Good news: I finally got my Austrian visa. The process of gaining a visa from Austria as an American, for some reason, is very complex if you do not live in or near California or New York. If an American cannot get it from one of those two locations in the states, then it must be granted at the Austrian Embassy in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
I’m certainly not complaining about the complexity, because it gave me the opportunity to travel to two new countries; Slovenia and Italy.
Myself, as well as a large group of students who needed to get their Visas, as well as other students who signed up for the sight-seeing portion of the trip, boarded the bus by the Opera house in Graz at about 6am on Thursday morning. In a little less than two hours, we were in Ljubljana, waiting in line at the embassy to turn in all the required documents. The process of approving and printing visas takes about one business day, so once we finished the visa business, we all piled back onto the bus and headed for the beautiful border town of Trieste, Italy.
Thankfully, Trieste is only about an hour away from Ljubljana. When we arrived at our hostel, which sat right across the road from the Adriatic sea, the sun was shining so bright I felt like it was trying to blind me. The water was perfectly blue. Our large group dropped off our overnight bags in the lobby of the hostel (we couldn’t quite check in yet because not all of the rooms were ready), and headed back out for a short trek to the nearby Miramare castle and gardens.
We spent about two hours at the castle, and took far too many pictures of the scenery. Afterward, all ~50 of us hopped on a public bus to go toward the heart of the city. Let me tell you, that bus ride was uncomfortable! We were squeezed in and I was standing right by the door, so anyone new who got on the bus had to squeeze in next to me. Even though I couldn’t understand a word of their Italian, the locals who surrounded me on the bus were pleasant and kind. I shared some chuckles with some elderly Italians, and that was the extent of the conversation that we needed.
Finally, after what seemed like a hundred bus stops, we arrived at our destination, and were quickly ushered onto a short walking tour of the city center. Unfortunately, there was only one guide and fifty of us, so I didn’t hear much of what was said, but I did admire the sights.
That evening, our large ESN group ate pizza at a local shop. The pizza was great, but my favorite part of the meal was the pint of beer that I ordered. I’m usually not a fan of the taste of beer, but it was just right. Unfortunately, I have no idea what kind of beer it was. I hope to taste it again someday, because I am still thinking about it.
After dinner, a small group of us crossed the street to get some fantastic gelato, and then we traveled with the large group to a small bar where we sang karaoke and partied well into the night. I won’t bore you with the details, but just know that we brought the house down with our epic renditions of several classic songs.
By the time we got done at the karaoke bar, the buses had stopped running, so myself and a group of about five others went off into the wee hours of the morning, searching for a taxi that could take us to our hostel. We made a pit stop at a Kebap shop that I will never forget, because I had a wonderful conversation with one of the men who worked there. He was from Bangladesh, and we spoke about the importance of accepting and loving people no matter where they come from.
Finally, we made it back to our hostel at what must have been about 3am, and after a short while on the rooftop terrace conversing with some other students, I passed out onto my hostel bed without even properly putting the sheets on.
The next morning, we returned to Ljubljana to get our visas, and luckily had no trouble. We then spent about 5 hours aimlessly wandering the beautiful city, but we were very tired from the previous night, so we didn’t do anything more exciting than walk around and try to soak in some sunshine.
We got onto our bus to head back to Graz that evening, and made one delicious pit stop at a famous Krapfen shop. Krapfen is a donut-like pastry usually filled with apricot marmalade, and they. Are. To die for.
All said and done, the trip was very short, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I feel like I only got a tiny taste of the two cities (and countries) to which we traveled. I know that I’ll be back, and soon.