Slovenia, like Sri Lanka, was nowhere on my travel radar before moving here. On an unlabelled map of eastern Europe, I would have been taking a stab in the dark to tell you which country was Slovenia. And I most certainly could not have named any of it’s major cities. But, thanks to a timely conversation with some of our ex-pat friends, right when we were in the middle of the planning stages for our European trip, we decided to add it to our itinerary. And I’m forever grateful, because out of all the seven cities we stayed in, Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, turned out to be my favourite.
If you’re like me and you have no idea how to pronounce Ljubljana, I’ll give you a hand. Lube-Leanna. Well, more like Lube-Lee-Ah-Na. ‘Ah’, an in Elsa and Anna. Not ‘A’ like Anne of Green Gables. Got it? Ljubljana. Easy. 😉
Anyway, we left Italy behind and basically arrived in the Fraser Valley. It looked so much like Chilliwack. A mountainous valley lush with trees, corn fields for miles, and spotted with cows. If it weren’t for the signs in Slovenian, I could have convinced myself I was back in BC. It was partly wonderful and partly painful in it’s reminders of home. And I forgot, I’m allergic to BC, and it turns out, to Slovenia too. Thankfully, us trusty Shaklee folks had plenty of extra Nutriferon and Vitamin C. Phew. Disaster averted.
Dwayne and I determined that the city of Ljubljana represents our perfect city for lots of reasons:
*A population of about 250,000, with plenty to offer but not too busy.
*A beautiful river flowing through a very green city with easy and plentiful public transportation, including bikes and bike stations which could be used for only 1 euro a week! Also, the city is equipped with separate bike lanes for cyclists and even has a 33km bike trail that goes around the whole perimeter of town. (During the second world war, when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, this was once a barbed wire fence keeping people both in and out, but it has been turned into a beautiful memorial trail.)
*A copious amount of restaurants along the river and all through the city, with a variety of different kinds of food. (This was a welcome change after 3 weeks of basically only pizza and pasta.)
*What seemed like hundreds of coffee shops and bakeries and inviting spots to sit outside, eat, drink, relax, visit, and watch the people go by.
*Lots of public activities and events, like the beach volleyball tournament that was happening while we were there, and the Open Kitchen and farmer’s market that happens every Friday in the summer.
*Quick access to all manner of outdoor activities like hiking, rafting, rowing, zip-lining, rock-climbing, and skiing in the winter.
*Fantastic buildings, bridges, and statues. (The famous architect, Joze Plecnik, was Slovenian. His is most famous for the works he designed in Prague, but you can see all his creativity displayed in his hometown of Ljubljana without the crowds.)
*Dragons. Admittedly, this was more me than Dwayne, but the dragon is the symbol of the city and associated with the legends of Ljubljana’s history, and for some reason I was enamored with them. I almost came home with a wrought iron dragon. I do not buy souvenirs. I don’t know what came over me. Thankfully, it seemed too big to fit in my suitcase. Another disaster averted.
Our visit to Bled included one of only 2 times it rained on our trip. We were the only boat on this serene mountain lake. It was so still, I hardly wanted to push the button on my camera and ruin the peace.
The clouds lightened up after about an hour. Beautiful.I wasn’t reeeeally going to buy the dragon. But he was made from the same family line of smiths who have been crafting the metal in Bled for 400 years. And he’s super cool! Bled is famous for Cremeschnitte. It tasted like the world’s best cream puff. Enjoyed with a view of the lake and the mountains and a hot cup of tea on our only crisp morning all summer. (longing sigh…)
If you’re planning on traveling to Europe in the future, I highly recommend a stop in Slovenia. Stay as long as you can. I hope find myself there again one day.