Way back in February when it was cold and miserable, and the cold and misery felt like it would last forever, Phil organized this weekend trip to Ljubljana. Swiss Air was having a giant sale and the ticket prices were too good to pass up. Of course, we were in Kansas overwhelmed by all the events that had taken place, but still we knew this would be a good idea; it would be something to look forward to. It turned out to be just the thing we needed, a quick trip out of town to somewhere completely new. It’s yet another case of just go, do, don’t over-think it.
The weather on Friday could not have been more perfect. The capital city is easily walkable and charming with its winding river and numerous sidewalk cafes. Ljubljana certainly thrives on the cafe culture and we were more than happy to follow the locals’ lead and walk around, stopping for food, a cold beer, or just a moment’s rest. We stayed at an airbnb in the center of town (just around the corner from that church above) and it was very easy to get around.
Our host had recommended Open Kitchen for lunch, an open air market with food stalls highlighting area restaurants and specialty shops. You can get a variety of small plates or entire meals and relax on the steps with the rest of the city. According to our host, it is very popular at the moment, but it runs from mid-March through October. We would highly recommend it.
We had a little bit of everything–Slovenian, Egyptian, Chinese (when in Rome…)–before heading toward the castle. The medieval castle sits on a stately hill above the city and offers a beautiful panorama from the viewing tower. There was a large event at the top that prevented us from seeing a lot of the courtyard and other parts of the fortress, but overall it’s worth a visit. You can walk up or take a funicular for a modest fee. Can you guess which option we selected? : )
Of course even if you do decide to take the funicular, you’ll eventually come to a big stairwell that leads to the top of the tower, though it pales in comparison to some castle and church stairwells in Europe. This particular double-helix was a genius idea as you never had to run into people or do any awkward maneuvering while one person goes up and the other does down.
We walked around a bit after that before finally relaxing at one of the ubiquitous outdoor cafes. The architecture in the city is interesting given the storied history. Slovenia is of course a relatively young country. In 1991 it split from Yugoslavia to become its own independent country. It has had dalliances with the Roman, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, and the city doesn’t quite seem to lock into any one of those ideas. Rather, and perhaps this is the main point, it is a melting pot of ideas, architecture, personalities, and influences. Its bordered by Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary and it feels like a little bit of all of those. It is definitely European but decidedly its own.
After a brief catnap we walked around a bit more in search of the happy hour crowd–a rustling, bustling spot where we could do some prime people-watching. It was a little more touristy than we would normally would go for, but sometimes those end up being the perfect places for what we might consider to be anthropology, a study of the natives.
That evening we had dinner at Julija, which was fantastic. We ate outdoors and tasted a variety of typical Slovenian flavors, as well as some tried and true favorites (gnocchi, I’m looking at you). We retired pretty soon after that, totally beat from our day exploring the city. I’ll share some pictures from the rest of our trip later this week.