On Saturday we took on the pot ob žici (Path Along the Wire), also known as the Path of Remembrance and Comradeship. During World War II, Ljubljana was surrounded by a barbed wire fence controlled by the occupying forces. First guarded by the Italians in 1942 and then transferred to the Germans after the Italian capitulation in 1943, the fence was built to keep resistance movements from inside the city from meeting with the Partisans outside. The city was liberated on May 9 1945 and now every year on the weekend closest to May 9th, thousands of people flock to the 32+ kilometer (about 20 miles) path to walk or run.
Kristina, Chris, and I showed up at our first station by bus, at the relatively late hour of 9:20am. Thinking we were merely tourists, the station worker handed us a four stamp card. However, we convinced her that yes, we wanted to walk the whole way. With enthusiasm, we took on the hordes of teenagers who must have been forced on the walk by their school, dodged through the crowd, and quickly made our way to the next station. That was easy enough I thought. Of course, that was also the shortest leg between the eight stations. Luckily, we scrambled up and down the only hilly portion of the route early on, while we were still amused by the girls talking on cellphones walking alongside the adults carrying a Yugoslav era flag of Slovenia while singing what I assume to be Yugoslav songs (and I would also assume, almost certainly drinking).
About half way through, we met up with two more people and carried on, feeling a little thirsty and hungry but otherwise no worse for the wear. Although over 20,000 people walk the route, there are surprisingly few refreshment stands. One table sold shots of schnapps and several booths offered to measure your body fat, but cold drinks? Not happening. So we made a brief pit-stop to the ubiquitous Mercator and continued.
We had started along the path at a random station, most accessible from our apartment by bus. Because of this, we spent a good part of the second half marching through the less beautiful part of the path. While most of the route is through bucolic outskirts of the city, shaded by trees and surrounded by fields and small houses, part of it winds through the city, giving you not much more than cement to look at. Unfortunately, this is also the longest section of the route, 5.8 km from one station to the next. As we had predicted, our energy began to flag. Reaching our sixth station felt like a long awaited success and although we would gladly have been done at this point on any other day, we only had two more stations to go.
As the two who had joined us later in the walk slowly widened the distance between our sub-groups, I tried to pick up the pace, if only a little. But my legs would not obey. Nothing could convince them to move any faster. This was definitely a slow and steady sort of operation. And by slow, I mean slow. The crowd had thinned considerably, and there were only a few other people besides us in the late afternoon, having already finished or more likely, given up. Finally, we spotted the last station. But wait, they were closing up! We stumbled over to the station and begged them to stamp our cards. Final stamp secured, the three of us beamed at each other. We did it! It took us a solid eight hours, but we finished.
Although they had run out of medals by the time we arrived, we did receive small pins for our trouble and dutifully wrote down our addresses so that they could send us the medals. With aching joints and a giant blister, I drank a celebratory beer more slowly and leisurely than I ever have before. My hat is off to people who do the breast cancer three-day walk because I definitely slept in late the next day.