Friday, September 21, 2001

Aha! Here goes for getting everything up to date. I'm still in Piran, nursing a mild hangover in the morning after going out with Simon for a quiet pint and ending up at a bar talking to some drunk old Slovenian seadog who kept saying "Scotland... Europe... together!" and seemed rather keen on bombing some Arabs. This led to us meeting a Frenchard named Phillipe and an Italian called Sergio, but he looked more like a John to me. Phillipe lived in Switzerland which, to those who know me well, is my most hated country in the world. So I duly gave Phillipe abuse about Switzerland, and he agreed with me about its many failings.

And we had a double mullet event! Not once, but TWICE in the evening, we were entertained by mullets playing music! The first was in the bar with the old drunk anti-Arab Slovenian fisherman, where a mulleteer picked up a guitar and began playing "House of the Rising Sun". He was quite good, although quickly deteriorated. But to hear a mullet play music live is always beautiful.

But it got better. We moved onto another bar (which to Simon's intense delight served Tennents lager, which tastes just as goddam awful in Slovenia as it does in its home country) and a live band were playing. And TWO of them had mullets. Verily, this was excitement indeed. They were rather good, with the unfortunate result that I witnessed Simon do what I would term a "minor bop". Simon dancing, even a little, is something no-one should ever witness. If I were a terrorist I'd simply bombard the world media with images of a dancing Simon, and the world would soon be on its knees.

Today then was simply spent looking around the very charming little town of Piran, and its less charming neighbour Portoroz. Portoroz is a cheap tacky holiday resort, a la Blackpool, and boasts its very own beach. The beach is a little underwhelming unfortunately, and resembles a dirty sandpit. We also, by rather large coincidence, bumped into the middle aged Irish couple that fed us in Bled.

Tomorrow we hope to see our third football match - Piran vs... um... a team beginning with K. Kosoran? I took a look at the pitch and I have high hopes that this could be our most obscure match yet.

So then, time now to catch up on previous events. I left you with the agonising cliffhanger of me being in Bohinj with toothache, going to bed at 8pm freezing my ass off despite four layers plus a sleeping bag, in the worst campsite I've been to yet.

Well, first thing the next morning we pissed right off, on the bus to Ljubljana and after a few hours wait, the train to Koper. I'm not sure why we decided to go to Koper, but I think it was probably because it was south and on the coast, therefore "warm". And we were right. Warm weather, praise be. Back to just a T-shirt.

We got into a youth hostel, which was actually a student halls of residence with a few spare rooms. And I think these were "college" students, therefore they lacked the sophistication and manners that I have in abundance. All they did was hang around outside, making noise, and watching mopeds speed up and down the road making a grossly disproportionate amount of noise for a vehicle so small. Koper was moped central. Heaps of pricks on mopeds, speeding up and down.

We got into our room and I went to clean my teeth (feeling much better). As I left my room I saw a girl in the room just up from me lock her door. I did a double take and my mind was flung back to Bled, as we waited with Cindy at the bus stop, as me and Simon were to go to Bohinj.

We'd got talking to another girl waiting for a bus, a Canadian called Tammy. We'd talked to her for about 20 minutes before she'd got her bus. She seemed pleasant, but it was really just a passing encounter. I looked at the girl at the door again. I was 80% sure it was her, so I said hello and yes, indeed, it was. Our first "re-encounter" of our trip so far.

Tammy seemed very pleasant and likeable, but beneath that pleasant exterior hid a marvellously maverick mind. She'd been travelling alone from about the same time we'd started, but her objectives were much different. She'd decided to go to Europe just 2 weeks before setting off, despite never having travelled before, and had decided to get a job in Slovenia despite not speaking any Slovenian. By a chance meeting in a cafe she was looking hopeful for a job in an ice-cream selling place, which would carry her through until she got a job teaching English. She also had a great aunt in Slovenia somewhere that she was preparing to meet, and was desperately trying to cram in some Slovenian phrases in her head. Her dream was to live in Myanmar of all places, the reason she'd taken Microbiology at university (although had dropped out) because she thought that because Myanmar had a high malaria level, they'd have a lack of microbiologists. Or something like that. The oppressive government didn't seem to bother her. One of the things I was most impressed with was that between the ages of 13 and 16 she'd saved up all her money to go and do missionary work in Venezuela. That's dedication. Between the ages of 13 and 16, I think the only thing I did was masturbate.

All this we learnt over the next few days, as we hung about together, went for a couple of meals, and went out drinking. A couple of breakfasts too, because they were free at the hostel, although truly revolting. The first night we went for a pizza then me and her (Simon had to go to bed because he'd been getting less than 10 hours sleep in previous nights) went to the astonishing "Club Elite". Astonishing because it was large, played tacky music, and had only a barman and 3 pervy old men inside. And cost UK prices. Man, I was unhappy.

The next day we all did our own thing for a while. Koper was a cool little place. Heaps of tiny uneven cobbled streets winding about maze-like, and it was on the coat. The sea! I've lived by the sea all my life (both Dingwall and Aberdeen) and this has been the first month of my life I've not seen the sea once. It's strange how you come to miss a gigantic body of water so much.

It was more drinks that evening, and we ended up in an Irish-type pub that resembled the Hogs Head. It even served Kilkenny, which was once my favourite drink (albeit for just one evening). Ah, I still dream of Caley 80. A pint of Caley 80 served Illicit Still style. Not 500mls like these continentals go for, but a good old British imperial pint.

That place closed at 12, but Tammy insisted we make a return to Club Elite, which this time had only the barman, who was called Mario it turned out. Tammy then hid on a balcony while we discussed football with Mario.

And football was supposed to the theme of our thirs day in Koper, if everything had gone to plan. We'd seen posters advertising what we thought was KC Koper vs Ljubljana Olimpija and so decided to go check it out. We spent the day doing various bits and pieces and having drinks at a cafe, and then all headed off to the stadium. It looked distinctly quiet all around. We went in and looked around but God knows what the posters were advertising because unless the Slovenian interpretation of football is for a heap of very tiny children (including one with a rat-tail mullet) sitting in disproportionately large hula hoops, it looked like the football was "off".

Not to matter though, more drinking time. We had a meal at a slightly out of the way restaurant, getting two shots of the local homebrew ("Ruda") for free into the process. We gave the waiter/owner a tip, and he was so delighted he gave us free drinks. Pretty toxic stuff too. It was then just another good old night of alcohol.

Oh yeah. We met the Syrians too that night. We met these guys every day we were in Koper. The first time was when me and Simon had our backpacks on, heading to the hostel, and three of them approached us wondering if we knew of where to exchange money. The second night they'd approached the three of us, this time wondering how to get to the harbour, and it turned out they were all crew in a cargo ship and we'd got talking to them. About all sorts of stuff, the World Trade Centre being one of them. The main Syrian guy who did all the talking thought Bin Laden was innocent. The third night we talked for ages. They were sitting on a bench drinking, and we saw them and talked to them. They liked us because we were just about the only people they'd approached that didn't walk away because they thought they were trying to sell drugs. We liked them because they were these hard drinking Muslim sailors, and Tammy had given us the idea of trying to hitch a ride. This great plan was foiled alas, not because Ishmael was against it, but the captain wouldn't allow for it. Besides, their next destination was Algeria. I believe the current situation in Algeria is less than stable.

Anyway, that was Koper, a nice little place we enjoyed a lot (and where Simon slept an incredible amount, and had some awful foot odour). It was Piran then, and that's everything up to date. We're going to head to Croatia in the next couple of days.

Yeah, so I've still got the Budapest stuff (with the eight Irish - Doireann, Griff, Marie, Rob, Louise, Darragh, Valerie, Sean - and two Germans - Arman, Johannes) and the rather crazy Szekerfehervar experience with the wonderfully hospitable Sajtos family and the quacking cat, but I'm out of time. Check out Simon's diary for details on that.

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