(Guide says 27.7km – 17.2 miles, but we walked 30km – 18.6 miles)
We had grand plans of getting up and moving at 5am this morning but we’ve found that it’s especially difficult to be motivated after a rest day. We’ve noticed a pattern at this point though, and it’s time to face that all mornings are a struggle. The thermal pools in Lenti were apparently magical and seem to have taken away my rashes and almost entirely healed my blisters. We also enjoyed our meals at Hotel Denis and the manager, Rene, so much that we were sad to be leaving. I was properly spoiled for my 47th anniversary of life with a day of relaxation, divine food, and an incredible massage. Kim, one of the walkers in the group now one day ahead, had made the sweetest tiny note to leave behind, and inside, tucked a lucky four leaf clover, and the whole restaurant got in on the fun of singing happy birthday to me. It was such a nice day and evening. The perfect place to spend my birthday!
Because we stayed behind another day, we are now with a group of four women from Canada and one of their teenage daughters, who are mixing the walking with taxis throughout. The walk has turned out to be much more than they expected too. We assume that we won’t be seeing very much of them on the route, but will run into them at the accommodations each night. Gary’s already had two experiences that have him itching to move ahead to be with our previous group again, or drop back another day. I find this to be quite amusing because he’s generally more tolerant of most everything than I am. I think he’s just feeling seriously outnumbered. We’re on our way to Croatia today and we are hoping and praying that our bag will still be sitting there waiting since we sent ahead with the previous group and then stayed behind a day.
The walk starts on a bike path which is really quite lovely, but steep and slippery at points, for about 5km. It winds through the woods and passes a lake which offers beautiful views but was sign posted as toxic. There are several signs warning of no swimming or fishing. It seems that every single one we’ve seen so far has been posted with the same warnings. We’re starting to wonder exactly what it is that’s happened to pollute them all. Most are in quite pristine settings as well. Maybe this is just a ruse to keep the filthy, sweaty, EPW walkers from taking quick dips as we pass by…?
After the bike path we find ourselves climbing up and down through the hills on a gravel lane, lined with old small villages. We’ve become fascinated with the dying villages of Hungary. It seems that the youth don’t wish to stay in the places they were born, and at the point of adulthood they move to Budapest, or immigrate to another country altogether. These villages generally consist of just a few homes that are lived in and several abandoned homes with signs reading ELADO! (For sale). The schools, government buildings, and stores are all abandoned and dilapidated as well. Everyone who lives in the village must make their way to the nearest large city to take care of any business or do shopping. We were told that because it’s very inexpensive to buy property in the dying villages, many people who are retirement age and are ready to leave the larger cities move out and purchase property, restore the homes and live a peaceful quiet life. This just perpetuates the problem as the few who do live there are all senior citizens.
As we come down out of the hills, we find that we are in Slovenia all of a sudden with no sign of a border checkpoint again. It instantly feels different with nicer homes and everything seems to be more vibrant and filled with life. As we walk past people they smile and several say, “Hello” (because we must just look like English speakers, even from miles away) much like in Austria. We immediately start to see signs for a Salvador Dali exhibit at the Lendava Castle, which we walk right past on our way down into town. After bit of discussion about the length of our walk today, we made a decision not to go to the exhibit and I’m hoping that this is not one of those moments that I will live to regret for years to come.
The biggest current issue is that we are completely out of euro and now that we have left Hungary, our leftover forint will not be accepted anywhere. We happen to pass an older couple on the street and ask about the nearest bank and with smiles, they very kindly direct us just around the corner to an ATM. We can feel a definite difference in this country. We enjoyed Hungary very much, and had some great experiences, but the majority of our interactions with people were not positive. The country as a whole is struggling, and it can really be felt in the unhappiness of the people.
Once our money problem is solved, we start hunting for a cappuccino. We immediately find the loveliest café. A young girl who looks exactly like Scarlet Johansen makes our cappuccinos with plumeria flowers on top and gives us the most heavenly salted rolls. They taste and have a texture similar to pretzels but look a bit more like a croissant. We enjoyed them so much that as we were leaving we asked if we could purchase more and she refused money but packed us a bag of all the rolls she had left. Happiness and generosity, this definitely feels much different.
According to our guidebook we have 11km left to walk, however we checked Google maps and it says we have 16 km left. So, you know…no big deal, we’ve already walked a ridiculously long distance but, give or take 3 miles, right? We’ve given up on the guide having any accuracy whatsoever. Actually, we’re quite astonished when something in it turns out to be true.
So far, the day has been one filled with amazing food. We made breakfast ourselves with yogurt, peaches, granola, and leftover chocolate crapes from my birthday dinner. Then we had the yummy Hawaiian cappuccinos with the salty pretzel croissant rolls, and a self made lunch of black forest ham sandwiches with cream cheese and fresh apricots, it just doesn’t get much better than this. I’m at the point where I can’t eat another piece of brown dry bread with bologna or salami on it ever again. It’s the typical breakfast offered at each accommodation. We eat it in the mornings and then pack sandwiches of the same thing to eat on the road. It was good the first few days, but now I’ve had enough and I’m really hoping something else will be offered from this point on.
After we left the civilized city center, it was hard to get our heads wrapped around going back into the fields and forests. We walked what seemed like forever through the fields and down a gravel road that was heavily traveled by one giant piece of farm equipment after the next. Eventually the road joined a highway and we had to walk along the side with no shoulder for about a kilometer before we got to the Croatian border. Here, there are two separate check points with heavy security. The first is where you get signed out of Slovenia and the second is being permitted to enter Croatia. Apparently, these countries mean business at this border, although we had sauntered into Slovenia without any notice at all. We were curious why this was, but decided that it was best not to ask a bunch of questions. They were all very nice yet, very official.
After crossing through we stopped in the duty free shop to buy cold water and orange juice. This helped a little, but the 92 degree heat from noon on had become a bit hard to deal with after 6 hours of walking. It was really hard to walk away from the champagne isle empty handed, but I didn’t want anything badly enough to carry it the next 11km. I gently ran my fingers across a row of all the pretty boxes and bottles, snapped a quick picture and figured that would have to do. First thing I’m having when I finish this darn walk is a nice bottle of bubbly!
Soon enough we were back in the woods, which offered shade so we didn’t complain. It’s a trade off, you get the shade, but also the horse flies. We’ve each gotten about 20 horse fly bites in the past three days. It’s as if they were hiding somewhere in the world and then all just suddenly appeared on the EPW in force. Even though this is a walk for peace, we’ve decided that we really hate them.
We came out of the woods and walked down a long gravel road through what felt like miles of corn fields. I started to hear a meow and it was coming from behind us, but getting louder. This went on for 20 minutes, then finally after digging through the brambles with my walking stick, I found a tiny black kitten. He was walking along with us but underneath the brush and meowing loudly the whole time. When he came out I tried to pick him up and he let me for a second but then wiggled to be put down. As we walked, he walked with us meowing the whole way. I tried to give him water, but he was afraid of the reflection the sun made on the bottle. I tried pouring it in my hand but he was just too little to take it. We spent ages looking for his mommy, but we could see that piles of garbage had been dumped and he looked like he had been as well.
Gary was not amused at all, and I know exactly what he was thinking, because he looked at me and said, “Great, what are you going to do with him now? We can’t carry him all the way to Trieste, and we CAN NOT keep him.” He said this with his stern voice, because he knew exactly what thoughts were swimming around in my head. I just smiled back at him and let him keep worrying about how we’d be able to stay in the hostels with a kitten, get him through the next border, etc. but I had already come up with a pretty solid plan. I just wanted to let him sweat it a bit since he had used “the voice”.
I finally picked the kitten up and carried him with us and after a couple of kilometers we came to a tiny village. We began knocking on every door to try to find him a home. It wasn’t looking very promising at all as a few people literally laughed at us and said, “No.” One lady actually did just that and told us there was no animal rescue site, adding that people dump their animals out in the field all the time, then asked, “So, how do you like Croatia so far?” I was standing there thinking, “You know, it’s really pretty nice other than the apparent disregard for animals.” But I just smiled and said goodbye.
Nicola and Josip were the fourth house that we tried and they were thrilled to see us! They very happily took the little kitten and told us that they had just lost their own cat four days ago. They asked us to stay for a while and offered us water or juice, but we had spent so much of our time trying to find a home for the kitten that we were way behind schedule. We took a few pictures of the new happy little family, said our thank you’s, and started walking as fast as we could. It was hot and 4:30pm, which meant we’d already been walking nine hours and we still had a mind boggling 7km further to go.
We walked another 5km and then happened upon an air conditioned pub. I could no longer feel my feet at all, which should’ve been a good thing, but I knew it wasn’t. We stopped in to get a juice so I could take off my boots and make sure my toes were all still attached.
Moments after sitting, a young man literally comes running in and asks if we are EPW walkers. We tell him yes, then he says he’s in quite a rush but there’s a problem with our accommodation and that we need to go with him. We ask him how close we are and he says, you are very close to the place you are supposed to be staying, but we’ve had to place you somewhere else a good distance away. We climb in his van and then he says that we first have to drive all the way back to the Croatian border to get the Canadian ladies. Wait, I’m sorry, what? Are you freaking kidding me? We’ve just spent hours walking this entire distance, we are hot, sweaty, need showers, laundry, food and rest…but we’re driving backwards to a pizza parlor where these ladies have stopped for the day? Perfect!
Then, it gets even better. Once we collect the ladies, our driver, also Nicola, (two in one day) says that we will be making a detour to drive past a spot on the river where he likes to go and write his poetry. Cue the Canadian ladies swoon, all out loud and in unison, with their bellies full of pizza, “Oh, that’s just so beautiful.” Give me a freaking break. I’m far too tired and dirty for this dog and pony show. This is so strange, as only 30 minutes ago he was practically shoving us in the van and telling us what a rush he was in because he needed to get back to work. It’s that point when I realized this was all for the benefit of the beautiful, young, blonde, Canadian girl in the group. But alas, all Nicolas’ attempts were completely lost on her as she was sat in the back of the van, not even listening. She was too busy making absolutely foul comments to her poor mother right and left. At one point, her mom says in a sweet and slightly amused tone, “Oh look, all the stop signs actually say stop.” To this her daughter replies with a tone of absolute disgust, “Oh my god mom, ours do too.” Then there was silence for a bit before her mother very sweetly said, “Yes, honey, but we’re in Croatia now.” At this moment I was thinking how nice it was that my kids are all off adulting on their own now and I don’t have any teenage behaviors to deal with any longer. While I certainly miss some aspects of having them closer to me, I’m in such a darn good life place now!
Next, Nicola actually tells us that there’s no laundry availability because it’s now so late in the day, I’m thinking, “Yeah, well then maybe we should’ve skipped the freaking trip to the river buddy” and then he tells us there’s absolutely no food offered at our accommodation either. But, he says we can walk approximately 300 meters down the highway for dinner.
Oh, and the kicker, the only option for breakfast is for them to pick us up at 7 and take us somewhere to eat and then drive us back to the path. Which means we won’t even begin to walk until 8am and by then it’s already getting hot. But here he adds, “This was the exact program Cressy Camino requested, so it should be fine for everyone else.” There’s literally nothing we can do, it’s as if we are being held hostage and all in the name of Cressy Camino. This is actually about the 50th time I’ve heard this woman’s name used during this walk, and it’s never been for anything good. She’s the excuse people like to hide poor service behind it seems. I wonder if she knows this is happening.
Oh, have I mentioned that the wifi didn’t work? That’s honestly the stuff that pipe dreams are made of…blog smog.
A few words of wisdom offered by Nicola, the river sitting, poetry writing van driver, about the young people who choose to leave their villages:
If you are going somewhere, the first thing you take with you is yourself. So, if you can’t live with yourself at home, you won’t be able to anywhere else.
This was early on in our meeting. At this point I was still fairly impressed with him. Something to think about at least.
Sorry to leave things here, but I must go and walk to my dinner now.😊
EPW Guide said- Accredo Centar (Paintball Center)
But we were placed in:
Cafe Monika Pension
25 euro per person room and off site breakfast
No food on site
No laundry facilities
No wifi in the rooms
Some other favorite pics from the day: