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Published: August 13th 2019
How lovely to wake up to glorious sunshine and a fantastic view of Ljubljana Castle! Breakfast is great again, and I find a lovely spot in the restaurant all to myself. (Mrs Anti-social!) I am reading my Kindle and still feel a bit guilty about reading for pleasure instead of MBA and business books! Soon after breakfast I head into the Old Town. It is only a few minutes walk from the Hotel Lev. On the way I notice a large department store with a Spar in the basement. If anyone reading this decides to visit Ljubljana, I can recommend this Spar shop for all your bits and bobs. It is spacious, quiet, well laid-out and air-conditioned. And inexpensive - for example, cold bottles of water cost 40 cents. You can stock up on wine, beer, ready-made sandwiches etc, and from here it’s two minutes walk to the Old Town. This is where I am heading now. My first stop is a quick check of the two hotels that we will be using in 2020. Both seem great and are in fabulous locations - right in the heart of the Old Town.
Next stop is the tourist information.
I have decided to join the walking tour that starts at 10.00 in English. I buy a ticket for €17 and join a few others on the town hall steps. We are joined by the guide - a friendly, young guy called Andrei. We have a mixed group - an Italian guy, a Japanese guy, a couple and a family from Belgium, an Australian girl, a British family from Ormskirk and a German couple. I really hit it off with the German couple who are from Thüringen, holidaying on their tandem. It sounds brilliant fun! After an introduction to the country’s history inside the town hall, Andrei takes us to a traditional restaurant to sample some tradition Slovenian food. I didn’t read this bit on the blurb and I have not long finished my breakfast, but I give it my best shot! It is mainly typical pork sausage (cevapcici) and sweet dough balls (strukjli). Next stop is liqueur tasting. We are offered fig/honey and blueberry liqueurs. Who would say ‘No, thanks’ to liqueurs at 10.30?! We move on to see some of the main sights of the Old Town - including the Central Market, the four main bridges (Dragon, Triple,
Butchers and Cobblers) - all of which have an interesting story. We also see some of the main squares, the university, the cathedral of Saint Nicholas. In the main square (Prešeren, named after the famous Slovenian poet of the same name) we see the striking, red-painted church — The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Andrei tells a story about the statue in front of this. Apparently the bishop of the time was horrified to see that this new statue depicted a naked lady. First thing in the morning he covered it up with his cloak. But later that day his cloak had been removed and she was back on view in all her glory. The next morning he did the same thing. This went on for several weeks until the bishop decided to compromise. Trees were planted so that people in the church would not be offended by the sight of the naked lady! The tour finishes with a ride up to the castle on the funicular. At the top we all go our separate ways after thanking Andrei. I spend several minutes taking in the views of the city below, and the mountains further afield. Slovenia may not be
as well known for skiing as its neighbour, Austria, but there are some wonderful and inexpensive ski resorts in the Julian Alps e.g Mariborsko Pohorje, Krvavec and Cerkno.
Although the return trip on the funicular is included in the walking tour, I prefer to saunter down the easy, zig-zag path back into the open-air market area. A small cafe winks at me and I enjoy a tasty slice of pizza and a refreshing bottle of Radler (shandy). Time for me now to return to the hotel, shower and change (I love that these hotels are so accessible!). I am meeting Mateja at 4pm in the lobby of the Grand Union Hotel (one of the two hotels that we will use next summer). Mateja is the local guide that Sue uses for all tours to Slovenia. I take to Mateja immediately. She is friendly and clearly very professional. We stroll to a local cafe for a drink. It is called the Submarine. Mateja says they do the best coffee and ice cream in Ljubljana. We both order the home-made lemonade as it is so hot today. This is served in jugs and proves to be delicious and refreshing.
As we sit and chat the owner brings us complimentary gelato which really is delicious. He also shows us an apartment which he has just completed right by his bar. It is delightful, modern and comfortable, and would be perfect for a family on a budget as there is a double bedroom plus a room with three single beds. And it is right in the heart of the Old Town. Mateja is not just a local guide, she is the president of all the tour guides in Slovenia and she is passionate about training for the guides. When she finds out what I normally do, she is keen to tell me about a project she has set up between the tour guides and the police to prevent crime. The city suffers from very, very low crime, but as the city has become more popular with tourists, there has inevitably been a slight increase in crime (pickpocketing). And of course, tourists would be the target. However Mateja would be a formidable match for any offender. She is VERY switched on. Mateja has another appointment at 5pm so we stroll together to the river and she introduces me to Stanko, the owner
of the only wooden boat on the river. Next minute I am invited to join the 5pm boat trip. This is absolutely lovely, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Ljubljana. The river is such an important part of the city and if you look at the map of the city you can see why. The wooden boat is much more attractive than all the others on the river. The trip takes just under an hour with some (but not too much) commentary in English. Drinks are offered - all alcoholic drinks are €2.50, and I have a glass of delicious red wine.
The boat trip has made me peckish and I head to a restaurant that Mateja mentioned - Paninoteka. This has an excellent location by Butchers Bridge. I have an outside table with a wonderful view across the river and up to the castle, and I enjoy homemade pasta and wine. Eating and drinking in Ljubljana is inexpensive and enjoyable. Beer, wine and coffee each seem to cost around €2-3. A really nice pasta dish and a glass of good wine was approx €15 in a prime location! This has been another memorable day. After a last stroll through the Old Town and along the river I make my way to the hotel.
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