Slovenia is the size of Wales. I found this out whilst flicking through a newly purchased guidebook to the country, sitting in a cafe in the capital city, Ljubljana. With this in mind… I have to admit, my heart sank. The size of Wales?! I wasn’t particularly excited for a week here. I love sightseeing as much as the next person, I really do, but after I had accomplished the infamous Postjama Caves and nearby Castle in the Rock, the breathtakingly beautiful Lake Bled and even white water rafted on the glacial Sava River, I genuinely thought Slovenia would have very little else to offer.
As is usually the case in these types of uninformed assumptions, I was wrong. This doesn’t happen often for me, but there it is. I hold my hands up. I was wrong about Slovenia, and the country certainly has a lot more to offer than a beautifully romantic capital and several out-of-this-world scenic destinations. And this extra something was music.
Music in Slovenia is everywhere. Buskers litter the streets of Ljubljana, festivals are dotted throughout the country, and an eclectic gaggle of musicians seem to float about everywhere you go. After very kindly being invited to Trnfest, a free festival in the streets of the city, I was expecting a nice evening. You know… a mediocre band playing to a vaguely enthused crowd of people who were more interested in the beer than the show. But nothing more. Once more, I vastly undermined the event. Freshly Ground – a fantastic South African band – were the headliners of the night and they blew. my. mind. Full of energy, incredibly talented and genuinely happy to be part of the whole thing, Freshly Ground created an easy but exciting atmosphere that seems to sum up the festival.
Thinking this was a one off, I definitely didn’t expect the arrival of Francesca and Angelica in my Hostel room the next day. Arriving at 9pm, evidently tired and happy to away from public transport, we didn’t speak much, and we all went our respective ways. In the morning, Angelica only went and cracked out a bloody accordion, and the two previously shattered Italian roommates burst into the most interesting music I’ve heard in a while – in a good way.
Captivated for a few songs, I finally asked them what exactly they were doing. It turns out they were stopping in Ljubljana for a few days before heading off to play in a Slovenian festival with their two woman band Porto Fado. Desperately wanting to record them for the purpose of my SPAR reporting job, we trekked down to Celica Hostel (one of the best hostels in Europe according to Lonely Planet). A VERY strong coffee offered by some Slovenian musicians later, and my destiny had been told in the dregs of an espresso, many Italian words had been exchanged, several photographs had been taken and we finally got down to the music.
This is exactly what Slovenia has been all about. Not just the music of course, but the sound of Slovenia. The sound of electric eclecticism, of an easy and friendly culture, of a country – though only the size of Wales – with enough cool to compete with any country in Europe. This has been Slovenia for me. And I’ve loved every second of it.