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A day in Ljubljana

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm in Ljubljana to give a Python training course. Unusually, I traveled out 24 hours early - rather that arriving at something approaching midnight last night after a Monday that was wasted with travel anyway, we (Lisa and I) came out on Sunday and had a look around what is my first even former Yugoslav capital; Lisa may have passed through in her childhood. Impressions?

Very friendly, very modern yet historic too, very well organised and very Western. The incoming airport was an example of what was to come; a very short walk to the immigration line, passed swiftly and into a baggage reception hall where the conveyor was just starting for us. And we had our luggage and were in a taxi (for which we did not have to queue) within a quarter hour of touchdown; within half an hour we were in our hotel room. Which ... is so modern it's too modern, but that's a story for another day. Monday was a chance to look around!

The hotel, about 2 miles out of town, runs a shuttle service 8 times a day to the centre. Nah - we really don't want to wait for that and we want to learn about Slovenia by traveling with the Slovenes. The startled porter at the hotel confirms that, yes, that is a bus stop across the road [[I had drawn this conclusion already because of the number of buses that we saw stopping there to pick up]] and that we can pay when we get on (THAT was my real question). And so we head over and wait for a 6, or 8, or 11, or 21 - all of which seem to run so frequently that there's never more than a couple of minutes to wait. A 10 minutes ride on a "bendy bus", ironically down a dead straight road, and we're in the main shopping area close by the old town.

In a bus in LjubljanaMain Street, Ljubljana, Sloveniabus in Slovenia


Bustling. The bus was bustling - a few seats and many standing and indeed we ended up getting out one stop after we intended; stop handling is very fast and efficient as one would expect on a suburban network with mostly-regular travellers. And nearly everyone has some form of season ticket / pass. Ljubljana compares in size to perhaps Reading or Swindon, and such an efficient and frequent bus service there, every few minutes and to all quarters, would one feels cut the overall traffic levels.

City centre - from main road to riverShop Window in SloveniaMain Street in Ljubljana


Across from the bus stop and shops, some of the more interesting areas of the old town - pedestrian walkways between big old buildings which (surely) must have some history down to the Ljubljana river, with market stalls setting up for an early Christmas. Decorations being hung high with fairy lights and tinsel, and stalls selling cabbage and slaw and mushrooms which are surely there all year starting to mix with some of the clearly more seasonal ones.

MarketLjubljanaMarble statue outside town hallMarket


The river forms an arc through the old town, and inside the arc is the great mound of the castle hill - surely that's going to be a great viewpoint? Maps show a zigzag path going up there, and we find it between some of the less ostentatious but probably most historic buildings. But - goodness, does it look steep? A cliff lift just around the corner is far more enticing!

Old Town LjubljanaThe worlds newest Cliff Lift?From the town to the castle


Did I comment on "new" and "friendly"? A gent at the cliff left asks if we need help with the ticket machine - help accepted, although we had it just about worked out, and he turns out to be the driver. The single car, with counterbalance running in a track underneath, ascends the hill in a couple of minutes and looks new - indeed it is; the driver tells us that it was only opened last December. Lisa is still clicking away (or rather ... her CAMERA is still clicking away) as we get to the top, and our friend assures us that there's no hurry while she takes a few more shots of the spectacular view. Somehow, I can't imagine our local railed transport supplier holding up services in Bath while the tourists take pictures of the train, can you?

View back over LjubljanaCliff Lift entrance gateAncient and Modern


And so ... to the Castle. What a mixture of ancient and modern. I'll let an array of pictures tell you something of the story ...

Ljubljana CastleFrom the rampartsOld castle window frames modern city


Church on the hillTourist Store, Castle, LjubljanaCastle Museum


In one quadrant of the castle, you can climb a high circular town - the climb beyond the climb - for further magnificent views. And have a virtual tour of Ljubljana - 3D glasses, earphones with the English translation. Great to learn something of the history, although I got the feeling that the 3D effects were such a great toy when the system was put together that they were overused, and that the more significant events in the heavily fought over part of Europe were glossed over as if the creators of the show wanted them forgotten. Just a few words about the second world war, when "A huge fence was put around the city and it became an internment camp", and the break away from Yugoslavia was described as "... voted for independence. The Yugoslav army marched in for 10 days ..." and then we went on to the next part of the story as is the army had come for one final alpine holiday before letting the country go happily, peacefully, and with cheery good wishes. I'm sure it was NOT like that, or was it?

View of the city

View from the tallest towerEveningView over the city


By the time we came down from the castle, it was getting towards dusk with some spectacular views of the bowl and the hills beyond, and some lovely lighting in the old town

The Alps rise above Ljubljana

The obligatory (for me) look at the local public transport system - a quick stop by the railway station - showed what seemed to be underutilised facilities that were lacking the hussle and bustle of the bus system; I think commuter traffic is low. The odd short train came in or out of the eight long platforms while we were there, but they weren't packed. Destination boards showed a proportion - perhaps 25% - of trains as "intercity" and named other European capitals which I would be hard pressed to put on a map.

Ljubljana StationSlovenian Capital, Railway StationStation Subway linking platforms


It was now dark - indeed, pitch black apart from the lights of the city, and we hadn't really eaten since breakfast. How about a bite? But we were out of the city, on the 'burbs side of the station and that 2 mile road to the hotel, and were doubtful as to what was on offer. Signs outside a restaurant in a language so far removed from ours were of minimal help, although the layout and prices gave a positive clus and looking - carefully - the word "biftek" was a hint that perhaps cow meat was on sale, for around 12 Euros a plate.

But this is Slovenia - so it turned out better than we could have hoped. The waiter / barman didn't have a menu in English but explained that we could still get the lunch menu which would be a good deal and we had soup, salad, main course, desert, wine and sparking water for two - and we ended up full - for just 18 euros in total. No wonder that tourists find England so expensive.

[
Evening Meal in LjubljanaSlovenian HospitalityEfficient Bus system - Ljubljana


And so a ride back to the hotel. Stop just across the road from the restaurant, going to right outside the hotel. Less than 5 minute wait, less than 10 minute journey ... and so to the end of a memorable day.
(written 2007-12-04, updated 2007-12-05)

 
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