Abby and I had mapped out and planned the rest of our time we had left in the Schengen and realized we had about four days extra that we could spend somewhere that we have never been. We arrived in Slovenia on a whim, deciding to go there after some of our close friends had recommended it. And, we are so glad that we took their advice and went to our 10th country of the trip thus far. Loo-BLAH-nah. Ljubljana. That is probably the easiest and best way to try and explain the pronunciation of this tongue-twister of a capital name, which means “beloved.” Located in a valley surrounded by high mountains, green meadows and bisected by a river, it certainly lived up to its name….that so few can pronounce.
Ljubljana is a Slavic nation that used to be part of the former Yugoslavia. The language is similar to Czech, which made some things smooth for me, but overall the city seemed to be a University town. Being filled with so many people our age made it easy to communicate, since anyone under the age of 30 who lives in Europe seems to be able to speak their native language, English, and usually even more. The city is SUPER clean and was rated the top eco-friendly and “green” city in all of the European Union.
We arrived on a beautiful, warm autumn day that was not supposed to last long. Rain and clouds were in the forecast from that day on but that wouldn’t stop us from having a great time in this beautiful city. We had an early Wednesday departure and long ride from Venice that left us tired and hungry. Lucky for us, Das ist Walter, a local favorite, was located two minutes from our Air B&B. We got some sausage and chicken sandwiches that had one of the BEST types of breads/pita we have had on our trip. Chasing them down with french fries and beer, we were ready for a nap back at our place before going out on the town. Rested up, we made the 15 minute walk towards the town center. On our way, the first monument we came across was the Dragon Bridge. The city’s logo is the dragon and they certainly embrace it. The bridge is adorned with four huge dragons and many smaller ones can be found at the base of the streetlights that line the walkway across it. A very neat bridge, and who doesn’t like dragons?! After passing the Dragon Bridge, we continued along the river and made it to the Center which is located right on the river on the “triple bridge,” an architectural piece of art that is exactly as it sounds: three bridges diverging from one point that connect one side of the square with the other. The river is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars and is an awesome place to hang out. Sitting high on an acropolis above the town square and Ljubljanica River is the castle, one that has been sitting there for over 900 years.
The following day was cool and gloomy, but welcoming for us as we have been looking forward to some fall weather days to remind us of football and falling leaves back home in Nebraska. We made our way back downtown to explore the side streets and do a little shopping before making the hike up the hill to the explore the castle. After hiking and counting numerous slugs and snails on the way, we finally made it to the top. You could take a funicular for three euros to the top, but hey, we’re on a budget. You can explore the castle grounds for free, but for only 7.50 you get access to all the buildings, towers, chapels, museums, etc. A great deal for what they have to offer! The view from the highest tower is breathtaking and gives you a true view of the gorgeous area that makes Ljubljana so “beloved.” The forecast of rain held off for us and we made our way back down to the town center to find somewhere for drinks and supper. We had no idea that the time of our visit would be so perfect. Slovenia was in the semi finals for the FIBA World Basketball Tournament and were the underdogs against the many NBA starters of Spain. The bars and beer gardens were packed full of fans supporting their home nation. The game was close until Miami Heat star Goran Dragic and former First Round Pick Anthony Randolph began to go OFF for the Slovenians and they upset the star studded Spanish. It was definitely one of those moments on this trip that we will never forget, being able to cheer on a sport we love with locals who loved it even more than us that night.
The weather on Friday finally held true: a steady, cool rain and cloudy day. We donned our rain gear and went back downtown to finish our shopping and explore some more sights. We found a nice restaurant with delicious soups that worked out perfectly for lunch. We continued through the markets, shopping malls, souvenir shops and checking out the town while making pit-stops for beers here and there. Supper arrived and we found “Drogu Violin,” (Two Violins) that was known for their changing daily menu and cheap prices. For about $15 total, we each got a different type of stew, bread, dessert, and beers! We began our walk back to our apartment, but not before stopping at a bar for some drinks and to watch the other semi-final game between Serbia and Russia. Slovenia’s neighbor, Serbia, who every one was cheering for, won out in the end and the final for the FIBA World Basketball Tournament was set: Slovenia versus Serbia. Who in America would think that those two countries were the best basketball countries in all of Europe?!
Our last day in Ljubjlana was spent, sadly, indoors. Heavy rain fell all day and the weather dropped into the lower 40s. We made a trip back to Das ist Walter for lunch, stopped by a market for snacks and booze for the latter part of our day, and settled in for some Netflix, blogging, and relaxing indoors. Ljubljana’s tourist report showed that most people spend less than two days in the city before moving on to others. Abby and I spent a little less than four days there and made a promise to some day return. It truly is a “beloved” city.