Travelling companions at the end of the line
Next year it will be ten years since this encounter and yet I still haven’t told many about it.
It was September 2012 and I was travelling back home from my first visit to Tuscany and amore was still in the process of becoming one. The goodbye was tearful and decisive. Yes, we would meet again, we cried, and again, and again.
But that was the first time and you can imagine how I was feeling on the train back which was taking me via Venice to Trieste, a few kilometres from the Italian-Slovenian border and 100 km from Ljubljana where I was born and lived all my life.
And Trieste is where I stopped.
You see – there was no way to reach Slovenia from Trieste on a Sunday at 6 pm or so. I counted on the bus travelling from Florence to Bulgaria but it was hours late (really, hours, we counted them off) and when it finally arrived, it was fully full.
By then I had become we. Waiting at the Trieste bus station there were three of us who had to reach Ljubljana that Sunday evening.
A guy from Berlin had to be at a technical conference Monday morning and had been travelling around Europe for a while (“Who thought of organising a conference in such a hard-to-reach location?”).
A woman from Russia was living and working in Ljubljana as a basketball manager. She suggested buying off the driver of the bus bound for Bulgaria to let us on even if the bus was full. The Berliner said: “But isn’t that dangerous?” And us women giggled the Slavic when-did-danger-ever-stop-anything giggle.
Alas, the bus was clearly ready to pop as it rolled in and we had to think of something else.
There was no more train or bus to Slovenia that evening, even though I could see it just above Trieste. We assaulted every bus that drove into the station with our request but they either stopped for the night or continued to Croatia.
I was thinking. That weekend my parents were not in their Piran home, some 30 km from Trieste, and I didn’t have the key. They were waiting for me in Ljubljana.
I called an unofficial taxi that drove between Slovenian coast and Trieste often and he crossed the border to pick us up. He charged per person. We weren’t sure where we wanted him to drop us off. We picked a gas station on the highway near Koper, Slovenia’s largest port. Would we need to search for a hotel somewhere?
What I didn’t mention is that I was carrying the heaviest bag the world had ever seen. My companions were similarly burdened.
We called the son of the Russian and taught him how to use the most useful car-sharing app, which often comes handy. However, as I imagined, nobody was offering to take three people from the coast to Ljubljana that evening.
I got us some Union beers and sandwiches. This was the photo moment. We might have been lost in space but the company was decidedly cheerful.
With not many ideas left, the Russian called her faithful taxi driver in Ljubljana and convinced him to come pick us up (some 100 km) and drove us to Ljubljana. He came really soon too, a jovial Bosnian fellow with a ponytail, our saviour, and played Balkan music really loud and we howled along, and then he pointed towards the highway where cars were starting to line up and said: “Look, an accident!”
Indeed it was one and so we had to take the regional road and that took much longer than it normally would, but we did it. We reached Ljubljana around midnight.
What would be the most memorable first travel back from Tuscany in any case, thus became an even bigger one. So much so that I still remember all these details almost ten years later. Back then we exchanged emails with my two travelling companions. The photo I sent them then, and now I will send them the link.
For Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by Sarah at Travel with me: Meet
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