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April 24th 2011
Published: June 13th 2011
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Ljubljana – The Only Capital City I Can’t Pronounce

Sunday 24th April

Today I say goodbye to Emma and Jo as they have to return home and go back to work. I still have another week until I have to start work and I want to avoid all the hype of the Royal Wedding back home. I head North through Slovenia towards Venice.
There’s a train every day from Rijeka up to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Sanja has done all the research for me and we’ve been to collect the ticket the previous day. I have bad memories of train journeys in this part of the world as I Inter-railed around this area as a student. It seems that they are still using the same rolling stock as they were using 40 years ago but it’s only a short journey and I don’t expect I’ll have to sleep in corridors or on station platforms this time around.
The station staff all have very smart uniforms – they are all in suits with shiny red caps with badges on.
The journey is actually very slow considering that it is quite a short distance. It takes us nearly three hours to get to Ljubljana. We are stopped at the border for quite some time even though it didn’t take too long to check the passports of everyone on my part of the train.

Four Nights In Prison

The hostel I’m looking for, Hostel Celica is just a short walk from the station and not too far from the centre of town – Ljubljana is quite a small city. The hostel itself is a converted prison, formerly used to hold Yugoslavia’s political prisoners. I believe that the current prime minister of Slovenia is a former resident. It was saved from demolition and converted to a hostel by a combination of the city authorities and student organisations. It is now run by student organisations of Ljubljana University. The original cells of the prison have been retained and are available as bedrooms. Each cell is different, having been individually redesigned by local artists but each has retained the bars and doors of the original cell. There is one cell which has been converted to the “quiet room” where six areas of the room are shared between six major world religions. I’m impressed that there’s even room
One Of The CellsOne Of The CellsOne Of The Cells

At Hostel Celica
for the atheists in there – their “corner” is empty! The cells are all full when I arrive and I find myself staying in a rather comfortable dormitory in a converted attic rather than enjoying (?!?) the experience of a night in a cell. But I guess I’m quite lucky to be able to get a place without booking ahead – this hostel has been voted “The World’s Hippest Hostel” by Lonely Planet. There’s plenty going on at the hostel – on a couple of nights there is some live music at the bar – and the staff there are really helpful and friendly.

Ljubljana – Graffiti Capital

Ljubljana seems to be the graffiti capital of Europe with graffiti covering so many of the buildings. The area around the hostel, Metelkova, seems to be the place for Ljubljana’s alternative culture and it is here that the graffiti is particularly “in your face” with hardly an inch of wall that is not decorated in black and purple with the usual themes of blood and death. I see some serious graffiti artists at work as I wander about the town. Indeed, it seems that
The "Quiet Room"The "Quiet Room"The "Quiet Room"

With even a special place for Atheists on the left
Ljubljana is in a different time zone with the young people having also recently discovered skate boards, scooters and roller skates. Even when I visit Bled a couple of days later I see people doing circuits of the lake on scooters and roller skates.

Everyday Is A Holiday In Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a relatively small town. The old town is built along the Ljubljanica River with the centre being pedestrianised. There aren't too many “must visit” places here but it’s certainly a pleasant place to spend a day with a beer or a coffee and a book. The old town is unspoilt {apart from the graffiti} with Austrian-style architecture and lots of bars and cafés along the river. It’s just as well that I don’t want to do a lot while I’m there because it seems that every day is a public holiday and many places are shut. I arrive during the Easter weekend but as soon as this is over Slovenians take another holiday to remember the end of the Second World War. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them having another day off for our Royal Wedding!
I decide to try out a free walking tour. Back at the hostel I’d been advised against this by Chloe and Lauren. I should have listened to them! It’s more of a talking tour than a walking tour. Our guide is certainly an expert on local history and wants to give us ALL her knowledge. The tour starts in the main square and after 40 minutes we haven’t gone anywhere. The tour ends up lasting 2½ hours when 1 hour probably would have been long enough for a small town like Ljubljana.
As well as the area along the river the other attraction in Ljubljana is its castle, on top of a hill {surprisingly}. I find a set of steps in the old town and, sure enough, they take me up to the castle. Most of the castle is open and offers good views over the town. It’s not until I’m almost at the top of the tower that they want €4 off me to get right to the top. The castle here is also a venue for regular concerts and exhibitions in the summer.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


Central LjubljanaCentral Ljubljana
Central Ljubljana

Old buildings, new graffiti
The Main SquareThe Main Square
The Main Square

The main statue is a poet, not a bloke on a horse

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