Ljubljana: the hidden gem of Europe and hoping it stays that way 

I’ve only been in Ljubljana for a mere 4 hours and I can already tell I won’t want to leave. By happenstance, I got a couch surfing host while I’m here, and he’s already made the experience 100x better, not that Ljubljana needs it.
As soon as the bus pulled in, I raced over to the Hostel Celica (yes, the one that used to be military barracks for the Yugoslav army and now has been fully redone, each room by a different artist). I already should have known that a city that has this kind of place will likely be an interesting city. I picked up a bunch of information while waiting for my guy, including a “made by locals” map- which, by the way, is mostly about food, just the way I like it.

The hostel itself is also in a really underground part of Ljubljana, where people live but also where people have art studios and gay clubs, and where underground parties happen on the weekends, and people just come to hang out. With all the art everywhere, it really reminded me of Berlin- just a carefree, squatter type atmosphere. If you’re coming to Lujbljana you have to get yourself to Metelkova. I ended up going back at night my second night just to see it (pretty dead on a weeknight) and in the morning again on my way to the bus.

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With a tap on my shoulder, my host was there. Even he is a down to earth, hiking, skating, tattooed, awesome example of Ljubljana. We immediately dumped my stuff in his car and went to ice cream at “the best ice cream place in town” (is what he promised). Yes, it probably is. We walked all around the main streets of the city, the alternative street with all the vegan fast food and falafel and skate shops and then wound right into the main strolling walkways all along the water. It’s easy to feel like you’re in a very miniature version of a small Italian town here, but with hints of Berlin and San Francisco mixed in. Bikers ping and pass by, and everyone is out eating ice cream, enjoying a coffee or beer and cigarette by the water- and it makes me realize this is how cities should be: a waterway, millions of little bridges, and a strong enjoyment of it all around. At least twice we passed by people sitting in cafes and they called him over. Ljubljana is definitely a small town.

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He told me that, yes, people do stay. His last German couch surfer loved it so much she stayed a week. Then came back. And now lives here. I can see why.
In the car, the typical American songs came on the radio, but also some Slovenian songs that he told me were like country songs, but not country. “Nothing can do Texas like Texas,” he assured. Back at his place (which, by the way, is a vertical house with his apartment at the very top, with roommates and a shared bathroom all downstairs on different levels) we had time for showers and some lounging. As a Slovenian military medic, he gave me some strong American meds he actually got in Afghanistan. (Thank you!!!) Just like in the U.S., military service is voluntary, and so far he likes it. Later, he drove me to his pharmacist to pick up some stuff for his medical appointment tomorrow, and then he dropped me off in the center so I could go eat dinner while he went to tape up his sister’s knee. I went to Gostilna 6elica (named because it used to be at #6 on that street- it’s one of the oldest restaurants in Ljubljana). The service wasn’t great- they seemed to stick all the tourists in a back room and were pretty brief in their service, but the food was really good. I started with a bear prosciutto (yes, bear…) with a juniper berry topping. It was definitely tasty, and I could see bear as being a nice new meat. Maybe, just with lots of guilt.


  
Slovenian sausage- still pretty different than the one you get in Germany and Austria.

  
 View from the way up to the fortress

 Love this on a little ice cream hut near the Triple Bridge
  Cake with this poppy seed paste that’s really popular in this area. It looked better than it tasted sadly- too dry I thought…

  
Heard a recital of some sort coming from this building. It’s right across from the Philharmonic building of Ljubljana and near the university building so maybe it had something to do with that?
Speaking of bears, our tour guide the next day also told us that since the forests near Ljubljana were open, about 6 years ago they did find a bear wandering into town. “A perfect blend of culture and nature,” she explained. Next I tried klobasa, a type of heartier and tougher sausage than in Germany, served with potatoes and sauerkraut (also really different than the one I ate in Germany). Yum. All meals accompanied with red wine of course. Back at the house after my insanely nice host picked me up, we watched Spy with Croatian subtitles and had Slovenian red wine before I basically passed out (sorry!)
The next day, I went for the free walking tour which was really informative, mostly about Plecnik the main architect of the city, and how he designed it to be so conducive to gathering. After the tour, I get right to wandering, mainly towards the old city walls. I imagined something like Berlin, but really had no idea what to expect. This city has so much Roman and then art nouveau and former Yugoslav history, so it’s all stuff I’m not exactly familiar with as much. I happened upon a little alleyway off the river, where girls performed dances, there were Slovenian songs, and just overall pride to be from Ljubljana it seemed like. They even played a version of Billie Jean. There’s definitely a lot more “Berlin” elements here- it used to be the punk capital of Yugoslavia, so there’s lots of underground still present.
At night I walked around the center with one of the prettiest sunsets over the Triple Bridge I’ve seen in a while. It’s really cool to see the different Venetian and Germanic elements in this city. Apparently being right in the middle of the 2, architects wanted to bring in elements of both.
Ljubljana is definitely a city I’ve now recommended to anyone who will listen, and I can’t wait to come back to- especially to hike Mt. Triglav (a must for any Slovenian) next time I’m not as sick. Until next time!

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