I have a habit of recording what my eyes see on the road, and then I go back home and write down these blog posts. But the stories that are about to be told are different because they have never been recorded. This is a collection of sporadic stories left in my memory when I was in Slovenia.
I noticed that many of my acquaintances confuse the two countries with similar names, Slovakia and Slovenia, so I’ll explain it by the way. Slovakia is part of the old Czechoslovakia country located in Eastern Europe, which is a close friend of Vietnam. And Slovenia is in the former Yugoslav federation in Southern Europe. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the early 90s of the last century, Slovenia became an independent nation. Before I came to Slovenia, I also sometimes found out what information the country was famous for, which world football player, movie star or politician, was produced, or was it empty? global brand yet. But it’s sad because the whole answer is no. Until the recent talk with a new groom or that he was working in Czechoslovakia about 20 years ago, Slovenia was quite famous for electrical items such as plugs, power outlets, switches but later on also lost its reputation due to the market dominance of durable German electrical brands. Also this country has nothing to stand out. Of course, education and training are not an exception. So why did I choose to study in this country? In fact, it’s a long story, but it can be summed up that I attended a joint program between several European universities. Ljubljana University, which bears the name of the capital of the Slovenian republic, also participates in this program and that’s why I have more than half a year of living and studying in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
My first impression of this city was derived from not having set foot here. It is an extremely difficult-to-remember city name and does not know how to pronounce the standard: Ljubljana. Every time I needed to write correctly, I knocked on Google (mostly wrong) and waited for Google to quickly fix and return the correct results. That’s why every time I don’t have Google beside me, I’m always confused if I write right or wrong. Later I had to carefully write each letter onto a small piece of paper affixed to the desk and memorized. Indeed, the insertion of the “j” in the middle makes me think of the Vietnamese way of writing “news” like: Toj now I want to talk to you? As for the pronunciation part, it is more or less simple, in today’s Slovenian style, “Luke”, but in the style of ancient pronunciation, all the “j” words are omitted and read “Lu-bla-na “.
In early December 2012, I finished my studies in Barcelona and prepared to leave for Ljubljana. There are basically two options: flying to Venice and going to the car for another 3 hours, or taking a straight bus. The second option is even harder because passengers have to sit in the car for a whole day but it is cheaper and more important to carry lots of luggage. So more than half of the students in the class including me choose this way. I remember that day on Thursday, the Eurolines ride left Barcelona’s coastal city around 9pm, through southern France and northern Italy and finally to the central Ljubljana bus station nearly 24 hours later. I must say that the first night’s feelings set foot in a strange city is unforgettable. After a long ride, Ljubljana continues to challenge the students’ suffering with a snow-cold rain in the cold season. Exactly white snowflakes dance in the night sky. The snow fell so thick that the sky was still bright thanks to not being completely dark. The first impressions of Ljubljana are not pleasant at all.
This photo I named “is she cold?” taken on Celovška Avenue on the first morning in Ljubljana. Later I rented a house recently and went on this road countless times
One of my favorite things about Ljubljana is that the people are very friendly. From my own experience, I see where the less people migrate, the local people seem to be better. Well-being here can be understood as that they have little or almost no building an invisible barrier to protect themselves from other skin-colored people, different voices. Try going to big travel centers like Paris or Rome, even if it is difficult to ask for directions sometimes because you might be suspected of being a bad object with a naive face of a traveler. In addition, one thing I never expected before coming here is that Ljubljana people speak English quite well. The first Sunday morning, after temporarily settling down the accommodation, I and my Spanish classmate Patricia went to visit the castle on a hill right in the city center. That day we met an 8-year-old girl in a small church located on the castle grounds. She sat quite close to the entrance, perhaps to invite customers. The front table presents a lot of lovely homemade cards. Because I didn’t think she could speak English fluently, I started with a few simple sentences:
– Hi, what’s your name?
– How old are you?
Contrary to my thoughts, she answered very confidently. Suspecting that these answers were “programmed”, I continued with more difficult questions:
– Do you draw these cards?
– I just wrote the word, and the decorative pattern is my father’s.
– So your father doesn’t sell?
– My father just went out so ask me to look after the goods.
– Have you studied English long?
– I started at 6 years old.
I was completely surprised with the small English level of this young lady. The answers were so fragile and natural as if she was speaking in her mother tongue. After a brief, interesting conversation, I bought a new year greeting card and another one with my name, which I later kept as a souvenir. But this girl is not an isolated case because anyone here, even manual workers, can almost communicate basic English. Living and studying in such an environment is very convenient for me, unlike time in Spain or Italy, sometimes using body language every time I need help.
A city corner viewed from the castle
One thing I have benefited a lot in Slovenia is the meal subsidy system for students called Studentski Boni. Students must register their phone number on the automatic answering operator. Each time you pay for meals at participating restaurants, you first need to call the operator to confirm your identity and then pay 3 to 5 euros depending on the menu. Please don’t think the price support will come with low quality. A lot of medium or luxurious restaurants also participate in this system. Usually a subsidy meal includes an appetizer soup and salad, an optional main course and a delicious dessert (the price is also good for beer). So whenever I’m lazy, I don’t have time to cook or want to “change the wind”, I make an appointment to go out and eat the restaurant. Cantina Mexicana is my favorite place in the heart of the city. The restaurant space is beautifully decorated, the music is always busy, the waiters are extremely funny and the Mexican food is very suitable for my taste. Because I stopped by many times, I remember that the price subsidy here cost 3.78 euros. Also with that amount, I can only buy a dry, not-so-called meat sandwich at McDonald’s or KFC.
Speaking about eating, there is a delicious ice cream shop in Ljubljana, which is crowded all year round. It is the Cocoa ice cream shop located on the banks of the river Ljubljanica and next to the Galerie Emporium shopping mall. In my ranking of the world’s best ice cream shops, Cacao stands at number one. Because ice cream here is mainly made from fresh ingredients, less flavored and never mixed with ice inside, it is very smooth. Standing in front of the ice cream cabinet with all kinds of flavors, many customers don’t know how to choose. I personally tried most of the ice cream flavors here and almost all tastes good. A stick of fragrant cinnamon sticks with two big round cream sticks costing over 2 euros. It is very affordable for consumer prices here. Every weekend including winter, this ice cream shop is always full of locals. It must be a very special place for Ljubljana people, similar to Trang Tien ice cream with Hanoi people.