MAY 11, Wednesday: Into Slovenia (How do you pronounce “Ljubljana”?) (Day Five)
In the morning, Marisa has apparently been pulling “native Italian” strings… For the Taxi discrepancy, the reception clerk Maurizio offers me a 20 Euro refund, asking somewhat sheepishly, “Is that okay?” I assure him it will be sufficient. When I offer to pay the balance for the hotel rooms (I had sent a deposit by credit card two months earlier), he says the bill was ”fully” paid by credit card. But I insist that it was only a deposit I had paid. The third time insisting, he pulls out the paperwork and accepts my payment of the balance. We pile onto the bus and head out, only slightly scarred by our Venetian spending experience.
On the bus, Marisa shares the dramatic story of what happened earlier that morning. She had put on her Japan Travel Bureau T-shirt. (Marisa works for their agency in Rome, where she arranges time schedules for Japanese tourist to go to museums in Rome – she has nothing to do with transportation of, or even speaking to, Japanese tourists.) She gave the Hotel front desk person her JTB business card, got the phone number of the taxi driver, and led them to believe that she was virtually a spy for an agency that ferrets out taxis (and hotels) which overcharge/underchange Japanese tourists. She speaks of people wearing hidden cameras on their heads who take pictures of the price-stickers for items on the shelf, and if the merchant asks a higher price, that merchant might be reported to the authorities. JTB was considering sending busloads of Japanese tourists to Venice (Marisa fibs) but they certainly would not be sending them to any taxi service or hotel which was not dealing honestly with the customers… Now I understood why Maurizio offered the 20 Euro refund, and asked meekly if that was okay (enough). I wondered, did he expect me to reciprocate the dishonesty, and not pay the balance for the rooms? Like, It was my turn to rip them off, since they’d missed their turn to rip me off? Too bad I didn’t want such a karmic debt, and I insisted that I pay the balance... otherwise, I might’ve saved nearly $400! On the bus, now blissfully far from Venice, we roar in laughter about this “cross-cultural” experience.
We also play with names for our monstrous bus – perhaps if we personify it, the difficulties it poses won’t seem so overwhelming. At first the group seems to like “Jabba the Bus…” but the hands-down winner is Dave Sullenger’s suggestion: Enschuldigung (German for “Excuse Me!”).
In a few hours we arrive in Ljubljana in Slovenia, where the lovely Andreja Kranjc greets us at the roadside. The bus is guided to the Ballet School which is the location for our late-afternoon program. Here, there is healthy space - covered, even! - for the beast “Enschuldigung” to rest.
A stroll over bridges and along canals takes us to the old city’s heart, with many boutiques, outdoor cafes, pretty girls and guys. The weather is warm and delightful for outdoor activities: sunbathing, bike-riding, and more headstands (by Anne and me). Our jolly group goes to the Romeo Café (which is across the walkway from the Juliette Café – here spelled “Julija”) which offers tortillas, burritos and other Mexican-style eats. (!) Most of us enjoy salads. Dave orders (and shares) an unusual pastry-dessert which features lots of poppy seeds and syrup in an oversized triangle-shaped blob.
Our 4:30pm program is filled to capacity - 60 people. This is the kick-off event for the “First International Festival of Laughter for No Reason.” Part 2 will be tomorrow in Maribor. The room has a superb piano and we do a nifty combination of laughter exercises, fun music, and lovely piano melodies (we can get eight heads at a time under the soundboard), and more laughter. Slovenian/English translations occur for everything; all the bus-leaders guide exercises. The audience is highly participatory, even though for many this is their very first experience with Laughter Yoga. There is an extended session of Laughter Meditation with Eyes Open - very fulfilling. My pack lightens as a goodly number of T-shirts and merchandise are purchased – yay!
After the profoundly fun and soul-nurturing program, we walk 1/2 an hour for diner (al fresco again); a regional specialty of sauerkraut soup for me! We get back on the bus and on the road a little after 9:00pm. Alex Sternick, the Gibberish Champion from Israel, joins us on the bus for this 90-minute ride to Maribor. (It turned out that Alex was the only person to hop aboard for a short trip on the entire voyage.)
We arrive a little after 11:00pm at the Hotel Bajit-Garni and unload all our baggage for our only two-night stay on this tour. The pretty, dark-haired desk clerk is smiley and very pregnant; the hotel rooms are cozy and very pleasant.