August 7 - Lively Ljubljana

Leaving a fairy tale alpine lake such as Lake Bled is always difficult, but knowing there are many more sights to see makes it easier. Today our journey took us to the capital city of Slovenia, Ljublljana.

The rugged Julian Alps were peeking out of the clouds high above the lake this morning making that one last chance to ride a pletna boat irresistable. Holding 20 people under a beautiful striped canopy, the beautifully varnished wooden boat glided effortlessly through the water to the island where the tiny Church of the Assumption, lies. Views ranged from the peaceful island church and Tito's former villa hidden behind trees, to the blocky looking aging grand hotels from the Soviet era back in town.

At the island we were allowed 30 minutes to explore. We decided not to pay the 3 euro fee to enter the church and ring the bell for good luck. Instead we admired an exhibit of handmade Slovenian nativity scenes, and clay dolls dressed in native costumes. They represented the 27 EU countries with 23 official languages. The EU motto is "Unity in variety."

On our trip back from the island it was so quiet and peaceful. Only the sound of the oars lapping the watter and dueling church bells ringing out from across the lake broke the silence until a college girl from Calgary spoke up. Her voice was so loud it jarred my nerves. Based on her conversation with her friends, we learned she's a novice swimmer, has tried surfing, had toe surgery, and thinks Crocs are utterly useless. Glancing around the boat I noticed the others seemed oblivious to her aimless chatter. Most likely they did not know what she was saying.

For lunch we returned to Vila Preseren right on the lake for their Mr. Toast (grilled ham and cheese) and a piece of grmada, known as bonfire. It is cake with rum, milk, custard, and raisins topped with chocolate syrup. A small colorful craft fair was set up behind it selling wooden toys and jewelry. I bought a tiny clay bird whistle.

Our bus ride to Lubljana was one hour. We are staying at the Slamic B&B which is only 5 minutes from the main pedestrian zone. Our first stop was Ljubljana Castle. The original castle dates back to the Roman period, but little if any of it survives. The present day castle was rebuilt in the 1940s and renovated in the 70s. Although you can still see the main foundation, it is quite modern inside with exhibits, a gift shop, wedding halls, and a walkway with fine views. A modern glass funnicular whisks you to the top. One interesting part I noticed was called Library Under the Treetops. It was crates of children's books nicely arranged under trees with mats for the children to use for chairs. It seems like it might be a nice idea for the elementary school where I teach. We also visited the cathedral in town which is an 18th century church dedicated to St. Nicholas.

Ljubljana is a vibrant lively city after dark. One interesting feature of street food sales is corn on the cob (koruza) roasting on tiny charcoal grills and served right with the husks as plates. Olive oil and salt are offered as condiments. I tried some and it was tasty. Dinner was at Zlata Ribica. Our table was right above the river. We had gnoche with mushrooms. We met a mother and daughter from Arlington, Virginia who were traveling around and exchanged travel stories. The daughter was studying in Italy and is a college student in Virginia. Like us, they are Rick Steves fans too.

After dinner we strolled along the river's edge and were amazed at the number of outdoor cafes. Various restaurants had entertainment ranging from traditional to trendy. At one point hundreds of people leaned over the railing to watch a canal style boat that had stopped in the water for a moment and played traditional Slovenian folk music. It was wonderful.

Ljubljana looks like a lot of fun. Tomorrow we will explore the Sunday market in the market square and visit one of the caves. I think it will be a great day!


CoachSparky said…
The boat ride sounds like it was really nice, minus the girl's chatter. I also like the Library Under the Treetops. Are there a lot of castles where you are traveling this summer? It is amazing how you always seem to find the Rick Steve fans on your travels!
Jessica said…
Love the picture on this post!

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