We’d left the northern Croatian coast early that morning, our trusty, rented Volkswagen steed primed and ready. No plans were laid save for an arrival in Prague in one day’s time. We’d hoped to make it as far as Graz, Austria that day, but a long detour to pay a parking ticket and find the birthplace of Nikola Tesla kept us in Croatia much longer than we’d thought.
And then there was the border crossing. On our journey to Croatia, a few days prior, we zipped through the crossing from Slovenia, snickering at the very long line of cars trying to make the opposite crossing. At the time, I chalked their long wait to the fact that it was the weekend, and as we sped into Croatia, the border quickly left my mind.
This time, there was nothing else I could think about. Not only were in this long queue of cars, the heat was record-breaking, and a stupid Lana Del Rey song was playing on almost every radio station. “Summertime Sadness” seemed more than appropriate as we waited, and waited, and waited, and wilted in the hot sun.
When we finally crossed that magical line into Slovenia, it was nearing 4pm. Graz, Austria was not going to happen that day. We left the highway in search of a hotel. One was a resort, choked with children and water slides and inevitable misery for me, so we investigated another. We never did find the proprietor, but the smell and the dingy carpets in the lobby didn’t warrant an enquiry as to vacancy or price.
So, up the road we went, yet again, to the next little town, Miklavž na Dravskem polju. The heat, and the full day in the car had me in a near meltdown state, so we parked the car, and walked to the nearest pub. A cold beer and a bathroom set me right, so we decided to have a walk around this little town in search of a room.
What we found were bottles.
Hundreds and hundreds of wine bottles lining the narrow streets. These bottles were carefully and artfully arranged, shining green in that angry red light of late afternoon in summer. Some had nondescript flags nestled in their necks. There was no real indication as to their purpose.
Well, there probably was, but I can neither read nor speak Slovenian.
So we tiptoed around the bottles, and I was terrified at the calamity that would ensue if I knocked just one. And I’m not exactly known for my grace. I took some photos of this strange sight and we reached the top of the street.
A stop into another hotel was sublime. The small but well appointed lobby wooed me with aircon and cutesy decor. We queued behind a few other travelers who were also asking about a room for the evening. The smiling receptionist quoted 100 euros to the man ahead of us. So as not to be rude, we let her quote us the same price, knowing it was out of our budget, and trudged out the door.
On the walk back to the car, and ultimately to Maribor, the bottles continued to wink in the waning sun from the side streets. I knew that they meant something important, a party or festival, but it was not for me to know. An hour later we were sipping beers in the still sweltering early evening heat in the town square of Maribor.
Later, in our hot room with no air con, while I tossed and turned in a sweaty mass of sheets, I could not stop thinking about the bottles.
They were so beautiful.
I’m sorry to have missed the party.