After flying in to a buzzing Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, we rent an SUV, and spend a whole afternoon between setting up the GPS and picking up camping supplies for the next four days. By the time we get to our first stop in Bled, the sky has changed colour from a cloudless, sunny blue to an overcast, moody grey, threatening to send torrents our way any moment. Sheets of rain pour for the next 40 minutes, blurring our view, suspending a sheer curtain between the car windows, the dense forested mountains and glacial lakes that sit like emeralds on our route.
In Slovenia, we experience good roads and little traffic—perfect conditions for travellers who are only on their second road trip after a camping and driving journey through Iceland earlier. Although the differences between the Nordic Island nation and the Balkan Alpine state are vast and incomparable, we are completely charmed. It is said that Slovenia is so small and neatly put together that one could drive most of its motorable distance in under six hours. Predictably, we have reached Bled, its touristy crown jewel, in under 50 minutes from Ljubljana and after a brief misunderstanding (we almost parked in someone else’s garage at the suggestion of the B&B owners’ 10-year-old), we are greeted by the proprietors, a Chinese couple. While the man introduces us to Bled and its surroundings in halting English, I watch his wife clear up the dining room. The woman wears a fixed smile as she goes about her tasks, avoiding eye contact, and I wonder how out of place she must feel in a country so different from her own, with a hotel to run and a family to raise. With nightfall still a couple of hours away and the rain gone, we step out to explore the cool, forested village of Ribno.
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