Castles, Culture, and Cuisine in Ljubljana: Adventure Day 8

My second day in Ljubljana was just as amazing as the first. I woke up and went to get some breakfast. My host of the B & B provided an amazing spread, even though I was apparently the only guest. She made me some eggs, provided several types of bread and toast with homemade jam. Yogurt, coffee, and fresh vegetables. Happily full I took off to start my day.

Anyone who is familiar with my blog knows I love me a free walking tour. It’s one of my favorite ways to get oriented in a new city. I have to be getting close to about two dozen taken in my lifetime by this point.

So I joined up with the Ljubljana Free Tour in the main square of the old town. I was very happy to find a dozen other tourists there as well. Though I had enjoyed my more “private” tours earlier in the week, it was nice to have a group and feel less singled out.

We spent two hours wandering around the old town, learning more about the city, its culture, and its history.

After we finished up, I grabbed another grocery store picnic lunch and sat by the river to eat. I was so glad the weather was so perfect. My b & b host kept remarking on it, so I definitely realized it wasn’t probably the norm for Slovenia in March.

Once I was done eating, I decided to head for the castle, perched up on a hill in the middle of the old town. Though you can walk up to it, I chose to take the funicular to better enjoy the view and save a little time.

Up at the castle I had opted to get an audioguide and walked around with that. Much of the castle itself is free, which is pretty cool, but doesn’t have a lot of information posted, so it was good to have the guide. I also was able to enter the history museum, museum of puppetry, go up in the viewing tower, and see a video presentation about the history of the castle. All in all it was a pretty enjoyable experience.

Best of all, in my opinion, was the views. Thanks to the good weather, you could see the Alps from the castle and it was spectacular.

IMG_6425IMG_6436IMG_6463IMG_6471IMG_6489

Once done at the castle, I headed back down the hill. I did a little postcard shopping and then headed back to my hotel to rest for a bit before dinner.

I had asked my tour guide for a recommendation of where to eat after the tour. She’d listed a few places, but I’d ended up walking past one of them during the day and had seen the menu. I was pleased by the options so I decided to head there.

The restaurant was called Gostlina Pri Kolovratu. The place was pretty quiet when I arrived, but of course, I realized that was probably because it was a Monday and I’d arrived pretty early.

For a drink I had a grapefruit radler made by Union, a local Ljubljana brewer and one of the biggest in the country. I started off with a cheese plate. Once again probably a little too much for just one person, but definitely delicious. Probably one of my biggest regrets of traveling alone is not being able to enjoy sharing foods. Still, the plate was very fun. Three types of cow cheese and a goat cheese on a small potato as well as some fruit and vegetables paired with it.

Then for a main course I ended up with a kranjska klobasa, a traditional Slovenian sausage similar to a kielbasa (for any who know their sausages). It came served with Matevž which is basically pureed beans and potatoes, as well as some vegetables and mustard. It was actually really delicious, and fun to try something pretty traditional rather than just looking for a creative use of local ingredients (because I’d had a LOT of steak lately).

For dessert, I ended up going with a cream cake, which was decadent and amazing. It’s apparently a local dish from Bled, which was where I was heading next, but it sounded too good to pass up. Basically it’s a thin layer of pastry with a custard cream and then a layer of whipped cream topped with another layer of pastry and some powdered sugar. I may have to figure out how to make some myself, because it really was heavenly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I enjoyed the walk back to my hotel. My experience in Ljubljana really was incredible, and I would recommend it to anyone already down in that area visiting Italy, Austria, or Croatia. It’s definitely a great city with lots of beautiful history, delicious food, and fun things to see and do.

Stay tuned for more Slovenian adventures as I take off for the Julian Alps.

Falling in Love with Ljubljana: Adventure Day 7

As I said in my last blog post, because I was traveling in the off season (early March) I opted to head north to Slovenia rather than remaining in Croatia for the rest of my vacation. It ended up being a pretty good choice overall.

I woke up very early to catch a bus to Ljubljana. Unfortunately the only two bus choices I could find were either very early in the morning, or very late at night, so I opted to go for the early morning option. Thankfully the manager of the hotel I was staying at was very gracious and served me breakfast before I left. And then after that I took off for the bus station, just a short walk from my hotel.

The last few buses I took during my trip were all through the company Flixbus. Unfortunately my experience them was largely negative, which I’ll elaborate in future posts, but my first ride was actually fine. We crossed over the Slovenian border, which I had completely forgotten would involve a passport check. Even though Croatia and Slovenia are both part of the EU, Slovenia is part of the Schengen Zone and Croatia is not, which means it’s more of an official border crossing than most of the ones in the EU. I felt a little nervous because apparently everyone else on the bus was either Croatian or Slovenian, meaning I was held back for my passport to be stamped while everyone else was able to walk across the border (yes with buses they have you get out, line up and show your passport, and when okay-ed walk over the border where the bus meets you on the other side).

Thankfully, only a moment later my passport was returned and I was able to join my fellow passengers.

I arrived in Ljubljana probably around 10 AM. My hotel had said I couldn’t check in that early, understandably, but was welcome to come leave my luggage. I knew I could try to figure out the bus system in town to get there, but the weather was actually really nice, and since I didn’t have any Euros yet (Croatia uses their own currency called Kuna), I opted to walk.

It was about a thirty minute walk, maybe a mile and a half (2.3 km). I enjoyed getting to see some of the city as I strolled, pulling my suitcase along behind me.

I arrived at my accommodations, a bed and breakfast called Isabella Rooms. I met the owner Manja who was very sweet and actually did allow me to check in early. I dropped my things in my room, a small single bed with a shared bathroom, not my fanciest accommodations but a good bargain and close to the city center.

The first thing I did was just head down to the old town. The weather was just incredible. Sunny, but not hot. There was a flea market going on along the river because it was Sunday, and I had fun browsing. After that, I grabbed some lunch at a grocery store (some cheese, crackers, fruit, and a drink) and settled on a bench along the river to enjoy the sun and people watch. It was lovely.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I did quite a bit of wandering, just enjoying the sights. I found a fun free exhibit on the Roman archaeological finds from the area. I explored most of the old town, and then headed over to Tivoli Park, a large open space which was filled with people enjoying the lovely weather. There was an open-air exhibit on architecture in Ljubljana as well.

IMG_6284

I also peeked into the Serbian Orthodox church near the park, which had beautiful interior decorations. It was very different from a lot of the Catholic cathedrals I’d seen.

IMG_6280

Once done in that area, I was reluctant to leave the sunshine, but as almost all museums in Ljubljana are closed on Mondays, I knew if I wanted to see any I had to do it while they were still open on Sunday. So I headed off to the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum. A bit of an odd choice perhaps, but I’d seen good reviews and it sounded very different.

The museum was a mixed bag. Some of the exhibits were really interesting, but there were some parts that really didn’t have any English available. Still, I enjoyed getting to learn more about Slovenia’s culture, which is definitely unique. They also had temporary exhibits on gingerbread making, candle making, shoes, and Croatian toys. It provided a fun afternoon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I walked back to my bed and breakfast and had a break to rest my feet for a bit. I did some research on restaurants as well, figuring since it was a Sunday night I might want to make sure I had some options in case places were crowded.

Sure enough, when I arrived at my choice Julija (Julia), a cute little place in the old town just off the river, it was already getting crowded. One of my favorite parts of traveling alone is that it means I’m usually able to get a table even without reservations when things are busy. Thankfully, this ended up being the case.

The place was really cute and the food was delicious. I had a plate of zucchini and eggplant cooked in marinara sauce and covered in mozzarella to start. Then I had some steak with black truffles, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. And of course a glass of Slovenian red wine. Unfortunately I was too full to enjoy dessert, and the place was still very busy, so I opted to give my table to someone else rather than trying anything else.

It was an absolutely amazing day. As I walked back to my room for the night, I couldn’t help but smile. What a perfect introduction to Slovenia. Most think Ljubljana means “to love/like” and I definitely fell in love with the city. I went to bed so excited to get to wake up and have more adventures there the next day.