As my time in Slovenia is so limited, I wanted to make the best out of the crappy weather (100% chance of rain ALL DAY), so I got the train time tables figured out and headed out after only a few hours of solid sleep to visit the highly anticipated Skocjan Caves.
In order to get to the Skocjan Caves without a car, you need to take a train to the city of Divača, where there are hourly shuttles to transport you to the caves within 5 minutes. My original goal was to grab the 9:34 train, but due to my poor timing (and the fact that I forgot toothpaste and had to track some down at the supermarket) pushed me back to the 10:40 train, putting my in Divača around 12:30. Not a problem.
I arrived about twenty minutes early at the Ljubanja train station to purchase my ticket, only to discover there were no ticket machines and that you must purchase your ticket from someone at a kiosk. Okay. I waited in line for 15 minutes (for approximately ONE PERSON IN FRONT OF ME) before switching lines and being helped almost immediately.
I was then told that the tracks towards Divača are under construction and that there are replacement buses– and it will take a bit longer to arrive by bus. Okay, not a problem.
I used the two Slovenian words I’ve learned (“Hello” and “Thank you“) to talk to the not-so-friendly drivers and find my bus (because they´re not marked) and off I went, arriving in Divača just after 12:30 PM. The next shuttle should have been at 1 PM. However, for whatever reason there were no shuttles between 11:00-14:00, which meant waiting just under two hours until the next shuttle arrived.
Feeling optimistic, two German ladies and I decided to brave the hour-long walk to the caves. There is one sign pointing in the initial direction, but none later reassuring you that you’re on the right track. So we eventually stopped to get vague directions from a gas station and kept trekking, until the pouring rain started, and didn’t stop. This hour-long walk involved solely walking on the side of the highway, and after about 20 minutes I gave up, turned around to headed back to the bus station to have a beer at the local bar, chat up the locals, and wait out the shuttle. Not too bad of a situation– I’m still optomistic and laughing at the whole thing.
An hour later, at 14:00 sharp, big tourist bus pulls up, so I ask the bartender, “Is that the shuttle?” And she says, “No, it’s smaller.” Turns out the shuttle was parked on the other side of the big bus, and I didn’t go outside because the rain was so heavy, so I never saw it come or go, and therefore missed it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??
But, still not feeling completely defeated, I decided to have another beer, converse with some cool German chicks, and wait until 15:00– it was my own stupidity that I missed that shuttle;I should have braved the rain and gone outside (I should add that I also lost my umpteenth umbrella at the airport yesterday and didn’t realize it until I was on my way out the door this morning!)
So now as I have been here almost for almost three hours, I started planning my return trip so I would know exactly which buses to take upon coming back from the caves. I even tried to go and purchase my return ticket in advance but there was no one at the kiosk–it was completely dark. I return to the bar where many people waiting for public transport had migrated, and started talking to a group of different Germans girls whom have just completed the cave tour. They raved about it, but said that the tours at the caves only start on the hour, and that as the shuttle also leaves from the station on the hour (and is the ONLY shuttle), basically in my situation I would arrive at 15:07, and then would have to wait for the 16:00 tour. I just don’t understand this logic… Why not syncronize the shuttle times with the tour start times?
Have I also mentioned that this place is very secluded and there were NO taxis in sight, which I found odd because I totally would have taken a taxi for the seven minute ride as I was now a bit pressed for time.
At this point I started to question whether or not it was still worth going to the caves. There were still buses heading back from Divača to Ljbuanja until Almost 21:00, but what about the shuttle from the cave back to Divača? I didn’t want to be walking back in the pouring rain on the side of the highway for an hour in the evening by myself (the tours last about 2.5 hours if you do everything.)
So, I went to verify the returning shuttle times, and here’s the kicker: it turned out that the last shuttle back to the station was at 15:23. That´s it! I would be stuck walking all the way back to the station. (I mean again, there weren’t even any taxis around– and this is suppose to be quite a touristic spot!)
So, I made an executive decision, sucked up my pride, and got on the two-hour bus ride home at 14:43. For me, it was no longer l worth it; not worth worrying about getting stuck alone in the dark by myself all alone in a foreign country. I took myself off social media for a week so no one even knows where I am. The worst part is, I assumed that since the kiosk was dark I could just buy my ticket in board, but as I pulled out my wallet to do so, the driver yelled, “NO!” But I mean, YELLED at me, like I was a CHILD. He shouted, “GO! Now!” and pointed towards the ticket office. The anger in his eyes was so unnecessary. Not wanting spend another minute in Divača’s only bar, I bolt back into the ticket office and banged on the window. A old man leisurely made his way over, opened the window, and sold me my ticket at what felt like snail’s pace. I felt so rude with my lack of Slovenian but I didn’t care; I ran back and gave my ticket to the Slovenian driver, who was STILL angry and STILL throwing curse words my way. (And that for me was the icing on the top of the cake. DON´T treat and talk to adults like they’re children.)
My day was wasted, and I feel embarrassed about that. But, I’m trying to look on the bright side. The countryside scenery is breathtaking. It was fun to converse with locals in a random bar in the boondocks of Slovenia. It’s cool to travel a bit off the beaten path and not be engulfed by tourists everywhere I go. I know some of the things that went wrong today were my fault, but seriously, What the actual fuck, Slovenia? What on earth is with the lack of shuttles and synchronization and taxis and what not? I don’t get it. I’m disappointed. And I’m not impressed. But thankfully, I still have a couple of days to turn it around.
Travel is not always glamorous, and this is a prime example.
Have you ever had any crazy travel mishaps?