It is well over three weeks since we left Mansfield on our travels to Slovenia. After a false start, the students met their host families and had a brief time becoming acquainted with Slovenian culture, family life and the school routines before the May holidays.
The school is adjacent to a castle, a medieval fortress which towers over Ljubljana and is a great landmark for finding directions. The school is on a small acreage and is multi-story. There are no lifts, so the students and teachers get very fit moving up and down stairs between classes (in their slippers).
May Day is the equivalent to Labour Day; schools close for a week and many families, including our host families, took the opportunity to travel within Europe. Mansfield Steiner Students regrouped and travelled by bus on a magnificent scenic route to Bovec.
Bovec is a small mountain town in North West Slovenia. We stayed at Adrenaline Camp, 4 kms outside the town. Our campsite was surrounded by the peaks of the Julian Alps and Triglav (the highest mountain in Slovenia) National Park to our east. It was a breathtakingly beautiful area with mountains, rushing rivers, glacial lakes and forests. Without transport, we did a lot of walking, bike riding and even braved the icy waters of the waterfall Slap Velje to swim. The highlight of the trip to Bovec was white water rafting through the many rapids on the turquoise Soca River. We were warned by the locals not to go Bovec in May, because it is still too cold, but our intrepid group dealt with the weather making the most of every opportunity the area presented. They also developed some fine culinary skills taking turns to create delicious and nutritious meals for the group.
Ljubljana has been awarded the green capital of Europe and Slovenia is considered the greenest country in the world. The country has emphasis on fine air and water quality, effective waste management and the centre of the city has a very large no car zone, but it is also very green and lush because it rains a lot; of 25 days travelling we have had 15 days of rain, not just drizzling but torrential rain.
Our second camp was to the Istria Peninsula in Croatia for our 10-day under canvas surveying camp. Lenka, the Year 10 maths teacher, was a qualified surveyor in her previous life. She carefully designed the Surveying Programme, so that it started simply with students sketching a mud map of the small town of Premantura based on observations gathered on their first walk. They then remeasured using rope and compasses and over the days worked up to using a theodolite. Lenka was incredibly generous with her skills – giving instructions first in Slovene and then in English. Camp started at 7:30am with a run, then breakfast and working time was from 9am to 1pm and again from 3pm to 7pm. The students worked hard on some fairly technical stuff. It was very practical, and our students were placed in groups with the Slovenian students. The language is challenging, but it is a good opportunity to experience how it feels not to understand conversations and how often we have the expectation when travelling that everyone will speak English.
We had a couple of rest breaks where we visited the cliffs of Istria and some daredevils jumped into the blue, chilly waters of the Adriatic. We also went to Pula for a day, a historic town with a well preserved Roman amphitheatre. The weather in Croatia was the wettest and coldest since 1980. The students showed great resilience in the face of adversity and remained upbeat through the icy winds and rains that battered the tents over the time. The teachers decided to shorten the camp, so we headed back to Ljubljana to continue the main lesson at school.
There are many lessons being learned: One student from Ljubljana was very homesick while on camp and her parents collected her – luckily it wasn’t contagious. Confidence and courage are being built and an understanding that we are part of a very large and diverse world.