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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Lovin' it in Ljubljana

Twilight's last gleaming as seen from Ljubljana Castle

I've recently returned from four days and three nights in Slovenia's charming capital. The purpose of this trip was to pay a visit to a couple of friends who have purchased an apartment not far from the oldest part of town, and who stayed with us for a few days the weekend before. It was my first trip to the city and the country since 1997, and while I recognized many of the places I'd visited at that time, Ljubljana clearly has changed. There are a lot more visitors now compared to twenty-one years ago, and a lot more places in which to dine al fresco on a pleasant evening. But what hasn't changed is friendship, and thanks to Jeff and his wife Barbara, I had as good a time in 2018 as I did way back in 1997 (during which I spent a night at Lake Bled, marveled over the charmingly odd Proteus anguinus in Postojna Cave and sampled some excellent wines in Ptuj). On this occasion I didn't stray outside of Ljubljana but never tired of things to see and do as a result of the tireless efforts of my wonderful hosts. So sit back and enjoy a few photos of my brief Slovenian sojourn...

After nearly two years in relatively flat Lithuania, it was something of a start to see the Julian Alps upon exiting Ljubljana's small airport:


Time for a quick Laško before catching the GoOpti shuttle into town:


Crossing the obviously-named Dragon Bridge:


A Sunday evening dinner of mushroom soup, klobasa sausages and, of course, another Laško:



Prešernov Trg square, dominated by its 1905 monument to poet France Prešeren and overseen by the Church of the Annunciation (Cerkev Marijinega oznanjenja):



Monday morning began with an exploration of Metelkova Mesto, a former army garrison that has been taken over by squatters and converted into an alternative lifestyle commune:



An example of how the city has changed since my last visit, when the country had only been independent for six years and still struggling to shake off its socialist past:


A memorial to Yugoslav partisan fighters of the Second World War:


Speaking of architecture, Jeff was my guide on a tour of some of Ljubljana's Vienna Secession and neo-Renaissance buildings...:




The U.S. Embassy building (!)

...as well as some brutal, oppressive and yet strangely-absorbing socialist relics, most notably at Republic Square (Trg republike):







Taking a break from Tito at a riverside cafe:



Looking toward the Three Bridges and Ljubljana Castle from Prešernov Trg:


Inside the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation:




Outside the Grand Hotel Union, where I stayed during my first trip to Ljubljana (this time I was a guest at Chez Barbara and Jeff):


Another view toward the castle:


My friends almost purchased a condo at this strangely attractive modernist monstrosity. I might've done the same:


Slovenian labor heroes, from 1975:


A Monday evening meal of bograč stew, with gibanica for dessert, at Güjžina, a restaurant featuring cuisine from the Prekmurje region of Slovenia, on the border with Hungary:



All of which was washed down with a beer, of course:


Tuesday was May Day. Jeff started off the festivities by purchasing a bottle of fresh milk from a vending machine. Having lived in Japan, where almost anything is available from the ubiquitous 自動販売機 there, I thought I'd seen it all, but this was a first:


Stopping by the Cathedral of St. Nicholas:




For lunch, Barbara, Jeff and I ate outdoors at the Yugo-nostalgic Bosnian cafe Das ist Valter. I somehow managed to finish the huge-but-tasty pleskavica minced meat burger:



Feeling the need to walk off some of the meal, the three of us took a leisurely stroll over to the City Museum of Ljubljana, where there was a special exhibit on the city's medieval past:



 A 16th-century Italian bowl

 A reconstructed 1731 depiction of the Battle of Sisak (1593)


The museum's basement has a collection of finds from Emona, as the city was known when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire:


A tombstone for "Lucius Obulsius, son of Lucius, from the Camilla voting district, native of Pisaurum, a veteran of the Apollo's Fifteenth Legion, aged 60, ordered to be erected in his will"

From the museum, we walked uphill to Ljubljana Castle, skipping the funicular (which wasn't in operation twenty-one years ago):





The castle itself hasn't changed much since I visited it in 1997, but back then there wasn't much to see other than the buildings. Now, however, there are restaurants and cafes in the castle precincts, a great way to relax after taking in the views from the ramparts:



Back at ground level, we had dinner at a friendly bistro called Gostilna pri Kolovratu. The fuži truffle pasta was delicious, while the wine and conversation flowed:



For a nightcap back at the their apartment, I sampled some Putinka vodka:


All good things must come to an end, and as a result on Wednesday morning I said farewell to my hosts, and took in the view of the Julian Alps once more at the airport before returning to Vilnius by way of Warsaw:


And so I thank you my friends for putting me up (and putting up with me) in your comfortable apartment. I look forward to playing host for you one day in the Horn of Africa.

As for everyone else out there, time is running out if you wish to venture to Vilnius...

Showing off a couple of souvenirs: a beehive panel (a traditional Slovenian folkcraft) and a replica national soccer team jersey. Ljubljana may no longer be an undiscovered gem, but it's definitely worth a visit!

1 comment:

  1. As a certified beer imbiber, I couldn't help but notice -- and appreciate -- the underlying theme of this post..

    ReplyDelete