Grant McWilliams

Ljubljana Slovenia days 1,2

Our first day in Ljubljana started with me wandering down the street looking for the pekarna. Every country I visit I have to learn a new name for Boulangerie. In Croatia and Slovenia it’s called a Pekarna. I haven’t seen an equivalent to patisserie though. I’ll keep looking for that. Two blocks from our apartment is a Pekarna so I headed there first only to find it closed. It was early so I thought it just wasn’t open yet. I’d told Peter that I’d pay him today and he expected Euros so I went to where the Lets Go guide said there was a currency exchange only to find it closed too. We’ve been traveling for several weeks now and it’s really hard to keep the days straight. After walking down the street further I noticed that kavas (cafes) were the only thing open, it was then that I realized that it was Sunday. At this point colorful Art Nouveau buildings started to show up so I walked in their direction and ended up in Preseren square which is really a circle in the center of the city.

Preseren square

On the other side of the river across the very pretty triple bridge was the Sunday flea market and since I was running a little low on fleas and still hadn’t found croissants for breakfast I crossed the river and wandered through the tables. I found a real nice Chippendale bench with no price and since I only know 6 Slovenian words I figured I’d come out on the short end of the bargain if I tried to haggle I moved on. I found about 50 million denara of Yugoslavian money for about $15 so I bought it. One of them had Nicola Tesla on it which was one of my childhood heros. He was a famous scientist that we owe a great deal of our modern lifestyle too. He was born in Serbia but lived in Croatia so at some point Yugoslavia put him on the 500,000 denara bill. Natalya counted the money and said we had 50 million Yugoslavian denara which is worth nothing today. Actually it seems it’s worth about $15 since that’s what I paid for it. I’m sure it will be worth hours of fun for Piper playing house. I scored a second time when I found a cafe that had croissants although they were filled. I bought two vanillija and two cocolato and headed back home. We ate our croissants, orange juice and then paid Peter when he showed up. He was in a better mood now that he was out during the day. He was headed to Vienna to see the Rolling Stones which to my surprise are still alive. He thought it was neat that we liked the former Yugoslavia so much and asked where my wife was. That’s only the second time someones asked me this summer. Single fathers are not real common around here. After Peter left I took my kids to the flea market. Jade liked looking at the old army helmets and military badges from Yugoslavian officers. It’s funny what you can buy for cheap after a country stops existing. Slovenians like their ice cream as much as Croatians do too as it’s everywhere even on Sunday. People here don’t smoke as much as the rest of Europe either which is a welcome relief.

A word about Ljubljana before I continue my rambling. This is a very beautiful city. The buildings are Baroque and Art Nouveau. As the folks from Salzburg say if it’s Baroque don’t fix it. Wonderful pastel colors dominate and there’s a statue of a poet in the city square instead of a military general. The bridges have flowers on them and the most decorated person in the city was an architect that was responsible for much of the cities beauty. There are parks everywhere and a very slow meandering river winding through the city center. Just sitting along the river watching the cafes and the boats moves the most unmovable people. Accountants take up poetry and lawyers learn to paint. Many songs will sung and poems written about this city. Lovers will fly around the world just to be married on the triple bridge or in the Poets square. I predict in 5 years time this city will crumble under the pressure of the tourists. This is a sad revelation to me but I think it’s inevitable considering how wonderful it is. Maybe nobody will notice and it will remain undiscovered. Some how I doubt this with the Rick Steve’s out there trumpeting the lesser known destinations. So if you are reading this buy yourself a plane ticket to London then get a plane ticket on the first Easyjet flight to Ljubljana and enjoy it before it the hordes of ungrateful tourist drones trample it. The one problem that may slow down this process is the lack of available accomodations. I had to work harder getting somewhere to stay here than any other city. Even though Krakow is billed as the next Prague there are still plenty of apartments even now 10 days before we get there. If you plan on coming to Ljubljana book months ahead.


So we spent the day walking around, taking pictures and eventually climbed the many stairs to Ljubljana castle which overlooks the city. Some people say Augustus the first Roman emperor founded the city and other say there were people here before that. No matter there are Roman ruins here and the Slovenes moved in about 1000 years ago. There is a mix of cultures here but it feels very western like France or Italy but it doesn’t feel like any certain western country nor is it a mix of them. It’s hard to explain but Slovenia is very Slovenian, very western and easy to travel in. Croatia is also easy to travel in but still very eastern with mixes of Italy too. There are quite a few people here that speak English. I’d say the percentage is at least as much as in Italy and those who can speak English speak it better than most people in America and not even with an accent. It’s quite eerie to hear someone from the other side of the world speak in their second language and know they’re probably doing it better than you. I learned that in school they get to choose whether they learn English as a second language or German. That would explain why some people don’t know a single word of English and others could go to America and teach it. Anyway the castle wasn’t that interesting to be honest but the view was worth the climb. There was a cheesy 3d movie about the history of Ljubljana that left out about 1400 years of it’s 1700 year history. None of that matters as the city is still wonderful. After the climb we were tired and thristy so we descended slowly with shaking knees until we reached the river where we found cold water and gelato waiting. Natalya found a custom clothing shop where the lady would sew lace and other things onto jeans and sell them for $130 ea. This may have lit a spark in her to start sewing again. Refreshed from the gelato we made our way back to the apartment where the kids started updating their journals. Piper and I went looking for food and found a greek place selling gyros so that’s what we bought. They were about $2.50 ea so about half to a third of the price of gyros at home. Some things are much cheaper here (like bread – 50 cents per fresh loaf) and some things are more expensive ($2 cans of soda). The gyros were excellent and the closest to the ones we make that we’ve found so far. I noticed the previous night that the moon was almost full so I wanted to take some night pictures so we ventured out once again. Slovenia is just as much into European Football as the rest of the continent so there were hordes of people in the cafes watching a game on large LCD tvs. There also was musicians playing music in the streets and the gelato stands were doing great business. This lasted until about midnight. What a nice place to just hang out and enjoy the scenery…

Tomorrow I’m hoping to make it to Lake Bled in the Julian Alps…