Day 42 – Ljubljana
The heavens decided to open last night and it rained… continually… all night! When the alarm went off this morning, we grouched out of bed to get back on the road to pick up Andy at Ljubljana Airport at 10:40am. As the weather was still a bit rubbish there were some amazing clouds billowing over the top of some of the surrounding mountains which reminded me of table top mountain in Cape Town. We then drove onto the capital city of Slovenia; Ljubljana. After a quick stop at the centre to get a map and a bus card from Tourist Information and some food from Lidl, we drove up to the camp site. Andy’s stay has proved a little bit problematic, our little van is actually a 3 berth, as the table area turns into an extra bed; however, it doesn’t account for Andy’s height of 6ft 2 so we’re staying in campsites and he’s been banished to the tent. He does feel like part of the crew though, he’s got his own cupboard and his toothbrush is in the holder. Upon arrival, we set up, had some lunch, before quickly realising how tired all of us were; Jack and I because of the rain, and Andy due to his early flight. Our plan was to go into the town for a drink that evening, but it all seemed like far too much effort. Instead, we went for a walk along the river just by the campsite and cracked open the Lidl beers.
During dinner we were asked whether we wanted to come and join a cycling city tour that the campsite did. Our plan for the following morning was to go on the free walking tour, so we thought why not just do it on bikes! We reserved our bikes for the next morning and then headed to bed.
The bike tour left the campsite at 9am, so after some test runs on our rented bikes, we were off in our group of 10 through the city. Our tour guide Jiva was great and made the whole morning lots of fun. As the campsite is quite far north, we also headed round some of the less tourist spots on our way. These included the new football stadium, that they’re very proud of and holds 1,600 people, the start of a shopping centre, that was being build before the government didn’t pay the contractors and the most beautiful cemetary I’ve ever seen. Sadly we don’t seem to have any photos other than the one of the part with all the Italian soldiers.
Our first stop in town was the whole area dedicated to graffitti. At night this turns into the place where all the young people come to drink. There’s lots of workshops in the area as well where all sorts of random things are made.
Right around the corner from this is a relatively new youth hostel which was converted from an old prison. The rooms have just been redocorated, each by a different graffitti artist and you can go on a tour every day at 2pm to see the rooms. This didn’t quite fit into our plan, but if we return sometime soon, we definitely will go. They have kept one of the solitary cells as it was as a monument to what was there.
We did make one proper stop on our cycle route for a drink at a coffee shop. The boys had a beer and I had a really nice chai latte which I drank from a mug made at the local pottery warehouse. There is a real sense of community and local support in Ljubljana which is really lovely. This stop also allowed us to talk to some of the other people on our tour, four of which were French. We took the opportunity to ask them to recommend some places for our journey back home. We now have a whole list!
Apparently you haven’t been to Ljubljana unless you’ve taken a picture of the bridge, so naturally, we took a picture of the bridge. Or more precisely, Jiva took a picture of the three of us at the bridge.
We then headed round some beautiful cobbled streets, past the main market and to the church. You’re meant to have good luck with money if you rub the gold part of the door in the bottom right as your enter. The church was very beautiful on the inside, but we were quickly ushered out for the beginning of mass.
We did learn lots of fun facts on our tour though. The population of Ljubljana is only 500,000 so it’s one of the smallest capital cities in Europe. Last year they won the European Green Capital Award; even in our campsite you can get fined 400 euros for not recycling. The majority of the city is designed by one architect, Plecnik, who is now described as the Urban Ghost. Most of the bridges, parts of cemetary and lots of the houses in the city are all designed by him.
After the church we cycled into the old town, which had one of the cutest squares. They’ve also installed a random sprinkler system in the middle, which we all had a good laugh cycling through. We then saw some other lesser known places in town and headed out to one of the parks.
At the end of the tour we headed back down to the old town to find a toilet before we cycled back to the campsite. While we were taking it in turns to guard the bikes and go to the loo, the boys started a conversation with a hilarious old Greek man who asked us not to think too badly about the Greeks and their current economic situation. He also gave us his number so that if we ever go to Santorini, we can ring him and he’ll give us a guided tour. By this time we had to get back to the campsite in order to give back the bikes, have some lunch and then get the bus back into town.
Every other Friday, there is an ‘Open Kitchen’ in Ljubljana, which is basically a food market with some of the restaurants in town having a stall in town, selling smaller portions of their dinners to advertise their restuarants. The area smelt amazing and there was every type of food you could imagine. We had decided during the day to have dinner here as it was relitively cheap and thought it shouldn’t be missed. We were right! For round 1, Andy had some octopus with veg at a Greek restaurant stall, Jack and I shared a Moroccan falafel dish with humus and different types of fried bread. Round 2, Jack and Andy had a tandori style chicken wrap and I went straight for pudding with a waffel with strawberries and chocolate followed by two scoops of organic ice cream; mint chocolate and vanilla. It was then all washed down with Lasco, the Slovenian beer of choice. If you are planning a visit to Ljubljana, make sure it’s during the same time as the open kitchen!
Feeling very full, we headed up to the castle to check out the view across the city. This was timed beautifully with the sunset which just added to the experience.