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Published: August 12th 2019
Today I shall be travelling once more - this time from Zagreb to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I have a train at 12.36 so I want to make the most of the time this morning and explore more of lovely Zagreb. I do breakfast early so I can get out as soon as possible. After a great breakfast (with a bewildering amount of choice), I head back to the main square through the lovely park with the bandstand and fountains. It is very peaceful and quiet here on a Sunday morning. I decide to walk the route that Vlatka will do with our guests next summer. So, from the main square I make my first stop at the large model of the city. Vlatka will stop here with the group and use the model to explain lots about the city's history. I then walk up to the cathedral and pop my head inside. Mass is being celebrated and the cathedral seems fairly full. From here I cut across Dolac. This is Zagreb's biggest farmers' market. Dolac is a colourful display of local fruit, vegetables and flowers, and other gastronomic specialities from all around Croatia. I particularly love the large, red
parasols above all the stalls, featuring a striped motif that is typical of the Zagreb region. My photo doesn't do it justice at all.
After meandering through Dolac I walk along Zagreb's oldest street, Ilica, to the bottom station of the funicular that links the Upper Town to the Lower Town. This is a stone's throw from the hotel we are using next summer - such a fantastic location. Walking along Ilica you have to peep into all the courtyards and up the small streets. There is something interesting at every turn, and so many inviting courtyard cafes and bars. Although I can easily walk up to the Upper Town, I decide to take the funicular, which costs 5 Kuna (about 80p). I explore more of the Upper Town and return to the stately St Mark's Square with its pretty church. In the Upper Town there are more of the inner courtyards and each is unique. Another addition to the ambience of the Upper Town is the original gas-powered street lighting, with lamps installed on cast-iron pillars. There are 214 of them and they have been lighting up the city for over 150 years. I enjoy pottering around Upper
Town and take a few more photos before walking down through the Stone Gate. Here, in this passage, I notice people praying and stop to find out more......I learn that the City of Zagreb Day is celebrated every year on May 31st. This was the date, according to legend, in 1731, that a great fire consumed the ancient twin hills of Gradec and Kapitol, destroying almost every part of the Stone Gate except for a painting of the Virgin Mary, which escaped the flames unscathed. It was found in the ashes after the fire was put out. Allegedly the wooden frame was burnt but the flames didn't touch the image of the Virgin Mary. Since then the icon has been worshipped by the local residents. An altar was built inside the renovated Stone Gate and it has become a habit for religious visitors to stop and pray or light a candle in front of the painting.
From here I feel ready for a coffee and decide to visit another of Vlatka's recommendations - the Hemingway Cafe - across the road from the impressive building of the National Theatre. I enjoy some great coffee here and an enjoyable half hour
of people-watching before walking back across the city to pack up, check out and head to the station.
I really enjoyed having enough time to do something with the morning, and I am pleased that I will have time later in Ljubljana to explore as the hotel is close to the city centre and my train arrives already at 3pm. Once again I have a window seat in a compartment-type train. At first I am alone and later I am joined by more InterRailers who all promptly fall asleep. It is a lovely journey - such great scenery as the train snakes along the River Sava between the two cities. As we head towards Ljubljana, the houses start to look quite a lot like those in various Austrian provinces. Bang on time we arrive at Ljubljana station and I walk the easy eight minutes to the Hotel Lev. This hotel looked very pleasant on booking.com, and I am even more impressed when they tell me that I have been upgraded to an executive room on the 10th floor with floor to ceiling windows looking over to the castle. Wow! The room is extremely comfortable. It is a gorgeous day
outside and I simply drop my bag, gaze at the view then head out to the old town which is just five minutes walk from here (although I do walk quite fast!).
I absolutely loved Zagreb and thought that I may be disappointed by my first impressions of Ljubljana. Wrong!! It is immediately delightful. I shall explore in more depth tomorrow, so for now I potter up and down both sides of the river, the four main bridges and the town hall and market areas. I know that Ljubljana was the Green capital of Europe a couple of years ago, and you can really tell. It is spotless. I haven't seen a scrap of litter in either Ljubljana or Zagreb. Most people here seem to be fit, slim and sporty. Everyone cycles, but there is no animosity between cyclists and motorists, or between cyclists and pedestrians. It simply works, and the pavements have been created with huge amounts of space. The city centre is all pedestrianised anyway and they are currently rearranging the centre to extend the pedestrianised areas even further.
The city centre is full of happy people strolling along both sides of the river, eating ice
cream, listening to street musicians, taking photos, enjoying the sun or sitting in bars and restaurants in the shade. I decide to join them and get a fantastic table in an attractive restaurant called Julija. I opt for one of the the specials and a glass of excellent Slovenian red wine. After a thoroughly nice dinner and a second glass of the red wine, I do a little bit more strolling, then join in with lots more people who are all eating fantastic-looking ice cream at a a place by the river called Cacao. I choose a rich chocolate ice cream packed with bits of real cherries and raspberries, and eat it in the sun overlooking the river. Another wonderful day :-)
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