Travel to Slovenia
A weekend in Ljubljana
I have often heard that Slovenia was a very hospitable country for tourism, but had not found an opportunity to visit; that is, until we decided to include Ljubljana as a stopover during a holiday in Croatia. I am glad we did, because I think Ljubljana is one of the nicest capital cities in Europe.
We arrived at the small and unassuming airport of Ljubljana on a Friday afternoon and a taxi-ride on a modern motorway had us in the capital within 30 minutes. We stayed in the Hotel Cubo, a very accommodating and newish hotel a few blocks from the core of the city center. The staff were extremely friendly, and the breakfasts the best we had on this trip.
Food and wine of Ljubljana
Everything about Ljubljana feels hip, from the very fit-looking Slovenians to the convivial outdoor dining terraces outside most restaurants in the old center. Slovenian gastronomy is amazing and seems like it is influenced by both Italian and Austrian cuisine. Every restaurant had fresh fish – mostly sea bass and bream – as well as grilled octopus. The white wines were made from interesting grape varietals that we don’t see often – like Malvasia, Zellen and Ribolla Gialla – all very crisp and complementary to the fish and seafood.
A weekend tour should begin with an amble along the Ljubljanica River to encompass the University Plaza and the Park Zvezda. The architecture evokes both Communist era and Beaux Artes influences. The cobbled walkways along the river are sedate and inviting, but like Amsterdam, the bicyclists rule here, so beware.
Sights in Ljubljana
The Ljubljana Castle is a nicely restored treasure that comprises many important exhibits detailing the history of the city, including the separation of Slovenia from Yugoslavia. The views of the city from the ramparts are unparalleled and walks around the castle very calming.
We had the impression that there is a robust activity calendar throughout the year in Ljubljana from the street posters adorning the ubiquitous advertising columns around the city. In fact, during the weekend we visited, there was a beer and hamburger festival underway in the market area – this was early September and the City was vibrant with celebration. The Euro basketball tournament was also in full swing, so big screens and beer drinking dominated the squares.
Readers of my blog will note that I will not miss the opportunity to jog a new city, and Ljubljana offers some nice opportunities for this. I had an enjoyable run along the river on a quiet Saturday morning, as well as one through the massive Tivoli Park on a Sunday afternoon, which was teeming with hikers, cyclists and meandering families. Many of the landmark museums and event venues are located in this park.
Side trips from Ljubljana
A terrific excursion from Ljubljana is to Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle, both approximately an hour to the southwest of the capital by car. The visit to Postojna begins with a train ride deep into the caverns, followed by a guided tour on foot. The tour takes about 90 minutes and is conducted in a number of languages. It is also one of the most visited attractions in Slovenia, so best to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Predjama Castle is a short drive from there and is unique in that it is the largest cave castle in the world, resting 400 feet high on a sheer cliff. The tour is self-guided, aided by QR code driven audio commentary throughout the exhibit. Given where the castle is situated, expect a lot of stair-climbing!