This time I pick up a fantastic place to write about: Ljubljana.
I met many travelers in the Balkans who told me about visiting Ljubljana in Slovenia, but to be honest nobody was explicit enough to tell me about the amazing things that you can do in this place, so I will tell you what inspired me the most.
First of all, I need to highly recommend to use CouchSurfing. For those who don’t have a clue what is that, it is basically a social network of travelers where you can find a host in the places you visit, but also great friends and guides to easily live the local life merged into the culture and society. To me, there is no other way to travel, to really experience other places. —God bless this networks!—.
So this is where I met Matej. Basically I wrote a message looking forward to meet someone who had time to show me around, and this wonderful person contacted me back.
We first met in the Prešeren Square, that is the major meeting point in the city where festivals, concerts, protest… take place. Also, it is the entrance of the medieval town. It connects several streets that lead into different directions, so that make it easy to find. In the square there is one of the two pink churches that got my attention: the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. It is suppose that the color refer to the Franciscan monastic order, but time made it fade from red to a soft appetizing salmon pink. Since 2008, it is protected as a cultural monument of national significance of Slovenia. It was remodeled several times to get the unique design it has, but first built between 1646 and 1660 to replace another old church. A curious thing about it, is that the altar inside was made by an italian sculptor who stayed there because he fell in love with a local girl while visiting Ljubljana, Francesco Robba. Can’t be more romantic…
But yes, it can. At the easter side of the square you will find a sculpture in bronze of the Romantic Slovene poet France Prešeren with a random muse, designed by Ivan Zajec. Many tourists think she is Julija Primic (as I did), but locals says she is not. Prešeren is the one who wrote the national anthem and his story tells about he was in love with this woman but she was rich and was not allowed to hang out with the poet making him very unhappy… but inspired to write.
Of course, the Square is also well known for it’s proximity to many bars, clubs, coffee, tea shops… and more. Just walk along the river Ljubljanica to see what I’m taking about. Variety is what Ljubljana has. Every place is special and you will get surprised. Just go out and walk (or rent a bike), and forget about your water bottle because this city has 31 super clean water fountains where you can drink all you want and when you need (there is even an app called “Tap Water Ljubljana” to see where they are located).
One of my recommendations is to visit the Cat Caffe. Where I am from, this places are forbidden. I went there with Janko, a friend of Matej (it’s wonderful how you make friends with your new friends). He took me to this wonderful cat place in the district of Prule (Hrenova street) where you can drink a good cup of coffee, but also a glass of wine while you pet one of the many friendly cats that live there. Sometimes as a solo traveler you can find a bit of superficial love in the Cat Caffe, so if you love cats as I do, go for it!
If you prefer tea, go to Čajna hiša in the old square (Stari trg), this is the place to buy tea or stay in their peaceful teahouse to spend some time talking with your new friends (or to make friends, why not?).
I am a fan of markets, and Ljubljana has many of them. From flea markets, art markets, to organic markets. People sell stuff on the street very often, so don’t be shy and get close! People is very friendly. Also, most of the times you will find street musicians playing around to harmonize the environment.
Talking about that, if music is what you look for, this city is amazing to go for a life concert. There are concerts everywhere all the year, from free entrances to different prices with a wide variety of genres. You can find many scenarios. Check out the Križanke outdoor theater, visit the mini urban cultural centre Pritličje, go to Repete Jazz and Snacks and drink slovenian craft beers…
But what really wonder me and need a BIG mention is Metelkova Mesto. This is a city inside the city dedicated to the culture and arts. It used to be an Austro-Hungarian military base and in the nineties was taken and intervened by artists to speak out against wars in favor of peace. Nightlife there is an unique worldwide experience. Surrounded by surreal sculptures, colorful graffiti, clubs to dance, bars with different kind of music, concert venues, galleries of art… and all the crazy party spirit of Slovenia having fun together, you will get the night of your life and time will not matter. Seriously, it is a must do for all the people who love nightlife, specially on weekends, but Metelkova Mesto is alive mostly all nights.
Here are some photos of how does it look during the day (death). Sorry I did not have time for nightlife photos, I was having so much fun with my two favorite slovenes.
Apart from partying, I love nature. Ljubljana has been named European Green Capital in 2016. I was told Sundays are the perfect days to explore the green side of the city, so I went to a little hike starting at the Tivoli Park up to the Rožnik Hill. That is the place where many locals go to breath extra clean air, make some exercise, and eat a nice “flancat” (slovenian not fancy pastry, but very fresh) accompanied with tea at the top. The view from there is really wonderful. I stayed hours contemplating the panorama, while giving warm sugar to my body… Marvelous!
It is to mention, that this place was before a refuge from epidemic diseases, like leprosy. I guess that is why in the very top you will find the second pink appetizing salmon church that I told you about before. This one is the Church of the Visitation, built in the 16th century and renovated in the 18th.
Another thing to remember, if you don’t want to get lost in your way up, is that you have to follow the signs “Cankarjev vrh”. Ivan Cankar was an Slovenian writer (1876-1918) who lived up there. There is a monument in his memory at the top and those signs will led you fine.
By the way, don’t forget to visit the Dragon Bridge and the Mother-in-law monument. Those make the city even more fantastic if you think on the legend of the city which tells that the founder Jason and his Argonauts (greek mythology) actually killed a dragon there. : – )
General extra tips:
Museums are closed on Mondays.
Shops close at 19:00 during the week, and at 13:00 on Saturdays. Sundays be prepared to don’t starve.
Restaurants serve dinner until 22:00, after that there is just fast food.
It is really safe to go outside alone at night as a girl, solo traveler or whatever. Just go and have fun.