As I sat on the bus alone it soon became apparent that I wasn’t getting out of my comfort zone, but rather Slovenia. With my intended destination many miles behind me and the Austrian border a few kilometres away, the fear was about to send me into a frenzy like a group of white girls in the club when the DJ plays Gold Digger.
Thankfully I had human instinct to fall back on, and I quickly decided rather than going into Austria, I get off at the nearest place and head for a diner. I arrived at a border town called Jesenice and went to one of its diners; low and behold I found two English speakers that told me a bus was heading towards Lake Bled within the next 10 minutes.
I informed the mother of my survival and boarded the bus to Lake Bled. The Bus itself went through stunning alpine hills with picturesque views all around, except they were all on the other side of the bus from where I was sitting. I spent the entire journey leaning over the edge of the bus isle with my camera stretched out like an Uzi, in what can only be described as a Boyz n The Hood esque drive-by with me snapping away and hoping for the best.
(The town I ‘got lost in’ for all of twenty minutes)
What had turnt into a potential mare ended up becoming a two euro day trip into a quiet little Slovenian mountain town. Its where travel bloggers and backpacking hipsters in twenty years will insist you need to visit to see ‘the real Slovenia’ once Ljubljana goes the way of all major cities in Europe. Yet I had stumbled upon this place before them all.
My first day in Lake Bled was the first day feelings of isolation crept into my psyche, as the drawbacks of solo travelling began to manifest. Yet this didn’t stop me visiting the local sights at all, as I realised it’s better to feel shitty exploring rather than in a bunk bed.
The star attraction of Lake Bled is Bled Island, a naturally formed island in the middle of the lake with a church and museum, with tour boats making the journey hourly. Luck would have it I didn’t just find just a church on the island, but an English wedding ceremony was taking place in the church as well.
After making small talk with the reception I left them to it, yet nearly every other tourist on the island with me had other plans. Like locusts with selfie sticks they burst into the actual church whilst the reception was on and began snapping away. There’s truly nothing that makes a holiday more complete than ruining a couple’s most magical day for likes on instagram.
The hostel I was staying in was composed entirely of Canadians, Americans and Irish; we had managed to reassemble the commonwealth by the second night alone. Doing a shop run to grab a bag of cans for the sesh is a global phenomenon I discovered as the whole hostel went in waves in preparation for the night ahead.
Once the carnage ended and we reaffirmed all the stereotypes of British tourists to the locals; in what can only be described as a linguists wet dream a group of us crashed in the hostel living room to discuss our home countries slang words. I had the honour of explaining to a group of Canadians what a tactical chunder was. In the early hours of the morning someone in our dorm still half pissed threw up in their sleep all over their bunk bed, and one of the Canadians asked me if that was a tactical chunder – I still laugh at that today.
For my final day I explored Lake Bohinj, which is more Skull Island than Slovenia, with its borderline rainforest esque lake and roaming mountains it was hard to believe I was still in Europe.
My first call of action was to go hiking up a vantage point I’d found on tripadvisor that provided stunning panoramic views of Bohinj from atop an alpine mountain. After hiking for an hour in Stan Smiths and being one step away from ruining my ACL for good, I was greeted by lush scenery and a few hundred metre drop; it was truly my first proper ‘Gap Yah’ moment as I was both humbly reminded of my insignificance and mesmerized by Mother Nature.
However, it soon dawned upon me that I wasn’t actually at the vantage point and had wandered up a mountain of my own accord; things soon got better (they didn’t) as my GPS stopped working as well. It was only 12pm and I was already lost up a mountain and I realised I was fucked at best.
Once again I had to fall back onto my primal instincts which told me to head for the nearest river, as rivers are at least not up a mountain to start with, and it meant there would be civilisation nearby. I ended up turning into Rambo for all of 20 minutes as I ‘parkoured’ my way down, skidding and sliding all over the place, and on the basis I am writing this now, it’s safe to say I survived.
Yet one thing that still keeps me up at night on occasion is that on the way down a lot of the trees had bull’s-eyes painted on them, and no amount of googling has told me what it means. Whether it’s to signify the presence of lethal ticks and their bull’s-eye bite, or that I had accidently stumbled across a spot where locals hunt lost tourists I will never know.
Once back in Bled I headed out for the final time and ran into about 15 Irish lads at the local bar. As the son of Irish immigrants I was quick to join in on their antics. As the night drew to an end we sang the national anthem and Celtic classics to a random green jumper someone found on the floor, which functioned as a makeshift tricolour flag and then we went back to dancing to the Vengaboys till the bar shut.
I stumbled back to the hostel once again and I realised how as a solo traveller it’s truly what you make of your location that defines your trip, I would never have been able to say I got lost up a mountain in Slovenia if I listened to the voice in my head telling me to stay in my dorm. Yet my only worry was that I wouldn’t oversleep and miss my coach to Zagreb the next morning.