Monday, July 4, 2011

Ljubljana (pronounce the ‘j’s like ‘y’s)

SLOVENIA! I have wanted to make this trip since 2007, when I saw my friend’s pictures of Lake Bled. Four years later, and I finally made it! Our first two nights were spent at a so-so hostel near the center. After three nights in a campground, however, any bed was welcome.
We didn’t have too much time in Ljubljana, but that wasn’t a problem. The city has only a population of 300,000 and the historic center is easily accessible on foot. Our day was still, however, pretty packed.
In the morning, we saw the downtown, which is gorgeous and ever so charming. The Ljubljana River runs down the center and on both banks there are various cafes and bars. Unlike Sofia or Belgrade, Ljubljana does not have a post-Communist feel (at least in the center.) 

The castle in Ljubljana was a little underwhelming. Rick Steves, my least favorite travel writer, said Ljubljana was the next, next Prague after Krakow. However, compared to Prague and Krakow, Ljubljana castle is a little lame. The view from the top, however, is worth the three Euro funicular ride. Also, the castle had a free library in the park— what a great idea!
In the afternoon, we visited two counter-culturally type of places: an ex-bike factory and a squatter residence. The graffiti was spectacular. While Bulgarian graffiti is normally ugly and often offensive (death to whores?) this graffiti was truly art. The factory also had a nightclub, but since it was a Sunday, we didn’t have a chance to go. After the factory, we wandered around the squatter residence near Celica Hostel (which is itself a converted prison). The art here was beautiful, creepy, colorful, and awesome. One particular wall reminded me of Yoshi’s Island. In Sofia, counter-culture was either deep underground or non-existent; in Slovenia, the factory and squatter residence were within minutes of downtown. Fantastic. 

Graffiti near the bike factory
 Finally, we had a couple of beers with a Fulbrighter that was studying in Ljubljana. She warned us that most of the beers on tap in Slovenia were a little bland, but that ‘Human Fish’ is delicious. We tried the beer, and it really was great. But what is up with its name? Slovenia is home to this cave-monster, which is known as the human fish because it has such a long life. 
Weird name for a beer, but a great beer for an evening in Ljubljana.

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