2018 Day 61 – Venzone and Slovenia

Ho hum, the rain has come. It’s the last day of summer but instead of going out in a blaze of glory, the heavens weep for its passing.

Venzone presents a beehive of activity. A Saturday market we’re hoping, but it turns out to be a 110th anniversary celebration. I’m not quite sure of what, but clearly 1908 was an important year. The internet and posters offer no clues. The men are dressed in green felt hats with jaunty feathers – the posters tell us there’s a day full of celebrations planned.

There’s time for a last look through the village. A sachet of local lavender has to be purchased – the first one I’ve found that’s as intensely scented as the lavender grown in Provence.

We also find a building destroyed by the earthquake, preserved in memorium. It’s a sobering insight into the devastation wrecked upon the village in 1976.

Just before midday we’re on the road, Slovenia bound, with the challenges of heavy rain and finding an ATM deep in the countryside before we leave Italy.

The last one we tried said “service not available”, causing a small flurry of panic. We have success eventually, just before we cross.

Our bank does not have a reciprocal arrangement in Slovenia and there’s always then the risk that a card might not come back out if used in a non reciprocal ATM.

We cross into Slovenia mid afternoon, at Kranjska Gora in the ski fields, but the rain prevents us from exploring.

Trapped indoors, I dive into the new JK Rowling Cormoran Strike novel, Chris is knee deep in Stranger Things.

I have time to ponder on the irony of not understanding the local language. Whilst I can hold my own for the basics in Italy, Germany, Spain and France, the moment we crossed into Slovenia, the language became incomprehensible.

I was born in Bosnia Herzegovina, and lived there until I was almost 6. Clearly by that age I was fluent but when we came to Australia, the focus was absolute: learn English, speak English, do well in school. Succeed. It’s here my personal mantra of “failure is not an option” was forged. I still remember a few awful first weeks of school, being made stand in a corner for most of the morning as punishment for not being able to recite the morning prayer, in English. Of which I knew not a single word. Having no prior experience of being in school, it didn’t occur to me this was unusual, nor to protest for a while. I still wonder what the teacher thought of my mother’s tirade in Yugoslav when she final found out. Luckily it resulted in me being transferred to a new school where they were much better equipped to deal with migrant children. It also helped that kids are like sponges at that age – new language skills are aquired easily. Within a few months, I was fluent.

Interestingly, when I left home at 18, whilst I hadn’t spoken the language in years, I was still fluent – a room full of Yugoslav chat was perfectly comprehensible. It wasn’t until some 10 or so years later I realised I’d lost the ability to understand, much to my surprise. My Yugoslav was lost bar a few childhood words. All animal related. Well what else would they be? My happy places were the same, even then. My brief period of schoolgirl German meanwhile, completely intact. Like I said, ironic, no?

In my childhood, Yugoslavia was a united country – the individual countries we know now were socialist republics under united communist rule. The country disintegrated in 1992 during an horrific war as the world watched on. It was the first time I didn’t have to explain where Bosnia was to anyone who sought my provenance. Far removed, I watched on with the rest of the world. My parents, especially my father who still had family there, suffered more. People were uprooted, made homeless. Killed.

So many mixed feelings about being on this soil again. Inexorably tied in with the devastating loss of my father, who never made it back to his beloved family or homeland. It’s hard to contain them all, trapped inside in the rain on a cold Saturday afternoon, trying to busy myself with a book.