Before we met, I searched the internet for photos of her.
I longed to know how tall her buildings grew.
I was curious what style they held themselves in.
I wanted to know what colour the water that flows through the city was.
I hoped to discover if her streets were steep or flat; from how lofty a height did that castle on the hill look down on its people?
How did Ljubljana's citizens move around her? On foot? In cars? On buses?
Where did they shop?
Where did they eat?
What did they eat?
Where did they gather?
What did their language sound like? Would it be completely foreign?
What made them laugh?
What made them like this city of theirs?
But most of all I wanted to know what would make me like her, this capital city who describes herself as "petite but unique, historical and yet lively".
I couldn't find photos to answer all of these questions. So, I made sure that while I was there, I did.
Her buildings aren't so tall, but the mountains that encase her are. From Art Nouveau to Baroque and from the Art Deco Skyscraper to the bricks of the old Roman city walls, it became quickly clear that her buildings are beautiful and they stand proud in the Old Town, having survived the test of time. The water is green. Emerald green. Filled with sediments washed down from those surrounding mountains and the source of some of the best tasting tap water I've ever enjoyed, never before has such a shade of green looked so appealing to me as temperatures reached 29 degrees celsius during my days in Ljubljana in early July. Her streets are mostly flat. The few hills I found were gentle, and even the castle - sitting just 295 metres above its city - is easy to get to either with the funincular or a meandering climb around its sloping sides. And it is thanks to those kind gradients that Ljubljana is undoubtedly a cycling city. With a popular public bike share scheme and separate cycle paths on many roads. Bikes were everywhere, ridden by locals of all ages and of course, I warmed to this instantly. I kept marvelling at the sight of two wheels rolling along the roads (and admittedly, pavements) and I no doubt bored my companions with my repeated references to it. Oh, but you can easily walk around this city, too, as for two out of three days, that's exactly what I did. The best introduction to understanding what locals in Ljubljana eat was a morning at the Odprta Kuhna (Open Kitchen) Food Market. Here, you can eat from all corners of the world. (But I did later find out that Slovenian delicacies include horse and rabbit meat. I stuck to the prosciutto from the Karst region of the country; delicious!) And when I pointed at a restaurant during a walking tour of the city and said "Oh, sushi!", the guide - quite rightly - replied. "Of course, we're a capital city!" D'uh, Birdie. I'm not sure if it was because of the summer heat and long evenings, because of a or just because this is the way life in Ljubljana is like, but the falling light seemed to draw people out onto the streets to sit together by the river, sharing picnics and conversations. Or they were sat at tables lining the waterfront or in perfect town squares overlooked by houses that were just the perfect shade of shabby. The majority of which I was oblivious to, because yes, the language is very foreign but I sought small openings of inclusion when I grabbed hold of the few words I recognised thanks to small similarities to German and Italian. A lot of things made the people of Ljubljana laugh. And I was lucky to be right in the thick of all that laughter thanks to Ana Desetnica Street Theatre Festival , which I was there to cover for Must Love Festivals . And I believe I have just answered my final question, because even though I haven't even touched on the history, the culture, the fact that the summer is packed full of other festivals and the way in winter you are just an hour from skiing, these were already enough to see why Ljubljana is liked by her citizens... and her visitors. And very, very much so by me.
And if you're looking for some things to do and where to stay during a weekend in Ljubljana, I wrote this city guide.
Frances M. Thompson
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