Our Slovenia travel chapter started with its beautiful capital city and the smallest capital in Europe – Ljubljana (“lyoob-lyAH-nah”). Interestingly Ljubljana is a city that does not have any world-famous monuments or attractions or a long or short list of to do’s. But it has many things to see and do and the best way to discover its secrets is via our favorite way – ditch the map and walk around aimlessly on foot.
For our day in Ljubljana we decided to do just that and started our walk in the Old Town. But the moment we stepped out of our hostel we saw an intriguing sight. There were wires all across the city and people had tied pairs of shoes with shoelaces and thrown them across these wires. Intrigued we went back to our hostel and asked them the reason for this display. Our host was pretty amused and said there is ‘ none’. Apparently one day someone decided that it is art and threw his shoe and everyone else also threw their shoes.. And now these shoes are just hanging all around the city 🙂
Walking further along around this city we realized that people here are very artistic and use everything as a medium. Everything here including signages had some kind of an artistic touch.
We walked along the Ljubljanica river which flows through the center of town and saw colorfully painted Baroque style buildings all around and an old castle (atop a hill) looking down over the city. As Gaudi was to Barcelona, Ljubljana was designed by Slovenia’s two most famous architects, Jože Plečnik and Ivan Vurnik; and their individual styles lend a distinct architectural character to the city. Though I don’t understand much about architecture, the results are beautiful iconic buildings that provide Ljubljana its own architectural identity.
There are several narrow lanes around here that we randomly explored and felt that every street in Ljubljana’s old town was winding its way into a more beautiful one.
In the center of the old town, we came across the market square which was bustling with small artists selling some interesting arty stuff and food vendors selling fresh fruits and produce of the day. There are also numerous cafes, restaurants and boutiques around.
We also saw the most famous bridges here i.e. the Dragon Bridge with four beautiful dragon architecture (there are no living dragons anywhere around), the Triple Bridge (there are three picturesque bridges next to one another) and the cobblers bridge. And as everything old, all of them have some local stories or legends associated with them.
We then decided to visit the Castle and the Castle Hill. This Castle is atop a hill and there are a couple of ways to reach it – you can hike up or take the funicular. The castle is pretty small and doesn’t have much to see or do but it makes up for everything with some fantastic views of the city and the Alps beyond. We just sat there on the ramparts of the castle for sometime and just enjoyed the beautiful vistas all around. There is also a wishing well here, atleast that is what we thought it was when we saw people throw Euros in the well. Though we needed good luck for the rest of the trip we gave the wishing well a miss.
We then walked down to the Triple Bridge and decided to have some lunch at a local cafeteria that turned out a tasty large vegetarian pizza for us. The vegetables used for the toppings were so fresh that we felt that they had just been farmed that very morning. Here we also felt that “Indians” were an exotic breed as people would look at us (as if trying to decipher our nationality) didn’t seem to have seen many of us. For once it felt good to be different and unknown to people :).
We also walked through its shopping lane and bought some really nice designer clothes and bags in some of its many small local boutiques. Many major European brands also had stores here and we window shopped through many of them. We enjoyed frequent coffee and ice cream breaks at the local cafes 🙂
For our post lunch siesta we walked to ‘The Tivoli Park’ – a long promenade paced out by Plečnik lampposts (their glass globes invariably shattered) which leads the way to Tivoli Mansion, with its notorious guard dog statues and currently shelters the International Center for Graphic Arts. Also in the park are the Museum of Modern History, a recreation center and a major music venue. We continued walking through the forest, as far as the Rožnik Hill church or Ljubljana Zoo but we went to the major music venue. We found a nice cozy corner and settled in to spend a lazy afternoon watching people and soaking in the afternoon sunshine.
After, what seemed like a long time, we walked upto the National Museum and National Gallery followed by the Nebotičnik – tourist attraction here is the “Skyscraper” built in 1933 for the Pension Insurance Fund by architect Vladimir Subic.
By now we were pretty tired and decided to end the day with the colorful graffiti in the Metelkova area and the Metelkova City cultural artist centre. The graffiti here is amazing and the installations in the artist center is a definite must visit.
In the true sense Ljubljana is an artist’s paradise with beautiful graffiti, art, architecture, people all around the city. We missed seeing many things here such as its museums, operas etc but we loved it so much that we are sure we’ll return at the earliest possible opportunity.
Our Stay – For our stay in Ljubljana, we booked Hostel Celica, an erstwhile prison for over 100 years and now one of the hippiest art places in the Metelkova area. Also close to the station. We loved our room which was a quiet 4 bed wooden dormitory with a small bathroom and free wifi. Hostel Celica also has a lot of evening programs with artists, music, a cafe and we found ourselves enjoying these almost everyday.