The speaker announced our flight to Milan and we hurried towards our gate. The uneventful journey took a little less than two hours. Malpensa airport was swarming with vacationers dressed in bermudas and colourful t-shirts. Luckily we soon found a taxi to take us to the main train station where we should take a train northwards to Nova Luka. The passage was supposed to continue four and a half hours.
Nova Luka was one of the cities in Europe which stood closer to the sky than most others – it was situated at almost 2500 m above sea level. It was a magic place with a strong fortress erected in the XIV-th century, which had never been seized during the numerous conflicts natural for this part of the continent. The legend told that a proud and independent tribe whose origins were unclear for historians and linguists founded the town. They were intelligent, industrious and free-spirited. Their hard life, dominated by the everyday struggle with the savage mountain made them strong, resistant and multi-skilled. They accepted war and injustice fugitives from all parts of Europe but their harsh moral code was uncompromising towards criminals and swindlers. The greatest teacher and judge – nature, subjected all the others to the cruelest tests. Thus only a few managed to dwell permanently there. During the ages many rulers wanted to punish the town for its status of a symbol of freedom and independence but soon the cunning and courageous highlanders and their natural allies vanquished their hordes. So people from all neighbouring countries have been settling themselves there – Austrians, Italians, Slovenians, Croatians; among them were impoverished knights, rebellious monks, progressive scholars, widows, orphans. It had different names throughout the ages: Castellalto, Ziegespitze, Tvrdina. But the name that remained was Nova Luka. It has always been a safe haven for the free souls, а shelter for the insulted and the wronged. Now the town was a major touristic attraction of the region – its inhabitants earned their living from the swarm of tourists and pilgrims who visited it and the remote ruins of medieval fortresses, temples and chapels scattered in the rocky outskirts of the town.
I have always dreamed about visiting this town ever since I read the fairy tales of Nicolo Popovič, the most famous son of these mountains who was almost awarded a Noble prize for literature at the dawn of XX-th century. I was only ten when I read them but I felt eternally attracted towards his magically eccentric world of evil magicians and their fire-spitting dragons, brave heroes who fought against them together with the talking bears living in deep caves and flew on top of enormous proud eagles. In my student years I read more extensively about the region and its history; the dialect his population used was very interesting from linguistic point of view: it had preserved many almost unchanged forms from Vulgar Latin interlaced with Old German and Slavic agricultural terms. Now, at the threshold of fulfilling my childhood dream, I was almost trembling with excitement.
We had to change trains at one of the stations. We mounted the four railway carriages of the narrow gauge line. Its 30 kilometers’ length with vertical displacement of almost 1000 meters above sea level had been built with immense efforts and great delays for 20 years. The technical specifications of the narrow gauge railway required that the train should not exceed a certain weight. That is why all passengers and their luggage had to be weighted up to the last gram before departure. Once departed, Mina could hardly restrain her laughter when the train reached its terminal velocity of 35 km/h. Only a minute later she has already clutched my hand and stopped laughing. We have reached the point where the broad patch of land ended and the old locomotive started its gradual ascent along the tiny narrow ledge chipped off the cliffs.
The view from the train window was magnificent yet quite scary. Down below, one could hardly distinguish the cars and trucks on the old road linking the Adriatic Sea with the interior parts of the continent. We could hear the growl from the insidious and shiny quick streams of the river Lymm which dissected the mountain thus shaping one of the most spectacular valleys I have ever seen. The slopes around us were covered mostly by a thick shield of oak and maple trees which solemnly led us to the reign of coniferous plants that awaited us ahead, in the vicinity of Nova Luka. The occasional openings which gave us more opportunities to see the entire panorama below helped me calculate roughly the distance to the river bed at somewhere between 100 and 125 m of rocky, steep slope. And the distance to the edge being solely 2-3 meters at some spots!!! No wonder each kilogram weight on the train mattered so much!!! One could only imagine the difficulties which the builders encountered during the boring of the rocks and the laying of the rails.
Mina continued to hang on my arm and sat without uttering a word for several long minutes. She was simply soaking the grand view spread before us with silent admiration. It was not likely for her to lose her charming self-confidence that easily so I kind of enjoyed this moment. And I didn’t object to her warm body glued to mine. Seven months and I could still not get enough of her. I loved every single accidental touch of her hands, I enjoyed even the half-serious taps she jovially administered to my behind at home. I never deprived myself from the old-fashioned walking hand-in-hand in public, from the pretentious and chivalrous stretching out my hand to help her get out of a bus or a car…It was not purely sexual appetite which I had for her, there was more to that craving for physical contact…she somehow changed entirely when she held me, she lost much of that external armour which was considered the best fit for the purpose to manage, to lead, to compete in her highly complicated professional life. She turned into a scared defenseless kitten, entirely left to my mercy, this is, my caresses…
‘How much is left until the terminal station?’, she asked innocently.
 New haven (Croatian)