Lingering in Motion

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Slovenia – April 2011

As the train passes over the border from Hungary to Slovenia, I walk up and down the corridor. The only sound is that of the compartment doors sliding open and closed. I’m the only passenger on the entire train. The only public transport between Budapest and Ljubljana is a nine-hour train ride. One can drive the same route in around four hours. I’ve spent most of the trip staring out the window at the awakening countryside. Spring is early and exuberant this year. This trip was a spontaneous decision. I’ll have only a couple of days in Slovenia, but there have been rumors of the train service stopping. I could always rent a car, but I prefer the passivity of train travel. Daydreaming to the accompaniment of unfamiliar countryside.

When I arrive in Ljubljana, I check the weather report. Rain is predicted for the day after next. I’ll have to go to Lake Bled tomorrow. I try to sleep early, but my mind churns. I finally drift off to the memory of empty corridors on the move.

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Lake Bled is like something out of a fantasy novel. Swans gliding on shimmering waters. A monastery on a tiny island in the center. All of it ringed by towering, snow-capped mountains. Branches droop under the weight of blossoms. I fill my lungs with their sweetness. I walk to the other side of the lake and make the short, but grueling climb to the Mala Osojnica viewpoint. Then I descend to the lake. Empty benches beckon, but lingering has never come easy to me. I don’t want to go back to Ljubljana, however. I have all day tomorrow to explore that small city. I make another, slower lap around the lake. Lingering in motion.

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Ljubljana’s old city shakes off the final remnants of winter. Parasols and tables have emerged from storage. People stroll along the River Ljubljanica, smiles dusted off and ready for the sun. A light drizzle wets the warm air. I walk up to the castle, but don’t go inside. I never thought I’d reach the point of being blasé about castles and cathedrals. My memory can only hold so many souvenirs.

I walk along the trails at the castle hill. Beyond the city and foothills, the Alps rise towards the sky. I feel a slight twinge of regret. Two days is not enough in this little country. But it’s all I’ve got right now.

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In the late afternoon, I head to Tivoli Park. It’s deserted, except for an occasional elderly person or woman pushing a stroller. I look at the artwork on display and then walk for a while on the forest trails.

In the underpass back to the city, a white-haired gentleman plays a xylophone-like instrument. The delicate chiming notes fill the dark cement corridor. He wields the little mallets with flair. His enthusiasm causes passersby to smile. Some of them stop to listen. I drop a few coins in his tip jar and smile, but I avert my eyes. I’m uncomfortable with people knowing that I give things. Once again, I can’t bring myself to linger and listen. I turn away, but he shouts something at me. He points a mallet at a red Gerbera daisy that’s lying on his instrument case and then he points at me. A gift.

Hvala.” I bow to him with a smile. Warmth fills me. The flower’s head bobs in time with my steps as the music recedes and then vanishes.

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In the morning, I pack my things and then zip the flower stem securely in the front pocket of my suitcase so that the petals don’t get crushed. I wait in the common room for the receptionist to arrive so that I can turn in my key. I had the only private ensuite in the small hostel. I notice a note that points to a key drop box. I slip the key inside and then turn to leave.

An elderly woman shuffles out of one of the dorms. Eyes downcast. Shoulders slumped.

I wince. The young people staying in the dorms couldn’t be bothered to return my hello. They probably gave her the same treatment. Some hostels don’t allow people over forty, which includes me. It’s too bad that there aren’t hostels for retirees. They should also be able to travel inexpensively and without discrimination. “Good morning,” I say.

A nod. “Good morning.” Her eyes come to rest on the flower. Her face brightens. “That’s lovely,” she says. Her accent is German. 

I tell her the story of how I got it.

She breathes deep and exhales. Her posture relaxes. “Little things like this really help when you’re on the road.”

We exchange a long look of solidarity before I walk out the door.

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38 thoughts on “Lingering in Motion

  1. On my way to Italy the coach stopped in Slovenia for a coffee-break and in few minutes I could guess the beauty of that place. I said to myself one day I’ll come back for more. Now with your post I have a double reason. Thank you!

  2. An uplifting story Julie and a fine advert for Slovenia. There is something wonderful about empty transport systems. I hate the process of flying but the best long haul journey I ever had was in a virtually empty BOAC VC10 (which just shows how long ago that was) into Mexico City. I even got to make myself comfortable in first class which was just grand for a scruffy teenager 🙂

    • Thanks, Robin. I had to look that aircraft up! Empty transport vehicles are great, but the downside is that it’s not profitable, so those lines are often discontinued. As was the case with the Budapest-Ljubljana line about a year after my trip. They also discontinued the Budapest-Sarajevo line before I could make it down there.

  3. The tittle matches the story so well, lake Bled is so beautiful, just like you I cannot let people know I give things ;), love the story behind that last picture, you deserve that flower and more Julie.

    I have to say I bought some boots like yours to travel, that post you re-blog some time ago really help me, and now I have a question I have a suitcase very similar to that one in the last picture, do you use the same one now ? My cousin kept telling me I need to up-grade to those new suitcases that are super light.

    • Thank you, Doris. Upgrading to a super light suitcase is probably a good thing no matter what. I still use the same one in the photo. It’s still in good condition and not so heavy. But I rarely pack the boots in them. I wear them when I’m on the move so it saves space.

  4. “LINGERING IN MOTION”

    This is another wonderful post and spectacular photos (especially the last one). We are always in motion, but to linger…ah that is entirely a different matter. Lingering is thinking, focusing, trying to fit the pieces into place like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes a red Gerbera daisy to bring us to the place where “Warmth fills me.” What came to my mind as I was reading your thoughts….

    “It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ” Colette

    • I always feel like lingering is laziness. On this particular trip, I had such a short amount of time, I felt like I had to keep moving to get the most of it. But I’m starting to book longer trips in one place so I’m forced to linger.

      Regarding the flower-It’s hard for me to initiate interaction of any kind beyond saying hello and thank you in the local language when I buy something. And most of the time I prefer it that way. So, when someone reaches out with a little gesture,something that doesn’t obligate me to get any closer, it changes the whole atmosphere.

  5. Your pictures are always wonderful and capture the moment so well. I especially like the first one of the lake and the castle?/villa perched on the cliff top. That would be where I built my fortress if I had the opportunity. Although it’d take a mighty long fishing line to reach the lake. 🙂

  6. Beautifully woven postcard, Julie. The photos are beautiful but hardly needed as your words create them each. I really really like the pacing of this whole piece. I felt like I was on that train with you. Thank you for the trip. 🙂

  7. A wonderful post with amazing photos. I’m curious about the photography. The compositions are impeccable and the saturation of color seems unique. Is there some post processing involved, a special camera or lens, or an app you use to obtain the consistency of tone?

    • Thank you. I used my husband’s really nice, but heavy Nikon D80, so the photos came out superb. There is a little post processing, but I can’t remember exactly what program or app I used. It might have been Nik Software Photoshop plugins, but I’m not exactly sure. I’ve switched programs/apps a lot in the past few years.

  8. Beautiful pics. Bought back lovely memories of my few days in Ljubiana and of 4 restful days at Lake Bled. Loved the chance encounter at the hostel such a great part of going it alone and so welcome.

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