When I woke up I had more energy than I’d had for days. I was full of beans and excitement. My transport for my next two destinations was sorted, and I had a vague plan for how I was going to get from Konstanz to Paris. I had slept for almost twelve hours.
I showered and sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee with Nina.
“Thank you so much for yesterday. It really meant an awful lot to me how understanding and kind you were. I had hit burn out. But I feel so much better today. So thank you.”
“That’s OK. I just wish I’d known what to do…”
“You were perfect! You gave me a hug, you let me have some space in the evening, but most of all, you gave me an unending supply of muffins. You couldn’t have done more. Really. Thank you.”
“Well thank you for being honest with me when I asked.”
We smiled at one another. The coffee steaming up from our mugs.
“So what’s the plan for the day?”
We were due to meet three of Nina’s friends at around three o’clock. They were going to take me to Lake Bled. Nina wanted to bake more cakes for the trip.
That meant I could stay in my PJs until 3:00pm.
I brought my laptop into the kitchen and sat writing while Nina put on some music and baked brownies as well as leek and cheese muffins.
The sun was starting to shine outside, but it was slower to come out compared to the other days.
At around lunch time, Nina’s friend Martin came over and joined us in finishing off the left over chilli, before we headed off to meet their two other friends, Aljaž and Anita, who were joining us for Lake Bled.
As the five of us drove along the motorway, I pointed at some mountains, “What are those mountains called?”
Nina laughed, “Those aren’t mountains.”
“What do you mean?”
“When you live at the foot of the Alps, we don’t call things like that mountains. Those are hills.”
I felt like the villagers in the film The Englishman Who Went up a Hill but came Down a Mountain.
The car drove onwards and I watched as the Alps came clearer into view, towering above the hills.
Lake Bled is home to Slovenia’s only island. A tiny piece of land big enough for a church and some huge steps leading up to it.
We walked around the lake. The others were talking in Slovenian. I didn’t mind. I liked hearing the sounds slide over each other, watching friends laugh and talk. I didn’t mind that I didn’t understand. It was enough to simply be there and share in their happiness, see the forest, the lake, the tiny island.
It wasn’t until we got into the rowing boat that I realised we were actually going to row to the island.
“Can you swim?” asked Nina.
The boat rocked from side to side. I wasn’t convinced we were going to make it without capsizing, and was trying to prepare myself for actually having to swim. Can I really swim? I didn’t think I’d have to test it but now… But then we steadied. Aljaž rowed backwards and forwards with strong motions. It looked as though he’d done this before, perhaps even often. He certainly did it with a confidence that indicated so. Occasionally he would put the paddles into the water with such force we would find ourselves splashed, laughing as he did so.
“You want a go?!” Aljaž would say if any of us sounded momentarily critical.
We found the large rock.
But none of us were particularly keen to climb under it.
We looked around, under other rocks, up banks, in disbelief – or hope – that it must be somewhere else.
We never found it, but we also never went under the rock.
On the walk back we stopped off at a cafe where Nina said I must try the only other traditional Slovenian cake that I hadn’t tried. Cremeschnitte.
A combination of Chantilly cream and custard cream wobbled in front of me with a wafer of pastry on top.
I was overwhelmed.
I managed to eat a third of it before I had to admit defeat.
“That’s only a small one!” Martin said, eyebrow raised.
Small?! This thing was bloody huge.
As we walked back to the car, we saw a sign with the EU symbol on it. Everyone saw me glance at it, they all laughed.
“Britain is so funny. They were like, ‘Join the EU! Join the EU!’ So we did, and now it’s like, what? The EU isn’t cool anymore?!”
When we got home I went to bed. I had four hours until I needed to start walking to the bus stop an hour away where I would catch my FlixBus to Verona in Italy. I got in my PJs and climbed under the blankets, warm, and cosy.
I’m sure I even slept with a smile on my face.
I was so content. So happy.
It makes a big difference when you’re surrounded by beautiful people.
I was sad to leave Nina in Ljublana. We’d become friends and I wanted to stay in the safety of her home and friendship, and continue eating her glorious muffins. Explore more of this beautiful country that I was falling deeper and deeper in love with.
But it was also time to move on. Time to see Verona. Time to go to Italy.
Nina sent me on my way with a plastic tub full of brownies and an apple.
We hugged and said goodbye.
I love to walk, in fact, to simply be on my feet and moving.
When you walk, you are in control of your direction.
You can walk slowly. Take an amble and sink into your thoughts at a melodic pace. Observe your surroundings. Soak them up. Breathe them in.
You can walk at a brisk pace. Letting the blood flush your cheeks, the adrenalin climb, feet moving with purpose, arms swaying in synchronicity with your legs.
You can stomp. Anger and frustration melting away from your joints and muscles with each forceful foot planted on the earth. Grounding your emotions with every step.
You can run. Focused and motivated. Moving with speed and determination. You propel yourself forward and monitor your breathing to sustain your pace.
You can skip, and find yourself flying for a mere second in between each step.
However you move, when you’re on your feet, you are in absolute control. You are the compass. No system can go wrong, no vehicle can crash or run out of petrol, no stop can be missed.
You are grounded. In touch with your surroundings, the direction you are moving in, the force you are navigating with.
Walking at night, with my rucksack on my back, the cold air brushing my face, the city quiet… I felt so alive. I felt entire.
Sion was at home in Wales with friends, making poori and eating curry. I was walking down a road on my way to catching a night bus.
We were the other side of the world from each other.
He texted me, “I wish you were here.”
I wish I was too.