By the time we made it to the picturesque capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana (Loo-bi-yan-ha) we had become familiar with the bus transport network of Europe. Many of the bus journeys prove both cost and time efficient if you’re planning on getting around. You only need to rock up 15 minutes before departure and you’re usually dropped at a central station rather than an airport on the outskirts of town.
Our Flixbus dropped us outside the Ljubljana station, which is a hive of activity for buses and trains. From there we were a short public bus ride to our cosey Airbnb. We had a great spot next to the beautiful public garden, Tivoli Park. Did you know Slovenia is made up of over 50% green spaces? That’s forests, parks, woods and basically anywhere with greenery.
Slovenia is even smaller than little ol’ New Zealand, with a total population of about 2 million. Ljubljana, the capital, has close to 300,000 residents. Sarah even included it in a recent article about places in Europe that could teach Wellington a thing or two…
Ljubljana is a wonderful blend of old and new. The town is full of the stunning Austro-Hungarian architecture that fills central Europe but they have also taken the modern step of excluding all vehicles from the center of the old town. Covered electric buggies carry the elderly and disabled residents around the old town, free of charge. Ljubljana was recently designated a European Green Capital and this was just one of their green initiatives along with loads of drinking fountains and specific recycling bins for all residents. We also found a bunch of vending machines where anybody can rock up and buy fresh milk – something that you can’t get in New Zealand!
We found and jumped on our now usual walking tour of the city early on our first morning. It proved to be a good choice as it was a cold but sunny autumn day – the rest of our time in Slovenia was scattered with showers.
The town features a wee castle high on the hill above the old town. Our tour guide told us about a trick that tourists can fall into with the castle. You can take the funicular up to the castle for a couple of Euros, from there wandering the grounds is free, however, if you want to enter the museums and halls, the fee is a bit higher. If you’re not specific, the ticket office will sell you the full cost ticket, so be clear if all you want is the ride to the top!
At the bottom you’ll find a doll museum, a slightly creepy cuckoo clock and a puppet musuem, if thats your bag.
Below the castle is the old town, with bars and cafes set alongside the river. Crossing the river from the town square is the curious looking “Triple Bridge”. A bridge has been on this site since the 13th century, but the current concrete design has stood since 1842. Two lanes were for vehicles of the day and the third for foot traffic. Today in the car-free city, it makes for a novel set of footbridges right next to each other.
We found the town reminded us of Queenstown with funky bars and cafes set against the water (ok a river, not a lake!), green hills and mountains in the distance. We parked up for lunch after our tour at a neat craft beer and burger bar, two beers, burgers and chips setting us back about $18NZD.
Just across the triple bridge, you’ll find another Europen Catherdal, with flawlessly detailed decoration inside and out. Each building of faith has its own special, unique features, and this one is no different. The front doors are made from cast iron and the three-dimensional design depicts the history of Slovenia including the crusades, and more recently, visits from Pope John Paul II.
Wander to the left or the right of the triple bridge and you’ll find some more notable bridges – the cobblers bridge, where criminals w
We really loved Ljubljana, it is compact, walkable and still a little undiscovered so is not overrun by countless tourists – yet! Places like this never stay a secret forever.
Before we left, we took a day trip out to the stunning Lake Bled. The bus ride is a little over an hour and leaves regularly from the main station. Unfortunately, it rained constantly all day, but we grabbed some disposable ponchos, our umbrellas and with no wind, we made the most of it.
Lake Bled is in a quiet, well protected natural setting and the view is improved by a church on an island in the middle of the lake and capped by a cliff top castle overlooking it all. We took a walk al the way around the lake to take it all in from every angle.
After lunch, we took in a Slovenian delicacy, first created at a patisserie in Bled – cream cakes! After seeing the size of them when we walked in, we decided we would share one if not for the budget, then for our waistline!
Bled would be an amazing place to stay in the summer, with swimming bays, row boats for hire and a luge on the surrounding hills. If we’d had more time and a slightly bigger budget, we’d have loved to stay longer, definitely one for the “places to go back to” list.