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.”We 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.
We focused on building strong relationships with the locals (several of whom we still talk to today).
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.
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.
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. One 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…
…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.
The ruins of an ancient castle sat high upon a rocky crag, overlooking the village below with weathered pride.
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.
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.