Published on August 22nd, 20177
Skipping Through the Balkans: #3 Slovenia – Ljubljana
So first of all – let’s get that pronunciation straight. It took me weeks to nail it, but it’s actually pretty easy – once you get rid of those pesky “j”s:
While technically, the lj combination is pronounced somewhat akin to the double ll’s in “million”, (i.e. “Lyoo-blyee-ana”), listening to the locals pronounce it – it seems more often simply: “yoo-biana” works just dandy.
But however you choose to pronounce it – suffice it’s now tied (with Chefchaouen, Morocco) as my favorite city on the Planet. And fortuitously so, as I’d originally only planned a single day there – just a quick peek, check out the English teaching options and scoot on to Piran on the (tiny, just 43 km) Slovenian coast and then dip down to Motovun (for some truffle hunting) on the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia.
Ah but, when I checked into my hostal, the receptionist was gazing at a Slovenian news site showing torrential rains and serious flooding along the coast, so… I decided to stay tucked into Ljubljana for an extra day.
And I’m oh so glad I did!
The town couldn’t possibly BE more charming – the central historic district with its bridges and colorful architecture, the riverside cafes, the markets, and above all – I found the locals to be exceptionally warm and friendly. Once a Roman city (called “Emona”), today Ljubljana is a remarkably cosmopolitan university town, that retains its own unique local flavor.
And speaking of “flavor” – within hours of ditching my rollie at my hostel, I was happily munching on Slovenian eats at the Friday Food Fair that just happened to be set up in the central square – no doubt for my personal foodie benefit (I wonder how they knew I was coming?) Unfortunately, the afternoon was a bit drizzly, but that didn’t stop me from sampling the full array of (free!) Slovenian treats ranging from wines to all manner of sausages, cheeses, and tiny pillows of gnocchi.
Later, I grabbed a quick geocache (natch!) at the Opera House, and treated myself to an incredibly delish slice of “Prekmurska Gibanica”, the Slovenian national dessert, at one of the many cozy, upscale cafes.
Made from layers of filo slathered with poppy seeds, cheese curd, walnuts, apples and cream – apparently Gibanika is the only Slovenian dessert that’s listed under the EU’s scheme of “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed”, which means that it can only be made by certified producers. Who knew? And let me tell you, it’s among the most decadent desserts I’ve ever eaten!
And the foodie treats didn’t end there. On Saturday morning I took a free walking tour of the historic center (3 hrs. and most interesting, though my characteristic penchant for simply wandering the streets of new locales independently prompted me to ditch the group after just 2 hours). Later, I meandered amid the many riverside cafes and found a great “Druga Violina” place for dinner (turns out, they have a website!): a big bowl of homemade veal stew with fresh-baked bread and a side of baked cornmeal, plus choco-vanilla cake for dessert – all for but 10€ including tip! Even better – all the waiters are special needs folks, so I was especially happy to support such a socially-conscious restaurant.
Oh and btw – my digs in Ljubljana? A great little hostel set along the river (aptly named “H2O”) within steps of the famous “Dragon Bridge” (just 15€ per night).
And on my final half-day in Ljubljana (I had a train ticket for 1:30 pm to Buzet in Croatia), as I wheeled my little rollie through the cobbled streets I stumbled upon a rare find in my travels: A Slovenian 2nd-hand clothing store! Though I had precious little room to spare in my diminutive baggage to see me through more than 6 weeks on the trail, I couldn’t resist buying a sweet scarf as a souvenir of my new bff corner of the Planet.
And after, en route to the train station, I likewise stumbled upon a restaurant serving a traditional Slovenian dish that I’d hoped to sample: Slovenian Dumplings. So of course, I plopped down and dug right into a big ol’ plate of the creamy goodness!
Looking back on these pics it seems I um, kinda ATE MY WAY through Ljubljana. 😀
And now, I shall leave you with two more treats: A slide show of the many charming corners of this lovely European capital…
Plus a quickie little video of yet another uniquely Ljubljana treat – frozen curls of gelati:
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