An Angel Rushes InCHAPTER 19: IN WHICH ANA OF KOPER COMES TO OUR RESCUE
Around the World, Day 19: Padua, Italy to Ljubljana, Slovenia: In our effort to avoid a major Hertz drop-off fee for ending a rental in a different country from where it began, we arose on our forty-first wedding anniversary at 6 a.m., something we rarely do when traveling. As planned, we departed Padua at 8, giving us what we felt would be plenty of time to drive the 126 miles to Trieste, turn in our car, and catch a taxi the 15 miles to Koper, Slovenia, where our next rental would be waiting. In fact, four hours seemed generous for the tasks involved. Then came reality.
Back on the A4 toward Trieste, traffic was pretty light, as befits a Saturday morning. We were a bit concerned because the information we had from Hertz indicated that the rental office we were seeking was at the New Ferry Terminal on Pier 4. Not exactly an address you can offer up to your GPS. So we opted uncertainly for a Hertz location in the GPS database that appeared to be in the harbor area. Arriving in that part of town about 10:45, we drove in circles through the congested area following the instructions of the GPS, searching fruitlessly for any hint of a yellow Hertz sign. Round and round we drove, stopping to ask police officers, security guards, and even a taxi driver if they could assist. Though they clearly understood the question, they were as puzzled as we were. We tried calling the Hertz office for assistance; there was no answer.
Finally at 11:20, we decided we would just drive across the border to the Koper Hertz office and maybe try to persuade a Hertz employee there to drive the car back to Trieste for us, a prospect we held very little hope of accomplishing. All was going smoothly in terms of reaching the Koper office before their scheduled 12 noon closing until we hit a construction back-up on Slovenia's H5 freeway shortly after entering the country. Traffic stopped. And did not move.
|So close and yet so far|
We finally crept to the exit at 11:50. After our misadventure in Trieste, we had lost faith in the GPS, so Google Maps was providing directions from my iPhone also. When we exited H5 and arrived at the street where Hertz was located, the GPS indicated we should take the third exit from the roundabout, while Google said the first. We didn't have time to try both and arrive before noon. "We've got to go with Google," Ken said. "It hasn't screwed us up...yet." We did, and it didn't.
The Hertz office was located in a building housing a tire store and several other offices. Swerving into the parking lot at 11:55, we were both desperate for a restroom but didn't dare stop to search for one. We followed the sign for the Hertz office, only to find the office door locked.
|All this rush and no one is here?|
By the time we walked out the door, a young woman in her mid-twenties speedwalked into the parking lot. "I am here," she said breathlessly. "I am Ana." We followed this bundle of energy into the Hertz office and told her our tale.
"OK," Ana replied. "So we are going to Trieste and return your car. The timestamp on the parking ticket will show you returned it before the end of your rental period at 1:30. I will call my uncle and he will pick me up there." She went on to offer us a free upgrade from our reservation, but we declined after our Italy experience, not knowing what to expect in the way of Slovenian roads. After we expressed uncertainty about finding a place to park the car near our hotel, Ana called the Ljubljana Hertz office, which was just a few blocks from the hotel, she assured us, and obtained permission for us to park the car there.
Soon enough, our angel Ana had completed the paperwork for our new rental and we left for Trieste, with her driving our new rental and us following in the Italian car. Patiently she waited at roundabouts and other intersections, making it very easy for us to keep up, even in areas with busy traffic. When we arrived in Trieste, the office was still open, our car was returned, and Ana's uncle and father arrived to pick her up and return her to Koper so we wouldn't have to detour through there on our way to Ljubljana—as if we would have minded, especially since it was now more than an hour after she was supposed to get off work for the day.
After thanking her profusely and persuading her with much difficulty to accept a token of our significant appreciation for all her assistance, we asked if we could take her photo. "You can take a picture of my Garfield shirt," she replied. Then she relented, "OK, but don't post it on Facebook or the internet, OK?" We certainly had to comply. Only later when we looked at the photo did we read what the T-shirt had to say. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
|Relaxing? We doubt that very much.|
|Tree damage in Slovenia|
|Slovenia's ice storm (photo from Reuters)|
- Miles driven: 216
- Weather: 56° to 75°, sunny, partly cloudy, light rain
- Diesel: $8.78 per gallon
- Tolls: $17 (in Italy)
- Damaged trees: 28,954
- Slovenian angels: 1