Bovec: A Memoir

You say it, “Bo-vets.” It’s this gorgeous Alpine village in northern Slovenia, just south of Austria and east of Italy.

I always think about camping in Slovenia this time of year. In fact, Joey and I tented in our backyard on Sunday night. It was just what I needed after a stressful week. My “fix.”photo 1photo-1We lived in Slovenia for an entire summer exactly 5 years ago as part of Joey’s MDiv requirements. He wasn’t actually required to spend a summer rafting, rock climbing, hiking, canyoning (WILD STUFF) and sipping espresso…but he was required to get some cross-cultural missions experience.

And that’s what we did. We collaborated with the American missionaries in Bovec to provide a children’s VBS and continue the effort of ministering to local outdoor athletes. DSC04476

We focused on building strong relationships with the locals (several of whom we still talk to today).

DSC04483We told them the story of how Jesus changed our lives. And that He could change theirs too. We prayed for the city of Bovec sitting atop Mt. Svinjak after a nearly vertical 8 hour hike.DSC03906

Buds

Buds

Joey, Josh, Katy and I yelled for “pizza!” a good portion of the way down the mountain, knees throbbing, and stomachs aching with hunger. Cracker-thin, cheesy pizza and dark chestnut espressos were our comforts that summer. They were warm and familiar. A hug from home.

Kava Z Mlekom

Kava Z Mlekom

We made such fantastic relationships with the locals in Bovec. The kind of relationships where, by the end of July, they knocked on the glass of their storefront windows as we passed on the sidewalk, invited us to play Bocce or go to a festival, and gave us a ride from town to our campsite near the river about two miles away. They waved across the streets and we waved back, knowing all their names. Joey even played on the winning team in a local sand volleyball tournament.DSC04535

Bovec

Bovec

This was the summer we walked at least five-ten miles/day. Uphill. In the rain. We rock climbed several times a week and hitch-hiked from southern to northern Slovenia, relying entirely on the kindness of foreign strangers for their hospitality. DSC04317One particularly exciting car ride was from Osp, a small rock climbing town, to Vrpolje. We were literally piled into a toy car much like this one…euro-renault-twingo-470-080

…four of us in the back seat and three up front. No seat belts. The men who offered their vehicle were loud, boisterous Spaniards; firemen on vacation together. I knew in those moments that I wouldn’t be able to explain what that car ride was like, but that I wanted to remember it forever. Only one guy spoke broken English, and somehow we managed to relay to him that we’d like to be dropped off in the next town.

Vrpolje was a beautiful valley town tiered with lush vineyards and grazing sheep. DSC03703

The ruins of an ancient castle sat high upon a rocky crag, overlooking the village below with weathered pride.

Hiked to the castle...and couldn't quite get the camera timer to cooperate! :)

Hiked to the castle…and couldn’t quite get the camera timer to cooperate! 🙂

For the next several nights we slept in the backyard campground of one of the most hospitable families I’ve ever met. They offered us homemade prosciutto and wine, allowed us to eat out of their garden, and maintained the cleanest, most sparkly bathrooms. DSC03694DSC03699

The Kobals

The Kobals

We rock climbed in the morning, fell asleep in our hammock mid-day and played cards in our tent at night. Dinner was a loaf of crusty golden bread, 75% dark chocolate and fresh cheese.DSC03714

This summer changed my life. I felt so adult. So self-sufficient.

I was pushed WAY outside my comfort zone into tiny, stinky bathrooms without a flusher on the toilet. Into dark homes like caves where I was offered strange foods. Into tiny European cars that veered dangerously along steep mountain roads. Stuck in a tent while rain pelted the nylon for days on end. Tepid showers once or twice a week. Challenging, dangerous climbing routes. Difficult spiritual questions without easy answers. No transportation. Fierce homesickness. Frustration and fatigue and flight delays.

I needed Jesus and I needed Joey and I needed the generosity of strangers–people I would never see again but who etched their memory on my heart. Memories I especially think about the first week of June.

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5 thoughts on “Bovec: A Memoir

  1. Ash, thanks for being such a good storyteller and for telling this one so well. I have long ago fallen in love with all the characters in this awesome story and fallen in love more and more with the God who watches over us all. I love you guys!

  2. I vividly remember sitting in Panera Bread and looking at your pictures and hearing the wonderful tales of that adventure. I miss you!

  3. Amazing. The fact that you and Joe did this blows my mind. Makes me love y’all all the more. You guys are the coolest.

  4. Pingback: Living the Adventure | our invincible summers

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