Ljubljana

Trip Start Sep 05, 2008
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Trip End Oct 08, 2008


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Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 21
Had a final breakfast on the terrace about 8am and said farewell to Chico the hotel chihuahua who tried to dry hump my leg during the entire meal. The weather has turned – cold and raining this morning. Alp - who drove me and the night manager to the airport (he lives nearby) – said the forecast was more of the same for the next four days. It appears the travel gods are with me as Ljubljana is supposed to be fine and sunny for the immediate future. Passed a busload of tourists in disposable plastic raincoats huddled under cheap umbrellas debussing for an early morning tour of Hagia Sofia. Glad it wasn't me, though once they got inside I suppose it didn’t really matter.

Just over 2 hours flying to Vienna on Austrian Airlines again. Read an English newspaper on the plane and ate the spinach cannelloni for lunch which wasn’t bad. Arrived in Vienna around 12.30pm and my Adria airlines flight to Ljubljana left at 1.40pm – good connection. Fed again – cheese roll and some type of sesame seed candy bar. Touched down around 2.30 and found the driver waiting to take me to my hotel - the Grand Union Executive. The backdrop of the mountains around the airport is really pretty – reminded me a little of Queenstown in New Zealand.

The hotel is very nice – built in 1903 it still has that Belle Epoque feel to it, although the rooms don’t seem to have been renovated since the 1970’s. My request for a view was answered as I am on the 8th floor with a balcony looking up at the castle on the hill above the city. Room rate is $240 a night.

Took my book for an exploratory pub crawl around town. Although the city is quite old, it’s prone to earthquakes and has been rebuilt a number of times over the centuries and as a result there aren’t a lot of buildings with any real age left, but having said that it is a beautiful place – like something out of a storybook. The Ljubljanica River flows through the middle of the city and is crossed by a number of lovely 19h century bridges including the Triple Bridge – three bridges side by side near Presernov Trg (the main square). The narrow cobbled streets are full of bars and restaurants, most of which have tables on the footpath, with a particularly good cluster next to the river.

Pick of the pubs I visited were the Antiq Cafe, which had a little setee and coffee table outside where I sat and a place called the River which I may go back to for dinner tomorrow night. There are bars everywhere, however, most of them very atmospheric. Also cheap – red wine is about a third of the price in Istanbul (average about 2.5E a glass) and better quality. Everyone seems to speak at least some English, which is an added bonus.

For dinner I tried a place recommended by Lonely Planet called Sokol. Amazing! Beautiful old building spread over two floors, split level upstairs. I asked for a table with good lighting so I could read Night Watch, which I have almost finished.

Ordered one of the house specialties – the Game Plate; wild boar with green pepper sauce, deer with sour cherry sauce and stag with porcini mushrooms and cream. Sensational – best meal of the holiday. Each portion was separated by a slab of polenta, cheese roll and some other polenta like wheel which really complimented the meats. Had a half bottle of Quescar merlot as well which was good. At under 30E I thought it was great value.

Back to the hotel about 8pm and checked out the pool on the top floor. Not a bad view from the adjoining balcony. Opened a small bottle of red from the mini bar when I got back to the room and drank it while staring out over the rooves of the old city to the castle perched on the hill beyond. Love Ljubljana!

September 22
Woken very early by church bells. Breakfast in the hotel – a good continental plus a full range of hot choices. I had watermelon followed by a fried egg with small sausage and champignons and a glass of grapefruit juice. Wrote some postcards and dropped them at reception on the way out.

Walked to the railway station and bought my train ticket to Zagreb (12.20E), then organised a  wake-up call for 7.15 tomorrow morning which should give me time to have breakfast before I grab a cab at 8. Also asked the girl at reception if there was a bookshop stocking English language books. She directed me to a place called DKS across the Triple Bridge that seemed to specialise in Mills & Boon type romances. I managed to find a copy of “The 5th Horseman” – one of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series. At 12.90 E (about $20) about the same as I’d pay at home - guess I'll have to wait until I get to the States to find any cheap books.

Came back to the hotel and got an internet cable from reception and updated my virus protection, then finished reading Night Watch. Actually quite enjoyed it so will try and find the sequel (Day Watch) when I get to New York.

Went for a walk about 11am. Appears to be some kind of school sports carnival in Presernov Trg – lots of primary age kids with rollerblades racing across the Triple Bridge. Had a quick look at the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation on the northern side of the square. It’s the big pinkish building just down the road from the Grand Union. Not overwhelming, but after Istanbul that would probably be the case no matter what I saw.

Walked over the Dragon Bridge, so called because it has green dragons on the pylons at either end. Apparently the locals say the bronze reptiles wag their tales whenever a virgin makes the crossing.

Caught the funicular to Ljubljana Castle. The current version was built in the early 16th century after an earthquake destroyed the previous structure. There’s been a fortification on the site since Celtic times and the Romans also had a settlement here called Emona. It’s an obvious place for a fortress as it dominates the plains around it and the sheer sides of the hill it’s built on would make it extremely difficult to invest. Admired the panoramic views from the battlements and visited the Chapel of St George, which is quite small and has the coats of arms of prior dukes painted on the ceiling.

I asked the guy who drove me into town to recommend a restaurant and he suggested Satica (pronounced Shateecheyah – apparently Slovenian for 6) so I decided to walk there and have a late lunch. The waiter ordered for me – some type of schnitzel stuffed with ham, cheese and egg and a side salad. Not a patch on last night’s dinner. Started my new book and drank mineral water – alcohol free day today.

Changed $A300 at the little bank behind the Tourist Office – worth a meagre 171E – then came back to the room for a quiet night of cable TV and reading. A bit of a lazy time in Ljubljana, but that's the sort of place it is really - not a huge amount to see or do, but charming and laid back which is a nice change after the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. 
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