The Recollection Diaries: Ljubljana

My recollection

Strongest memory: My strongest memory is being surprised at how much I liked Ljubljana and Slovenia generally. I think sometimes it is beneficial not knowing too much about a place before you go, not only because it enables you to go with the flow and decide what you want to do after you arrive (obviously this isn’t always practical in the height of tourist season)  but also because it removes any expectations for a place. We didn’t know what to expect, and as a result I loved it. The beer and coffee culture really plays into what I like to do, as well as the fact that there was so much to explore and everything was cheap. And let’s not forget how quaint the city is! It feels much more like an overgrown town with a story book castle perched on the hill.

Memorable meal: We had a really tight week when we were in Slovenia and we actually only ate one dinner out. The rest of our meals were comprised mostly of vegetables and pasta, cooked in our hostel kitchen – so not too much to get excited about. We did have a few riverside craft beers though and we also had coffee up one of the tallest buildings in the city, but still none of these were my most memorable meal. The winner of that goes to the picnic lunch we ate next to Lake Bled, made up of supermarket goodies topped up with some bakery treats. It was pretty basic, but it was also very tasty. We ate our lunch sheltering under the front of the local rowing club, listening to (and seeing) the torrential rain hit the jutting roof above us. We had just jumped into the lake, which was surprisingly warm, and were trying to dry off as we sheltered. There didn’t seem like much point as the rain was going to keep us wet anyway. There is nothing quite like swimming in the rain! It was a really fun day trip, despite the weather.

Best activity: Wandering the river, crossing the bridges, taking breaks at microbreweries, admiring the sights and lining up photos – I love spending my days walking around places and Ljubljana is particularly good for this. It is also a great way to have some cheaper days when travelling. I would definitely recommend reserving a day for this if visiting Ljubljana – there is also the castle to visit and the nearby graffiti filled area of Metelkova Art Center, both also making for beautiful photos.

Favourite place: Our limited time in Slovenia meant we opted not to stay in Lake Bled, rather we just took a day trip so that we didn’t have to move all our luggage and worry about checking in and out of accommodations. There was actually more going on in Lake Bled than I expected and I really loved it there. It had the relaxed, laid back feel of any lake destination, but there was also enough tourism going on in the area that there were lots of really fun activities like luging, boat hire and hiking that I would love to do if we were there for longer. I think it would make for a great getaway destination, especially because the lake is so inviting.

Unforgettable sight: For me it was the Metelkova Art Center. So many buildings in a row, covered in street art. It is so COOL. It reminded me of the same eerie feeling I had when walking through Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen, as though there were lots of people watching me walk from behind the graffiti covered walls. The Metelkova Art Center used to be a military building, but now it houses bars, restaurants and a lot of squatters. At the right time of the day it is bustling with activity, including local performers, but if you go too early in the day (as we apparently did) it is pretty quiet. The art is so funky, I love checking out all the mosaics.

Andy’s recollection

Strongest memory: My strongest memory of Slovenia is diving into Lake Bled.  We opted not to spend a night in Bled, but instead visited the lake and its neighbouring town as a day trip from Ljubljana. Unfortunately, our chosen day was seriously wet – we had to run from the bus into a nearby bakery to escape the sheets of driving rain that greeted us.  With no sign of it stopping, we decided to brave the deluge and complete the walk around the lake as planned.  We were soaked through before long, so when we reached a jetty on the lake we had no qualms with stripping off and jumping in.  We were immediately rewarded – the water was surprisingly, maybe even incredibly, warm.  We jumped in and out a bunch of times, and when we got out to try to dry off, noticed that the clouds were beginning to clear. 

Memorable meal:  Not a lot of competition here – we spent only three nights in the country and were on a particular savings push, so we ate only one meal that wasn’t thrown together in backpacker style.  After much discussion, it was decided that our pick of Ljubljana’s restaurant pack would be Tokyo Piknik – a modern riverside Asian fusion restaurant.  The menu was much to our liking, offering favourites like Korean fried chicken, bao buns, and ramen.  One year later, perhaps the setting is more strongly etched into my memory than the food, but I do remember that we had a nice evening and were entertained by an argument that a neighbouring table was having with a long-suffering waiter.

Best activity:  I particularly enjoyed the reintroduction to the craft beer scene that Ljubljana afforded us.  We had been left wanting a bit after our time in Switzerland (too expensive) and Italy (wine-centric), and it was exciting to stumble on a thriving scene.  Both of our evenings in Slovenia were spent sitting in the festival atmosphere of the vibrant riverside patios, enjoying a range of locally brewed beers in the setting sun.

Favourite place:  This is difficult, as both Ljubljana and Bled arguably deserve this honour.  Bled was beautiful not just for its natural scenery, but also for the pretty architecture that had been built around the shores and bluffs that bordered the lake.  Ljubljana suffers by comparison in that it still had the trappings that come with a larger population, and so the natural beauty was somewhat diminished.  I’m still going to give the nod to Ljubljana though.  As capital cities go, this one had the most tight-knit local feel that I’ve ever come across, and the river-side old town was one of the nicest urban spaces that I’ve ever visited.  

Unforgettable sight: One wet morning, we decided to ascend one of Ljubljana’s “skyscrapers” for a coffee with a view.  The Neboticnik cafe thankfully had a windowside table that was unoccupied, and we settled in for a pair of Americanos as we surveyed downtown Ljubljana.  The view is dominated by the castle-topped hill, lazily circled by the river at its base, and I remember spending the bulk of our cup of coffee staring out at the view.  The weather could have been vastly improved, for sure, but the tiny city was still so beautiful that it left an indelible mark on my memory.

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