Wednesday 2 March 2016

BACKPACKING EUROPE: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana

Friday 24th April 2015 

We arrived in Ljubljana (pronounced loo-blyah-nah) in the evening. After a very peaceful and calming day in Bled, it felt almost unnatural to be surrounded by swarms of people and traffic so soon. Sightseeing could wait until tomorrow, all I needed right now was food and a bed. You can never get a good impression of a place when you first arrive anyway, especially at night because the first thing you usually see is a shitty train station and strange advertisements with words you do not understand. So Jack and I darted out of the foreign chaos and made our way to Tivoli Hostel, our home for the night.

The walk to the hostel felt so much longer than it was. There is nothing enjoyable about walking along a busy main road when it's dark and when you have a backpack that weighs more than you do. I was so happy when we arrived at the hostel (even though it was hidden behind a dodgy-looking car garage), it was a simple, little place with a very warming atmosphere and the first thing that caught my attention was the 'Free Breakfast' sign and the beer fridge next to the reception desk, hello!

Our room was cute and cozy. We decided to have a break from the dorm rooms and treat ourselves to a private room (so what if we had only been travelling for 10 days), sometimes you just need a cuddle alone with the one you love but before bedtime could commence, I needed food! So we headed into the city centre to check out the restaurants and what Slovenia's capital city had to offer.

After an apprehensive walk through a dark, sketchy-looking park, we found ourselves in the centre of Ljubljana and even though it had gone 11:00pm, there were still quite a lot of people around but as it was late and we couldn't be bothered to argue over restaurants preferences, we just decided to ditch our chance at trying a Slovenian delicacy (again) and have takeaway noodles instead, at The Wok, which by the way, was probably the best decision that we have ever made because it was delicious!

Saturday 25th April 2015

Today Jack and I were spending the day apart for the first time since we started our travelling trip. I was excited but also anxious about being alone in a foreign country, especially because I had to navigate myself instead of relying on Jack for once but before we could explore, we had to check into our next hostel, as the Tivoli was fully booked when we decided to extend last minute. We booked a room at the DIC Hostel and headed straight there. According the hostel's directions, Google maps and the pictures on the internet, we had arrived, yet it was closed? So as we stood outside feeling confused, frustrated and in desperate need of direction, Jack finally noticed a tiny, little sign on the wall, which stated that the hostel was on the opposite side! Weird.

The outside of the hostel looked nothing like how I'd expected it to look and the inside felt strange but slightly familiar, it also seemed too quiet for a hostel. As we made our way up the stairs, I realised why it felt so familiar, it looked just like my old primary school however, our dorm room looked like an IKEA showroom, which was a bizarre mix. Everything was bright white and looked brand new, as if the beds had never been slept it. I kind of liked it actually because the whole hostel was super quiet and we had the whole five-bed dorm room to ourselves.

Looking beyond the Tripple Bridge, Ljubljana

I spent my day wandering through the markets, watching musicians, talking to the locals and trying all of the free food samples that I could. At one point I found myself standing in a charming, little outdoor terrace that I somehow drifted towards. I'm not sure what the building was or used to be, perhaps a Town Hall of some sort but nonetheless, I didn't really care, there was not a single person in sight and I was intrigued. It was nice to be in complete silence for a while so I just stood there for 20 minutes or so listening to nothing, processing every moment that I had experienced since I left the UK, and acknowledging everything that was happening around me there and then, it was beautiful.

As I made my way around the Old Town, I wondered why the streets were so quiet. I then realised that there were no roads running through the whole of the city centre, which was ideal. 'Every capital city should be like this,' I thought to myself. I decided to follow the sign posts to Ljubljana castle, and after a long and steep walk to the top of a hill, I found myself admiring the world below and the Slovenian culture. I didn't actually go into the castle, it was pretty expensive for someone on a budget and I had a pretty good view of the whole castle from where I was anyway.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering along the cobbled streets of the Old Town, finding myself in hidden, little places where only the locals seemed to know of.

Cobbled streets of Ljubljana Old Town

Walking up to Ljubljana Castle

Checking out the local markets
A beautifully dressed Slovenian lady who made her own jewellery 
Admiring handmade gifts in Ljubljana
Biscuits or Christmas decorations? Souvenirs in Ljubljana
Spying on the locals, Ljubljana City Centre
Musicians on every corner in Ljubljana Old Town

A quiet place I floated towards, Old Town in Ljubljana
Jack mentioned that he would be checking out the Natural History Museum so I decided I would do the same except, there were so many museums in Ljubljana, which were all based in the same area so I had no idea which was which, I probably should have looked it up beforehand but I just assumed I'd easily find it. As I strolled towards the museums and art galleries, sending videos to my friends whilst scoffing a kebab, I finally arrived at the museum, or so I thought. As I sat outside for 10 or 15 minutes finishing off my kebab, I eventually turned around and realised that the museum was closed but it didn't matter, because I was at the wrong one anyway. So still feeling eager to learn some history, I decided to walk to the next museum a long, which looked like the right place... Or so I thought again. After paying to get in and walking around the ground floor for an hour or so, I realised that it was just an Art Gallery and not the Natural History Museum! So I decided to sack off the art and history lesson and meet back up with Jack instead.

Doors to the wrong museum, Modern Art Gallery in Ljubljana

Pretty, little church in Ljubljana 
As the sun set and my day of exploring had come to an end, Jack and I decided it was cocktail hour. We stopped by a couple of bars along the river but they were pretty expensive so we decided to ditch the nightlife and go for a walk instead. As we slowly strolled through the Old Town with no destination in mind, we stumbled across a local guy playing the violin. As Jack and I sat on the curb to admire the beautiful instrumental sounds, I noticed that the crowd was silent and in complete awe. Nobody was on their phone, no pictures were being taken and it was refreshing to accompanied by relaxing atmosphere, without the need for technology. It made me feel as if we had all travelled back in time, into the 1920's or something, just like Midnight in Paris. I appreciated every second of that moment because it made me feel alive and connected to everyone and everything around me.

It was time for dinner, so we strolled along the river again trying to find a restaurant that wasn't out of our price limit. Both of us didn't really know what we fancied so we just took a seat at the first restaurant we came to. The menu looked far to 'a la carte' for my taste so we ditched the sit down meal and decided on fast food. Somehow we ended up in The Wok, again, and just like the night before, it was delicious. Feeling full and satisfied with our time spent in Ljubljana, we decided to say goodnight to the beautiful capital and go back to our Ikea showroom.

Meaningful graffiti in Ljubljana

Sunday 26th April 2015

The next morning we got up early to check out, as we were leaving for Croatia today. Our train wasn't leaving for Zagreb until 3:00pm so we decided to grab some breakfast along the river and have a last little wander around the Old Town. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and Ljubljana just looked even more wonderful. Jack and I took a long walk towards the castle, and I remember feeling extremely grateful for having the opportunity to visit Slovenia, I never expected it to be as beautiful as it was.

Coffee and breakfast along the river, Ljubljana

Beautiful monuments in Ljubljana
So after two nights,  two hostels and two 'Woks' in a row, followed by a kebab and the best McDonalds cheeseburger I have ever tasted, we left Slovenia feeling satisfied, even if we never tried any Slovenian delicacies although, I did buy a sausage from the market so that counts right? I'm sure I will be back again one day so looks like I will just have to wait until next time (unless The Wok is still there) but now it was time to get on a train and experience the long-awaited Croatia, and I couldn't wait.

Jack admiring the castle above and beyond, Ljubljana Castle


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