I <3 Ljubljana

by Elizabeth

Within hours of arriving in Ljubljana — Slovenia’s capital — Michael had declared (several times) that we should move there.  The city is great.  On a small scale, it’s like San Francisco or Portland walked into an Etsy shop.  Lots of great food, craft beer, and plenty of “made in Slovenia” signs on every street.  The old town area was closed to car traffic a few years ago, giving it an idillic feeling.  Everyone is out and about — strolling along the river, sipping at a spritz at one of the many outdoor cafes, or enjoying an ice cream. 

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Central Ljubljana straddles  the Ljubljanica River and ensures that there are enough riverside spots for everyone to enjoy.

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The Ljubljana Castle sits on the hill just above the old town.

On our first evening, we stopped by “Open Kitchen,” where a bunch of restaurants had set up food stands in the market square (similar to Off the Grid in SF, but without the food trucks).  We were able to try out several Slovenian dishes, including a ravioli-like pasta stuffed with potato in a truffle sauce, a sparkling red wine, and a grilled dough-like dessert topped with berry compote.  So good! 

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Friday night in Ljubljana at Open Kitchen.

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Our doughy dessert was made in huge woks, complete with a caramelized sugar crust.

Our multi-stop dinner at Open Kitchen was complemented by a public music performance in a nearby square.  The large band included players from all over the world on strings, trumpets, drums, etc.  Ljubljana instantly felt comforting and beautiful.

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A glimpse of the evening’s musical performance.  We’d probably been watching for a half hour already when this singer stepped out with a baby strapped to her back and a toddler at her side.  She declared that Italian families stick together!

The next morning, we visited the Ljubljana castle.  Perched atop the hill in the middle of Ljubljana, the castle felt like it was always present as we walked around old-town Ljubljana.  The complex is open to the public for free, although there is an entrance fee if you want to visit any of the museums inside. 

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View from the walk up to the castle — we’re almost there!  There is also a funicular, but that costs money 😉

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Looking down on the castle complex.  On the left, you can see the set-up for the evening film under the stars that we attended later that night.

We opted to spend an extra 2.50€ above the basic entrance fee to join the castle tour (called the Time Travel tour).  It ended up being very different from your ordinary guided tour (which we join infrequently).  Throughout the tour we were met by various “characters” from the history of the castle, who told us a bit about their lives and the castle.  They wore period costumes and told us different perspectives on their history. Well worth the extra cost!

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A visit from the Romans.

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Tales of the conflict between a Napoleonic soldier and a Catholic nun.

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Creepy puppet featured at the otherwise, child-centric puppet museum at the Ljubljana Castle and included in the general ticket price.

In the afternoon, we met up with the Slovenian woman who we’d met on the Camino (on day 8) and who’d helped us with various tips about visiting Slovenia.  It was great to see a familiar face and to hear about the rest of her Camino.  She recommended visiting Lake Bohinj and Soca Valley in Slovenia, and Vukov Konac in Bosnia (all of which we visited later and enjoyed).  After our visit, we rushed back to our hostel to pop some popcorn and grab a couple beers before heading back up to the castle for its summer film under the stars series.  It was a perfect evening to sit and watch The Nice Guys, which was a funny, lighthearted film (in English!).  There was even free ice cream as we entered (and exited)!

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Michael with the mascot of Ljubljana — a dragon.  As with many other European cities, the history of the Ljubljana castle is filled with stories of dragons.  For anyone familiar with dragon lore, this of course means that St. George makes an appearance to slay the dragon.

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More dragons! This one is on the “Dragon Bridge.”

Between planning our next steps (so time consuming!), we spent the next day and a half in Ljubljana exploring Park Tivoli (unfortunately it was super hot), enjoying a horse burger, visiting a cat cafe, wandering through Metelkova Mesto (an ex- army garrison taken over by squatters/punks in the 1990s to create a spray painted and artsy commune, now mainly a club/bar scene), finding a favorite ice cream spot, and generally walking around the lovely old-town area.

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Horse burger from Hot Horse.  Surprisingly tasty.

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Obviously, Michael was a fan of the cat cafe.  And no, that’s not an optical illusion/weird perspective — that cat is huge.  Easily a 20 pound Maine Coon.

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More cats at the cat cafe.  These three had funky fur that was extra fun to pet.

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Underwater-themed art in Metelkova Mesto.

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Another art piece in Metelkova Mesto.

Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Ljubljana and would encourage others to visit.  Had we not been concerned with the length of our Schengen stay, this is another spot where we could have easily spent more time.

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Michael loves Ljubljana!

[We’re making an attempt to finally get caught up on getting our blog posts up.  This post describes our visit to Ljubljana on July 8-11, 2016.]

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