Following river paths to Celje

Where to today, Louise? Ljubljana forecast: rain. Search the region…ahah! The sun may be shining in Celje. The train to Celje leaves platform 8 at 10:50

“Prosim, ali moram prisesti?”

“Ne, direkt!”

“Hvala!”

“Prosim”

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The path eastwards parallels the River Sava. I have chosen a slow train rather than the express. It allows more time to internalise the experience. The Sava, on the other hand, is the express! The water, fresh from summer rain, is brown and it’s rushing, making its journey downstream into Croatia and further on into Bosnia and Serbia before it makes its ultimate sacrifice into the Danube. It’s a river on a mission, carving its way through the immense peaks of the heavily-forested Zasavsko Hriboje.

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In Litija, Zagorje, and Zidani Most passengers embark and disembark. Where have they been? Where are they going? Do their eyes see these things as mine do? If you live here, what does that mean for the way you view things? What do you appreciate? What do you take for granted?

At Zidani Most, where the Savinja River joins the Sava, my path turns northwards. The Savinja’s source is north-westerly, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps near the Austrian border. On this stretch it doesn’t suffer quite the cramped conditions that are the lot for the Sava. The river valley is a little wider, and many farms inhabit the hillsides.

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The castle is suddenly visible, high above Celje – the largest fortress in Slovenia built in the early 13th Century and reaching its peak of importance with the counts of Celje in the 14th & 15th Centuries. The Old Town is compact, filled to the brim with buildings of impressive architecture spanning 14th-19th Centuries. All building styles of the period are represented.

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I try to imagine what it was like to be living here: Celts, Romans, early Slavs, Hapsburgs, Nazi occupiers – all have left their mark. This region, Stajerska, suffered more during WWII than all of the rest of Slovenia, with many inhabitants murdered, deported or sent to labour camps. The stories these streets could tell! The stories the walking paths through the surrounding countryside could tell! Numerous Slovenian authors draw on the history of this region, their literature enriched with detail of the past.

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Is the suffering still evident today? Maybe not so much in the faces of young people. High school students stream through the streets in the afternoon, filling the cafes and the railway station with the buzz of their energetic youthfulness – making plans, I assume, for how they will spend their weekend. The immediate. Does their future hold the same brightness that they display today? Indeed, the same question can be asked of the youth in any place around the globe.

By mid-afternoon the clouds are darkening and flirting more than the sun. A brisk wind is playing with cafe umbrellas and tablecloths. Time to take the downstream/upstream path back to Ljubljana.

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