Travelling Light

Ljubljana, Slovenia: From The Castle To Metelkova, September, 2014

We loved Ljubljana – a small, walkable, beautiful city, with a population of warm-hearted, friendly Slovenes, and many interesting travellers. You have to make a particular effort to get to Ljubljana – it’s not one of the famous backpacker destinations – so it is generally a more conscious travelling crowd than you might find in Budapest or Bangkok.

We were up late the first two nights giving out free food, so we had slower days punctuated by naps. Ljubljana is in the middle of a celebration of its founding as the Roman town of Emona, exactly 2000 years ago. Yes, in the year 14 AD.

There is a historical re-enactment of various events which takes place at different locations around the city centre. We didn’t pay the 10 Euros to walk around and see all the acts of the show in sequence, but we came across performers as we were wandering around.

Ljubljana is full of examples of Secessionist architecture (a branch of Art Nouveau), as well the occasional Roman wall or tower.

Most buildings are well-maintained, and there is the occasional quirky bit of mediaeval design which survives to this day.

For more detail about some of the architecture, a previous note has many examples:

Another noteworthy feature, for those who are Catholically inclined, are the moulded bronze doors on the cathedral, made as a gift for Pope John Paul II when he first visited Slovenia. It was a big deal to the Slovenes, because they had just declared independence from Yugoslavia, and survived a ten-day war with just a handful of casualties, and Vatican City State was the first state to recognise their existence.

Well, Croatia did, but it wasn’t a recognised state itself at the time, so it didn’t count.

The first non-European state to recognise Slovenia was Australia. Go, Australia! They love Australians in Slovenia.

While the Pope expressed pleasure at being given several tonnes of brass, he contrived to leave the doors behind when he went back to Rome, so you can still see them in Ljubljana to this day. (They would probably clash with all the gold fittings at the Vatican, anyway, right?) The shiny bit on one door is the part where the sculptor put his own face onto the door (the original selfie), and people rub his nose for good luck.

The castle can be seen from most areas of the main square and surrounding streets. We took a ride up the funicular to check it out, but the camera battery went flat, so we don’t have many photos of the view. We can sum it up thusly – very, very pretty.

After our second night delivering food, we took ourselves to a cafe bar high in the sky, on the top of one of the few high rise buildings in Ljubljana. It’s on the (gasp) ELEVENTH floor. Be still my beating heart.

Actually, from the 11th floor, you take a funkily-lit spiral staircase to the 12th floor, where the view is definitely worth it, and the hot chocolate is good.

After consuming our hot chocolates, we wandered back along the river to admire how Ljubljana does night lighting.

Some of the bridges are modelled on Venetian bridges (JP, the architect mentioned at length in the earlier note) had a thing for Venice as well as ancient Rome), and the effect when the bridges are lit at night is quite beautiful.

More photos of Ljubljana in the album:

Before we hopped on the bus to Bled, we took a wander around the Metelkova district, an uniquely Ljubljanan phenomenon, because it is very close to the main bus and train station.

The area started its life as an Austro-Hungarian military barracks. It was abandoned for a while, and squatters moved in. Over time, it became THE place for underground music venues and parties. The squats became more and more well-maintained and artistic, and one building even got permission to operate legally as a hostel.

It is now a super-expensive hostel (27 Euro for a dorm bed) because it is famous and trendy, and it made someone’s Top Some Number List Of Cool Places To Stay In Europe.

You can hang out in the children’s playground, repurposed as living space, or wander around and admire the street art. There will always be interesting people to meet.

If you go there at night, it’s a party venue with live music, food and drinks for sale, and people dancing until dawn. Ljubljana is just large enough to support a party district like this, with 280,000 people, but small enough that there is nowhere else for the cool people to go, so everyone who is anyone can be found there.

Even on a Monday night, there is at least one venue open for party business.

You can see more photos of Metelkova in the album:

It was pouring with rain on our last night in Ljubljana, and very cold (by our Australian standards, anyway – about 5 degrees C), so we decided to buy a train ticket for the next day’s journey, rather than trying to hitch hike.

And it was a 6.30am train! After two nights of being out until the wee small hours, our body clocks were not ready for that. Double alarms, just to be sure!

Tomorrow, Hungary …