Sept 19, 2019 – Day 19 Ljubljana, Slovenia
A couple of days back we had booked our day trip to Ljubljana (pronounced as Lyublyana), the capital of Slovenia and Lake Bled through Free Spirit Tours. This was a small group tour in a car and that worked just fine for us. We had planned it originally for yesterday, but the weather forecast was “rains” so we shifted it by a day.
The tour guide cum driver was to pick us up in front of Hotel Astoria at 8.20 am. The hotel is right across the Airbnb we are staying at so we got ready early and went down to wait. When no one showed up till 8.15 I called the number on the voucher and was told the driver will be there soon. While waiting I noticed this street art on the wall of the building that was adjacent to ours.
Our car arrived by 8.35 am and there was another couple as well waiting. Both our names were on the list and since we were the first ones, we got our choice of seats. The car was comfortable with good air-conditioning. Our guide was a young man called Philip who spoke really good English. We had to pick up some more passengers at the Meteorological column so we went over. Philip got out and there were a lot of tourists waiting there. It took almost 45 minute to sort everyone out and get them onto different vehicles. We had one lady joining our group. We then went to another hotel to pick up two young men and then headed out on the tour.
Our very first stop after crossing the border into Slovenia was at a coffee shop next to a fuel station. We had eaten a light breakfast so we weren’t hungry and spent time taking pictures.
The distance between Zagreb and Ljubljana is about 140 kms and takes two hours. The road is great and of course the countryside is beautiful.
We reached Ljubljana and Philip parked in a basement parking. We got out near the university grounds. Ljubljana is beautiful, like a picture book. A little bit of history – Slovenia was part of the erstwhile Yugoslavia. It was the first country to break free and become a sovereign republic in 1991. Its a tiny country and according to Philip, Slovenia is doing better than Croatia because the Slovenians work hard while Croatians just drink coffee and complain all the time. There is some sort of border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia due to which Croatia hasn’t yet adopted the Euro as the currency while Slovenia was the first one to adopt Euro as the currency when it became a part of the European Union.
The university of Ljubljana is the oldest and largest university in Slovenia and has nearly 40,000 students.
From this point we walked across to the main square called Prešeren Square. Its named after the 19th-century poet France Prešeren whose work, “A Toast”, became Slovenia’s national anthem. There is a statue of his in the square looking across the square at his unrequited love and muse Julija Primic.
Just across the square the river “Ljubljanica” flows and there are three bridges to cross over to the other side. Well, there are many more bridges but these three are called the Triple Bridge because the plan was to use two of them for vehicles and one of them for pedestrians.
As soon as we got across, our first stop was outside the Townhall. We were hardly listening to Philip, our guide because the buildings were so pretty that most of us just went on clicking pictures.
The St. Nicholas Cathedral was consecrated in 1707 but there has been a church in this spot since the 12th century.
These sculpted bronze doors were added when Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral in 1996. One door portrays the 1250 years of Christianity in Slovenia, whilst the other portrays recent bishops in Ljubljana. There’s a spot on the door (bottom right) on the picture above that’s shiny. Philip told us that rubbing the nose of this man brings good luck.
From the cathedral we walked across to the central market where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold besides other eatables. Slovenia has only organic, pesticide free produce ! I bought some blue berries from one of the stalls to munch on.
From here, we turned into the “lock” bridge or the Butchers Bridge. This kind of bridge where lovers put a lock onto the railings in the hope that their love will last forever is seen all over Europe. Not sure if it helps though :).
Just before we got onto the lock bridge though, there were two amazing sculptures of Adam and Eve – this is depicting them as they were banished from paradise.
In the middle of the Butchers Bridge is another statue of Prometheus, fleeing in punishment for having given “fire” to mankind.
We turned right after getting off the Butchers Bridge and ended the tour at Dragon’s bridge. Philip gave us a couple of hours to have lunch and then meet at the same point where we started our tour, in front of the Ljubljana university.
Krishnan and I had our lunch with us – “Puliyodharai” with a pack of potato chips that were baked !. We walked back towards the main square, just following the river canal and took the steps at one place leading to a bench where we could sit and eat our lunch.
After lunch we walked back near the University because Philip had told us about an ice cream place and Krishnan wanted to eat an ice cream there. The store is named “Romantika” and has some unique flavours like cucumber and mint ice cream. Krishnan got himself an ice cream and I opted for a hot chocolate. We sat outside and enjoyed our respective desserts.
Krishnan had to be convinced to smile for the picture because he was so engrossed in enjoying the ice cream that he didn’t even look up :). The ice cream and the hot chocolate were both outstanding. I was very tempted to try the waffle but I was full so we gave it a pass.
For the first time I saw Turmeric Latte … named as Kurkuma Latte. Our good old “haldi-dood” is now selling in Europe as Turmeric Latte. Well, we should have copy righted this as a medicinal drink :):).
After having our ice cream and Hot chocolate, we walked across to the Congress Square that is front of the University of Ljubljana in search of a toilet and also to take pictures.
We walked on the park grounds and then came near the entrance to the underground parking where our car was parked.
We found our car and all of us got in for a short ride to the stunning Lake Bled and the castle. Covering that in the next blog.