Ljubljana Castle

Trip Start Nov 09, 2007
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Trip End Feb 03, 2008


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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Castle at Ljubljana floats over the city like a watchful guardian. From every angle around the old town it is visible. Today it was visible through swirling mists, seeming mysterious and inviting. Today we would investigate it further.
First though we took another look around the markets and decided we needed some sustenance, and hey, wouldn't it be fun to try some food from the stalls selling local delicacies. We ordered four of the things that looked a bit like hamburgers and a dish of beans. The hamburgers were 5 euros each and consisted of a rubbery, tasteless patty of meat plonked in between a massive bun. On top of the patty was poured a gallon of sweet pasty tomato sauce and mustard. It was truly revolting. I think between us we maybe managed to eat 2 of them. Overall we wasted 30 euros on this wonderful experience. So much for grabbing a cheap market stall feed.
We needed some more mulled wine to wash down these delights and also to provide some fortification against the cold. It was so cold that our breath was freezing onto our scarves, and it was really hard to spend any length of time outside.
We found a cute train with some wagons attached sitting just near the market stalls that would take us for ride to the top where the castle is so we hopped on board and paid our 5 euro each. The 'train' had to battle it's way on the road amongst the traffic, not that there were many cars, but nevertheless it did involve some rapid turns into oncoming traffic before we were on the winding road that led directly to the castle. As we climbed we saw more and more of the city unfold below us.
When we reached the top we entered the caste gates and it wasn't immediately clear what we should do next. There is a picturesque courtyard o stroll around, admiring the buildings that make up the castle complex, and opera plays from a loud speaker to enhance the experience. The whole effect creates a very romantic atmosphere. However, it was hard to be completely won over when it was so very cold. We headed for a door that we could enter, which was to climb the tower and see the virtual museum.
The tickets were 4 euro for adults and 2.50 for children and this gave us entry to both attractions. The 'virtual museum' consisted of a 3D video about Ljubljana. Now, normally this idea would not appeal to me that much, but today it meant an opportunity to sit for 20 mins in the warm, and also to justify it to myself on the basis that it was a 'cultural pursuit'. We had 5 minutes to wait before the show began and then we were issued with 3D glasses and a radio receiver and earphones that translated the movie into 5 different languages.
The virtual museum provided some interesting information about Ljubljana and there were a few times where the 3D effects looked good. Jess was more entertained, I think, by the actions of the young Frenchman sitting next to her who had taken his shoes off and was clowning around pretending to shoot the people on the film and making silly noises.
After the museum visit we went on the tower climb. There is a winding iron staircase inside the tower which takes you, via a couple of intermediate platforms, to the top. The staircase is quite narrow and as I climbed I noticed people above me climbing down. 'This should be interesting' I told myself and waited for the inevitable squeeze as we tried to pass each other as they came nearer I wondered how we would manage it. Next thing, they were below me, still descending. How was this possible? What I hadn't noticed was that there are actually two winding staircases intertwining on their way up and down from the tower. One stairway for the traffic going up, and one going down.  I imagined how important this would be in the summer time.
The view from the top of the tower is, as you might expect, a stunning one. Ljubljana stretches out before you. Today it didn't stretch that far, because there was a lot of mist, but we could see the old town, and the snow on the rooftops of the pretty houses that line the banks of the river that divides and defines the town. After about five minutes of admiring the view the cold defeated us and we headed back inside, climbing down the opposite stair. I could hear some tourists on their way up bemused about how I had passed them on my way down.
When we reached the bottom we all agreed that it was time for some afternoon tea. There is a lovely café in the castle grounds in a very glamorous setting selling coffee and cakes and handmade chocolates. The tables are small, catering for only 3 people each, so we took two tables a little distance apart. We ordered some coffee, a cake and some handmade chocolates for each table. Very nice. I'd have to admit that we lingered over the coffee and cakes, not relishing the idea of going back out into the cold.
When we did go back out, it was only for about 60 seconds, because we noticed a souvenir shop that clearly warranted our attention. Again we lingered of over the display of local handmade items. There were some lovely things for sale, but mindful of how bloated our bags already are we didn't buy anything.
Back out into the cold we went. We explored the courtyard of the castle as best we could and then we needed another moment out of the cold. I spotted a gallery up some stairs and went up to see if was worth our attention. I waved to the others to come up. When they got there they said 'why have brought us here to a display, all in German, of the life and works of a German writer none of us have heard of?' 'It's warm in here' was my reply. The display was put together in a very interesting manner, with cases display manuscripts, photos and the like, with video playing on the wall behind each display case. I told myself I must find out more about this writer, but in truth I have already forgotten his name.
The trip down from the castle was via a funicular. I always love a funicular ride! The cost was 1.50 euro for adults and 1 euro for children. There were quite a lot of people waiting to get on, so we had to wait for maybe 5 minutes while the funicular cabin went down the mountain then back up. The ride took us down rapidly and we saw the buildings of the old town getting close and closer as we descended towards the ground.
We had to brave the elements once again as we headed back towards Hostel Celica all the time looking for somewhere to eat. Someone suggested that we try a restaurant we had spotted the previous night. It had flaming torches outside and had looked particularly inviting when we had seen it. It was called Kavalino and we found it again quite easily. As we entered the waiter told us that there were more tables downstairs so we made our way down.
What we found when we got there was a delightful atmospheric restaurant. It appeared to be set among roman ruins, although there aren't really any ruins like that here in Ljubljana. The stone walls and ceiling, combined with the decorative effects like the hanging dried fruit (trust me, it looked great) made for a wonderful dinner setting. The menu was varied and tempting and when the food came it proved delicious. All-in-all, a thoroughly recommended restaurant. We all agreed that we would go there again.
When we reached the hostel we had to do some late night washing. We purchased a token and put a load on. It was all pretty simple and the laundry turned out to be opposite our apartment. After the washing load finished it was about 10:30 so Jess snuck out and moved it into the dryer. You are not supposed to wash after 11pm, so we were pushing our luck. I went back in at about midnight to see if the drying was finished but someone had removed it from the machine before it was completely dry. Muttering, I took the damp washing back to our 'apartment' and hung it on the radiators. It was dry by the morning anyway.
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