To travel is to live
– Hans Christian Andersen
Ljubljana – The capital city is a small and beautiful little place. Ljubljana also translates to mean loved, and the people are friendly and passionate! I visited in September, it was rainy and cool for a couple of days with the sun coming out on the last day. A couple of weeks of 20-25 degrees was due to follow though so I think I was just unlucky with the weather.
History: Slovenia is obviously still a very new country, being independent since 1991, having previously being part of the former Yugoslavia. A number of locals I spoke to were born in Yugoslavia and remember the war. They feel like a small country, who needs the help of others as they used to be part of something larger. Though are aware that they should be more proud as they have a beautiful country that is worthy of their appreciation, and to be fair, I think the appreciation of others too.
The impact of War was not as long in comparison to some of the other countries in the former Yugoslavia. Slovenia was the first country to ask for its independence. Shortly after it was granted war broke out. The local people are grateful it ‘only’ lasted ten days. They recognise it as a distressing time yet empathise with there neighbours who experienced some much longer periods of unrest.
City Tours: There are many walking tours of the city and whilst it’s easy enough to get around on your own you get much more local history and insight from the guides than you would get from a guidebook or online, I would definitely recommend booking one.
I would also recommend spending more time on the traditional, Medieval side all of the city. It is obviously the area with more history and prettier architecture than the newer side of town, which could be anywhere with its chain stores. It’s also much livelier and in my opinion more vibrant than the modern side of town which is over the bridges.
A River boat tour is another way to see the city from a different perspective. It’s 10 Euro’s for a tour which is a little under an hour. They leave from a few different points throughout the city. I started mine and bought tickets from butchers’ bridge. The scenery was beautiful and you go out a little beyond the city. The captain was also very knowledgeable and shared some interesting information about Ljubljana.
There are three Bridges which cross the Ljubljanica river. Dragon bridge translates to zmajski most – the dragon is the protector of the city. There is also Butchers’ bridge and Cobblers’ bridge, where people used to sell meat and shoes. Traders used to use the bridges to avoid paying taxes.
The castle in Ljubljana is a walk up a fairly steep switch back path, or you can get the funicular railway. It’s worth the walk for the view at the top. It’s free to enter the courtyard, with a charge if you want to go up to the tower and inside the museum. Personally this isn’t the most impressive castle I’ve seen. They’ve added in an ultra modern cafe with a floor to ceiling glass windows. It looks too modern and out of place and I think it spoils the original feel of the castle. The castle at Bled is much more impressive, in my opinion, though I believe it’s still worth the walk up.
The cathedral officially called St. Nicholas’s cathedral is beautiful and worth the 2 Euro’s charge to enter. The doors are extravagant and designed to look like they are as old as the cathedral itself, however, they were added in 1996.
Lake Bled: The number one attraction while in Slovenia! My time in Lake Bled was unfortunately rainy, foggy and a bit cold. It was still beautiful but the lake didn’t glisten in the sun with a clear view of the island as I’d hoped. That said, despite the weather it was still worth the visit. The lake looks so perfect it’s difficult to believe it’s not man-made. I also loved the castle. It’s beautiful and well maintained, an interesting place to walk around.
From Ljubljana everywhere charges around 70 Euro’s per person for a half day tour. This includes the drive there and back which is about an hour each way; entrance to the castle with just over an hour to wander around it, and of course the famous view of the lake. Then a couple of hours to walk around the lake, go for a coffee and try the famous cream cake – Kremsnita. You also get a great view up to the castle from the lake. It’s possible to get a boat out to the island, but you would need a longer tour to do this.
Food and drink: without exception all my meals were delicious. Portion sizes are generous. My favourite meal was in a restaurant called Kolovratu, on the traditional side of the city near the cathedral. The food was so fresh and the manager really knows his wine and what will compliment each dish. As well as his after dinner liqueurs! A lot of fun and delicious food!
Another good restaurant nearby is called Gujzina. Again great food and a good choice of wine. Whilst the portion sizes for food tend to be on the generous side they’re anything but for wine, with a standard glass being 100ml. They aren’t expensive though. A delicious good quality meal, with a few glasses of wine costs around 25 Euro’s.
There’s a really good wine shop selling local Slovenian wine and liqueurs in the traditional part of the city. Not too far from the cathedral or the two restaurants I mentioned. They let you try with no obligation and are very knowledgeable if you have any questions about the local wines.
Slovenia is famous for honey and wine and choices are plentiful. If you like white wine I recommend Sipon. It’s dry and a local Slovenian wine. If you prefer red, Epoca Ferdinand is lovely. The honey liqueur is also really nice, I much preferred to the local blueberry schnapps.
Eating local: Slovenian people are keen on eating local produce. Previously they used to export locally produced milk from farmers to Germany and France. Whilst they imported cheaper alternatives from Hungary and Poland as the growth of supermarkets hit. Now that people are aware that this was happening, They are angry and want to purchase Slovenian rather than exporting their great quality food and drink. They are prepared to pay a little more for local produce. And are also very proud of the quality of their home produced groceries, trying to keep as much in house as possible. Tap water is also safe to drink.
The practical stuff: the currency is Euro’s. I rarely used cash as a lot of places seemed to accept a card. Good to have a little in smaller denominations though to cover lower cost things or for places that don’t take cards. ATM’s weren’t everywhere but easy enough to find. As usual I recommend a Starling bank card for the great exchange rates and minimum cost.
I don’t know the correct spelling or pronunciation for thank you, however, it sounds very similar to ‘koala’, though actually pronounced with the ‘hv’ sound – hvala. Locals appreciated the effort so it can’t have sounded too far from the correct term! Prosim – pronounced pros-seem doubles as thank you and also you’re welcome. Two words that go a long way.
Slovenia is a lovely country and Ljubljana is a great place for a city break. Definitely worth a visit, great architecture, friendly people, good food and plenty of wine! Next stop Zagreb in Croatia – approximately 3 hours by train..