“Ljooblajana, Loobjana, Jooblana, What? Why are we going to a place whose name we can’t pronounce? What shall we say at the flight desk?” asked r, rolling the l’s off her tongue. Lubliana, I told her, just forget the j’s. That’s Slovenia and Croatia for you. They have a lot of j’s everywhere that they don’t pronounce, like the Gujjus don’t pronounce sh and have names like yashesh shah! No offence please!
Ljubljana is the beautiful capital of Slovenia. Possibly the smallest capital of Europe, this city is surely not small on charm, romance or style. I could have spent a week here. A month maybe, with side trips everywhere for a week each. I can’t spell out what we all loved about Ljubljana, it’s better to just put up the pictures.
The airport was so tiny that we got off the plane, collected our bags and instantly stepped out of the airport to meet our friendly airtrail taxi pickup. I went to sit in the front passenger seat, only to find myself opening the driver’s seat instead. Oops, I had forgotten about them driving on the wrong side of the road! We reached Hotel Central (brilliant choice by Yogesh), that had a message on the TV, with “Welcome to Madame R”. No prizes for guessing who called it the best hotel of the trip!
It didn’t stop raining once we entered Ljubljana. We found out later that this was the rainiest weekend of the entire spring. Bad luck for us. This little city would have been even more fun to explore if it weren’t raining like mad or freezing cold. Infact it was so cold that though we set out to explore soon after checking in, we kept ducking under covered areas and kept hiding ourselves from the rain, and actually had to head back to the hotel (after being forced by r), to wear ALL the warm clothes that we had, plus raincoats and rush back out. Just to find that the rain had stopped. Not like we were complaining.
Ljubljana is small, quaint and charming. The heart of this city is the pedestrian-only old town. The cobble stoned streets are lined by buildings of different colors with statues, paintings or beautiful architecture. Every building is a delight and tempted my camera no end, which translates to lots of building pics!
Ljubljana is a city of squares, bridges, fountains, sculptures and cafes. And graffiti, though I didn’t see too much of it in the parts I explored. The Preseren square is the heart of ljubljana. It’s more of a round about for people with lanes leading off at all sides and the triple bridge over the river. The centerpoint is dominated by the bright pink Franciscan church and the statues of the beloved poet Preseren and his muse. Right across the square is the portrait of Preseren’s unrequited love.
We walked across every street that led off the square, and each one held a different charm. We crossed the triple bridge to the old town and the old square, the most beautiful part of this amazing city. Even in the cold, under the cloudy sky, this place was nothing short of magical. The wide cobblestoned streets gave way to narrow alleys crossing them, all lined by small shops and cafes with quaint signs.
As the sun was now out and the rain had stopped, the bitter cold and chill was replaced by a gentle cool breeze. Our mood fully relaxed, we stepped into the quiet and stunningly beautiful cathedral of St Nicholas.
I love churches and cathedrals. Mostly because they are cold and very very quiet. They also have a great sense of peace unlike our temples, where there is always too much noise and clanging to meditate or reflect on life. Cathedrals on the other hand, provide as much silence as one needs. This one was no different. The whole ceiling was decorated by delicate paintings, the altar with gold carvings, and beautiful stained glass behind and a huge venetian chandelier in the center.
We walked along to the steep climb to the Ljubljana castle. The cold air gave us the strength to climb up; the views a desire to keep going. Halfway up, we could look over the hillside at the river and the Preseren square; and see all the rooftops of the charming 3 and 4 storey buildings, all different shades of orange; the green domes of various churches and cathedrals and the deep green of the trees all around. You could take the funicular instead of climbing up, but for nothing in the world would I miss this steep, leafy green walk…….
Up at the castle, we walked about its periphery and soaked in the panoramic views of Ljubljana. We could look down to the Preseren, town and Congress squares. Further ahead, the taller buildings of new Ljubljana could be seen. Further ahead, in the background, we could see the tall snow-covered mountains, that I just couldn’t capture in the snaps. Pictures don’t do this city justice. This is a city to stay in and absorb into your mind’s camera.
As we walked back down (an easy climb down by some stairs), we suddenly came upon a fresh fruit market that was rapidly wrapping up. There we bought cherries the size of plums and the taste of heaven. It was such a colorful sight with loads of stalls with all types of fruits and vegetables and a large Nice-like flower market in a corner.
Lots of cherries, delicious gelato (in this cold!) and some awful hot chocolate filling our rumbling tummies, we walked along the Ljubljanica river. This small river snakes through the center of Ljubljana, dividing it into the old and new town. Numerous decorative bridges cross it, the most famous of which is the triple bridge that we’d crossed over to reach the old town. There are even stairs to a market at the lower level.
There’s a whacky bridge, unimaginatively called butcher’s bridge with transparent flooring and insane sculptures all along. Akin to Paris’ famed Pont des Arts bridge, this one too has love locks padlocked all along the bridge. Lets hope these last longer than the Parisian ones.
The most famous sight of Ljubljana, as distinctive as the Franciscan church, is the dragon bridge. Dragons appear to be revered in Slovenia, appearing on their flag and at many places, shop windows, at the castle, part of graffiti, even on manhole covers! Weird!
Exhausted by now from the long night flight and the entire day of walking, and cold from the falling rain, we headed back to the hotel and crashed without even having dinner. But it really didn’t matter to us, we were so full with joy.
P.S. Pics are all clicked by hubby and me. The entire post-processing is done by Yogesh Shenoy. Thanks so much Yogesh, for restoring my washed out pictures to what they really looked like.