Wednesday, April 5, 2023

[LJUBLJANA] Ljubljana's Dragons

My knowledge of Slovenia is rather limited. I know that Ljubljana is the setting of Veronika Decides to Die, but I don’t remember Coelho painting the city in a way that you would want to drop the book, then book a flight and go. Triglav is always mentioned in figure skating circles because of the Triglav trophy which is part of the grand prix. And then there was a Slovenian housemate who ended up on Pinoy Big Brother in one of their housemate swaps. That’s it. That’s all I know about Slovenia. Or maybe not.

The thing about gallivanting in the Balkans is that you will learn that these countries of the former Yugoslavia shared a common history, and Slovenia was one of them. As far as political history is concerned, all I’ve read is that Slovenia was probably the one to secede without much bloodshed and difficulty. Slovenia was also the first to be able to join the EU and has been in the Schengen Zone for as long as I remember, while neighboring Croatia joined just this year. So there, that’s the extent of my trivia for Slovenia.

Ljubljana’s location as some sort of stopover between Austria and Italy and/or Croatia makes it an unavoidable pitstop if you want to divide your itinerary into shorter trips either by bus or train. Flixbus stops here and in Maribor. They have trains too. Take your pick. As for me, I took the train from Villach to Ljubljana and then I’m heading to Graz via Flixbus before I Flixbus again to Maribor. That’s the plan. As for Ljubljana, there is no itinerary aside from finding the city center and taking photos.

And I did find the city center the next day. It was a good half an hour walk from my hostel, which I didn’t mind despite the bad weather. All you have to do is find the Triple Bridge. Once you do, it’s all a lovely stroll in the vicinity. Constructed by renowned architect Jože Plečnik, the trio of bridges links Ljubljana’s old town center to the modern-day downtown. The bridge was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2021. The bridges themselves are not that impressive, but then again, what do I really know about architecture, right?

If anything, it’s the area that surrounds the bridges that arrests attention, starting from the flamboyantly pink Franciscan Church of the Annunciation overlooking Prešeren Square. There is a model of the city in a nearby bench which gives you a good idea of what you might be interested to check out. Both banks of the river are lined up with restaurants and bars which makes the area quite lively and almost always full of people. I saw small boats cruising along the river, so that’s also a possible activity for you.

Cross the bridge and head straight to see Ljubljana’s castle on top of the hill. Reaching it requires some hiking, even though the inclined paths you will be taking are mostly paved roads and alleys in a residential area. Views as you ascend become more and more breathtaking as you are gifted with a panoramic view of the city down below. The castle grounds are part of a huge green park on a hill which will take you hours to explore. Since I didn’t have the time, I only explored the castle area.

The castle houses exhibits inside, which I no longer bothered to check out. In fact, I was a bit uninterested because we already had a castle overload in Salzburg. What I enjoyed was the hike because I needed the exercise. The castle itself as well as its walls are popular hangout spots for people both young and old, many of them just sitting on the edge while admiring the scenery. The descent towards the area of the Dragon Bridge was a bit challenging because the paths on the upper level were unpaved and full of gravel, which made for a slippery trek downhill.

The Dragon Bridge, as the name suggests, features dragon statues. There are four of them guarding each edge of the bridge. It is a popular selfie spot so prepare the battle it out for camwhore supremacy. The area still forms part of the Ljubljanica River zone so it’s crowded most of the time but still pretty and relaxing. And that was Ljubljana for me. Head north and you will end up at the train/bus station.

[LJUBLJANA] Ljubljana and Her Dragons

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