A day's stroll around Slovenia's little capital

Trip Start Apr 08, 2007
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Trip End Oct 01, 2007


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Monday, June 11, 2007

After all that thunder and lightning yesterday, today has been a welcome change. I woke up at a leisurely 9am to perfectly clear skies - no better way to awaken on a day intended for sightseeing. Once the obligatory shower and breakfast were taken care of, I was then off to see the town. The hostel I'm staying in is right smack in the old town, just a couple streets over from its most famous square. This meant I was in the heart of the most picturesque quarter in mere minutes, after a little amble through the nearby market. It doesn't get much more convenient than that!

Ljubljana wears its quaint old Austro-Hungarian air well. It's a tiny place for a national capital - the population is only around 400,000 people - and nicely crowned with an attractive castle looking out over the historic core ringing its forested mountain. I made the castle one of the first things on my agenda, getting up to the top after about a 10-minute climb up from the pretty Gornji trg. Ljubljanski grad isn't one of Europe's most alluring fortresses by any stretch of the imagination. With an ugly concrete cafe dating from the 70s stuck in its courtyard, it's not exactly architecturally uniform either. On the other hand, it provides great 360-degree views from its lone tower, so a visit is easily paid off.

For lunch I grabbed a quick plescavica (spicy meat patty in a bun - otherwise basically a hamburger) from a market stall, then hit more sights. The pleasure of Ljubljana is really just exploring its delightfully cute old center, filled with colorful buildings ranging from medieval and Baroque to Art Nouveau and Secessionist. Still, the place is small on the whole, so I'd gotten a feel for most of its central streets within a couple hours. Once I finished looking around, I made my way through the notably more modern streets to the west and on to Tivoli Park, at the edge of a hill just beyond the center. Along the way I also managed to finally pick up a copy of the latest LP Romania guidebook, which means I'm basically set up for my trip. Good news. After a little downtime at the park, I swung by the train station to get a ticket for Zagreb on Wednesday, then walked through the remaining parts of town I was wanting to see.

As an ex-Communist city, Ljubljana has its fair share of dubious Socialist monuments and buildings. Thankfully the old center has remained free of much modern interference, but the outskirts by comparison certainly aren't so pretty. A number of eyesores were also plonked down amidst the 19th and early 20th century districts between the old town and train station too, with the incredibly austere Trg Republike to the west a particularly harsh stand-out. Still, it's a pretty city overall thanks to the geography, so the unimaginatively functionalist suburbs are easier to ignore.

It's been a great day of looking around, but I've mostly milked the place of its main sightseeing. Other than the zoo and a few museums, the town's pretty easy to do in a day, so it's daytrip time tomorrow. About an hour and a half due northwest is the much celebrated town of Bled and its beautiful Alpine lake; it's regularly considered Slovenia's highlight, so I'm planning to while away a few hours up there. So long as the weather stays so nice, it should be a lovely place to visit.
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