Ljubljana, City of Dragons

Looking back at Ljubljana it’s a bit hard to explain why we loved it so much.  After our trip, people often asked, what was your favorite part? What was your favorite city?  Without pause, my answer is always Ljubljana… and then comes the question, why? Here is where things get a bit tough because it’s hard to put a finger on it.  The city just had an amazing, relaxed vibe to it.  A lot of travel is luck which may explain part of why this city was just so enjoyable, everything seemed to work out so well during our stay.

Ljubljana boat tour
Ljubljana boat tour

Truth be told, there’s not a lot of activities and sights for tourists in Ljubljana.  Wikitravel’s section on the city only lists a handful of things to see or do and most of those are museums – not usually my thing.  But the city is beautiful with a river running through the center and many great restaurants and cafes.  The city center is also very small, you can easily walk across it in 45 minutes.  We spent the first day just walking through the old town, seeing the picturesque bridges (it’s like a mini version of Paris where each bridge is unique) and walking up to the Ljubljana Castle.  There’s a funicular up from Old Town to the castle but since the walk only takes five minutes we skipped the line and just took the path up.  There are boat cruises leaving from many spots along the river for short 50 minute cruises.  We took one just before sunset which was perfect.

On our second day it was raining which was perfect.  We had been on the move quite a bit this trip so with no plans and rainy skies we decided to spend the morning seeing how many cafes we could sample.  It turned out to be three, and they were all great.  The café culture is awesome in Ljubljana.  Even in the city center an espresso is just a euro or so plus almost every café has free WiFi.  You can’t subsist on espresso alone, for lunch we went to a restaurant we saw the day before called Gostilnica 5-6 kg.  The place looked good and the food turned out to be amazing.  See pork and octopus stew food photos below.  The rest of the afternoon?  More espressos, some beer and a lot of photos of Ljubljana’s beautiful bridges.  We also stopped by the tourist office and learned of a perfect event the following day. A great day.

With only one full day left in Ljubljana we paid a visit to the Central Market and bought some souvenirs.  I was curious as to the history of the city and why exactly there were dragons everywhere.   A shopkeeper told me the story.  To tell it briefly, after stealing the Golden Fleece, Jason and the Argonauts were heading back to their home in Greece when winter forced them to settle near modern day Ljubljana.  In the spring, they dismantled their boat and began to travel overland.  They came across a marsh where a terrible dragon lived.  Jason killed this dragon after a fierce battle and ever since dragons became a part of the local motif.  I’m not sure if the story is fully accurate but the resulting dragons monuments all over the city are unique and part of what makes it so awesome.

In the afternoon on our final day we went to a wine tasting festival in Old Town.  Slovenian wine is excellent but they don’t make large quantities of it so little is exported.  We bought a handful of tastings for a euro each and walked along the stalls deciding what to try.  We handed in our coupons for a tasting and received nearly a full glass.  This wasn’t a fluke – it was just one euro per glass of delicious wine.  We spent the afternoon getting a bit drunk on wine walking around in the rain, it was perfect.

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