Thankfully with Slovenia being quite a compact country, it didn’t take too long to drive to Ljubljana from Lake Bled. We found a nice (free) park on the outskirts of town, right beside the zoo. As an added bonus, it was dark, quiet and level.
As the weather forecast had predicted, it was slightly raining again this morning. The rain always sounds much heavier when it hits our metal roof, which makes mentally preparing to go out and sightsee in the rain all the more challenging. Actually stepping out and realising that it’s just some light drizzle always picks up our spirits.
Also, I have no real idea of how you pronounce this town. Are the ‘j’s silent? Are they like the ‘j’s in the rest of the area’s languages, and pronounced like a ‘y’? Lyublyana? Makes my mouth cramp attempting to pull those shapes.
Ljubljana Old Town
Our free park got even better when we realised that there was a bus stop less than 100m walk. It was even better when the driver chose not to accept our cash, and just waved us on board – it seems that everyone else has migrated to contactless cards.
We started the day with a coffee at the top of Nebotičnik, which was at one time the tallest building in the country. It had an interesting exterior, but I’d fallen in love with the stairwell. There were 11 floors perfectly spiralling above us – I walked down them after the coffee, and I was definitely more than a little giddy.
But, rather than climb the spiral staircase (which I learnt later doesn’t take you all the way to the top floor anyway), we waited patiently for the four-person elevator to shuffle the crowd to the 14th floor. Once we were there, we straight away walked out to the balcony to admire the views, before remembering that we’d actually came up here wanting a coffee. I wanted a flat white, and thought that I’d take a gamble that it was the same as a Latte Macchiato – it wasn’t and I’d ended with a very long/milky coffee.
The coffee might not have been what I’d hoped, but the views certainly were. The balcony allowed you to traverse a full 360˚ around the top floor, with fantastic views of the town below. We still couldn’t make out any of the distant mountains, only some of the smaller lumps around town.
The old town, which was presided over by the large grey castle, was uniform – and uniformly pretty. The balcony also doubled as a smokers area, so even though we loved to drink in the views, we preferred not to suck in the smoke.
We’d gotten a quick sense of what the town was like, so now came the time to explore on foot. The old town was pretty, though it was nothing exceptional that we hadn’t seen before – the weather wasn’t doing the town any favours though.
We joined the sudden group of tourists on the triple bridge, which seemed such a weird concept – three near-identical bridges side-by-side.
The main street of the old town was also like many others – narrow, colourful, pretty, and of course, old. As with most others, to really enjoy the beauty, you had to ignore the ground floors, which were generally given a modern makeover – and plastered with signage.
After a quick pass down the main street, we started the short climb up to the castle that loomed large almost everywhere you looked. The trail was surprisingly gnarly, with some seriously tilted steps that looked like a nightmare set of teeth. It eventually entered some rich green forest, and we had a feeling of serenity wash over us.
The castle itself wasn’t so amazing, though it was an interesting mixture of old and new during the renovations. It combined the original materials with glass and steel. Mostly it was minimal and unobtrusive, but at times it felt like I was in an Apple store.
The views over town were nice, however, I think I preferred the ones from our café earlier. I really wish it had been a clear day to know what the surrounding mountains looked like. It was interesting to see that Ljubljana also has a floating restaurant, much like Vilnius.
We climbed/slid back down, taking a different trail and finding ourselves by a large market. We walked through the stalls for a bit, but realised that we were hungry and made some effort to find food. Risa found a great little butcher that also made simple meals. She grabbed a tripe soup, which was surprisingly tasty, while I opted for some of their special sausages – with some truly lethal horseradish. The sausages were so good that Risa actually bought some to eat later – and she almost never wants to eat sausages.
We were starting to feel like we’d seen it all by this point, but of course that was naïve. We joined the small crowd taking photos of the dragon bridge, and made our way back through town, following the river, criss-crossing back across bridges from one side to the other. It was really quite nice by the river, and truthfully felt like a whole other city.
One of the things we both love in these old towns are the tiny alleyways. Generally they’re empty, but sometimes you find something interesting – such as this one. The gutter, for lack of a better word, was filled with these tiny sculptures of twisted faces.
We were starting to tire, and this combined with a change in the weather encouraged us to wrap up our visit. We walked back through the old town, along the high streets and jumped back on the bus to the zoo – again, the driver considered taking our money, then for whatever reason decided it was too difficult, and waved us on.
I imagine that it’s a much different place when the sun is out – and I hear it’s generally out. But, having visited so many amazing old towns already on this trip, it’s hard for it to stand out to us amongst such strong competition.