows us the km past the bakery to the train, because I chose her food for her as she was taking too long and we had a train to catch. After finishing her lunch, she sheepishly admits that it was excellent and better than what she would have chosen.
The rail station is a little confusing, but we find our train on the departures sign and wait. About 15 mins before our train is to leave a train pulls up. I think it is the previous train, as the time matches more closely. We sit and I start to wonder if I am wrong. I approach someone, and they say this is our train! ooops! We rush on and find our assigned carriage occupied by two women. They move their bags and we settle in. Soon we have introduced ourselves and have a wonderful 3 hour chat with Maya and her sister from the UK and States. Maya keeps telling the girls that they are so lucky to travel and so lucky to have a mom who homeschools them. She tells them to thank me everyday, as I try to hold back tears. This was just what I needed… adult conversation and validation. After days of loneliness, I feel the weight lift and soon I’m smiling and laughing with these two women. They get off at Ljubljana and we continue on to Lake Bled.
We transfer trains in the middle of nowhere and onto a regional train for a 15 min ride. On the ride a older woman calls the girls over and points at the Vintgar gorge below. The kids are awed. She motions us how many more stops to go, worried maybe that we will get off too soon. Her kindness also buoys me, and I’m noticing that all of this kindness is coming in when I most need it.
We walk from the rail station under gloomy dark skies. The temperature hovers near zero and I really regret sending home the warm stuff with Derek. We arrive at our accommodation. A hostel/house thing sitting in the middle of nowhere. Opening the front door into silence, we notice an envelope with my name on it. We are on the top floor under the eaves. The room is sparse and cold. There is no where to cook or even a kettle to make coffee. We soon find out that it is a 15-20 min walk into town and the only food and coffee exists there. This would be fine with me in good weather, but it is drizzling and near freezing and I’m not thrilled. We have to eat though, and I find the closest thing, a pizzeria.
The next morning, it’s awfully hard to get up and going without coffee. We head downstairs to find that there is actually someone here. We meet the most eccentric man manning the front desk, who engages me in an hour long conversation about conspiracy theories while my children try to murder each other. He is oblivious to their need to get moving and hunger and my comments about needing coffee and it is hard to extricate myself from the conversation. Eventually I do and we are on our way into Bled, where we find a pub and have lots of coffee and food.
The day is miserable for exploring, but it is our only day here and I want to see things. We decide not to take a boat to the island, as it is so cold on shore, I”m sure on the water would be worse. We do find a tourist train, which drives around the lake, and we decide to do this instead of walking the 6km loop. After the train, we walk up to the castle where we enjoy wandering the museum and having some cream cake. There is a forge up there, filled with dragons and Z is super happy to be surrounded by her favourite creature.
Back at the hostel, I’m again roped into conversation with the conspiracy dude. I send the kids upstairs with warnings to behave alone up there or else. He continues talking even though I’m in the middle of talking with the kids. I listen for the next hour and a half before I’m finally able to get away and back upstairs. The kids admit they had a fight, but resolved it, so it worked out ok.
I’ve looked at the train connections to Postojna in the morning, and the walkable train station is a no go as we would have to wait for 2 hours in a station in the middle of nowhere. I opt to grab a cab to the further station, which only has a transfer in Ljubljana. On the platform we meet a lovely lady from the UK in her gap year, and have a long conversation about travel. Then two American guys approach, a man and his son. The guy says to me “So what’s your story? I’m so curious!” I tell him a bit about our travels and he says he is impressed and reiterates what Maya from the train said earlier, about them being lucky. The kids say “We know.” Our train pulls up, and we almost miss it, so engaged in the conversation we were having. The trip to Postojna was pretty uneventful.
Postojna is a little town in Slovenia, It is beautiful! We find our apartment, which I had read was a hostel with a shared kitchen, but the elderly woman who runs it gives us the entire basement to ourselves! I’m so surprised and delighted to have our own space. We settle in, find groceries and wander to the park to have a play. The sun comes out and we warm ourselves, after the freezing temperatures of Lake Bled.
The next morning we have plans to visit the Postojna Caves. I bought our tickets online, and booked the package with everything including the castle. What I didn’t realize was the Predjama Castle was 9km away and there is no transport to it at this time of year. I fret a bit about this but trust that it will work out. We explore a cave that has aquarium tanks with the olms or baby dragons, as well as other cave life. We are the only ones in this area and it is magical. We then head to the “Expo” which is another museum where we are the only ones in the building. It is an amazing exposition of the karst system.
Our cave ticket is for noon, and we line up with all the other English speaking people in a massive group. The kids complain that we have to take an organized tour, and a train into the cave. Entering the cave, I hear the woman ahead of me speaking in English to her son. I decide what the hell, I’m lonely I’m going to say hi. “Where are you from?” I ask. She tells me she is visiting from Italy where her husband is posted and we get chatting. I mention something about the castle and trying to figure out how to get there and she offers us a ride! We spend the rest of the day exploring the caves and castle with her and her son, the kids connecting over Pokemon. My kids are so happy to chat with another child in English, especially one who likes Pokemon! It was so amazingly wonderful to connect with another travelling parent. One who gets the loneliness and challenges of travelling with children solo. We really connected and are planning on staying friends! This is why I travel!
The next day we have no plans, and visit the local museum. Again, we are the only ones in the museum and the curator engages me in conversation at the end. He ends up giving me a coffee table hard cover book of photos to take home, and the kids molds of cave bear fossils. We have really enjoyed Postojna, and are a little sad to leave.
Stay tuned for the lowest point of the trip! In the next blog post.