Tuesday, 21 May 2024
From Dubrovnik to Slovenia: The Unforeseen Journey of a Modern-Day Pilgrim Canva

From Dubrovnik to Slovenia: The Unforeseen Journey of a Modern-Day Pilgrim

Written by  Mar 17, 2024

There was a TV show that I used to be glued to as a young boy, it was called Tales of the Unexpected. Each episode unfolds a narrative, frequently laced with sinister and darkly humorous nuances, culminating in an unforeseen twist ending. Although many episodes were slightly unbelievable, sometimes fact is just spookier than fiction.

So let’s start this story at the best place, the beginning, chapter one.

And it begins with a chance encounter. My wife and her good friend (a friend that is at the heart of this story) met a relatively young German man, who at first they thought was a tourist, in Kupari by the name of Jens. It turned out that he wasn’t a tourist, in the real sense of the word, but had walked from his home in Berlin to Dubrovnik.

More an adventurer. Over the Alps and down the Adriatic and he landed in Dubrovnik with a plan to continue all the way to Jerusalem. You could call him a modern-day pilgrim.

Two things thwarted his plan. A conflict exploded in the south and he kind of fell in love with Dubrovnik.

He was sleeping rough in one of the shell-like hotels in Kupari and had managed to find a job with a local builder. Every now and again he would timidly ask if he could wash his clothes or take a shower. We became friends. He embodied a sense of being adrift, navigating the strains of managing a prosperous business while craving reconnection with both himself and the natural world, and, uniquely, with spiritual energies. Somewhat of a lost soul.

As he was useful with his hands I asked him if he would do a little job at our house with one wall. “We are going on a ten-day trip to Slovenia. You’ll have some peace to do the job and here is the key if you want to shower,” I said to him.

Those were the last words I said to him.

We returned from our trip, the wall looked beautiful, so I sent him a message of thanks. No reply. No reply for a week, a month, two months. He had disappeared. Nobody had seen him. Neither my wife’s friend or the builder he worked for.

In fear that something bad had happened I went on a rainy day to the abandoned hotel he called home to search for some sign. I went into every shell of the rooms, every room. And was mostly greeted by piles of rubbish or the odd rat.

It wasn’t until I got to the top floor that I found a closed door. I called “Jens” and my voice echoed through the concrete shell. I didn’t know what to expect when I gently pushed open the makeshift door. I shone my torch through the half ajar door thinking I could well be walking into a crime scene.

A mattress on the floor, “this was his room”, but no Jens. Some belongings, half empty bags of nut, a pair of shoes, a chess set lined up halfway through a game and then…wait what’s this. The walls, which were wallpapered, were covered in beautifully intricate pencil sketches. Was I in an episode of CSI? But no Jens.

We waited a couple more days and then fearing he had been washed out to see with the south wind waves called the police.

It was then that we realised that we didn’t even know his surname.

We went from one police station to another until a friendly officer told us to try the border control. No sign there either. Where had he gone? I went another time to his “penthouse” room and nothing had changed.

Four months had passed and we had assumed that he had just decided to go his own way again. Like I said he was a free spirit.

And then the twist.

Last week my wife received a phone call from here friend (yes, the one from the start of this story) who was on holiday in Slovenia. I could hear the shaking in her voice. “I am in a tiny village in Kranjska Gora, I walked into a supermarket looking for soup and I couldn’t believe it, guess who was on the soup section - Jens!! I burst out into tears,” she said.

“What are the chances of that?” she added. Lost for words would have been an understatement. 

My wife and I looked at each other in disbelief, our mouths open but empty of words. As I am writing this I can feel the goose bumps growing on my arms. He was alive and seemingly doing well. “The time had come to go,” he said. “And when it is time to leave then you leave,” he smiled. His journey ahead was through Italy and into Switzerland but he promised to come back “home” to Kupari soon.

Jens' unexpected reappearance in a Slovenian supermarket underscores life's unpredictability, highlighting the awe-inspiring twists of fate that leave us marvelling at the mysteries of existence.

Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to


About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik


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