Allured by Ljubljana

Today’s guest post is by Jack Jones. Jack is a freelance travel writer who has travelled extensively throughout Australia, Asia and Europe. His biggest adventure to date has been to traverse the vast and lonely emptiness of Australia’s outback (surviving Wolf Creek in the process) in an epic 10,000 mile road trip.

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Hands up, who’s heard of Ljubljana? (It’s pronounced loo-blah-nah if that helps…)

Still nothing? Thought as much. Until about two weeks ago, I hadn’t either.

Sitting in a quiet bar in Milan, Italy, feeling slightly panicked at my dwindling funds and more than a little jaded from the monotony of unimaginative sightseeing, I decided to venture off my planned route through Europe – a track so beaten you can almost hear it whimpering in pain when you tread on it – and try something a little different.

So out came the map.

Ljubljana, it turned out, is the capital of Slovenia, a little smidge of a country nestled in the arms of Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia. A quick bout of preliminary research was enough to seduce me, and the clincher was the discovery that Slovenia was generally a third cheaper to travel in than two of its more prosperous neighbours – Italy, where I was, and Austria, where I had originally planned to go.

One train (Milan to Trieste, 40 Euros, 5 hours), one bus (Trieste to Ljubljana, 13 Euros, 2 hours) and I was there.

So, in retrospect, what did I think?

Superb, in a word.

But for those of you who require a little more information, I’m more than happy to elaborate…

Best thing I did

It’s an obvious choice, but Ljubljana Castle – the city’s ‘crown’ – wins this hands down. Magnificently placed atop a hill that looms high above the centre of the city, the views alone make it worth visiting. There are several options for getting there (tourist train: 3 Euros return; funicular: 3 Euros return) but, ever mindful of my budget, I chose to walk, which of course was free! It only took ten minutes from the Old Square and it wasn’t remotely difficult. The castle itself is free to wander round, but there are additional charges for extras, such as guided tours (6 Euros) and the Virtual Museum (5 Euros), where you can watch a 3D documentary on the castle’s history.

I tend to get very bored very quickly when on a guided tour – the constant flow of information swamps me and I have no chance to ponder anything – so I opted for the museum for a spot of self-tutorage, which turned out to be excellent value for money. The displays were imaginative and engaging, and the film was fascinating.

Best place I partied

To be honest, I’m really not a clubbing enthusiast (many, many reasons), so didn’t venture into any of the pumping venues on offer, but I did make my way through my fair share of Slovenian bars – you know, to understand the culture better and all that. One of my favourites was Zlata Ladjica, a cosy little place in the Old Town. There was nothing particularly amazing about it – I just really liked the atmosphere and it seemed like a very friendly place. Although I didn’t know this at the time, it is actually the oldest pub in Ljubljana, dating back to the 1300s.

Best place I stayed

Considering I only stayed in one place, this was never going to be a difficult choice. But it would be criminal (you’ll understand that terrible pun in just a moment) to not mention the Hostel Celica (19 Euros per night), located in the heart of the city on Metelkova Street, a five minute walk from the central train and bus station.

Voted by a certain guidebook as ‘The Hippest Hostel in the World’, Celica was once used by the Yugoslav army as a prison and barracks. When Slovenia gained independence in 1991 and the Yugoslavs scarpered, the building was scheduled for demolition. However, protesters interrupted the countdown, successfully preventing the building’s demise, and then set about transforming it.

Fast-forward 20 years and we’re left with some seriously cool sleeping quarters. The former prison cells have each been decorated by an individual artist, and while this has ensured each room is unique, all are in keeping with the prison theme. Awesome.

What did I like most?

There are no world-class attractions in Ljubljana, no ‘must see’ things. This, I think, really plays in its favour. When people hear ‘Paris’ they can’t help but picture the Eiffel Tower; when people hear ‘Sydney’ the gleaming white Opera House leaps to mind. With Ljubljana, the city itself is the attraction. Just being in it is enough to reward the curious traveller.

4 Responses to “Allured by Ljubljana”

  1. Rob Atherton says:

    I only had a day or so in Ljubljana but it looked a cool place. Its a pity the weather was so bad. I guess I’ll have to go back !!

  2. Never been, but have always been intrigued by the name itself 😉 Looks and sounds cool – thanks for the write-up!

  3. Sebastien says:

    If you have a chance, take a bus and go see the beautiful Bled Lake, a couple kilometers away from Ljubljana, it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. 😀

  4. Great capture of Ljubljana. I’ve been here for about a day and I corny deceive it better myself!

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