We started off in the delightful country of Slovenia.
Eastern Europe Day 1 & 2: Dragons and Castles and Bridges, oh my!
Slovenia is a small country bordering Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary. It is beautifully green, the food was delicious and we found everyone we encountered to be kind. It is severely underrated with only 3.3 million visitors each year.
Jacob's cousin used to live there and we've have heard wonderful things about it over the years. So when I found a killer deal on flights to Eastern Europe, it was a natural starting point.
Our sojourn began in the capital, Ljubljana (lyoob-lee-AH-nah). Our delightful Airbnb apartment was just off the main Prešeren square which is in a pedestrian only area. The apartment was just behind the pink Franciscan Church of St. Mary.
We had two-ish days in Ljubljana (arrived mid-morning on the first day, and left late afternoon on the second. It was enough time to see everything we wanted to in Old Town.
The Old Town is sprinkled with photogenic alleys, a river that intersects the city, beautiful bridges, lively markets, a castle on the hill and dragons. Yes, my friends, dragons. Ljubljana is just that cool.
On the first day- jet-lagged but happy- we strolled Along the Ljubljana River, passing back and forth between sides via the famous Triple Bridge, Cobbler's Bridge, and my favorite, the Dragon Bridge.
The Dragon- Mascot of Ljubljana since Jason of the Argonauts (Greek mythology) killed one nearby. So naturally, you can find the dragon a few places around town.
We then wandered through the Riverside Market (can't miss it on the south side of the river). In addition to trinkets, the food and flower market is beautiful AND delicious. Grab a bundle of fruit (the strawberries were delicious!) and have a seat in the square for some of the best people watching.
Well, strawberries AND gelato.
But be careful in the markets! A woman tried to pick-pocket me in the market (I have nothing in my pocket so jokes on her). It is a crowded area so be cautious as you would in any crowded market.
We meandered back through the cobblestone streets (sigh, cobblestones) to the delightful street of Mesni trg/Stari trg lined with cute shops and umbrella-d courtyard eateries.
Plus so many beautiful doors!
It was in this meal that Jacob discovered truffle oil and realized he had a highly refined palate. :)
No but seriously, he ordered mashed potatoes with truffle butter and fell in love, ordering it at any restaurant he could.
The next day was Castle Day! Set on a hill overlooking the city, Ljubljana Castle offers fantastic views of the green mountains juxtaposed with the red rooftops. We took the funicular to get to the top of the castle and then walked down. The castle interiors were interesting (audioguide really helped), but it was the views that really sold it.
To get the above pic of the castle, go to the roof of the The Skyscraper (Nebotičnik).
In the castle courtyard, we encountered some sort of presentation with a man in a sash, other costumed people and free dessert. I am all about free dessert.
And then there were the views...
After walking down back to Old Town, we picked up lunch at a pizza stand at the Riverside Market, then strolled to the west side of the river to Congress square (cute places around the square to get yummy dessert), then strolled to the Skyscraper to get views of the Castle. You can grab a drink or eat on the top floors, or just grab a quick free view like us cheapies.
We walked back to our apartment through the Galerija Emporium (shops) before picking up our rental car to explore the countryside of Slovenia. But not before we saw Dining in the Sky, a traveling sideshow where your dinner party is lifted by a crane hundreds of feet in the air. Have you guys seen these around? Not sure if it is for me...
- Transportation: the highlights in Ljubljana are easily accessed by foot, so no need to worry about public transportation/renting a car. We used a shuttle to get from the airport.
- Money: Slovenia uses the Euro. While many big places accept cards, cash is king. Always have some available for small shops, the funicular, etc.
- Lodging: It is advantageous to stay near Old Town. We loved our room via Airbnb. If you don't already have a profile, use this link to get $35 off your first stay.
- Guidebooks: we are loyal to Rick Steves' and used his Eastern Europe Guidebook for this trip.
Traveled in May 2015.