The Most Important Country I Have Ever Visited.

Posted on April 12, 2012



In the last post I mentioned that Slovenia was possibly the most important country I have ever visited in my life. In a way, this could easily be misconstrued as some usual Bills hyperbole. ‘Aw, it’s the best ever!’, ‘it’s my favourite!’, etcetera, etcetera. Well, with regards to future decisions and future movement and future endeavours (cheers Laurinaitis), Slovenia set off a chain of events that genuinely did alter my future plans completely.

I first visited Slovenia in the summer of 2007, whilst myself, Gareth, Minor and Danny were on our inter-rail trip around Europe. We were visiting Slovenia for one reason, that being that Lake Bled looked pretty freakin’ awesome. Of course, we went there, and loved it, and for good reason. It really is one of the most stupendously beautiful places you can visit inside the European borders. Yeah, it gets pretty mega busy in summer, but there is a good reason for that. If you want the definition of picturesque, I suggest you do a quick google image search for Lake Bled. An impossibly clear lake with an island in the middle, which a beautiful church on it. Oh, with big snow capped mountains in the background. It doesn’t get more postcard than that. Always breathtaking, mega tourism or not.

It wasn’t just pretty pictures of a lake that I took away from Slovenia however. We stayed in the capital, Ljubljana (pronounced Lyoo-blyaa-na), and whilst wandering the streets I noticed a lot of graffiti that was clearly anti-Yugoslav, or anti-Serbian. When I got home not long after, I decided to look into this. Why would Slovenia have an issue with Serbia or Yugoslavia? It was because of this that I read my first book about the country, which would become my second book, which would become my third book, which would become me talking about nothing else whilst in Bar Ca Va, which would lead to me making a few journeys around the region, which would lead to me being asked to work in Mostar, which would lead to me working in Mostar, which would lead to me being here today. So there you have it, Slovenia has had more of an future impact on my life than anywhere else I have been.

Of course, it wasn’t just pretty pictures of a lake and an obsession for a lifetime that I took away from Slovenia. Whilst out there the first time I met up with Sonja Hladnik, who I had met fleetingly at university in first year. We ended up getting on absolutely splendidly, and this of course led to me meeting her boyfriend, Jerry. Over the years, these two have become my absolute definition of Slovenia, I wouldn’t dream of going to the country without seeing them. Indeed, they are mostly the reason I go nowadays. This time was no different, and I arranged to stay with Jerry for a couple of days whilst there. It is always absolutely glorious seeing the both of them, and fun times are guaranteed. On the first night we went to see a Slovene band called Elvis Jackson, who really reminded me of Capdown. The same sort of excitable heavy ska punk, they really put on a great show, and I was shocked to find out that it was supposedly one of their less impressive performances. What made all of this even more intriguing was the fact that the gig took place in a local shopping centre. I was pretty sceptical about the venue to begin with, but the truth is it ended up being a pretty darn good location. Some pre-gig drinking in an underpass whilst it was pouring with rain probably helped. Oh, and drinking beer, gin, jagermeister, borovnice and vanilla white wine could have assisted. All in all, as usual in Slovenia, a great night with great people.

Of course, things would continue being awesome the next day. Another awesome human that I have met in these parts, Eric Wiedemann, now lives in Villach, Austria (formerly Slovenia). I’ll be heading to Villach for a few days at the end of the month to see Red Fang with the Wideman in Salzburg, but he made the call to come down to Ljubljana for the day for a much overdue catch up. It was as if the last three years hadn’t happened, and we were back in Mostar. Well, that’s not a million miles away, as we did spend a lot of the day searching out various Bosnian cultural icons in Ljubljana. To be precise, Sarajevsko beer. I know what you’re thinking, the Balkans are pretty much alcohol infested. Well, whilst I’ll concede that Sarajevsko beer is indeed alcohol, it wasn’t the desire for a drink that inspired the search. To put it bluntly, Sarajevsko beer is one of the worst beers I have ever drank. I LOVE Bosnia, this goes without saying, but their beer is pretty awful. Again, I figured that the 18 months away may have clouded my judgement, and maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being. Well, here’s the facts.

It is every bit as bad as I remember it being.

I’m not even sure if it can really be called a beer. It’s tangy, for Tesla’s sake. Tangy! The less said the better. We were going to be going for cevapcici (which you’ll remember from the first blog as being my own personal spinach) that evening with Sonja and Jerry, and low and behold I made the ridiculous decision to have another Sarajevsko with that. Why, I could not say. Ridiculous. The cevapcici however, was amazing. Is it ever not? Maybe I’ll make it my summer aim to find bad cevapcici. Impossible I say.

We ended up going back to Jerry’s after the food to watch some ice hockey, and despite not really knowing the rules I really enjoyed it. Of course, it helps that I have recently chosen my US sports teams (Denver Broncos, Boston Celtics, San Diego Padres) and the ice hockey team I chose (Pittsburgh Penguins) were in action that night. In a local derby, no less. They pulled off a resounding 4-2 win, and I ended the night genuinely thinking about getting into ice hockey. This may yet happen. In a lot of ways, it’s like rugby. On ice. Brilliant. Either way, it was pretty awesome seeing Jerry, Sonja and Eric again, and it better not be as long in between the next meetings. Well, I’ll be in Villach in 3 weeks, so obviously not.

In between that and now, I spent a couple of entertaining days in Zagreb, where I met some more awesome people (hey Ivona!) and spent an evening traversing the city by tram, which was entertaining in a macabre way. But now, I’m in Belgrade. Beautiful, beautiful Belgrade, with it’s stupidly high percentage of terrifyingly beautiful people. It’s glorious to be back here, I really do feel quite at home here. But, of course, that’s an entirely different blog for another day. I’m just happy to be back somewhere where coffee after 7pm is encouraged. Boli glava.