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Ljubljana, Slovenia

❤️

As I arrive, exhausted and dehydrated, in Ljubljana, I expect to have the worst possible time going to the train station.

Instead, I stroll to the hotel in a 5-minute walk and the first thing that really hits me is the smell – at this hour, without any cars and in empty streets, Ljubljana smells of flowers and trees.

When I get to the hotel, I already know I’m going to love this city, when day will come. But first, I desperately need a lot of sleep.

Day 1

When I get up, I… go back to sleep. I stay in bed until noon. I’m tired, my body feels incredibly heavy and slow, and I need some rest right now.

While my knee has been really good for the past few days; I know it still can’t take a real hike yet. So I remove Lake Bohinj from my itinerary, thinking I can take it very easy today and stay here one day longer than originally planned.

After a few hours of struggling in bed and not understanding why I’m not feeling more rested, I understand – the pollen count is through the roof. It’s not going to get better. Time to suck it up and start the day; then; at 1pm.

I have gone 60 kilometers, barely, from Trieste, and I immediately see I’ve stepped in another world. The local architecture is an interesting mix of Eastern Europe cliché (for French people) and neo-classical chic on the Austrian model, with the walls so beige they don’t feel real.

Ljubljana is incredibly clean and accessible. It has bike lanes everywhere, loads of pedestrian areas, many sidewalks without any curb height, children playing on closed-off streets. They also seem to have a free transportation system (I didn’t understand what was going on there) and free bikes at many stations – except that my attempts to sign up fail because it doesn’t want to message my French phone number. Ah well, walk it is, then.

A bright green park with a single pathway going through it. All around it, residential buildings that are very cliché socialist.

The city is so green as well! There are a bunch of squares and mini-parks and trees on sidewalks. It’s probably not as green as my region in France, but it’s a very nice change from Italy, where the lack of benches, fountains and green areas was sometimes discouraging.

A walking-only street with many, but not too many, people. On the left, shops, classic buildings, one glass building. On the right, lots of parked bikes and neoclassical buildings.

I see a hill with a castle.
I climb the hill to the castle.
It’s almost Pavlovian.

It’s funny how many European cities have a castle or fort on a hill: Turin, Trieste, Ljubljana all had an amazing view from the hill, while Venezia and Bologna… well, they didn’t really have hills to begin with.

As I climb, I have ample time for introspection. I understand that this trip is teaching me the value of silence. I’m not tempted to listen to podcasts while walking around anymore, the ambient sounds bring so much peace and allow me to focus on what I’m seeing and experiencing at that exact moment. I think I’m going to listen to much fewer podcasts when I go home – or, you know, stop listening for two weeks and get right back into it.

Ljubljana, a cute city with orange tile roofs, seen from above. Far away, a slightly snowy mountain range.

The view is worth the climb.

At 3pm, I’m back at the hotel and getting some rest from the pollen attack while waiting to meet Sara at 5pm.

Sara sent me a bunch of recommendations when she found out I was coming to Slovenia and while I don’t have time to do everything she mentioned, I’m delighted with what I did see and experience.

A single building cut in two parts: a beige neoclassical façade with a little French garden and a glass and metal building that's all black.

The hour and a half or so that we spend together, drinking delicious lemonade at a cinema’s terrace cafe, is very enjoyable. Sara is so so nice and it’s great to see a « familiar » face, even for the first time! And being able to learn about the local culture from someone who grew up here is really refreshing and useful, as it gives me a lot more context on what I’m seeing here.

For instance, Sara tells me that most of the neoclassical buildings are actually from the twentieth century – like the famous triple bridge in the city center.

I try to add another night to my stay in Ljubljana, but the hotel is full. I’m crushed – I really must come back one day. Ljubljana, although smaller and quieter than all the other places (or maybe because of that?), is my favourite place of the trip so far.

Also, it has this one funky building that I like.

A red building in the middle of neoclassical beige buildings. It has tiled details of many colors.

I have my dinner at a Bosnian restaurant called Sarajevo 84. The entire decoration is based on the Sarajevo Winter Olympics and I get to fully nerd out while having some of the best food I’ve ever eaten – I don’t think I could be happier, it feels like this place was designed just for people like me! (Winter Olympics nerds who like to eat, that is.)

The inside of a restaurant, entirely decorated with Sarajevo Olympics merch. There's also a pole with signs showing the distance to some main olympic sites.

Stats

  • Steps: 11 289
  • Future trip ideas: 2
  • Pillow: godly
  • Bed: incredible
  • Sleep: excellent

Day 2

Since I’m not getting the Day 3 I was hoping for, and I stayed in bed yesterday morning, today I’m going to make the most of the time I have, with an 8km itinerary and one museum visit (I was hoping for two, but that was not reasonable), before taking the train to Bled.

The not being able to breathe and the constant crying aren’t super good for the visit, but I am too lazy to go to a pharmacy and too weak to force trees to stop doing this whole pollen thing, so I deal with it.

A white and gold neoclassical building with useless but pretty columns.

Walking around in Ljubljana, I suddenly come to a stop in front of a tombe du soldat inconnu – a monument to the Dead Soldier, unnamed because allegorical, of Napoleon. Complete with a golden Napoleon head on the side.

That’s a really unexpected sight for me – but I remember what Sara told me about Slovenians actually liking Napoleon because by invading them, he technically freed them from a worse invader, and most importantly he allowed them to speak their language.

A monument with writing in French that praises Napoleon's soldiers and their sacrifice.

As I keep walking, I pass by a really simple and pretty fountain.

A really cute fountain in a public park, with the castle of Ljubljana far above. The fountain is made of a small arch, with an urn that sends water to another urn.

Enchanted, I send a photo to my partner, and we figure out together why I’ve been enjoying this city so much: it’s so pretty, yet simple, almost humble as much as a city can be.

This city is gorgeous, full of art and beauty, and yet it’s never in your face or going for the biggest possible monument. It prefers chocolate bite sized bubbles of history and beauty, a bust on a sidewalk, a bridge, a Roman ruin.

A gorgeous bridge that's also a sluice gate.

The Ljubljanica Sluice Gate.

The final stretch of today’s walk takes me to the gorgeous and huge Tivoli Park, where I head for the Museum of Contemporary History and…

In a park, signs with a Sarajevo '84 olympics photo exhibition.

THE MUSEUM HAS A SARAJEVO 84 EXHIBITION, inside and outside the building, to commemorate its anniversary! I’m so happily surprised I can barely deal with the happiness as I visit the (really cool) exposition!

The rest is a blur – I’m tired, my feet hurt, I just had a roller coaster of emotions, I’m one exhibition in, I need water and the pollen is still attacking (going to a park when trees and grass want to murder you is not smart).

The first and second floor are dedicated to Slovenia’s history, and history of the region before that, since the beginning of the 20th century. If Sarajevo was a big milestone worthy of an anniversary, the entrance of Slovenia in the European Union in 2004 also is, and there’s an exhibition about that, too.

A palace room decorated with Slovenian and European Union flags.

It’s absolutely excellent. But by the time I get to what I had originally wanted to see – the recent history of Yugoslavia and Slovenia – I’m too tired to take it all in and it’s sad because I can see the museum is really well organised and documented. It’s going on the list of things that I want to do or do again, if and when I come back to Ljubljana.

I finish my trip at the Moji Štruklji outdoor restaurant, where I eat too much because it’s some of the best food I’ve ever had, again.

On my way to the train station, I see this ingenious car outline, which I suppose is saying something along the lines of « instead of one car parking spot, you can park 10 bikes here ». I think it’s a really nice visualisation!

A bike park. It's protected from the street by a cutout of a car, showing that a single car is as long as parking for a dozen bikes.

In the end, I take the 15:52 train to Lake Bled and get to Lesce-Bled, a village that is definitely not the super touristic Lake Bled, around 5pm.

A cute beige train station.

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