Rugby, racing and beer funnels

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
1
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Trip End Sep 19, 2006


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Saturday, September 2, 2006

Jim's travel tip #73: When 16 drunken New Zealanders charge noisily into a tiny Irish pub in Ljubljana to watch an All Blacks game, think twice before saying to the bartender "a round of beers for everyone, on me".

I had woken in the morning with a dilemma - whether to catch the early bus to Bled, as planned, or to spend another half day in Ljubljana with the sole purpose of watching the All Blacks play South Africa at 3pm. I chose the latter, confident that I could drag out the pre-match period successfully. This I accomplished by waking up late and wandering slowly around the town for the 14th time.

Even so, I find myself waiting outside Patrick's Irish Pub at 2.50pm when the doors open. The pub itself is downstairs, holds maybe 20 people, and looks about as Irish as you could expect, considering you are in Slovenia. The walls are decorated with passably Irish photos, beer mats and doodackies, and Guinness and Kilkenny are available on tap. Being the only patron, I pull up a stool at the bar, order a beer and get ready for a good game of rugby. Just as the anthems are playing, a louder noise comes from the top of the stairs, a combination of hollering and clomping footsteps. I turn around just in time to see a bunch of burly blokes stop at the doorway, pause, spot the TV screen and let out a deep-voiced cry that I can best translate as "Wahayyy! All Blacks! Yeah!" The first four guys stagger straight for the bar, Jake The Muss-style, bang their fists on it and shout "Beers, bro, and keep pouring 'em! We're thirsty! Go All Blacks! Wahayyy!" Then, like pensioners on bingo night, they keep on coming, more and more loud-mouthed kiwis, piling down the stairs and rapidly filling up the small area. Each one follows the routine of pushing their way to the bar and demanding a beer. "And just keep pouring 'em, bro, we'll drink 'em". By the time the parade finally ceases, I take a look around and count twelve stocky lads and four girls who just seemed to be along for the ride.

One of the guys, Dave, takes the seat next to me and explains that they are all on a tour of Europe in a convoy of campervans. By the sounds of things, this tour entails driving from one major city to the next, setting up in a campground and then getting completely shitfaced every night, often without even leaving the campground. I ask Dave how he liked Ljubljana after two days here.
"Oh, is that where we are? Haven't really seen it yet". One of the other guys I speak to later thinks that the town's name is pronounced "La-jooble-jana".
Days are usually spent recovering from the previous night, which doesn't leave much time for sightseeing. While all of the group look as though they have been drinking a fair bit already today, one guy looks particularly worse for wear. He staggers very carefully to the bar, using tables for support en route and then, with a decidedly slurred voice, asks for a beer. I learn that his name was Kent and that he is the current favourite for the prestigious "Waster of the Day" award today.

I find all the carry-on rather amusing and am happy to have some company after a while by myself, not least company that shared my cultural background and sporting interests. So, on the spur of the moment, and in violation of Travel Tip #73, I say to the bartender "a round of beers for everyone, on me". After a few minutes, he returns under the weight of a tray of seventeen pints of beer, plonks it on the bar then points at me and calls out loudly "these beers are from this guy". All eyes, which had thus far not really noticed my presence in the corner, switch on me as though I were the second coming of Christ. Almost in unison, a cheer goes up - "Wahayyy!" - and cries of "Good on ya, mate" and "Cheers, bro" continue for a while. My manoeuvre has been an obvious attention-getting gag and it seems to have worked.
"Oy, where ya from?"
"Er, Wellington."
Then again, in unison, they all shout, "Wellington!"
"What's ya name, bro?"
"Jim"
Then the collective "Jim!" followed by variations on a theme - Jimmy, Jimbo, Jimster, etc.

After 40 minutes of rugby, I turn around to see the half-time entertainment. Kent and another guy are on all fours on the floor, facing each other, like pit bulls squaring off in a death match. Someone has tied two belts together and placed one on the back of each combatant's head. It is a tug of war using the strength of one's neck muscles to pull the other person towards you. Kent, in his advanced state of inebriation, survives for about five seconds before collapsing face down on the floor, where he remains until the rugby is over.

During the second half, I continue talking with Dave. I explain to him that I have to leave fairly smartly after the game to catch my bus to Bled. "Fuck that!" he instructs, "come back to our campground. We're driving to Bled tomorrow". The same beer-induced sense of invincibility and enjoyment of the company that had caused me to buy the round of beers, leads me to ponder Dave's offer for a second and then deliver my considered verdict: "Yeah, what the hell". Dave, the shrinking violet of the group, stands up, turns around and yells "We got a dosser!" pointing at me. "Wahayyy!"

So, at the completion of the rugby, a one point win to South Africa, the gang of rowdy Kiwis - of which I was now a short-term honorary member - abandon Patrick's as quickly as they had arrived. Back at street level, someone tears the "South Africa" portion of the "All Blacks versus South Africa" sign that was on the door of the pub and throws it on the ground in an exemplary show of sportsmanship. Kent, now tentatively back on his feet, goes even further by urinating all over the sign, shouting "Fucking Jaapies!" then staggering off to the next bar.

The next bar is a very comfortable Turkish-themed outdoor bar on the banks of the Ljubljanica river. We plonk ourselves, en masse, on the cushions in the afternoon sunlight and more beers are purchased. I have been forbidden from buying any more drinks and I am never with an empty glass for long. One of the features of this Turkish place is a belly dancer on a raised stage on the other side of the pedestrian walkway from our cushions. The dancer is a decidedly overweight woman of Middle Eastern descent but, apart from that, he credentials as a belly dancer are dubious. Soon there are shouts from the merciless crowd of drunken yobbos - "You suck!" and "Just coz you're fat, doesn't make you a belly dancer!" In the interests of keeping the crowd happy, Kent takes off his shirt, climbs up on stage and begins gyrating, to great applause, in a weird, slow-motion manner. Despite his lack of formal belly dancing training, he is certainly better than the 'professional', who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge his presence, therefore avoiding the 'dance-off' that the crowd are calling for.

Eventually it is time to head back to the campground, which we do - noisily, slowly and drunkenly - by bus. The campground, the "La-jooble-jana Resort" as the worldly Kiwis call it, is a big old trailer park, featuring the usual assortment of trailer park denizens. The Kiwi contingent has three vans, plus a few tents, outside of which the alcohol consumption continues, only at a faster rate. This is due firstly to the easier availability of beer, without relying on waitresses and cash transactions, but also thanks to 'The Funnel'. The Funnel is precisely that, a long plastic tube connected to a conical basin at the top. A full can of beer is poured rapidly into the basin and the end of the tube is inserted into the lucky recipient's mouth. Three seconds later, you have completed "a funnel". To mark the occurrence of each funnel, a chalk board, misappropriated from outside some European pub, is updated with a tally next to your name. One guy, Jonesy, tells me with great pride how he just broke the one-day record of sixteen funnels yesterday. Foolishly, I say that this sounds like a breakable mark. After three funnels in fairly rapid succession, I have to make my excuses and find a tree to chunder beneath. From that point, things become rather hazy, although I do remember sitting on the floor in the park's lavatory complex while chatting with some Belgian guys, passing out on the way to or from said lavatory complex and somehow getting a sleeping bag, blanket and an empty pup tent in which to spend a chilly and thoroughly uncomfortable night.

Early the next morning I wake up and survey the scene in the cold light of day. I quickly come to the conclusion that this bunch of pissheads are never going to get their act together until well into the afternoon, at the earliest, so I revert to yesterday's plan and catch the regular bus up to Bled.
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