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Published: August 7th 2013
Guarding the bridge
Having visited Ljubljana a couple of years ago and absolutely loving the city, I was really looking forward to this week and hoping Steve would like it too. Also, quite exciting for us, one of my friends: Clare, was flying out to stay with us for a few days. We drove to our campsite via some steep hillside roads, admiring the alpine style houses with their wide roofs, wooden balconies and boxes full of bright geraniums adorning the front, also passing brightly coloured bee hives and cows that look like they belong on a Milka chocolate wrapper: beautiful!
On Monday morning I met Clare at the airport and we headed back to the campsite on the airport bus, after our lunch we decided on a lengthy and invigorating walk along the River Sava, which ran along the back of our campsite… oh who am I kidding, we went for a short walk to admire the river and then the rest of the afternoon and evening was spent ‘toasting’ Clare’s arrival with beers and Aperol Spritzes (well we’d just discovered them so wanted to share!).
We took our hangovers for a day out to Ljubljana the following day. I love
the city, it’s pretty, quiet and clean with a laid back feel. Situated on the river Ljubljanica, the city is said to have been founded by the Greek mythological hero Jason, who apparently fled with the stolen Golden Fleece on a ship across the Argo, across the Black Sea and up the rivers Danube and Sava to the Ljubljanica. We needed some coffee to fortify us for a walk around the city so headed to Krekov trg square and sat outside a café, on the hour, as the clock of the nearby Puppet Theatre strikes, a little puppet character steps outside of the clock along with his horse and looks down over the square as a tune is played! Quite bizarre! There were a few of us ‘tourists’ watching and waiting for this to happen whilst the locals casually ignored it completely, I guess the novelty wears off after seeing it happen a few times?
Our next challenge was to climb the hill to the castle, there is a funicular that carries people straight up to the top but we opted to work off some booze calories and brave the walk. The castle was built in the middle of
century; it’s main purpose being to defend against Turkish invasions and peasant rebellion, both of which were common occurrences at the time. It was later used as a military hospital, and arsenal and a jail. The jail period lasted until the end of the Second World War, even until 1963 ostracised citizens of Ljubljana lived in the castle in terrible conditions! The castle has been heavily but sympathetically renovated since the ‘80’s and there are some function rooms, exhibition rooms and restaurants at the top. Perfect for us, as it was lunch time!
Post lunch, we spent the afternoon looking round the outdoor market at the endless stalls of amazing quality and variety of fruit and veg, piled high on every table. There is also a souvenir market that sells local speciality honey, painted glass ware and polished wooden bowls, plates and other kitchen accessories. We ambled along the river, past the triple bridge (so called for obvious reasons: that there are three of them side by side, the reason being is that the middle one used to be for traffic and the bridges that run either side were for pedestrians but now the centre is completely
pedestrianized so there are three passages across the river), the Dragon bridge: the dragon is part of Ljubljana’s coat of arms and symbolises strength, courage and might, four dragons guard the bridge, two at either end and Butchers Bridge where hang hundreds of padlocks, fixed to the bridge by couples to express everlasting love. The architecture in Ljubljana is very pretty, buildings are painted in creams, yellow ochre, brick reds and soft green, with ornate carvings around windows and on columns, often picked out in a contrasting colour. Buildings such as the Slovenian museum and the Franciscan Church stand alone, beautifully symmetrical with nothing cluttering their space. Everything strikes you as perfectly painted, neat and clean.
Mid-week we took a bus from the city to Postojna to visit some famous caves. These caves are absolutely enormous and extend for about 21 kilometres underground, visitors get to see about 6 km, first via a little train that whizzes you through narrow passages and through wide halls for about 4 km, past some spectacular mineral deposits, and then via a guided walk. The caves have welcomed visitors since 1884; they were so popular that electric lighting was installed long before the
rest of Postojna had it! In 1916 prisoners of war built a bridge from the Velika Gora cavern through the Beautiful Caves (Lepe Jame), the space is so, well, cavernous, showcasing hundreds of stalactites and stalagmites shaped like ribbons, that you feel as insignificant as a tiny ant standing on the bridge. There’s a manmade tunnel that visitors are walked along, through the Winter Hall to the Concert Hall, which is a space large enough to accommodate 10000 people and concerts are actually held inside! The temperature in the caves is around 10 degrees Celsius, a total contrast from the lovely warm weather outside, and in the dark pools of water live a bizarre creature called a ‘human fish’ or ‘baby dragon’. These are actually blind amphibians, not fish, with no pigmentation at all but they are a pinky colour in certain light due to their blood flow. There are some of these in a glass tank within the caves so that visitors can see them but apparently they are only held in the tank for a couple of months before being returned to their natural habitat in the caves. The tour takes around an hour and a half and
the size of the caves and the sparkly formations it holds really are amazing! Well worth a visit.
Clare was due to leave us on the Friday so the day before her flight we visited Ljubljana again for the buying of souvenirs and a nice lunch out. We found a quirky little restaurant (the name of which I can’t remember, I really have to start taking notes each day!) that specialised in both Slovene and Spanish dishes. As we sat down at a table set for four, the owner strode out with a huge smile on his face, shook our hands and introduced himself as ‘Nicholas’, then sat himself at the fourth seat at our table and asked ‘so, what are we having to drink?’. It was just as though he had invited himself to join us for lunch! Hilarious! We ordered the homemade beer and after these had been delivered to the table, Nicholas produced a standing fan and set it up to blow a breeze and cool mist across us. Clare had trouble deciding what to order off the menu so asked him to recommend, just before her meal was brought out to us, the owner tied
a table runner around her eyes so that it would be a surprise… a huge chicken pie was produced, with an equally large carving knife sticking out of the golden crusty pastry top. It was obviously the restaurants ‘piece de resistance’! The pie held a mix of herby chicken and potatoes, with a gorgeous gravy, Steve and I were glad it was so big as it meant we could also dig in! As we left the restaurant Nicholas called after us ‘come back in the evenings, we have music, dancing, fun…’ which I can well imagine! We would have loved to have gone back for an evening’s entertainment but we had to waive Clare off to the airport and pack up ready to head to Croatia.
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