Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 6: Ljubljana

Magda and Carlos were staying at the same hostel as Kurt and I, but we were a little slower to rise on Sunday morning, so we told them to go explore a bit on their own while we got ready. (Kurt knows Magda from Columbus, Ohio where they worked at the same firm (she's and architect) and lived together for several months. Magda is Polish. Her boyfriend, Carlos, is from Guadalajara, Mexico. They met in Warsaw where they now live together.) Once Kurt and I got our act together, we all got some breakfast. The goal of the day was to conquer the castle on top of the hill in the center of town, so me and my hangover were going to need some good food and strong coffee to make it through the day.

Unfortunately, it was cloudy and rainy as we began our ascent up the hill. There is a funicular which takes visitors up, but we were determined to make it on foot. I guess there is some satisfaction in doing it on your own, but I was tired and the weather was lousy, so it wasn't pleasant. However, I was eating and drinking like there was no tomorrow on this trip, so a little exercise couldn't hurt.

Once you reach the top of the hill, you then climb the tallest tower of the castle. The view was incredible. You can see Ljubljana in its entirety. It was interesting to see the context of the places Kurt and I had visited the day before by bike and on foot. It's a completely different perspective.

Me, Kurt, Carlos and Magda.

I'm not complaining, but it seems like everywhere Kurt and I went in Europe, we stopped to have a beer. It's a very relaxing way to go about a vacation. We sat in the courtyard of the castle and had a drink before we began our descent back down the hill. How cute is this beer?! If they had it in the US, it would be my signature drink. What's not to like?!

Once back at the city center, we arranged to meet up with Katja and Ales again. We had a late lunch at a restaurant which served typical Slovenian food. Kurt may have to help me describe it, but their food is pretty heavy with a lot of breads, meat, and potatoes. They do a lot of stews and various steaks. I had a pork steak and polenta.

After lunch, Katja and Ales and a few of their other friends were kind enough to drive us outside of the city to see a church designed by Jože Plečnik. We were in architectural heaven. It was such an interesting contrast to churches I am used to seeing. Most have a long axis leading from the entrance to the altar. However, this church was quite small but spread out in width. As soon as you walked in the door, you either went to the left or right to sit. The choir was centrally located in front of the altar. Also, instead of an enclosed bell tower, the stairs were completely open on the exterior. They were closed off to the public when we saw it, but I imagine it must take some real faith in God to climb those things!

The interior of the church was also intriguing. Many of the elements inside were wood but brightly adorned. Even the columns were colorfully painted with designs. The stair treads inside were even unique. Plečnik obviously designed his projects down to the smallest detail.

A little too much architecture talk made Kurt lose his mind :) After the Plečnik church, our Slovenian tour guides took us to Tivoli Park in Ljubljana. This was statue outside the park. I even forget what it was commemorating. Kurt's reenactment was just too funny. We found a spot in the park near a lawn and pond. There were several people just lounging about in the park with dogs and kids. Some were reading or chatting. We found a spot at a cafe on the pond to recharge our batteries.

This is what you get when you ask for iced coffee. It's a delicious mixture of ice cream, chocolate, and coffee. Ever since I have been back in the states, my daily cup of joe just seems to pale in comparison.

After we enjoyed our decadent snack, I was ready for a nap! Kurt and I laid in the grass for a while and made friends with a little dog who was terrorizing the park. He felt it was his mission to be the welcome wagon for every new dog which came along. He was frantically running around in all directions and almost ran over us a few times. Sadly, I was not interesting enough to warrant a visit and never got to pet him. I'm claiming it was just the language barrier.

After the park, Katja and Ales confessed they have never been to the castle on the top of the hill. I'll admit I haven't done many touristy New York things, but this seemed like a cultural Slovenian experience that no local should miss out on! They agreed to let us drag them up there but chose to take a little train up to the top. That sounded like a sane idea, but, of course, the rest of us thought walking up (again) would be best. I was so tired, Kurt practically had to carry me up the slope. Finally we reach the top and it seemed much busier than it had earlier in the day. We make it to the gate but are informed that there is a ballet event going on that evening and we cannot have access to the viewing tower unless we want to pay 17 euros for a ticket. Ugh! All that climbing for nothing!

There was talk of storming the castle but we decided to just climb back down in defeat. Katja and Ales will just have to get up there some other time. This is a picture of the funicular we did not take. It would have made things much easier. But again, I like to imagine I burned off that iced coffee during our hill workouts.

After our unsuccessful visit to the castle, it was finally an acceptable time to head to a bar. We met up with Katja and Ales and headed to this one near our hostel. It looks like an entrance to a dungeon but is actually stairs down to the river. The bar has tables all along the water a level below the street. We were lucky enough to be serenaded by opera singers travelling along the river by boat. It was so nice!

The bar closed pretty early and Magda and Carlos headed back to the hostel to get some rest. Kurt and I decided to stay out for another drink and some snacks. We wanted to prolong the time with our lovely hosts as long as we could. We were heading off to the beach next day and they would return to work. Our goodbyes were sad at the end of the evening, but I think we have firmly planted the seeds of visiting Brooklyn, so I hope to see them all soon!

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