Ljubljana: “It is allowed to stay longer than 3 days, but NOT TOO LONG”

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“There is only ONE purpose of this book and this is: To keep you in Ljubljana for 3 days – well, for more than one, at least. PSST! Let me tell you a little secret: it is allowed to stay longer than 3 days, but NOT TOO LONG! I don’t want me perfectly small capital to be overcrowded.”

Before planning for this trip I had never heard of Ljubljana – I don’t even recall glancing at it on a map. All I knew about Slovenia was that it bordered Italy. It turns out that Ljubljana (“Luby whatever” as my mum referred to it as over Skype), Slovenia’s capital, is actually a pretty awesome place (and quite straightforward to pronounce).

For a capital, the place is tiny; and it is apparently one of the safest capitals in Europe. But because it’s a Uni town, the size and safety don’t make it a quiet place. There is loads of life around and plenty of watering holes and the like to keep a real public life-force flowing through the city. On our first night, I immediately compared Ljubljana to Bratislava, which is quite a bit larger, yet easily the quietest city I’ve ever visited.

The “City of Bridges” is built on the Ljubljana River and the old city is entirely walkable (you’d have to be extremely lazy to consider anything else). Prešeren Square acts as the centre from which the city spreads outward from in all directions. Here you will see the Triple Bridge (literally, three bridges directly next to one another) that are unique to the city. They’re pretty nice, but the buildings surrounding the square, which show off an eclectic mix of architecture, are the real winner – the collection sucked us in immediately.

Along the river heading east are several more bridges, including a rather nice oriental inspired example; and heading south from the Triple Bridge is the Cobbler’s Bridge, covered with padlocks and decorated with sculpted fish heads (we were thoroughly confused by this) and then further along the Dragon Bridge, guarded at each end by a pair of rather fierce looking dragons that form a true city icon.

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The sculpted art seen of those last couple of bridges can be found throughout the city, too; many of such artworks depicting animals rather than the obvious busts of {Insert token European figure}. Weird is wonderful in Ljubljana and some of the more obscure sculpted highlights include shrunken head type creations, a starving dog and a decaying human body (head not included). Along with the great number of buildings that are either grand, gorgeous or both, the city centre is a visual delight to explore.

The castle is another cool touristy addition to the city for several reasons. It’s a hike, but a relatively quick one, and I’m always up for a little forest exploration. There are some great views along the way, including the old town, more modern additions (including an eyesore I hope is known as the mega-escalator) and the mountains. Up top, the castle grounds are a delight. You can visit the old prison and chapel, browse galleries, and wander freely without any pesky (and expected when in Europe) entrance fee. The castle even has “Little Libraries,”  which are simple tiny cabinets that act as a free book swap.

On the other side of Ljubljana’s city centre is Tivoli Park, a massive are of public parkland and forest that is a joy to wander through. Expansive forest tracks allow for quick strolls or hefty hikes, of which we found a happy medium. At dusk, the crows take over the skies, which is somewhat foreboding with an air of fantasy about it; after all, once you’ve visited Ljubljana you might remember it as the stuff of fiction.

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