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How I ended up blindfolded in a cellar on my second day travelling – A Gap year of Progress Slovenia

How I ended up blindfolded in a cellar on my second day travelling – A Gap year of Progress Slovenia pt 1

Before I delve into my travels I would like to clarify that I did indeed return with all of my limbs intact - albeit at the expense of a good article.

The day of reckoning was finally upon me, a month backpacking solo with only myself to rely on. It was a four week trial to see if 18 years on the planet had provided me with any sort of self sufficiency or independence. Prior to all of this, the furthest and longest I had travelled solo was to Nottingham for one night, which truly paled in comparison for what was I was about to embark upon.

The terror as I strolled towards London Stanstead security alone for the first time in my life; equipped with my Lowe Alpine Carry on Backpack, shaky hands that screamed ‘suspect individual’ and a heart rate on par with Maradonnas after the Nigeria game as I hoped for a streamline entry into the airport .

Luck would have it that once I had placed all my belongings into the trays provided; I still managed to set off the metal detector whilst going through security clearance. I was briskly yanked to one side and thoroughly groped down (this wasn’t the last time such events occurred on my travels but I will delve into that later).

Normally you’d have to buy me a drink and get to know me on a first name basis for such heavy petting, but hey ho if you’re not getting out of your comfort zone on your gap year like I was, then quite frankly you’re doing it all wrong.

I wish I could say things began to go smoothly once I headed towards departures. I had purchased extra luggage allowance unaware it got me priority boarding, meaning I went to the back of the queue like a good little English person unaware of my purchased privileges. So in turn I ended up one of the last on the plane and unable to store my luggage above me which in turn added a nice +5 to my nearly maxed out anxiety stats.

However, once I actually flew into Slovenia and landed in its capital Ljubljana, things began to go as planned. Arguably, the best way to describe Ljubljana is that it’s like Prague’s low key hot sister due to their similar architecture and layout, with Ljubljana starting its ‘glo up’ on the global tourism scene, meaning there are backpackers galore for you to meet and mingle with, but no British stag dos roaming the streets singing Ten German bombers at two in the afternoon.

Getting out of your comfort zone whilst backpacking doesn’t mean you end up abandoning your own habits and routines abroad. I quickly learnt this as within five minutes at my first hostel I was approached my two Glaswegian lads who handed me a tinny, and as you can imagine I obviously didn’t decline.

I had promised family and colleagues I would avoid the drink as best as possible, but this is a world in which Theresa May promised us a good deal for Brexit, so I think it’s safe to say what’s the point in a promise if you don’t break it eventually?

My general game plan for Ljubljana was to go museum and restaurant hopping for the duration of my stay, as it’s a very compact city which is near impossible to get lost in, making it a good warm up destination for the rest of my travels.

A great way to both learn and explore whilst backpacking is by joining a free walking tour, with most cities having at least one tourist agency that offers them both in the morning and evening. You find that most give you the overall gestalt and history of a place but some agencies offer more niche tours that can be tailored to very specific interests.

Once on the walking tour I quickly discovered that many middle aged tourists liked to test the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question. The hapless tour guide was lambasted with questions such as “Is Yugoslavia still a country?” and “what’s the Vatican?” As awkward looks ricocheted around the rest of the tour group, I was struck with the bitter realisation that these forty and fifty something’s shared the exact same voting rights as me – recent events in the world began to make a lot more sense.

(look at that sort with the sign right from centre)

On the topic of democracy, luck would have it that the mayor of Ljubljana was out for a stroll and stopped to speak to our tour guide. His stop was a brief one, and to the tour group’s bemusement he stormed off quickly with a poorly hidden frown. It turned out that the political party the mayor belonged to had suffered significant losses in the general elections the day before, and the tour guide had unknowingly added insult to injury by asking about the election results.

Once the tour concluded I returned to museum hopping, but then I embraced my inner middle class mum and headed towards a Slovenian wine bar for a taster session. It all started out how I had imagined with a selection of local reds and breads, but I was eventually blindfolded and forced to drink alcohol, all by the second day.

But rather than ending up on sky news a week later, I ended up slightly buzzed and with a certificate proclaiming me a Slovenian Wine Ambassador, which in all honesty was the highlight of my first destination.

(Dvorni Wine Bar Ljubljana)

Overall my time was well spent exploring Ljubljana; it was a wholesome introduction to the Balkans as the tentacles of excessive tourism have yet to ruin its picturesque atmosphere. My first stop was also alot less nerve wrecking that I had anticipated; with relatively no mishaps, it turned out I was not the lost little lamb ready to be snatched off the streets as my parents had previously thought.

Yet the older you get you come to learn that your parents are usually right to an extent, which I quickly learnt when I thought I had hopped on the bus to Lake Bled, but in fact I was heading towards the Austrian Border.

Part 2 Coming soon...