Ljubljana: Exploring

Pretty warm in the jail cell last night, but at least the wifi is good.  Downstairs a buffet breakfast was in progress: coffee, eggs, bread, baloney, cheese, apple/blueberry juices, and the best thing – apricot marmalade.  We sat a cozy courtyard with other hostellers and watched some sparrows hop around feasting.

Morning in jail
Hostel Celica hallway

Out to explore!  The building of Hostel Celica is located in a place I started calling “Graffiti-ville,” but have since learned is an area called the Metelkova City artistic space, a non-residential squat for artists and activists.  The buildings are works of art, with glorious works of graffiti, mosaics, ghouls, statues, collages and paintings.   Through some research, I’ve learned that this autonomous ‘city within a city’ houses artists studios, galleries, bars and non-profit organizations. The buildings used to be the barracks of the Yugoslavian army and are now covered in graffiti and art, and it is something to see.  While we walked around and shot photos, someone kept rhythm on a trapset inside one of the buildings.

Metelkova City
Metelkova City
Metelkova City
Metelkova City
Metelkova City

Off again south, and across the Dragon Bridge.  We came across a big open air market, full of fantastic produce.   Gorgeous ripe tomatoes (we can’t get ‘em in Arizona)!  We noticed some beautiful peaches, too, and in one box one of the peaches had a small break in its skin.  About a dozen bees were crowded around the break – now that is some sweet stuff.

Farmers market – downtown Ljubljana

More exploration, some mannequin art, and then a stop at an outdoor café called Cacao.  I had coffee and a piece of raspberry cake, while Janel ordered a pineapple-ginger smoothie.  She asked for supplemental spirolina on it, too, since the menu said that stuff gives you energy and aids digestion.  Besides, our server said it doesn’t taste like anything.

We learned that not only does spirolina have a flavor (not unlike seaweed wrappers on sushi), but it has a delightful blue-green color, too.

Mmmmm – spirolina!

We wandered south, finding a street full of string art, and eventually checked out our destination restaurant for tomorrow night, one called Spajza.  We crossed a highway, found a cool “Hollywood” head exhibit, and finally found a sweet café table overlooking the Ljubljanica River.

Hollywood heads

Tourist boats rolled by as we enjoyed a round of beer and wine.  The tourists would wave and take pictures of us and we would wave back.  We laughed when one guy on the bank decided that peeing in public was acceptable, and let go a stream into the river.

After a couple of hours, we wandered back north exploring nooks and crannies of Ljubljana.   There are lots of words in Slovenian that use very few vowels.  For example, the word for square is “trg.”  How’s that for vowel-efficient?

We passed by a sidewalk sign declaring chanterelle soup – we want some!  We sat outside at Kavalino and enjoyed a caprese salad (tomatoes not as great as I wanted), chanterelle soup (fantastic!),  and ultra-sour lemonade.  The caprese salad was assisted by a potted basil plant right on the table – cool!

Chanterelle soup – wow

Rejuvenated, we headed up the hill on a short but steep hike to explore the castle.  We first hit a history of Slovenia, which was bleh and not worth much time.  The castle itself, however, was pretty cool, highlighted by a climb up into the tower.  The city views from there are really rewarding.

Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle
Ljubljana Castle tower staircase
From the Ljubljana Castle tower
Top of Ljubljana Castle tower
From the Ljubljana Castle tower

We also explored through an art display which included a once-neat exhibit called “Fluid.”  The exhibit was constructed inside a cave, with interesting use of lights, and at one point had utilized multiple flows of water (dry today).


We descended on the south side through residential streets.  Somewhere in our walking today, we’d spied a restaurant menu that declared “horse” as an entrée, so we decided to see if we could find it again.  Our trek turned into a marathon walk, a few miles at least. When we finally found the place, its staff was relaxing out front and they were about to close.  Close?  I think Janel and I were still on a Madrid-type of schedule, where you don’t even think about dinner until 9PM.  Here, however, the restaurants were starting to close up at 9:30PM.

Quest for dinner

With slight panic, we re-trace north and stopped at a Mexican place.  We were both already disappointed with ourselves – neither of us wanted Mexican, but this place was at least open and we really needed dinner.  Finding an outdoor table, we put in an order for a half chicken that we figured we’d share.  Three minutes later, the server came back out and let us know that the kitchen had refused our order and was about to close.

Damn.  Now in dismay, we continued walking north, trying to remember if we’d passed a pizza place this morning, already figuring we’d “blown” it with respect to dinner.

But wait.  On an interior street off the river, we noticed some street lights with a handful of tables.  What’s this?  A place called Pomf.  Entering the adjacent bar area, we found a gruff-looking gentleman standing with arms folded.  “Is your kitchen still open?”  He broke into a smile and said, “Of course it is!”  Swee-ee-ee-eet!

We found the last table on the sidewalk.  I only had to glance at the menu once.  The first entrée item was one called “Slovene Plate.”  I want that.  It turned out to be fantastic sampling of traditional Slovenian cooking: porkey pork chops with bacon, sausage, polenta, buckwheat porridge, cornbread, and dumplings.  This place was a gold mine!  What a happy accident.

We also shared a Serbian salad of cucumbers, sour goat cheese, peppers, and tomatoes, which was the perfect counterpoint to the heavy Slovenian fare.  And much Lasko!!  Does it get better than this?  Unexpected bliss.

Yes, it actually gets better.  A two-piece band played outside, one on guitar and the other on accordion.  We learned that they played traditional Slavic tunes, ones from Serbia, Bosnia, etc.  Pretty soon, a group of patrons were out dancing in the street.  One of them came over to our table and grabbed Janel, who gleefully got up and starting prancing around with them.  Great!

Thus we met Villi and Sanna, a couple sitting at the table next to us.  Villi hailed from right here in Ljublana while Sanna was from Postonja, the Slovenian town where we were headed tomorrow.  They were on a date.

It was simply great talking with them.  Villi’s English was pretty decent and we could tell he really enjoyed exercising it, while Sanna’s was more limited.  She understood everything but had a harder time expressing herself.

Villi talked about Slovenia and his impression of America.  He described Woodrow Wilson as “evil,” so someday I will have to review the history of that remark.   Villi is tall, so we stood back to back in the middle of street to compare height, laughing the whole way. Sanna talked of places we should see in Postojna, and they both convinced us that renting a car would be a good idea.  We learned that Croatia is within easy reach, and a place called Opatjia is very nice.

Villi spoke quite a few languages, and Janel and he had fun going through their repertoires.  We soon learned that they figured us for a couple, which brought more laughs.   Sanna even looked at me and said, “But you’re so young…”  Flattery will get you everywhere.

From a botched dinner plan to a fabulous outdoor meal and a wonderful time with a Slovenian couple.  We even walked almost the entire way back to the hostel with them, discussing the stars and satellites.  Can we get any luckier?  What a privilege.  Thank you Villi and Sanna.

Back over the bridge on the way home

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