Caption (above): I’ ll start with a love story, or lack thereof. The Prešeren statue stands in the center square of Slovenia’s capital. The square, has the same name as the nations most famous poet. The muse of inspiration stands above him holding a laurel. Across the square there is a relief of his lifelong love, Julija Primic, who he met at church. The tormented man became infatuated with her, but the feelings were not mutual. Many barriers separated the two, including his economic status and age. Julija lived next to the house that she’s now on. Prešeren lived a sad life of many affairs, he later found some solace at Lake Bled, where he wrote poems about her. On his deathbed he proclaimed his unending love. The statues gazes are fixed forever on each other.
Ljubljana. Say that ten times fast. Don’t feel bad, when I first rolled into town, I had no idea how to say Slovenia’s capital city either. I still have to Google the spelling every time I write it. Ljubljana, ᴘʀᴏɴᴏᴜɴᴄᴇᴅ ʟᴏᴏ-ʙᴇe-ᴏɴ-ᴜʜʜ is the most romantic best kept secret in Europe. It’s on the short list for the European Capital of Culture 2025. That’s right folks, if you follow Trouncing Around, you’re getting cutting edge information to put you ahead of a swarm of international tourists that will throng the streets. You have a chance to visit while Ljubljana still has the adorable small town feel.
That European Feel
At this point, I’ve visited most of Europe. While I don’t consider myself an expert, I have lots of thoughts on different regions and vibes. Although I’ve loved my visits to big name bucket list destinations (you can name those, I won’t dog them here) I’ve constantly searched for the perfect combination of vibes to find the perfect European city. It’s a romantic nostalgia that I’ve yet to truly pin. Requirements? It can’t be overcrowded. The people are happy and not exhausted to have tourists. There’s an interesting cafe culture where you can sit under an umbrella, perfectly content sipping coffee, for hours. Local produce and flower markets. Cobblestones. Prices are affordable but there’s a wide variety of goods and cuisine available. Innovative local-takes on international food. Art. Small enough to walk. Affordable accommodations (think USD 25/night). And people still do the famous arm-in-arm evening stroll dressed in their best garb to live musicians. Sprinkle in some copper topped buildings, a little grit, and some old world charm. Ljubljana has all of this, and so much more. It’s also one of Europe’s greenest cities.
Caption: (top and bottom right) The Central Market
(bottom left) Dolničarjeva ulica
Architecture to Tickle Your Artistic Brain
Each street was ready for a picture snap and left me peeking around the corner, excited for what I would see next. The city has countless Baroque and Art Nouveau architectural sights, many of which were designed by Jože Plečnik, who had a vision of Ljubljana as a world city well before his time. He had a significant influence on the buildings of Vienna and Prague, but his pride remained in his home country, where he participated in public works for less than he knew he could earn elsewhere, simply because he knew he could do the best quality and didn’t want anyone else to accept the jobs. He was a charitable man of sorts.
Centuries of Well Documented Middle European History
Because of where it sits on a map, Slovenia has always been at the heart of Europe’s happenings. It’s main influences date back to Venice (you can even catch a canal boat ride today!) and Austo-Hungarian influences, both of which left behind a trail of sophistication everywhere they went. And because of its geography, basically surrounded by mountains, it’s been able to preserve its local culture and top sights while accepting influences from the surrounding outside world. Slovenia wasn’t bombed during WW2 and even though it had ties with Communism, the skyline wasn’t changed with Brutalist bloc buildings.
But that wasn’t where the history of Ljubljana began. The region used to be a large lake where civilization stood on stilts, much like Venice. Folklore says that Jason and the Argonauts, on their adventures finding the golden fleece, slayed the dragon. Jason was supposedly the first citizen of Ljubljana. Today the dragon can be seen on everything in the city to represent Ljubljana and Slovenian pride.
Have I convinced you that Ljubljana is an interesting European city to visit yet? Stay tuned for more information about Slovenia’s amazing nature– just a day trip away from it’s capital.