20 – 22/09/2016 | 25/09/2016
Pronounced “Loo-blyah-nah”. At least, that’s how I was saying it. I don’t think the locals really mind.
Heading to Slovenia, I was keen to chill out a little bit after France and Vienna, which were big places with a lot of things to see and do. I also wanted some down time before Croatia Sail, because I wasn’t sure how big that would be. I’ve realised that a month is roughly my limit for travelling, before I feel the need to take a few easy days. Ljubljana was perfect for that. It’s a small, yet lively city. You could easily do it in a day. Thankfully, I had three. So I took my sweet time.
Wandering through Old Town.
After checking-in at Zeppelin Hostel, I made my way to Tivoli Park. It’s a nice enough park. Pretty standard though. But if you take one of the paths that lead off from it, within a few minutes, it’s as if you’re on a hike elsewhere. Tall trees, bush, dirt and gravel paths. I loved it. It felt so good to escape the bigger cities and get back among nature, and breathe in the fresh air. The trails seemed popular with the locals. There were walkers of all ages, a number of runners, and a group of teens training for what looked to be cross country running. I picked up a furry four-legged friend at one point. He joined me for ten or so minutes before we caught up with his owner.
I went on two tours while in Ljubljana. The free walking tour and the graffiti tour. The walking tour was long. That’s really all I have to say about it, unfortunately. Maybe I didn’t find it all that interesting because I’d already spent the previous afternoon and evening wandering round the city.
The graffiti tour was way more engaging. The tour guide explained the various styles and meanings of several legal and illegal pieces, and how artists communicate with one another and the public through their graffiti art and changing other artists’ graffiti art. It was interesting to see what is considered graffiti art. There’s one guy that’s famous for a small yellow dot that’s scattered randomly round town.
After the tours, I grabbed dinner at Druga Violina, which was one of the many recommendations from my friends, Em and Dan. I definitely ordered too much. I got two traditional kranjska klobasa (or Carniolan) sausages. They’re lightly smoked pork sausages, and they came with a capsicum relish, horseradish, and mustard. I also got two big scoops of mashed potatoes with onions, and a side of štruklji dumplings, which were filled with potato, herbs and bacon. The food was simple, but tasty. Although the dumplings were a bit bland. Then again, it could’ve also been because I had a slightly blocked nose.
Dinner for one.
After dinner, I stopped by another recommendation from Em and Dan – Vigò Ice Cream. Their ice cream is really, really good. Pretty cheap too. I went to Vigò a few times while in Ljubljana. I tried their classic Vigò flavour (which was mascarpone, Nutella, hazelnuts and chocolate), white chocolate and pomegranate with dark chocolate bits, and dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts. So good.
I spent another birthday away from home this year. While I missed my family and friends, I still had a great day. It started off with a brisk walk up to Ljubljanski Grad with one of the guys from my hostel (Dustin). The walk only took 15 minutes or so, but it definitely got the blood pumping. We paid 7€ to go up the tower, where we got panoramic views of the city. With the ticket, we also went to the bee exhibit (Ljubljana is big on honey), the puppet museum, which had these big weird heads in cylinders of water, and the history museum.
Ljubljana with the Julian Alps in the background.
Creepy and weird.
The afternoon was spent on a food tour. I think food tours are going to become my favourite thing to do to get acquainted with a new place. Dustin joined me for the food tour, and there were also two travel vloggers from Nashville, Kara and Nate. Our tour guide, Iva, started Ljubljanajam in 2013 to share her love of Ljubljana and Slovenian food with travellers. She was saying that the common misconception about Slovenian food is that it’s just sausages, potatoes, and horse steaks. But that’s not all it is. Apparently they used to eat frog legs because Ljubljana was previously marshland. For the next four or so hours, Iva took us round the city, sharing with us traditional and contemporary Ljubljana cuisine, and showing us where the locals like to wine and dine.
This is Iva.
First stop was the Central Market, which is made up of an open-air and covered market, and has the famous Mlekomat (milk vending machine). The Mlekomat dispenses raw, non-homogenised, and non-pasteurised milk. At the market, we sampled breads, cheese and grapes.
Our entrée wasn’t too far away, at a restaurant attached to the covered market. We had a chicken stew with semolina dumplings, and 100% apple juice.
Our next meal was typical of what they eat in the south west of Slovenia, where they’re closer to the coast. So fish. We had fried sea bass with potatoes sautéed with Swiss chard, and a rocket salad. A delicious and light meal, which we enjoyed with white wine from Dornberg winery. Like at Druga Violina, the restaurant where we were eating employs people with disabilities, which is pretty cool.
After our light main, we went grazing for a bit. We sampled some pumpkin seed oils, liqueurs, and honey at a little providore near Town Square in Old Town. We then went to Le Potica Shop to try the potica cake, a typical Slovenian dessert. It’s made with various fillings such as tarragon, walnut, poppy seeds, honey, cottage cheese, etc. We tried potica filled with walnuts and poppy seeds.
At our next stop, we sampled the traditional Carniola sausage with mustard, and the dish of the day, which was jufka (pastry) with eggplant.
It was now beer time! We went to a popular bar called TOZD. The guide from the graffiti tour recommended it as a great place for coffee. We didn’t sample any coffee that afternoon. Something to try on my next visit. Instead, we tried two beers (a pale ale and an IPA). They were paired with a gorgeous platter of cheese, cold meat, dried apricots, nuts, and bread. The cheese was so good, especially their cottage cheese. It’s firmer than what I’m used to back home, but lighter. Luckily for me, the group weren’t keen on blue cheese.
Dessert was gelato, from a gelateria owned and run by a former lawyer. Brilliant career change, I say. I got the chocolate with salt flower and crème with tarragon potica. They were a flavour bomb. A perfect blend of sweet and savoury.
Our last stop was Ziferblat Café. It’s a hip café concept that’s slowly growing in popularity throughout the UK and Europe. At Ziferblat, you pay for the time you spend there, rather than for what you eat and drink. The guy (Tom) is happy to help you use the coffee machine to make yourself a coffee, but you generally just make yourself at home and help yourself to the coffee and biscuits. Tom explained that the idea of the café is to promote a sense of community and creativity. It aims to be a space where people think and talk about new and old ideas. I could see something like this taking off in Perth.
After the food tour, I was full and happy. Dustin and I went back to the hostel to round up a few more people to go up to Nebotičnik Terasa. Kara and Nate recommended it as a pretty sweet spot to have a drink and catch the sunset. Dustin kindly shouted me a drink for my birthday and the bar gave me free birthday cake! I was stoked.
That night, a group of us decided to check out Metelkova. It’s a squatters’ place that transforms into a party hub late in the evenings, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. We had dinner and pre-drinks at the hostel, where we were entertained by Dustin, Lusy (one of the girls who works at the hostel), and another hosteller from Brazil (I feel terrible that I never got his name…). Considering they’d really only recently one another, they played as if they’d been rehearsing all day.
Metelkova wasn’t as buzzing as I thought it would be. But it could’ve just been because it was a Thursday night. There looked to be two places open. One of them was screening scary films, the other was a bar, which really only sold beer and a small selection of spirits. Despite being a little underwhelmed by the party scene, it was definitely worth seeing at night. It felt a bit like going down the rabbit hole, with all the graffiti, the Gollum-like figures hanging from the roof, and the glowing squid floating in the dark windows.
All in all, Ljubljana was a great stop. It’s definitely a sleepier capital city, so I was able to recharge my batteries a little bit. But it’s still got some energy and a buzz to it, so I never felt bored. I really enjoyed simply taking it easy, aimlessly moseying through Old Town and random squatters’ spots, watching buskers, popping into one of the small cafés or restaurants for a quick bite, or getting a gelato for the road. Happy days.