August 11, 2018

Ljubljana: The Beloved City


On the fourth day of our Eastern European trip, my family and I did a city walking tour and enjoyed lunch in the capital of Slovenia: Ljubljana. Our Trafalgar tour guide, Dean Smart, professed the city to arguably be the most cute and charming capital in all of Europe. I don't disagree! The bright-colored Art Nouveau and Mediterranean-inspired architecture all around us reminded me of Florence, and the busyness of the bikers by the Ljubljanica river brought back fond memories of our past visit to Amsterdam.


On our way to the central city square, we passed a couple of salmon-colored buildings that stood out in contrast to the lighter buildings around them. One of them was a Franciscan church.


Once we arrived at Preseren Square, our local specialist described to us some of Ljubljana's history. We walked across to the Triple Bridge and learned that before all three bridges were built, the first bridge was constructed all the way back in 1280 in order to provide an entrance to the once-medieval city.


On the other side of the bridge, we walked pass the city’s “Open Kitchen” outdoor food market. Our specialist enthusiastically explained to us that the market was one of the city’s efforts to bring the community together. There’s nothing like fresh food from local, friendly farmers!


Along with the Triple Bridge, there were many other bridges in the city that we enjoyed walking across. One was called Butcher’s Bridge, and the love locks (padlocks, to be specific) that covered both sides of the bridge reminded me of the Pont des Arts bridge over the Seine River in Paris. Like Paris, Ljubljana is also known as a city of love. The tradition of lovers leaving behind their locks on bridges to symbolize their hopes of securing their love has continued since the early 2000s. I always love when I come across another bridge that’s covered with more locks and their untold love stories!


Another famous bridge we learned about was the Dragon Bridge; its name derived from the four famous dragon statues sitting on both ends. We learned that the dragon is part of the city’s coat of arms and symbolizes strength and courage. The dragon statues are definitely amazing pieces of Art Nouveau architecture.


By the St. Nicholas cathedral, there was the city’s famous Robba fountain with pristinely carved marble statues representing the gods of their three rivers. The fountain was unveiled in 1751 by the Italian sculptor Francesco Robba.


Our tour guide then led us to Congress Square where we saw a big stage set-up meant for Ljubljana’s annual summer festivals. Some of their festivals include: "Summer in the Old Ljubljana Town” which puts together open-air jazz concerts, “Film under the Star” which allows free films to be given at the square, and “The Young Lions” which represents original flows of modern theatre and dance. As you can see, there are plenty of entertaining festivals in Ljubljana to be enjoyed during the summertime!


We also passed some buildings with communist-era architecture. One of the buildings was being used as a shopping mall.


Once we finished our walking tour and our energy had worn out, my family and I dined at a restaurant by the river called Paninoteka Restaurant. I was happily surprised to read from the menu that they offered vegan dishes. I decided to order the meal called Veganski which was essentially the vegan version of ravioli and had spinach dough and dried tomatoes in the filling. It was very fulfilling, and all of us thought our meals were so delicious and just what we needed after our afternoon exercise. The restaurant deserves the 4 out of 5 stars rating it currently has on TripAdvisor.


On our way back to the central square, we passed this store named Vezenina that sold cute embroidered dresses and other clothing pieces. I saw a young lady near the entrance who was using a sewing machine to form words onto sheets of paper, so my curiosity drew me closer. When she finished sewing, she looked up at me and happily gave me her little piece of artwork which formed the word: Slovenia. I was surprised to be offered it free of charge, and appreciated the little souvenir.


I can see why the Slovenians named their city “Ljubljana” meaning: “the beloved.” The charm, character, and history that combine to create the city as a whole are bound to make each tourist’s visit a special memory that's dear to their heart!


Rather than follow up with another blogpost of our adventures in Eastern Europe, I'm going to take a little detour and tell you about my recent family trip to Oregon. We just landed back home in NJ today, so I'm excited to reflect on and describe some of our adventures with you. Stay tuned!


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