I travelled to Ljubljana by coach from Zagreb (I watched numerous Youtube videos before buying a ticket just so I knew how to pronounce that. It’s Loo-blah-na in case you’re curious. There’s no I in it). After nearly an hour of trying to work out, from my poor grasp of Croatian, what the hell I was supposed to do at the border crossing, I could finally sit back, relax and enjoy the journey- and obviously look forward to my short trip to Slovenia.
As I looked out of the coach window, at the endless green hills rolling past, it dawned on me that I had next to no knowledge of Slovenia, except it’s close to Croatia and flights to the UK are much cheaper here than there. Oh, and it’s also home to Lake Bled and ‘the dragon bridge’- two things I did want to see since I’ve been seeing them pop up on a few blogs/Pinterest just lately.
I quickly googled what language was spoken here and saw that it was pretty similar to Croatian, so I’d still be trying to bumble along in a language I barely spoke, but at least it would be practically the same language. I then realised I didn’t have any Euros on me, so I had no choice but to embrace the bank fees.
Panic over, I went back to watching the hills roll past the window. So far, Slovenia just looked like one big field. I didn’t know if I’d like it here or not. Only time would tell.
A (very) short while later a city came into view- a city guarded by mythical dragons and a castle atop a hill. As we crossed the dragon bridge I peered out of the coach window at the fairytale creatures like a kid entering a world of Christmas magic for the first time, my earlier worries completely forgotten.
Ljubljana may be one of the smallest capital cities in Europe (it has a population of around 300,000) but my god it’s absolutely bursting with history.
The city, along with the rest of Slovenia, has been under foreign rule for most of its existence, it’s been destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt as a lovely little renaissance gem, and has come through a horrible period of time in the twentieth century to become the wonderful, green city it is today.
Allegedly the city has also been guarded by fire-breathing dragons and built up by mythical Greek legend Jason when he and his Argonauts stumbled upon the marshlands the city used to be. It’s like a story ripped straight from the pages of a book.
To fully immerse myself in the city’s history I took the free walking tour and I couldn’t recommend doing this enough.
The tour began in Prešeren Square, home to the pink church and a statue of national poet France Prešeren, his scantily clad muse, and a tree separating the statue and the church!
We wandered over the gorgeous triple bridge, which is, as the name suggests, three bridges made into one. It’s made out of pale concrete, runs over the River Ljubljicana, which has its banks decorated with weeping willow trees and is quite possibly one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Straight opposite the bridge is the castle standing tall on top of the hill. It’s beautiful at night, standing on the old cobblestone street looking up at the castle illuminated in green.
The tour took us through the market to try some traditional Slovenian food, past the butcher’s bridge, which is decorated now with love lockets, and is surrounded by statues depicting punishments for giving into passion or providing knowledge put here in the communist era.
Finally the tour reaches the famous dragon bridge, the main entrance to the city which is guarded by many of the green, fire-breathing mythical creatures which have become to be the city’s mascot.
Over on the other side of town is the cathedral, complete with the oldest bells in Slovenia and bronze sculpted doors at each entrance. The doors were designed to celebrate various religious happenings; popes are sculpted in the doors to commemorate Pope John Paul the 2nd’s visit to the city, and there’s a storyboard of the history of Slovenia to celebrate so many years of Christianity.
Further out still lies the public library and university, set near the courtyard of the old Knights of The Cross monastery, which is the city’s art hub today. Students come here to paint and make art, and it’s even an outdoor theatre in the summer. It’s an artists’s dream.
Culture and Beauty:
As well as being full of fascinating history, Ljubljana is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and there’s always something going on.
The twenty minute walk from my hostel into the old town was a beautiful, peaceful one. It took me through the back streets, past embassies and the Slovenian parliament and past the entrance to the car park that has had to have its building halted because of all the ruins they can’t damage. It took me through the little park just above the water, where the benches were always full and the pavements were usually filled with market stalls.
In the town centre everywhere is so pretty and clean. Green is a prominent colour here as the city has been named European Green Capital 2016 because of its dedication to the environment. It’s cute and very environmentally friendly!
Along the riverbanks you’ll find cafes filling every spot on the pavements full to the brim with happy chatty people and you’ll find people touring the cobblestone streets of the city in electric buggies or on bicycles.
The beauty and culture doesn’t stop in the city centre either. About a 15 minute walk away from Prešeren Square is Metelkova, a mecca for hipsters. Metelkova is a squat, which is overlooked by the government, set up in an old army base. It’s completely urbanised with graffiti filling the walls and art made from scrap metal fill the spaces. Metelkova is known as the alternative scene in Ljubljana and hosts hundreds of alternative concerts and events a year. If just going to a concert there isn’t edgy enough for you the old army prison has even been turned into a popular hostel for you to stay in!
Completely on the other side of town, and the other side of the spectrum, lies Park Tivoli, a beautiful, tranquil haven away from the city (not that the city needs to be ‘gotten away’ from). When I was there the business marathon was just about to get going so large areas of the park were cordoned off. Away from the main marathon route, though, I found a tree to shade me from the sun, and watched a local woodwind band play.
I was sad to leave the relaxed vibe of Ljubljana. It really is a special place and one that I will always have a fondness for.
Has anyone been to Ljubljana? What did you think? Leave me a comment!
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