The only thing that I associate with Slovenia when I arrive end of September 2018 in Ljubljana is the fact that Peter Handke, one of the heroes of my youth, once translated a novel by the Slovenian writer Florjan Lipus into German. No, I haven't (yet) read it.
Differently put: I had no preconceptions except that I had liked the small Ljubljana airport when I was in transfer on my way to Tirana some months ago. And of Maribor and Jesenice I had heard, the names, that is.
It is a small country, I learn, and easy to get around by train or by bus. Trains are slower but the scenery is much more diverse. I take a train to Kranj and, the following day, one to Litija. What I can see through the windows looks pretty similar to Switzerland or the Black Forest.
How far is it to downtown? I ask at my hotel. A thirty minutes walk, I'm told. It was about an hour and the walk along the main thoroughfare wasn't too pleasant either yet the old town was beautiful – and full of tourists like me.
At a bakery I ask what would be a Slovenian specialty not to miss. The young woman shrugs and says "nothing really" and then suggests donuts.
My hotel room (the shower cabin is so small that I'm glad I had lost half a kilo before my arrival, I would otherwise probably have got stuck inside – this was before I found out how to properly use it) is not made when I return in the evening. "You need to place the 'Please make up room now' on the door handle for Slovenian law requires permission for staff to enter your room", I'm informed. The imagination of the legal profession is endless when it comes to inventing new ways of making money. Or maybe this is yet another attempt of saving costs for cleaning staff.
"My English is much better when I don't speak", smiles the waitress when struggling to find the right words. Most people I've talked to spoke English well yet almost nobody spoke German. This surprised me for I had assumed that because of the border with Austria people would generally be more inclined to speak German and not English (It was the same, I recalled, when I visited Bratislava).
What amazed me most during my few sunny days in Slovenia were my various talks with very different people. Once again, it seemed to me that, regardless of age and gender, we all are struggling with the same kind of self-created "problems" – should I do this or that or what if ...? To me, there is no doubt that the so-called cultural differences are more likely to be differences in personality and character.