We had been traveling around Eastern Europe by train on a Eurail pass for about 15 or 16 days when we arrived in Ljubljana Slovenia.
Now this train trip had been a crazy mix of ups and downs; the weather was beautiful or torturous; the trains were air-conditioned and comfortable or torturous. The hotels had been a mixed bag. The food had been almost all delicious, though, everywhere we went in Eastern Europe.
Maybe that’s why I fixated on this one particular day and was convinced that I would get exactly what I was expecting during my visit to Ljubljana.
The perfect glass of milk
Have you ever had a craving for something you knew you just could’t get? Or fixated on the perfect example of something knowing that it couldn’t possibly happen? For example the perfect piece of cake, the perfect pizza, or the perfect glass of milk? Then beyond all logic and reason decided that that’s what you are going to get no matter what?
Ljubljana is a really a very pretty city. They’ve repaired and repainted most of the baroque and art deco buildings in the historic center and it is just a great place to go for a walk. After some meandering and exploring we were hungry and thirsty and hot. We took the funicular back down from the castle hoping to find a cool, shady cafe to rest and recover in. The funicular lets out right near one of the main, city center parking lots. So we had to walk through this parking lot to get back into the center, and as we were walking through the parking lot I noticed a little bank of these large vending machines on edge of the lot.
There were a few tourists there, trying to figure things out, but they didn’t seem to have much luck because they walked away empty-handed. Well I do like a good vending machine in a foreign country. I’m always fascinated by what exactly they will put into these things and what is a vending/convenience item that you need to have available 24 hours a day in Slovenia anyway? I really think that says a lot about the people within the country and the culture of the country. So we went over to investigate.
I asked the waiter, “Is this milk fresh?”
We found a gleaming, shiny white machine that had a place to put money in, a couple of buttons, and a small opening where you could maybe put a cup or some sort of container. Of course, we don’t speak Slovenian so the instructions were not any help at all, but we were pretty sure it was for fresh milk.
Logic and reason should have told me that this machine sitting in the hot blazing sun of the Slovenian summer was not going to deliver that idealized super refreshing glass of milk. But for some reason that’s exactly what my brain thought and I had to have it. Okay, obviously we don’t travel around with frosty mugs ready to put under a milk dispenser, so what to do? Looking around at the other machines we realized that the machine fairly close to this one was a large glass fronted machine full of plastic bottles.
Clink, clink, in goes the change, out comes the bottle–we were halfway there. Now, the only thing we needed to do was figure out how to get the milk out of the machine. We tried setting the milk machine for a quarter leader, half liter, nothing worked so we went for the whole one liter. The machine took the euro and started making a whooshing noise and we quickly shoved the bottle under the spout just in time for the clean white stream of milk to come shooting out of the tube and into the bottle. But what was it going to be like? Warm and sour? Was it going to be that perfect cold, cold, cold glass of milk that was going to quench our thirst and cool our bodies on that 40° (100°f) day?
Chugging from the bottle – how barbaric!
Well, as soon as I grabbed the bottle to take it out of the machine I knew it was ice cold. But we hadn’t really thought this through. Here we were walking in the middle of this beautiful downtown historic center in Europe with a 1 liter bottle of milk. What in the heck were we going to do with it? The cafés were of course all filling up quickly. We knew we wanted something to go with our treasure and chocolate chip cookies were out of the question. We went into a convenient café, picked the most delicious luxurious richest chocolate cake that we could see and ordered one slice to go. They wrapped it up very neatly and prettily in a gold box with a beautiful little ribbon on top.
Still no glass in hand, we took our cake and sat down along the banks of the river to do some people watching and enjoy our delicious treat. I suppose we probably looked a little barbaric, sitting on the steps along the river one fork between us, one cake between us, and one, 1 liter bottle of milk between us. But we did not care. We were in heaven. The chocolate cake was everything it looked like it was going to be and the milk, the milk was far, far above even my idealized version of the perfect temperature, perfect quenching, glass of milk on a hot summer day.
Author Bio: Jim Vail, is a travel, food, and video creator and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years he lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands, and he’s visited over 90 countries.
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