I can’t believe it, but here we are on a train from Venice to Ljubljana… the last stop of our trip!
When we were planning this trip, we had the option to extend our stay in one of the other cities or spend just a little under a day and a half in Ljubljana… We chose the latter, not knowing how unfair it was to this lovely little pocket of heaven.
If we had more time, I’d definitely want us to spend more time in this little gem of a city, joining one of the many alternative tours on offer to discover various aspects of life in Ljubljana, exploring its budding culinary scene, as well as using it as a base for day trips to equally exquisite destinations like Bled, Postojna Cave, Maribor and Piran… and really immerse ourselves in the Slovenian lifestyle, you know.
But hey, it’s always nice to leave something for the next trip, isn’t it? 🙂
QUICK TIP:Unlike some other cities, the tourist information centre of Ljubljana, especially their website (with various organised tours and ‘top 10’ lists), is an insanely useful tool for planning your trip and tailoring it to your preference – Do you want to explore the city by bike, by stand-up paddle-boarding or have a tour solely dedicated on food? Well, believe me when I say, they got you covered!
Day 1: From Venice to Ljubljana
From Venice, we took the train to Trieste (about 2h), then switched to FlixBus to Ljubljana, the capital and largest city of Slovenia (another 1h 30). The bus ride was probably more pleasant for me than my brother who struggled with leg space a little bit after getting used to the comforts of the train journey. But considering the ridiculously low price we paid, I think it was still well worth it.
Once in Ljubljana, we quickly dropped our bags in our room (located in a townhouse from the early 1900s, which was decent and central, but not particularly recommendable for more than 1+ night stay) and headed straight to Prešeren Square. What makes this square really interesting is that, unlike other cities in the world, the statue in the middle of this central square is not one of a general or a political figure, but rather a Romantic poet France Prešeren who wrote mostly in Slovenian… which tells you a lot about Slovenia when you think about it.
Not that far from the square is Ljubljana Tourist Information Centre, where we book a tour for the next day -we decide it’s the best way to learn as much about the city as possible in the limited time we have here. The staff is lovely and very helpful (as are all Slovenians, we later note). As they walk us through all the tours, we gradually realise how jam-packed this little country is with things to see/do and how there is no way we can do all of that in a day and a half.
Luckily, it’s time for a late lunch. So, we drown our guilt with an ice-cold beer and a delicious supper at Robba, which is a stone throw’s away from Francesco Robba‘s famous Fountain of the Three Carniolan Rivers outside of the town hall.
My brother goes for the ultimate Slovenian dish (!) hamburger and fries, while I opt for the daily special: spinach pasta with asparagus and smoked trout.
These are followed by some equally delicious and impressive desserts:
We feel the post-meal laziness creep in, so we stop in its tracks with a cup of coffee:
… And make our way to the Cobblers’ Bridge (Čevljarski most). Named after its then-new occupants who replaced the resident butchers by the order of the Emperor, this is now a pedestrian bridge crossing the river Ljubljanica and connecting the two sides of medieval Ljubljana, with nary a shoemaker or butcher in sight.
We spend the afternoon walking in the gorgeous, Wes Anderson-looking streets and tree-lined riverside promenades of Ljubljana and checking out the stalls while a gentle breeze caresses our faces.
In the evening, we decide to head back to the embankments stretching along either side of Ljubljanica (Cankarjevo Nabrežje or Petkovškovo nabrežje among some) dotted with a wide range of cafés, restaurants and cocktail bars. We pick one that has a free table by the river and enjoy a calm evening with a beer in hand, talking about anything and everything… but mostly about what a journey this has been and how different this has been from the previous Interrail experience we’ve had back when we were still in high school. We talk about the highs and lows of the trip, and what we would have done differently knowing what we know now… About how we feel about going back to reality and what’s next for us. You know, the usual…
One thing that none of us really know (or want to talk about) though is whether we can do something like this again in the future, with more adult responsibilities now creeping on both of us. But I think we’re both hopeful… and in this particular moment, blissful. We order another pint and some nibbles and just enjoy the lights flickering over Ljubljanica, this beautiful summer night and each other’s company.
Some of the pins from today:
Day 2: One day in Ljubljana
We start the day with a quick breakfast followed by the Historical city centre & Ljubljana Castle tour we booked the day before. This is a two-hour guided tour that starts in front of the Town Hall (Mestna hiša), and takes you through major sights of the city, as well as hidden gems that you might otherwise miss, and ends with a funicular ride to Ljubljana Castle.
Our guide is friendly and knowledgeable and clearly in love with the beautiful city he calls home. He indulges us with great recommendations and anecdotes as our walk takes us through countless city highlights, before leaving us at Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski grad).
Just to give you an idea of how jam-packed the old town is with sightseeing gold, here is a brief list of what you can see if you just walk for a mile:
- The Central Market (Glavna tržnica) bursting in colours,
- The Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most) named after the city’s famous symbol and protector,
- The Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) and the National and University Library (Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica) designed by famous Slovene architect Jože Plečnik who is also known as “the man who built Ljubljana”,
- The Congress Square (Kongresni trg) which is the home to The Slovenian Philharmonic and hosts many events throughout the year, and
- The Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski most) which, oddly, also happens to be the city’s lovers’ bridge covered in padlocks.
During our walk, we learn that while the Republic of Slovenia is technically only months older than me, the history of this city and region goes back to many thousands years BC. But if you think this tour is only about history of Ljubljana and the old city centre, think again.
Sure, our guide skilfully walks us through the illustrious history of the city (with just the right amount of detail). But then the focus of the tour slowly shifts to really highlight the green-ness of the city. We are not only informed of Ljubljana being the proud holder of the title of European Green Capital 2016 and a host of international awards, but also given some information about the recycling infrastructure they have in place!
I found it to be a fascinating way of showing the perfect blend that is Ljubljana. A city steeped in history yet way ahead of many others in Europe. A modern living, breathing entity, unafraid to take a clear stance.. And most importantly, action!
A true inspiration!
Our time here is almost over and we are determined to try some proper Slovenian food before we go. So our last stop before the airport is Güjžina!
Here, we leave most of the ordering to our waiter, who recommends us a selection of traditional delicacies. Names like Bograč, Dödölle and Prekmurska gibanica are uttered. And while I can’t catch the names for all of them, I can say they are all absolutely delicious!
With that, it is sadly the time to say dober večer to beautiful Slovenia, its lovely people and breathtaking views. But I’m sure this won’t be our last time here!
I hope you enjoyed joining us for some of the highs and lows of our journey and found this series useful to plan your next trip to any of these destinations!
Any tips/places I should have added, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Until then, next stop: Home sweet home, London!