Lively Ljubljana

Lively Ljubljana

Carved out of the erstwhile Yugoslavia, Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe bordering Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary. The city of Ljubljana (pronounced Loobliyana), rich in art, culture and architecture is its capital.

My two travel companions and I realised early during the trip that the best way to enjoy the lively city of Ljubljana is to walk, walk and walk. Like most European cities, Ljubljana, with its stunning castle, cathedrals, city square, cafes, bridges, buskers and the serenely flowing Ljubljanica River, is eminently walkable.

The Ljubljana Castle built with a mix of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles dating back to the 11th century dominates the cityscape. Three middle- aged women that we were, we turned into excited school kids taking our first ever funicular ride. The funicular railway took us to the top of the castle providing breathtaking views along the way. If you are the adventurous kind, you could climb up the hill to the castle. Unfortunately, our knees demanded the ride! The large castle courtyard used by the army of the nobility once upon a time is today rented out for weddings and concerts. The Rock Hall is the most stunning part of the castle. Massive rocks that represent the geological structure of the castle took our breath away as we entered this space. In the 19th century, this room was used for storing firewood for the prison guards and administrators. The Panoramic Tower open through the year provides awe-inspiring views of the city. We were lucky to get there on a clear day; we could see the snow-covered Julian Alps stretched out majestically before us, dazzling in the glory of the sun rays bestowed upon it.

The concept of the city squares in European towns is an integral part of town planning from medieval times. These spaces were also put to revolutionary purposes. Today, the squares bustle with crowds, flea markets, cafes and food carts. One can spend hours here without feeling an ounce of boredom.Prešeren Square in Ljubljana is located along the river and its innumerable bridges, each one a delight to your aesthetic sensibility. Once again, we were lucky to be there on a Friday, when there is an open market where you could indulge in some retail therapy. Local products such as honey, the unique and delicious brandy with honey, which we tasted and bought, exquisite glass paintings and candles, while tempting you to loosen your purse strings, also add to the colour and beauty of Prešeren Square.

The bridges - Triple Bridge, Dragon Bridge, Cobbler's Bridge being some - that span the Ljubljanica River are worth a close look. The Dragon Bridge, with sculptures of dragons, is the best known of these. Dragons are important figures in Slovenian mythology. Bridges are known to have existed in Ljubljana from as way back as 1280. Mainly made in those times from wood, today they are made of concrete, granite and limestone. Some of the old bridges were redesigned by Slovenia's legendary Joze Plecnik who is also the architect of some of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

For a city not so large, Ljubljana boasts of almost 30 museums, the most intriguing being the Museum of Illusions. Filled with brain teasers, vortex tunnel and rooms, this interactive museum with scope for lots of funny pictures is sure to keep you enthralled for a few hours. It's all Maya here! We had a whale of a time clicking pictures of ourselves hanging upside down and with our heads on a plate as if we were being served like roast ducks!  

An extremely interesting place that we put on our "to-do" list while in Ljubljana is Metelkova which is an autonomous social centre. The place is as alternative as it can get! Full of artist's studios, bars, cafes, art galleries, Metelkova hosts concerts regularly of different genres of music. Metelkova subverts the site on which it sits today - former Yugoslav National Army barracks - with its graffiti, art work and by using it as a space for LGBT and anti-racism gatherings.

Wanting to relax, we went for a walk in the large green spaces with gorgeous chestnut trees, a glass house, a botanical garden and well laid out paths, of the five square kilometer Tivoli Park. The Jackopic Promenade plays host to an open air photography exhibition all year round. Unfortunately, rain played spoil sport when we visited. One can't always be lucky after all!

Besides walking, we hopped on to buses that took us to the different sight-seeing places. People are extremely helpful despite language being a barrier. Walking tours, bike tours and conducted day tours to nearby places such as Lake Bled, Bohinj Valley and Postanja Caves are other thoroughly enjoyable options which we did choose.

(The author can be contacted at gita.viswanath@gmail.com)

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