On a recent trip to watch a few stages at Giro d’Italia 2018, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in Ljubljana which many consider an undiscovered European gem – not sure I’d go quite that far!
As we drove over from NE Italy, the scenery changes rapidly from pan-flat ringed by mountain ranges to rolling hills, with farmhouses snuggling in the hillsides surrounded by loads of green pastures. It reminded me a bit of the Allgäu in southern Germany. Our two-hour drive was hampered by a couple of road incidents. Amusingly, Italian customs officials stopped us at the border on suspicion of stealing the car and taking it to Eastern Europe!
I only had a couple of hours walking around Slovenia’s capital while my beloved met with his clients. I didn’t go up to the castle, though I did wander around the Old Town and along the river, spotting the famous Dragon Bridge. I found the place reminiscent of Prague, largely due to its beautiful melange of architectural styles – Baroque meets Art Nouveau.
Around and leading down to the river Ljubljanica, are a number of squares and the famous triple bridge, the work of well-known 20th century architect and town planner Jože Plečnik. However, the town’s most famous bridge is dominated by four dragons – Ljubljana’s symbol. Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, the Dragon Bridge is a shining example of Art Nouveau architecture.
The city dates back to Roman times and there’s plenty of its archaeological remains proudly displayed in its many museums, some of these can also be viewed in the Chopinov prehod underpass in the Kongresni trg square.
The Prešernov trg square, overseen by a 17th century Franciscan church of the Annunciation, was paved only after the city walls were pulled down in the middle of the 19th century. The face of the city changed in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in 1895 and a number bourgeois palaces were built to replace those that had been destroyed. Some of these were subsequently refurbished in the early 20th century and given an Art Nouveau makeover.
One of the city’s museums was celebrating 100 years since the end of the Great War as indeed was the Giro d’Italia with its dalliance in NE Italy, the site of numerous battles and a tremendous loss of life.
Slovenia is a farming country and this shows up in its hearty local fare. Though there were plenty of interesting restaurants ,I was tempted to raid the magnificent fruit and vegetable market and have an impromptu picnic beside the river.
Aside from a couple of stores selling luxury brands, and the usual high street chains, there were lots of artisanal shops selling local produce. But, again, I was more interested in the buildings than their contents. Finally, I ate lunch in the business quarter, well away from the tourist traps, at a restaurant catering for local business men and women.
It’s a charming green city, boasting a large number of beautiful parks and a botanical garden dating back to 1810. Ljubljana’s largest park is the centrally located Tivoli, where you can often enjoy interesting exhibitions of large-format photographs.
The city’s definitely worth a week-end trip but, if I come again, I’d probably prefer to stay outside the city and enjoy riding around its beautiful countryside with a couple of quick foray’s into the capital to investigate further its green spaces, museums and finally, enjoy a trip along the river and to the castle.