Ten Things You Never Knew About Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana was one of the cities of my dreams, my Atlantis. Sure, the taxi driver ripped me off and left me stranded on the outskirts of town in the rain – but let’s write that one off as an occupational hazard. Thereafter, Ljubljana gave me enough experiences and inspiration to choke up my long-suffering hard drive.

I hope to bring Ljubljana to life for you here on Inside the Travel Lab, piece by piece, over the course of 2012 as part of my #IronRoute Project. Yet to spare you the overload experienced by my hard drive, oh long-suffering reader, I’ll start with this bite-sized list and fill in the gaps later.

Seatbelt fastened, tray tables stowed and seats in the upright position? All right, then. Let’s go.

1 Ljubljana: What it is and where it is.

Perhaps you know this, perhaps you don’t. To spare your blushes, I’ll tell you myself.

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, which was part of Yugoslavia when people my age were growing up. Before that it was part of the Habsburg Empire but before we disappear down the rabbit hole of history for this part of the world, let’s stop and make sure we’ve got our bearings.

Slovenia, Ljubljana - where it is This is where Slovenia lives, landlocked between Italy, Croatia, Austria and Hungary.

2 Its nickname: White Ljubljana

Apparently, Ljubljana earned this nickname thanks to the pale churches & mansions that appeared during the Habsburg era – but I have another theory.

Wander along Ljubljana’s riverside Christmas Markets and you’ll find that the mulled wine scorns the traditional reds found across the rest of Europe – for an unmistakeable Ljubljana white.

 

3 Ljubljana’s Art Nouveau

Ljubljana, Slovenia Art Nouveau

4 Ljubljana’s Chic Boutiques

Slovenia Ljubljana Sleek Boutiques

5 Ljubljana’s Fine Food:

fine food in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana’s gourmet restaurants offered up some of the best meals I found along the #IronRoute. Alas, there were too many to taste them all! Here’s Restaurant Spajza, which I’d highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Ljubljana…

6 Ljubljana’s Hearty Food…

jota - traditional dish from Ljubljana, Slovenia
Though simple jota warmed me up a treat as well.

7 Ljubljana’s “Traditional” Street Art

Ljubljana Slovenia Edgy street art

Wander around the streets near Hostel Celica (which itself used to be a prison) to catch up with plenty of street art and edgy living.

8 Ljubljana’s “Unusual” Street Art

Ljubljana Street Art in Slovenia

Yet you can find sweet street art like this as well…

9 Ljubljana and the Dragon

Ljubljana Dragon, Slovenia

Ljubljana has not one but four dragons guarding the, er “Dragon Bridge” (one of the earliest asphalt bridges in Slovenia, if you’re into that kind of thing.) From paper dragons in China to scarlet flag-emblazoning ones in Wales, to patriotic dragon slayers called George in England and Jordi in Catalunya, I’ve never quite worked out why so many different cultures have such similar takes on this mythical, fire-breathing creature.

10 Ljubljana and the Iron Curtain

Slovenia, Ljubljana History - military tank

OK, here’s where we get serious again. For all the above-mentioned frivolity, the iron curtain is the real reason why I came to Ljubljana on this particular trip. Apologies if you know this already, but I’d started in Istanbul and travelled by InterRail up to Berlin in order to zigzag across the former iron curtain, the barrier that carved up Europe while I was at school.

Slovenia, and hence Ljubljana, and to an extent all of the former countries of Yugoslavia, formed a vital part of this route. But not, perhaps, for the reason you might imagine.

To be continued…The story continues over here with The Cold War, the Iron Curtain & Somewhere In Between
. To put the iron route into context, visit the #ironroute page or watch the video.

Disclosure: #IronRoute was sponsored by InterRail at www.interrailnet.com. As usual, I had complete editorial control.

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34 Responses to Ten Things You Never Knew About Ljubljana, Slovenia

  1. Jim @NeverStopTraveling January 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    I enjoyed this story and really like the idea of the #IronRoute project. Haven’t been to that area since Tito-times but this makes me want to return. What;s interesting in many of these places is the mashup of the old and the new, the Art Nouveau vs the street art, for example.

    • Abi January 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

      I’d be very interested to hear of your experiences during Tito’s time…

      • Jim @NeverStopTraveling January 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

        Hi Abi,
        I was in the Army at the time and was driving down to Greece and back, which was the reason most travelers drove across the country at that time. I entered (and returned) through what is now Slovenia.
        All of Yugoslavia back then was very impoverished although its people were much better off than they were in the other communist states. There were very few cars and the traffic on highways consisted mainly of trucks and a few tourists. The cities were drab although the countryside was beautiful.
        We had a big English sheep dog in our car, a breed they had never seen before, and it looked like a Greek flokati rug as it stretched out in the back. When I drove into the cities crowds would sometimes gather around the car to look at it.Unfortunately, at that time, I couldn’t have a lot of interaction with the people beyond that.
        Everything was quite cheap. Down in the southern part of Yugoslavia I had a brake problem with my car and brought it to a car repair shop which was part of some guy’s home. He didn’t have the part we needed but took if from another car and then spend about six hours filing in down by hand to make it the right size. He charged me $7.

        • Abi January 11, 2012 at 9:30 am #

          One of the most interesting things about this trip for me has got to be hearing people’s stories like this. Thank you SO, SO much for taking the time to come back and write that. I haven’t got much to add – and it’s difficult to just say “thanks” and make it sound sincere online – but thank you. That really helps me to get an impression of the place during those years and I really appreciate it.

      • Katja E. Rode March 19, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

        Hello Abi
        I am actually slovenian, and I love how you’ve shown all the beautiful things Ljubljana has to offer. I hope you enjoyed your stay there! I just had to say my personal favorite thing about Ljubljana is the food, sweet stuff OF COURSE

  2. dtravelsround January 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    What a beautiful city … these posts are making me want to head there so badly!

    • Abi January 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

      And these were taken during the fog and drizzle of winter! Just imagine what Ljubljana would look like in the sun!

  3. Camels & Chocolate January 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    This is one of my own personal Atlantises as well. Glad to know it lives up to expectations.

    • Abi January 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

      I always have a slight moment of nervous hesitation when I approach somewhere that I’ve longed to see…It’s as though I’d rather live with the dream of seeing it than to realise that the truth is disappointing. Luckily, that wasn’t the case with Ljubljana. It exceeded expectations!

  4. Jarmo January 6, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Ljubljana sounds like a lovely city. Looking forward for more posts on your #IronRoute

    • Abi January 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks ;)

  5. Margo January 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    this has been on my list forever.. can’t wait to go someday. I’m with you on the white wine thing – seems very obvious! ;)

    • Abi January 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

      Argh – and I forgot the photo of the white hot chocolate. Now THAT would have strengthened my claim ;)

  6. Eurotrip Tips January 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Informative! But I would’ve hoped a little something on how to actually pronounce this tongue-twisting name, haha. Great photos, as always.

    • Abi January 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

      Ha! You mean, you don’t already know?! You must be the only person on earth who doesn’t know yadda yadda yadda etc. Yes, alright, I only found out recently. LeeyOObliARna. Or something like that. Make sure to mumble with your hand in front of your mouth while coughing just to be on the safe side…;)

  7. Kathy January 6, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    I loved Ljubljana when I was there in 2004, looks like it’s just gotten better and better.

    But a small nit about the dragons. In the west, they’re usually seen as dangerous (needing to be fed virgins, for instance), and have wings, whereas in the east they’re seen as powerful protectors, and don’t have wings. St. George slays the dragon in western churches, while dragons curl round the pillars of Mahayana Buddhist temples.

    • Abi January 8, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

      You know, I’d never noticed the difference with regards to the wings! That’s something to look out for in the future. Certainly, many western dragons seem to be seen as villains to be slain (St George/Jordi etc) But the dragon on the Welsh flag? And the Ljubljana dragons? It seems as though it’s a little more complicated – although perhaps I’m reading too much into things…Then, of course, there’s the dragon in Shrek…villain turned lover. Intriguing…

  8. Erica January 6, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    Any city that has a dragon statue is cool in my book. Your love for this place is genuinely reflected by your writing and pics lady.

    • Abi January 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

      Then you should go to Wales! Dragons everywhere…;)

  9. Federico January 8, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    Like Kathy, I was also there in 2004 and had a great experience, not only because of the city but because of some great locals I met, who became long term friends. Superb pics as usual!

    • Abi January 9, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Making friends always makes a place seem better…Glad you liked it.

  10. Stephanie - The Travel Chica January 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    I will admit I am completely ignorant about this part of the world. You’ve definitely brought this place to life for me.

    • Abi January 9, 2012 at 10:27 am #

      Good to know! Tricky writing a series like this…Not sure whether most of you are going to read it and think, well obviously!

      • Spela April 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

        Dear Abi,

        I really like your post and would like to share a certain curiousity with you … Since you have the picture of that tank in front of the museum and since I can see you like a good mystery, I have a feeling you would be thrilled to know that that tank misteriously turned pink on the night from March 7th to March 8th, the international Women’s Day.

        Noone knows who did it but you can check out the photos in this article, titled “A Pink Tank for All the Slovenian Ladies”:
        http://www.slovenskenovice.si/novice/slovenija/foto-video-roza-tank-za-vse-slovenke

        It even has some flowers stuck in it:)

        • Abi April 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

          Ha! Very interesting – thanks.

  11. Abby January 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I love that Art Nouveau look! And their sense of style looks fun. I’d love to go!

    • Abi January 9, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      I was expecting the medieval history and 20th century conflicts…but the amount of art on display completely took me by surprise. From “alternative” to “mainstream” – nearly everywhere I looked had something interesting to look at.

  12. jade January 26, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    It seems like everything in Ljubljana is centered around art- looks like a lovely place to spend a long trip!

  13. Abi January 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Yep, there’s beauty on almost every street corner. A complete contrast to Sofia, Bulgaria where I had to search heard to find something unusual or picturesque…

  14. Violeta November 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    Hi, Abi

    I was born in Ljubljana and we just moved a year ago to San Antonio, TX from there. I was happy to find this about my hometown and I really recommend it to everybody, but not only Ljubljana as a capital but also other beautiful places in Slovenia.

    It is tiny country full of great places, very rich culture and amazing nature from the Adriatic Sea and Karst (Tuscany-like region) on one side to the Alps with beautiful National Park Triglav, lake Bled and rivers on the other side, to the hill country with numerous vineyards and by the way great wine and there is more and more. And what is the best , everything is very close because the country lies on the junction of different regions. From Ljubljana in the middle of the country you need about an hour to each direction and the scenery completely changes. It takes about 2,5 hours driving to Venice, Italy or about 3,5 hours driving to Vienna, Austria. Whatever time of the year you choose it is beautiful, people are nice and food is awesome.

    I recommend some links to see more images and get more information about Slovenia:

    http://www.visitljubljana.com/en/

    http://www.slovenia.info/en/

    or simply google Slovenia and view Images

    Wish you a great vacation if you decide to go and combine Slovenia also with next country Croatia (especially their coast and islands) if you are there during spring or summer.

  15. Cristina March 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    I travelled to Ljubljana but I was much younger at a time when regrettably, I hadn’t learned how to travel well. I feel I need to go back to explore this city in more depth because it is such a treasure

  16. Luisa Woodcock July 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    When I travelled to Ljubljana in 2008, I had never heard many people talk about it so it’s great to see the city getting the praise it deserves. I remember the street art very well, particularly as I stayed in Hostel Celica (a fantastic, fun and clean hostel by the way). What a beautiful city, this makes me want to go back!

    • Abi King July 23, 2013 at 7:02 am #

      Oh, Celica is so much fun! (For the uninitiated, it’s a prison turned accommodation block with great modern art installations all around and some of the best white hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.) I loved Ljubljana and would love to visit in summertime…

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