Going on a spontaneous holiday with a random guy you met in the pub – that’s a good idea, right?
Have you ever been on holiday spontaneously? By that I mean, have you just decided to drop everything and go? You have? Good for you. It’s one of the most thrilling things you can do, I reckon. Okay, next question. Have you ever been on holiday spontaneously with someone you don’t really know? I’d guess probably not.
Well, I have. I thought it might be a laugh. And it was. I mean, it was when we went our separate ways.
Let’s go back to the beginning. How did all this happen? Well, as most plans do, the idea happened in the pub. One Friday afternoon, my friends and I were having a few beers. A new guy had tagged himself to our group over the last two weeks. He had just moved to town, and seemed like a nice enough lad, although no one really knew that much about him. (For the purposes of this article, I’m going to call him Pete. Mainly because that was his name).
Anyway, Pete and I got to talking, and after a while we both discovered we liked to travel, and yet neither of us had ever been to either Slovenia or Croatia, two countries that were relatively close and easy to get to. We both, coincidentally, had a couple of weeks off, starting that following Monday. A plan was formed. A quick check of transport links was made. A hostel was booked in Ljubljana. Everything came together incredibly quickly, and we were both very excited to be setting off into the unknown. The train to Ljubljana left at 9am the next day…
… And at 8.40 the next day, there I was. At the station with the tickets and my rucksack, ready to go. But where was Pete? 8.45, nothing. 8.50, I started calling. He should be on his way, right? No answer. 8.55, I abandoned hope of him being here in time …
… And he wasn’t. The train left without us. I was pretty pissed off, obviously. It’s a long train journey – surely 9am wasn’t too early to ask? Well, as it turns out, if you’ve spent the entire night getting massively drunk to celebrate the fact you’re going on holiday, it IS too early. At around 10am, I got a call. It was a very apologetic Pete. He was really sorry, was there any way we can still go? Luckily there was. There was another train at around 12, and the tickets were valid for any train. Problem solved. He decided to sleep for another couple of hours and would see me at 11.40.
11.40 comes, and would you know it, there he was, looking awful, frankly. But, no worries, he had the best cure for any hangover – a bag full of beers for the journey. I was the only one who brought anything to eat; a bag of sandwiches, some crisps and bananas. Ah well.
The first part of the journey passed uneventfully. We chatted a bit and change trains with no problem just outside Vienna. We started on the most spectacular part of the route, through the mountains of central and southern Austria, and it’s around this time that I started to learn more about my travelling companion. After having drunk his way through his hangover and out the other side, he decided to explain his worldview to me. The highlights of this included:
- believing that homosexuality shouldn’t be allowed because it’s “an evolutionary dead-end”;
- thinking that the idea of universal healthcare was “unfair to people who have the ability to pay”;
- carrying a large flick knife everywhere he went: “Just in case.”
These are not opinions I hold, and I told him as much. I was accused of being a “politically correct apologist”.
Much of the rest of the journey passed in a bitter silence, until Pete managed to get so much beer down him that the only option was to throw up in the nearest bag he could find. The one with all my food in it.
Eventually, and to my lasting relief, Ljubljana arrived. I managed to get a staggering Pete out of the station and into a rainy city. By this time, I was sick of the whole experience. The day had been horrendous, and was not made much better by having to half-carry Pete to the hostel, only to be told, after depositing him on his bed, that I should “chill out”.
I left him to sleep it off, and went out to explore. It’s lovely. The rain had stopped, the streets were glistening in the last of the evening sunlight, and the locals were sitting at pavement cafes and bars with glasses of beer and wine, and plates of wonderful-looking seafood. I took a place at a friendly-looking bar, opened my book, ordered many beers, and managed to chill out.
I arrived back at the hostel at around 1am. There was no sign of Pete. Two girls were sharing the hostel room with us, and they were sitting and chatting. I asked them if they’d seen another guy in this room; they said they hadn’t. Mysterious. Well, there was nothing I could do. So we stayed up chatting and drinking wine for a while more, then eventually went to sleep, until we were woken by crashing, grunting, a little bit more vomiting and, eventually, snoring which sounded like someone dragging bricks over a cattle-grid. Despite the best efforts of the girls and I, any attempt to wake Pete, or even turn him on his side, proved pointless, so we went outside to see in the morning. It was warm, there was tea. No bother.
We had only arranged to stay that night at the hostel. I went to reception and was told that if we weren’t out by 10am, we’d be charged for another night. I had no intention of staying – I had a plan! – so I packed, and tried to get it through to Pete that he had to move. He rolled over, brought me into focus with great difficulty, and said: “Leave me alone, I’ll be fine”. Okay then.
I spent the rest of the day exploring Ljubljana. It really is lovely. Laid-back, pretty, friendly. Not like a typical national capital at all. That evening, I caught a train to Zagreb. I’d never been there either, and was looking forward to exploring more of the Balkans.
As for Pete; I still saw him around town now and again, so he got back safely enough. I did occasionally feel guilty during the rest of my trip, but then I thought if you’ve got access to the internet and your cards you’ll never be lost in Western Europe. Just, maybe, not found in the right company.