Today was, for all intense purposes, the perfect day. Yes, it was a tough walk, and yes, our group of 4 today ended up on the road for 12 hours, but we had so much fun, and it was definitely a day to remember!
We had breakfast at 6 AM, but by the time we were leaving Zagorska Sela, it was 7 AM. Since we were crossing into Slovenia today, the rest of the group decided to take a taxi to the border checkpoint, but Fly, Ava, Jakob and I wanted to walk the full 33 km! The first 7 km quite straightforward, so we made it to the border, got a stamp in the passport (woohoo!), and said goodbye to the wonderful country of Croatia into Slovenia! We quickly came upon a supermarket and stocked up on fruit & snacks for the road ahead--and as we found out later, we would definitely need it. We walked through a cute, smaller village and although I missed a turn, the EPW guidebook saved me, and I retraced my steps to find the arrow I had missed. Up into forest and a massive hill we went--and WOWEEEE was it tough! I was also carrying my pack today after not carrying it for a couple of days, and that definitely makes a difference when you are facing a mountainous uphill. But soon we came to the "top" and continued winding through hills, seeing beautiful views all the while, and finally, stopping just before noon at a picnic table in the Slovenian vineyards, taking a nice rest with our many snacks to keep us going :')
We hit a little mishap in the middle when I, walking behind everyone else, suddenly lost sight of them, and so thinking they were way ahead of me, quickly sped ahead to try and catch them. Little did I know, they had missed an arrow and thus were behind me, and waiting for me to make sure I didn't miss it, a klassic confused case BUT all is well that ends well: Just as I decided to continue walking to the pub and hoping they were there, I heard Fly's voice across the valley and 3 small figures waving at me. Never have I been so happy!! We resumed walking as a group and right before we made it to the supermarket, we passed a man that stopped us to offer us apricots and encouraged us to take a few, which was so so nice! When we finally made it to the supermarket, we took a break outside, mentally prepping for the long kilometers that lay ahead. It felt like 5 PM, even though it was only 2 PM, but we geared ourselves up for the next 14 km ahead.
Jakob and I quickly passed the time on the asphalt road talking a lot about business and values, and one thing I really love and enjoy about walking is that it allows you to bridge the generational gap and learn from those who come from different walks of life. And even better, Mother Nature was taking pity on us and the storm cloud ahead had passed. By this time, it was 4 PM, and we still had 7 km, so what else to do, but go forward towards....the coffee shop ;)
We all had a wonderful time just sitting and chatting during our break, and the group dynamic definitely lends itself to many laughs :) The home stretch was through some cornfields, forest, and roads into Brežice. Right before entering Brežice, westopped on the side of the road, and to our amazement, the woman living in the house came out and offered us drinks! We didn't speak each others language, but she brought our water, wine, apple juice, and cups for us! It was certainly such a kind gesture, and it is interesting to see just how willing people are to go out of their way to help you (and as told by the priest in Krapina, they really want to give and it is rude if you don't accept). So we drank some drinks (wine &apple juice actually mix together quite well), and powered the last few km to the youth hostel we were staying at for the night (this place is honestly really awesome and I met people from all over who were doing an Erasmus program just in the kitchen! Hostels are great!)!
As we passed the Brežice Castle, that was right next to wear we were staying, we heard a rehearsal going on and found out the concert was tonight at 8 PM featuring an orchestra comprised of students & teachers in Brežice, and it was free! We got into our hostel around 7 PM, so we quickly showered, changed, and headed over to the castle. And wow. Just, wow. The orchestra was INCREDIBLE and the singers were just so beautiful--all the songs were Slovenian (besides Amazing Grace), and I have them all written down to listen to later! It really was a treat for the ears, and it was really serendipitous that it ended up tonight. We have just been really dang lucky!
The concert was an hour long, and so around 9 PM, we walked down the Main Street looking for a restaurant. We found a nice sit down restaurant and had one of the absolute best meals 😍 I had risotto (as recommended by the waitress) and ~amazing~ ice cream--I honestly have never been so full and happy and ready to just sleep from a long, exhausting, but very fulfilling day :) Ready to pass out now--tomorrow we will be heading towards Ljubljana WHOOP whoop and it will be quite a short day (because it is just walking to the train station), which is perfect because I am already quite sore. Super excited for the days to come and see what Slovenia has in store!