Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 5: Ljubljana, Slovenia

Our train from Venice arrived in Ljubljana around 2am Saturday morning, so we just quickly found our hostel and crashed. It was really interesting to enter a city in the middle of the night where there are only a few people at bars and milling about on the street and then waking up the next day to crowds of people roaming the city. What a contrast!

Our hostel was right on the river and only a couple blocks from the area above called the three bridges. It's the main plaza in the middle of the historic city center. There's a castle on the top of that hill!

Kurt tells me this long building along the water is called the fish market but it is mainly occupied by vendors and cafes. We grabbed some sandwiches and coffee for breakfast at a nice outdoor cafe. A lot of the streets within the center are closed to traffic and pedestrians stroll about at a leisurely pace. Every restaurant or bar seemed to have outdoor seating and really took advantage of the river. Sometimes in NYC, I feel like you can forget you're on an island. Here they really embrace the water and celebrate it.

After breakfast, we went to the tourist office to rent bikes. Ljubljana is very pedestrian and bike oriented while still being accessible by car. Everyone seems to bike around! It was great. Kurt and I laughed at some of the bike locks we saw. They were so minimal! People just seemed to lock a wheel to the frame and not any other immovable object. They would have been swiped in a heartbeat in NYC! It was nice to relax about that sort of thing for once.

Renting the bikes was really great (and cheap!). We got to cover a lot of ground and see quite a bit. Kurt also wanted to check out this park project which was a little ways outside of town. We easily rode out there and poked around for a bit. Unfortunately, the park was in disrepair and had some issues. It was an interesting site and concept, but some details were poorly executed and the park was not kept up well. Regardless, I was glad we got to see it.

It took me several shots but this is Kurt's genuinely happy face.

We did some more tooling around on the bikes and rode back towards the center. We found a nice courtyard with several restaurants and stopped for a beer. Kurt explained to me the beer situation in Slovenia. Apparently there are two houses (I'm thinking a rivalry similar to Coke vs. Pepsi). One side is Laško (Kurt's favorite) and the other is Union. And pivo is beer in Slovenian. I was told on many occasions that is the only Slovenian word you need to learn.

Me enjoying a Union.

While we still had our bikes, we rode out to the National Gallery. We didn't really plan on going in the galleries but the girl at the desk made us feel awkward so we paid for tickets. We mainly just wanted to see the building. Apparently there were two late nineteenth century buildings connected by a modern glass box. It looked really cool from the outside but was an absolute oven inside! I couldn't believe it. Norbert Lechner would have a heart attack...and then search out these architects and give them a lesson on shading. It was really unbearable inside which is unfortunate because we've looked at the firm before and they do some interesting work. I'll just consider it strike one.

Speaking of architects, Slovenia has one really famous one: Jože Plečnik. He designed the library above and did some work along the river, below. He's a national hero. Lookout for a special Plečnik treat tomorrow :)

Eventually, we met up with Kurt's friends, Katja and Ales. Kurt met Katja years ago on a trip to Ljubljana and they have kept in touch. Katja and Ales even came to New York last year and hung our in Brooklyn some. I can't say it enough...they are wonderful people. They showed us such a good time and were so welcoming. Their friend's Mojca and Carmen came and met us for a drink while we waited for Kurt's friend Magda and her boyfriend, Carlos, to arrive. They were driving down from Poland to join us in exploring Ljubljana and later heading to the beach.

We had a few beers (Laško of course) and wildly exchanged stories as people caught up on each other's lives. Suddenly, it started pouring. Luckily we were under some sturdy umbrellas but couldn't leave anytime soon. No problem! We just had more beers. It was quiet a relaxing evening.

After the rain died down, Katja and Ales invited us for a cookout at their apartment. Kurt, Magda, Carlos and I did a little more wandering around the city center while the others went to prepare for the barbecue. The river really comes alive at night. It's so hot during the day that a lot of people stay inside, but at night everyone comes to the bars and restaurants along the water. A few boats float up and down the river and tons of people just stroll along with cones of gelato. Everyone is so relaxed.

Even in a foreign country, Kurt is still a grill-master :)

Katja and Ales share a cute little apartment a few minutes outside the center with an awesome balcony for grilling. They were so sweet to host us and feed us lots of yummy food. They even got a mini keg of Laško because they know Kurt loves it so much! It was great to meet a few of their friends and really have the local perspective of a city. I can't wait for them to visit Brooklyn again. They are so much fun!

1 comment:

  1. Great Lj post!

    Couple notes:
    -Lasko and Union are now owned by the same company, so it's now possible to have both at the same bar.

    -it seemed that in Slovenia you could lock your bike with a twist tie, although Carmen said that there is a lot of bike theft in Ljubljana, but, who knows what 'a lot' is...


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