11.08.2014 - 13.08.2014
Our stay in Bled was longer than expected due to a delay in delivery of a new Sat Nav to replace the TomTom which had broke at the beginning of our journey. We decided to visit the capital for two days and boy oh boy were we pleased we did.
We stayed at Ljubljana Hotel and Resort which had an instantly great feel about it and super friendly staff which always makes a difference. Very soon after we arrived we were delighted to see a Mariachi group perform right in the middle of our site. It made for a lovely welcome :-)
First thing the next morning we set out to explore the city by bike. It was a flat, easy cycle in, through quite an industrial but attractive area before approaching the city itself. I love making a city approach by bike. The vantage point allows one to be immersed in sites and sounds and the turn of each pedal makes infinitely better progress than a step. The freedom to divert off a path and to explore little alleys and alcoves makes an ordinary tourist feel like an intrepid explorer. This is exactly how we discovered the beauty, charm and history of this INCREDIBLE city which quite literally stole our hearts.
After aimless exploration on our bikes we stopped for lunch, seating outside on a cobbled street to enjoy a traditional meal of kranjska klobasa (Slovenian sausage), a delicious stew served in a a traditional copper dish, and some Slovenian dumplings with bacon.
After lunch we spent a few hours meandering about by foot and found ourselves in the huge and colourful fruit market that gleamed with polished and perfectly ripe fruit. We gorged on a selection and were delighted to find a fountain where we could fill our bottles as well as wash our sticky chins and hands!
We were really surprised to see a raw milk vending machine for local residents. I have never seen anything like this before but what a brilliant idea!
Old Ljubljana city is car free but has a fantastic system of "Kavalirs" which are environmentally friendly electric vehicles that are completely free of charge! We lucked out with a driver who was delighted to give us a tour of all of the sites, with a historical commentary along the way. It was a brilliant way to discover the city and afterwards we felt both educated and rested. Our driver was so passionate about his city and proud of the "Gallant Helper" service he was helping to provide that it was almost impossible to tip him but thankfully we succeeded!
After our restful tour we decided that rather than catch the tourist train up to Ljubljana castle that we should face the summit on bike. The ride started off gently enough, leading us through a quieter part of the city that we wouldn't have otherwise seen which always feels like a privilege.
Pretty soon though we realized how steep our ascent would be and almost turned around. It would have been a tough ride without a child on the back, indeed people who were walking were stopping out of breath, but with Felix on my back and Mylo on J's, holy moly it was an effort! There were several times where my front wheel lifted of the ground, I needed to put all of my weight on the handlebars to avoid toppling back but hallelujah we did it! I honestly think this was one of the most rewarding physical challenges I have ever done, it felt AMAZING to reach the top and look down from where we had climbed.
Our first mission on arrival was to down a stein which was perhaps the most satisfying beer I have ever had! Our early evening arrival rewarded us with a fantastic quiet atmosphere with a few people setting up for a night time outdoor cinema, the odd other tourist, and a fabulous group of Spanish buskers/performers who we watched while enjoying dinner. We enjoyed another brilliant meal, this time at "Gostilna na gradu", the wonderful castle restaurant that had been recommended to us by various people as one of the most highly regarded restaurants, but that we had been told would be fully booked so we were overjoyed to be able to eat here.
With our bellies and hearts full we enjoyed a rapid descent, in the dark, back to the city centre. We had planned to cycle straight back to the camper but soon noticed that a whole new world had come alive when Ljubljana turned dark. The same square that we had started in several hours earlier was now filled with 20 somethings singing around a fire, with Capoeira and instruments and an utterly wonderful vibe that was near impossible to escape. To top it off there were several hammocks suspended from a temporary wooden structure which we all took turns lazing in while listening to the music.
Our Kavalir driver had told us about a local theatre that was worth looking at so we tried our luck discovering it at night and to our delight the gate was open! The biggest thrill was that it was completely and utterly empty so I could not resist the opportunity to "take to the stage" on bike with Felix on my back!
Eventually we embarked on the cycle home, with both boys falling asleep in their seats and with Jeremy and I with stupid, satisfied grins on our faces. Quite possibly one of the best days of my life. Thank you Ljubljana <3