Reflections of Slovenia

It’s almost a month since I got home from Slovenia. Of course it feels like a lifetime, although the memories are still vivid… because it was SUCH a wonderful holiday. I wish I was still there, rather than back in the routine, high-pressure drudgery of work. So I thought I would summarise and reminisce a little about that first holiday away as Andrea rather than post a typically diary-like post.

What do I think of Slovenia as a holiday destination?

Well I was only based in one village, although saw quite a bit of the region around it, so cannot comment on the whole country. As per the scenes depicted in photos in my previous two posts, I think it is a beautiful place with spectacular scenery. It is good for active people, walkers, cyclists, or mountain bikers alike – there is a good network of paths, although with a minimum of cable cars then to get anywhere high one must generally rely on one’s own fitness… although with that comes a sense of achievement when certain walks are completed. I am not a city-person, but fellow guests told me that the capital city of Llubjana is very attractive, and from pictures this would seem to be the case. There are also an amount of water-related things to see and do, including lovely lakes (quite a few of which can be swam in, some even being rather warm), impressive waterfalls, steep gorges, and rivers with rafting available; there are a number of cave systems too, one of which I saw about 26 years ago (though not as the real me of course), which I remember being very impressive… though I understand it is now quite commercialised. The local food and beverages are also very good.

What are Slovenian people like?

From the experience of my holiday I have to say that Slovenian people are almost all very nice, apart from the bus drivers who come across as rather grumpy… though that may be in part because I likely pronounced all of the place names incorrectly, although not so incorrectly that they didn’t know where I wanted to go. I was told, upon my return, that Slovenians are honest and up-front people who will either tell you or give you an obvious indication if they don’t like you – well, I didn’t notice any of that, wherever I went on my walking adventures people were friendly and greeted me with a generally cheery “Dober Dan” (good morning in Slovenian), or similar for the afternoon, or another greeting which I still can’t quite pronounce; so I can only conclude that nobody found me to their obvious dislike.

The hosts at my little pension hotel were extremely friendly, warm and welcoming, and ever so helpful; it was more like staying with friends who wouldn’t let you do anything at all to help!

The Slovenian language is quite unlike any other I have ever experienced, and I was told very difficult to learn. Luckily pretty much everyone speaks English… to a very good standard.

How did I feel during my first holiday as Andrea?

My first emotions after having been shown to my hotel room were ones of heart-warming delight; the view from my room was stunning, the warm welcome amazing, and everything felt perfect. As I ventured out for a short walk around the nearby lake these emotions soon turned to tearful astonishment and amazement… because, less than two years after having ventured into the real world for the very first time, I was not only living full-time as a woman but I was on my very first long holiday, having used a passport with my female photograph to get there.  The next day, as I started my first walk, in the afternoon, I felt very lonely and sad, that although I was away on my long holiday in a lovely place I was away for the first time on a long holiday all by myself, without my brother or my daughter accompanying me, in the knowledge that they can’t come to terms with my choice to live my life in an honest way that is natural to me; but in the evening these feelings vanished as I got talking to very friendly British guests. The emotions for the rest of my holiday were pretty much the same – joy, contentment, and HAPPINESS… and that is what life is all about!  But, unsurprisingly, the feelings took a nosedive on the morning of departure, and when I paid my bill I was sniffly and close to tears.

How accepting of transsexuals are Slovenians?

I don’t know whether this question sounds a bit odd to any readers, but it was a question that a friend of mine (also a transsexual woman) asked me by email a few days into my holiday. Well, my honest answer is that I have absolutely no idea! Why? This is because during the whole of my stay in the country, and in fact including the journeys from my home to Slovenia and back again, I did not once receive even the merest hint from anyone whatsoever that they considered me to be anything other than a cis-woman; everyone treated me like any other woman, and numerous times I was addressed or termed “lady”, “she”, and “madam”… or “senora” by the group of Italian school children that I encountered on one day. My “no idea” response may well be for a number of reasons:

  • It could be that everyone these days is so open-minded that nothing makes anyone bat an eye-lid, however unusual; however, in early exploits out as Andrea, with sub-standard hair and on a learning curve appearance wise, I do know this is certainly not the case.
  • Perhaps I am so good at appearing as my female self that nobody ever notices anything about me that suggests I was not physically born as a woman; well, I know that this isn’t 100% true either, even now, having learnt so much and now having a human hair wig, there are very occasionally just the odd hint or two from people that makes me at least wonder whether they are contemplating my transsexual nature, even if there is nothing obviously negative vibing from them. But then, as has been discussed either or on other blogs, there are a great many reasons why people observe others.

Whatever the reason, I have always stated my objective in my new life to be that I want to blend in and be treated as any other woman… and on my first holiday as my true self, that is what I achieved… and that is what made it so perfect!

P1060832 - Jasna bridge

Week 31 As a Full-time Woman – My Slovenian Adventure, Part 2 – Wonderful Scenery… and my Limitations

After my leisurely day at the end of my previous blog post my walking continued in earnest – I am not going to put loads of detail about the walks, most of it I doubt would be of much interest, especially if you don’t like walking, so I shall probably let the pictures of the majestic scenery speak for themselves.

29th August

This day proved to me that I am sensible enough to realise my limitations and not exceed them. Only 20 minutes into my planned walk my chosen path soon became overgrown with robust conifers, which soon became scary with the path dropping away hundreds of feet… and then the path disintegrated altogether in places in sheer scree slopes, and so I turned back and completely changed my plans. I walked several miles along a generally level path, then up to a saddle between almost white limestone peaks. I had planned to descend into another valley… but the path disappeared seemingly vertically around a rock with metal ropes in slippery scree… uh, no, so I retraced my steps and after descending about two hundred metres came to another, ongoing limitation – my voice. A fellow walker came across from another path to join the one I was on about a hundred metres above me, he saw me descending and shouted ‘come’ (in Slovene), but I just couldn’t shout back, my voice just cannot do that… but having seen the path on the other side, and being quite tired, I ignored him and carried on, all the way to the bottom of the valley, and then along a river to a bus stop to return to my pension on the other side of the mountain pass. I waited… and waited… and waited for the bus and, after over an  hour I gave up and started walking down towards the next village… only for the bus to then come around the corner, so I stuck my hand out and he stopped to take me back… with a slightly sour-looking face.

While on the balcony of my room I heard English-speaking voices next to me from a couple who had come out from the room next to me, so I said hello and introduced myself, and told them a bit about the area… and then at dinner we had a longer chat; they seemed very nice.

P1060948 Javolec walk 1

30th August

P1060994 - slope toward TrentaThis was the most strenuous walk of my holiday. I took the bus to a village called Moystrana, then walked eight miles along a valley to the base of the highest peak in the whole area, called Triglav. However, that was not my destination, I am not a mountaineer, though, including the height gain from the bus stop I did climb 3700 feet to a saddle between Triglav and another high peak, including about thirty minutes climbing a scree slope occasionally with the help of metal ropes, and then descended the same height along a more manageable path on the other side to a small village called Trenta where there was thankfully a visitor centre with lovely toilets and a tiny supermarket to stock up with water, half a litre of which I downed more or less straight away after doing my walk in temperatures approaching 30C. I did that walk in one of my summery skater skirts and a white lacy vest top and felt nicely girlie and a certain freedom with my walking… and, for some reason, I seemed to get a lot more guys saying hello to me (mostly in Slovene).

Back at the hotel, once showered and changed, after dinner I had a lovely long chat with my neighbours Carol and Barry about assorted holiday destinations; they were great company.

31st August

This was another day where things did not go quite according to plan. After a bus ride to Moystrana again, I walked up another valley for a while, but there were too many trees obscuring the mountain views, and my legs were frankly not up to lots of climbing either… so I turned back, but overall I ended up walking 18 miles, with a short bus journey partly back towards my hotel village where I got off early to take the picture below, followed by some further walking.

P1070011 - Godz Hayracks

1st September

P1070062 lady's face in rockThis was alas the final day of walking and of my wonderful holiday… and so I was hardly going to have a relaxing, uneventful day! I did another valley/climb-type walk, from Ratece, along lovely flower-meadows, past ski jumps where school children were practising, and eventually up, and up, and up, a 3750 foot climb, finally to the summit of something, a mountain called Sleme – it was quite tiring, but so rewarding with incredible views around every corner. An hour’s walk brought me to the top of Vrsic mountain pass, from where I climbed about 15 minutes to view an unusual natural rock formation, Ajdovska Deklica, the face of a woman naturally present in the rock. I descended the valley, sometimes along the mountain road built by Russian prisoners at the turn of the 20th Century, and eventually got back to my Pension, a walk of around 15 miles.

During dinner one couple that I had talked to throughout my holiday said goodbye, as they were leaving early the following morning, and later I had a long chat with Carol and Barry before saying goodnight, and going to my room to start to pack my suitcases.

P1070045 - Sleme and sheep

2nd September

Sadly the time had come to leave Slovenia and my lovely hDSCN0934 KG church - lowresome-from-home pension. After breakfast and packing the rest of my bags, I paid my bill to Frank, and told him what a lovely time I had had and how his wife and him had been so friendly and helpful, and I had to resort to a tissue to dry my eyes because I was SO sad that my wonderful holiday with them was over. After a wander to the village centre for a final look around, including a visit to the church that I had not been to before, with quite a lavish interior, I returned to the pension and soon had to say goodbye to my wonderful hosts with a hug and a kiss on the cheek from each; Frank carried my bags to the minibus… and then we were on the way to the airport after picking up some guests from a couple of other hotels.

The journey home was uneventful, I got madamed on the Easyjet flight, when I bought a drink and then exiting the plane, and on the Ryanair flight a guy helped me with my case into the overhead locker… and by 11.30pm I was home… to a VERY cold Northern Ireland!

Week 30 As a Full-time Woman – My Slovenian Adventure, Part 1

In my next few blog posts I will write about my holiday adventures in Slovenia, the first time I have been abroad as Andrea; as it’s a holiday, and quite a long one, then there will be quite a lot of photos! Before I departed it seemed like it was quite a big step in a way, the first time using my passport, the first time travelling in busy airports and on planes, and of course the first time in a foreign country. Just how would people there react to me?

24th August

It was a damp, drizzly morning… and so I relaxed and took it really easy – just what holidays are all about! I painted my nails (something I’ve not done on a summer holiday before), read some of a novel, rested and listened to radio shows. In the afternoon I went into the town and browsed the few shops there, in one I had a good long browse and eventually bought a pretty hand bag – the lady owner was very pleasant and eager to help, and I also bought postcards from her.

25th August

After breakfast I chatted to another British couple, from Newcastle, for a while, and suggested a walk to them that I did on the Sunday… but within an hour it was raining, and so I rested again until 5.00pm when it finally dried up and I just had to get some fresh air; I had a two hour walk up and down a river valley, near the hotel I noticed a cyclist pass me from behind and give me a quick look up and down. Back at the hotel I caught up with the couple from the morning, and also another lady, then later I had a good chat with a Scottish girl – the couple ended up also talking to her about their day, and their walk that they said “this lady suggested it to us” (i.e. me).

26th August

DSCN0763 - me at 3 bordersWednesday was, finally, a good, dry day, although there was alas a lot of low cloud which obscured the higher mountain peaks from view for quite a bit of the day – good for walking, not so good for photography, another hobby of mine. It was lovely and warm though, and I did a long walk from nearby village Ratece back to Kransjka Gora, including two climbs that together exceeded 4200 feet which is more than the climb of Ben Nevis in Scotland from its valley floor; I noticed quite a bit of interesting looking fungi along the way as I traversed the forest paths. My first climb of the day was to a tree-clad peak called Pec, the walk itself is called Tromeja which means ‘three DSCN0765 - fungi1borders’, this is because it marks the border point between Slovenia, Italy, and Austria; every year members of the three nations meet here, the conical construction behind me in the selfie is the point where the countries meet. I then walked roughly along the border for several hours, and eventually back into Slovenia… where I got a bit panicked towards the end of the afternoon because my walk went on and on as I struggled to find a way down the steep valleys, due to the absence of marked paths, from the forest logging tracks which zigzagged seemingly for ever; I really got quite upset as time went on and, although the occasional views through the trees were worth the walk, I was immensely relieved once I got to the valley bottom.

P1060840 - KG view from forest

27th August

A beautiful, sunny, hot day, with a major walk of 16.5 miles. I took the bus from Kranjska Gora to nearby Ratece, near the Italian border, and then walked a few miles to two nearby lakes in Italy, and around one of them from where the picture just below is taken; on the way a guy on a small, motorised plough paused in his work to give me a big smile. Then I climbed about 1200 feet to a refuge, at which points visions of climbing further evaporated as my legs felt like jelly, perhaps from the climbs the day before, and so I took another, more gentle path back down to the lakes – on the way I caught up with a very loud, Italian summer-school group, scrabbling gingerly down the slippery forest path in plimsoles and trainers, eventually a girl just in front of me who had given me a couple of glances figured I wanted to get by, and so said to her friends something along the lines of “Move aside for the Signora”, and as I passed others said similar things, all calling me Signora… which was really quite nice. Then I walked all the way back to my hotel, buying an ice cream along the way.

P1060857 - Italian lake 2

28th August

DSCN0812 - me at Bled lowresI had a rest day from walking, and had quite a social day on a day-long coach trip to visit two beautiful lakes in Slovenia; it was a good day, with not too much driving in it. Our initial stop was at Bled (pronounced a bit like ‘Blade’), quite a touristy town with a lovely big lake before it. We first went to the castle, perched on a cliff overlooking the lake – the guide took us around the grounds, including looking at one of the first printing presses, the views, and a museum in which there was a huge 3D landscape map of the entire Julian Alps area and he asked where we thought our resort was, when nobody immediately answered I pointed to a spot at the bottom of a valley and said “Is it there?” and he said “Yes, the lady is right”! This selfie is taken from the castle, and shows the church on an island in the lake.

We had a good amount of free time at the lakeside, including a piece of ‘free’ DSCN0823 - Bled church interior 1 lowresBled cream cake – the tradition is that when a guy wants to date a girl, he takes her for a walk around the lake and then buys her some of the cake… and, well, of course nobody offered to take me, but I had a nice time wandering around, in a few over-priced shops, and then into the impressive church nearby, its spire stretching towards the castle enclosing a beautiful interior (see photo). Some people actually went swimming in the lake, for the water is very warm, almost 27C degrees… though definitely not me, I am not a swimmer… and my hair and face would have washed away even had I joined those intrepid swimmers.

Then we drove onto Lake Bohinj (pronounced ‘Bochin’) where we went up and down a cable car (with stunning views), to an old church on the lake side, and an hour of free time to wander around what has now become a potential tourist destination for me now.

Back at the hotel, after a little walk beside the lake in front of my hotel (see below) on a warm evening, I had the usual nice chat with the Newcastle guests, and later a catch up with the Scottish girl again – when I told her about my lake trip she asked “were you wearing a white hat?” and, when I said yes, she replied “I saw you by the lake side, I said to myself that looks like the lady I the room next to me, she did say she was on the lakes trip today”… and so we compared our opinions of the area, me glad of course that she thinks of me and labels me as a “lady”.

(end of part 1 – thanks for reading)

DSCN0838 - Jasna evening lowres