Can You Say “Ljubljana”?: Tongue-Tied in Slovenia

At the 2.5-year mark of living in Czech Republic, I’ve mostly visited the nearby major cities. So when I learned Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was only an 8-hour trip away from Tišnov (first a bus to Vienna, then a bus to Ljubljana), I decided I had to go.

The hard-to-get pronunciation of the name only made it more attractive.

While researching, I heard amazing things about the Christmas lights, the cuteness of the city layout and many riverside cafés, the beautiful nature of Lake Bled a short trip away. And it didn’t disappoint. I only spent a day, but I wish I could have spent much more!

Taking an overnight bus, I arrived at 4:30am. Little did I know that there would be three open places to loiter just across from the bus station! So, I bought my “breakfast” at the little bakery: a meat burek and sweet cheese and apple pastries. And waited.

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The city center is a 10-minute walk from the bus station – everything is very walkable and close together in this city, which doesn’t even allow cars in its center! That’s one of the ways that it’s extremely eco-friendly.

You know you are approaching the city center when you see the lights…

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It was a dreamy, magical experience to walk around in the 6am dark, with only a few other early birds (or night owls) awake with me. It was like opening a storybook and falling into a fairytale. I had whole galaxies nearly to myself…

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I climbed the hill (a short but steep hike!) to the castle in the very center of the city in order to pass the time til the sun rose. Unfortunately my phone died at this point so I’ll have to borrow a picture from VisitLjubljana.com:

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Once the city woke up, it got lively very fast. You could see the colorful and pastel-toned buildings with red roofs – a certainty you’re in Eastern Europe – but also a classic elegance that earns the city’s description as Viennese. I had seen the farmer’s market already being set up at 6:30 when I passed it, but it was in full swing when I came back:

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Ljubljana is a bit like London with its many bridges, each with its own personality and style. I spent some time admiring the pink Franciscan church, then moved from the famous Triple Bridge to the flat, modern Butcher’s Bridge to check out the lover’s locks and the shining Ljubljanica River.

Then I joined a free tour to learn a bit more about the history and culture of Ljubljana. We visited the Ljubljana Cathedral, which is Baroque. One of the doors, which was recently created to honor the visit of Pope John Paul, traces the history of Christianity’s arrival to Slovenia through migration, the printing press, and expanding literacy. The Crusaders had to pass through Slovenia to get to the Holy Land in order to avoid the Alps.

We weaved over the river and back via the bridges, one of the most notable being the Dragon Bridge, in the Viennese Secession style:

The tour guide told us some legends about the bridge, including that (1) Jason (the Greek one!) founded Ljubljana when he and the Argonauts killed a dragon there, and (2) when a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons will wag their tails. 😛

I really recommend Ljubljana Free Tour if you go – it was great! We took a group photo at the end:

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After this photo, I promptly got some well-deserved and well-recommended gelato at Romantika with a nice view of the river:

My flavors were Chai Masala and Fig. :-O They had lots of other interesting ones as well.

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The atmosphere was so relaxed in this beautiful city.

Left: People drink mulled wine outdoors. Right: Ramen soup for dinner!

The day came full circle, with me wandering through the Christmas market once more on my way back to the bus to Zagreb. I had roasted chestnuts for the first time, after hearing about them all my life from the Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole song!

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It was 2 euro for a small one, 3 for a large. The large one lasted me three snacks. They also had roasted chestnuts in Zagreb for a bit cheaper.

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Pink Franciscan church at the center of its calm, quiet universe.
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The Triple Bridge peacefully lit beneath the stars.

So I thank you, Ljubljana, for kicking off my birthday trip on a great foot. I can’t wait to come back for more cozy cafés and romantic solo walks by the river.

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