A Long Ride on a Train Part 2: Ljubljana to Pula

19 Nov

I never said I was a photographer…and I never will.

The second part of the 20+ hour train ride from Amsterdam to Pula.  I did not take many notes on it in my journal but I fell in love with Slovenia on this train ride.  From staring out the window to talking to the people in the train station at Ljubljana,  I loved ever aspect of the country and wish to spend a solid month exploring this little known gem.

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The next leg of the trip was through Slovenia and into Croatia, where I had secured a hostel at some address I could not make any sense of.  I was in a sleeper cabin with three bunks stacked one on top of the other on each side of the small compartment.  A total of six beds were fit into a space no bigger than a medium sized closet.  Fortunately there were only four souls in my room.  We all put our bags and belongings in the middle two bunks in an act of good faith.  Four people who hadn’t spoken a word to each other—and couldn’t if they wanted to—blindly trusting everyone involved not to break this silent code.  I loved it.  I set up shop on the top most bunk and was pleased when the middle aged woman with a college girl’s body decided to settle herself directly opposite me.

Having established my territory in the micro-sleeper, I ambled out into the hallway and posted up in front of a window to zone out—as I am so inclined to do.  I had ridden numerous trains while in Europe as they seem to have perfected public transportation.  One could take a train to another country in Europe with the ease one might drive to another state here in America.  Many of these government subsidized companies use brand-new, high-speed, bullet-trains that criss-cross the continent like lasers, teaming up with the internet to make miles and kilometers useless stats rather than insuperable obstacles..  These vehicles are plush and efficient, with any amenity one would need for a long distance trip.  However, I was sick of these trains.  I had no interest in investigating Europe’s newest and most impressive technologies.  In fact, if I had my druthers, I would have taken a horse and buggy to every destination on my month long trip.  This train was fairly modern but still had a rustic charm.  It would not be out of place in a 70’s movie. 

As I leaned into the window, I was able able to recreate the game that had manifested itself into existence during the strange and foggy trip to Munich.  I began bouncing my eyes over bell towers and distant mountain ranges. The decrepit train rattled perilously on the sides of mountains providing panoramic views of tiny Slovenian villages set on the crests of green hills, miles away but crystal clear.  Sitting atop one especially sharply crowned hill was a small steeple with a single, leafless tree beside it, silhouetted against the setting sun.  There was a stone set of stairs ascending the hill and ending at the base of the isolated structure.  I wondered if this building once had a “hay-day”.  What was the greatest, most significant period in this buildings history? I wondered if there had been a village around the hill at some point or if a pilgrimage was once made by some distant city to the small church on the hill.  I hadn’t seen a town for miles.  Was it even a church?  Maybe it was a schoolhouse, which would bring up far more interesting paths of thought.  This was the kind of image that artists seek out to duplicate and writers flock to find inspiration.  It was the solitary tree set against cloudless blue skies and miles of scenery that blended the beauty of what Man can create when he doesn’t sacrifice nature to create it. A cluster of stone homes on a hillside does not take away from the picture in the same way a vinyl-sided ranch house would have.

I had dreamed of these images, of being able to retain them and know that I had been a part of their history.  I was one of the people on this planet who witnessed these scenes.  it won’t win me any awards, but I find great satisfaction in it.

Eventually, I returned back to the cabin and climbed to my top bunk.  My neighbor was sitting up reading and I followed suit, giving a brief nod and smile once I had situated myself.  The space was so narrow it felt as if we were sleeping together except for the two foot wide gap that prevented any accidental contact.  She rested her head on her pillow, facing me as I read, and smiled.  I looked over out of the corner of my eyes and returned the smile.  What a story this would be.  What if I had sex with this woman, in front of the couple who were breathing steadily two bunks below us.  They were sound asleep, but even if they were awake, this is Europe, they would probably just join us.  The thought of this phonebooth orgy raced through my mind as I stared blankly at the pages of the book in front of me.  I was not reading anything.  I was trying to decide if this was something I should try to make happen, or a scenario I had manufactured entirely out of loneliness and lust.

As I pondered my next move, she slid her bra straps down each shoulder and eased her arms through the supports.  Her body was tanned and smooth.  Her face was solemn and had an aura of intelligence that was sexy in and of itself.  She was some kind of South-Eastern European for sure, maybe Hungarian or Turkish.  Now braless, the thin tank-top and white shorts did little to reveal her body.  As my confidence and boner began to grow, I noticed she had almost instantly fallen asleep as soon as she had rid herself of her pesky under garments.  I realized how silly I can be when I want to fuck, and thanked the little voice in my head for not letting me do anything humiliating.  I fell asleep thinking about the orgy that wasn’t.

I woke up early when the conductor came around to hand back our passports.  They had been taken so that we need not be disturbed when the train crossed the Slovenia-Croatia border.  I tried to shoot the shit with my fellow cramped travelers but had little success.  They were nice enough but my total lack of linguistic flexibility really put a damper on things.  We were now in Northern Croatia and the sun had just begun to rise.

I loved the small ‘stations’ that the train would come to a halt at sporadically.  Often there would be the remnants of small stone row houses beside the one wooden shanty that served as shelter to the two people waiting for the train. One could not help but wonder what it would be like to live in one of the row houses at these stations, or perhaps in the hills beyond, out of sight from even this remote outcrop of civilization.  There were no large fields with crops in the vicinity and only what might be a dirt road winding off in the distance.  Surely, though there is a stop here for a reason, and these people are coming from somewhere.  I absolutely loved the curious nature of these remote posts.

At every one of the stops a square-jawed, muscular policeman—or possibly soldier—would board the train and check the passengers paperwork.  These men were by far the most imposing and intimidating authority figures I had seen on this trip, besides perhaps the policeman in Limerick whose level of intimidation is artificially enhanced by carrying loaded assault rifles.

A couple hours into Croatia I realized that I may have found the place where I wanted to die.  That may sound a bit morbid but the fact of the matter is the instant sunlight touched the landscape and I sat by the train window observing everything, for the first time in the trip I felt I had found what I came for.  The landscape was something new.  The architecture was something new.  The people whom I watched toil in the fields or do chores around their modest homes were like people I had never seen before.  The sunlight was perfect, unfiltered and comfortable.  No humidity to putrify the air and mold clothing to ones body.  I stuck my head out the train window and smiled.  Bombs Over Baghdad by Outkast blasting through my headphones, was a fitting soundtrack to a new and exciting beginning.  I was amped up for Croatia.


2 Responses to “A Long Ride on a Train Part 2: Ljubljana to Pula”

  1. skycastles November 20, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    For a minute, I thought this post was gonna turn into a bit of erotica that I hadn’t necessarily signed up for but was gonna roll with anyway lol

    • dubiousdookowski November 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      Haha yeah, I’ve noticed that a lot of my journal entries were a lil’ sexually charged. I assure you besides one glorious day, my travels have been as sexy as socks and sandals.

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