Slovenia Vurnik house (The Cooperative Business Bank), Ljubljana, Slovenia

Published on August 22nd, 2017

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Skipping Through the Balkans: #3 Slovenia – Ljubljana

Ljubljana - "The Cutest European Capital That You Can't Pronounce."Yes, Ljubljana. a.k.a. “The Cutest European Capital You Can’t Pronounce.”

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.

One of my all-time favorite places on the Planet: Chefchaouen, Morocco.

Chefchaouen, Morocco
(a.k.a. “The City of Blue”)

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!
 
 
 
 

 
Ljubljana river view 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.

ljubljana food fair, Slovenia

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.

Slovenian Gibanika cake.
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.

Violina Restaurant, Lfubljana, Slovenia.

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).

H2O hostal near the famous "Dragon Bridge" in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Seriously, could any of this GET any more fairytale charming?

 

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.

Ljubljana 2nd-hand store.

lol – I opted for the blue/black scarf priced at a whoppin’ 5€ , and… it turned out to be on sale for half price! Indeed, it’s now one of my favorite scarves.

 

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!

Delectable traditional Slovenian dumplings.

A great way to bid adieu to Ljubljana. And yup, that’s my little rollie parked next to the table.

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…

Click on any pic to enlarge the image.


 
Plus a quickie little video of yet another uniquely Ljubljana treat – frozen curls of gelati:


Skipping Through the Balkans: Slovenia - Ljubljana


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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!



7 Responses to Skipping Through the Balkans: #3 Slovenia – Ljubljana

  1. Cindy says:

    This place sounds wonderful! I want to go…!!

    Are you thinking of going back to teach English there? I’m curious about pay and the cost of living. Will keep an eye out for more posts!

    Cheers Dyanne, looking forward to hearing about Croatia too!

    Cindy

    • Dyanne says:

      Yup Cindy, Ljubljana truly is worth a longer stay. And I did look into the EFL teaching possibilities and there seems to be plenty of options (presuming you’re qualified with a CELTA or similar certification). I dunno about pay, but A. it couldn’t be any worse than here in Ecuador 😉 And B. no doubt it’s enough to meet the COL there.

      That said – though it’s mighty tempting to head back there for 6 month to a year, trouble izzz… I honestly can’t imagine living any place better than right here on this mountain top in Cuenca!

      Speaking of… so how’s your own “Great Leap” plans progressing? Do you have a lift-off date yet?

  2. Since our month spent with Prague as a base this year was such a success, we’ve been talking about a repeat in 2018 somewhere in Eastern Europe and Slovenia keeps popping up on the radar. I think all I’ll have to do is flash your pics of the food around and that will convince everyone! The food looks awesome, the prices even better and the architecture will have us over-the moon. I can see why Ljubljana would vie for top place on your list of favorite cities!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Bohemian Rhapsody: Cesky KrumlovMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes, Ljubljana would be an excellent base for exploring more of Slovenia, Anita. I only scratched the surface with a few nights in Bled, and 2 in Ljubljana. The Julian Alps, along with that tiny coastline at Piran – no doubt all worthy of an overnight or two.

      I’d also suggest – from Slovenia, do drop down into Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula (details of my adventures in Motovun next up in my “Skipping Through…” saga) – for me, that was the best of all Croatia, and easily reached from Ljubljana.

      btw, though I’ve not (yet) mentioned it in these posts – before embarking on this solo marathon, I’d “heard” that the warmth of the locals of Eastern Europe/the Balkans increases as one moves South. And I can now personally attest – starting with Slovenia (vs. Austria and Germany), the friendliness factor proved decidedly greater as I moved south.

  3. Good to know about the half price racks! I’ve definitely stocked up on weather-appropriate wear from second hand stores in my travels. 🙂
    Ruth Elisabeth kindly contributed to world literature by posting…One year on: What language learning am I doing?My Profile

  4. Any travel days with that kind of eating sound good to me!

    It’s a city I’ve heard of but did not know much about. Thanks for the insight! 🙂

    By the way, the second hand shop – did they price things individually, by rack or by weight? I’ve seen all three in Bulgaria so I’m curious about other parts of the Balkans.
    Ruth Elisabeth kindly contributed to world literature by posting…One year on: What language learning am I doing?My Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yes Ruth, good eats, along with good people. I would go back to Ljubljana in a heartbeat. Indeed, teaching English there is definitely a possibility.

      And the thrift store. Actually I also found another – a vintage store – later that same day in Ljubljana (and bought a gorgeous mohair sweater for half price!) Both stores priced everything individually, but apparently some racks, all were discounted at half price that day.

      btw, I think there were more second-hand shops in Ljubljana b/c it’s a university town.

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