Leaving Piran wasn’t easy, and if not for the promise of an equally lovely, if not slightly more crowded city, I may not have boarded the bus. However, after a four hour ride through some stunning rolling hillsides dotted with small charming villages, we found ourselves in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.
Often referred to as the “prettiest capital in Europe”, Ljubljana is very reminiscent of Vienna, just on a smaller scale. It also features a medieval quarter complete with a hilltop castle and several bridges that crisscross the Ljubljanica River that runs through the middle of the old town. After finding our hostel and setting our bags down, we headed back out to take advantage of the delightful sunny weather and find something to fill our grumbling bellies.
Widely regarded as a University city, with 63,000 students spread across 23 different faculties scattered throughout, Ljubljana has a very trendy, hip, and cool vibe; and as Travis and I are rarely described using any of those adjectives, we thought we might feel slightly out of place. These feelings were quickly dissuaded as we were introduced to Ljubljana’s very accepting and open culture. As our walking tour guide pointed out, Ljubljana is even home to Metelkova City, a self-declared autonomous squatter “city” in the former military barracks that is covered in graffiti and full of underground art galleries, bars, and clubs.
Knowing that a free walking tour would be the best way to brush up on our Slovenian and Ljubljana-n history, we joined one that runs daily from the main square. As we wove through the city, our guide Tine (not Tina, that’s a girls name) not only provided a full run-down of Ljubljana from prehistoric pile dwellings to life in Yugoslavia to modern independence, but also shared all the juicy details about the city of today – what it’s like to live and study there, where to go for a bite, a drink, or some entertainment, and how Slovenians feel about the speculation that they may be the next EU country forced to ask for a bailout.
Unfortunately our time in Ljubljana was also a bit frustrating (although after so many carefree days in Piran perhaps we were due for some character building). In desperate need of laundry facilities, Travis made the trek to clean our clothes only to return unsuccessful 2+ hours later. Apparently the laundromats (plural) we’d found online didn’t seem to exist. The next day, feeling a bit grimier in our crusty t-shirts, we heard a large group being checked in to our hostel – their shrieking laughs and yelling served as a foreshadowing of the noise and commotion they would later use to keep us from sleeping. I’m still rather ranty about what happened and understand that this is to be expected in hostels so I will simply leave it at this: Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” blaring from a ghetto blaster at 6 in the morning (after coming back to the hostel at 4am). Do people even still use ghetto blasters anymore? Is ghetto blaster still a relevant term because it just makes me feel discriminatory.
Needless to say, our last day in Ljubljana wasn’t overly productive. Actually the morning was used to catch up on the sleep we missed the night before, while the afternoon was spent eating deliciously crispy fried chicken and complaining relentlessly about the *&^%$&’s that had acted so obnoxiously the night before. By evening, we found our second wind and made it to a professional basketball game, which was extremely entertaining and something completely different that we hadn’t tried before (more on that in a future post).
Although Ljubljana is a city with no must-see attractions, that seems to suit it just fine and leaves more time for strolling the riverside or sitting in a cafe. Compared to many of the other European capitals we’ve visited, everything in Ljubljana feels a bit more relaxed, even the buskers and street performers were casual and all smiles (some didn’t even have bowls for a monetary contribution). After three beautiful days, it was unfortunately time to bid farewell to Slovenia, although with so much to offer, I’d like to hope we find our way back one day.