Sunday, August 28, 2011

Discovering Ljubljana

Emily enjoys the Baroque facades in old town

After almost two weeks of vacation in places we'd never been, with weather worthy of California, we are feeling massively restored. What wonderful adventures we had, meeting fabulous people, staying in incredible places and viewing extraordinary landscapes. I took almost 600 photographs, as everywhere I looked there was something to seduce the eye. I will have several weeks worth of post material from on our short escape into southeastern Europe.

We begin in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Emily and Jos have a residency at the summer festival organized and run for twenty years by an old friend, Nevinka. This summer they began a first exploration of a project which will continue to develop as the months and years go on. It's called Holz, the German word for wood. They are working with an Austrian friend Lois (pronounced not in the American way but more like Loyce.) He is a master carpenter and set designer. He has worked with some very well known artists and theater companies. The three of them spent all day for a week in a room together creating an installation. It was something completely new for all of them. I will post photos and details later. In the meantime, they required some assistance in entertaining Quinn, and this was the job that fell to us. It's nice work if you can get it. And it provided a very good excuse to join them on vacation even if it is high season in our business! We rarely get away in the balmy months of the year.

Slovenia has many charms, and its capital city is one of them. Ljubljana is among the smallest European capitals, with about 280,000 residents. It is attractive and walkable, with a beautiful river running right through the middle. On the street English is not the language one hears. We always feel like we're on a real vacation when we don't often hear our own language or meet our fellow countryman around every corner. Tourists in this city are more often Italian, Austrian or German, Yet, in general, most Slovenians speak some English. At least the young, and since Ljubljana is a city of young, dynamic individuals, we had quite an easy time of it, despite not having a word of Slovenian to offer up. One would have to describe the average Slovenian you meet on the street as friendly. It's such a warm and happy place.

And it was warm, literally between 35-39ª C (95-102ª F) every day we were there.

The city is surrounded by forested mountains, the historic buildings are from the Baroque period and everywhere the roofs are red tile. A thousand year old castle looks down upon the old town. All this makes Ljubljana an extremely attractive city.

Saint Nicolas Cathedral is at the center of the old town. The first church to be built in this spot was in the 13th century. The current structure was built in the 17th.

The bronze door is impressive. The handle is kept polished by the many hands which touch it every day.

The interior is sumptuous with paintings by Italian masters depicting miracles of Nicolas, the patron saint of fishermen.

It's pleasant to walk around the city, as the center is a pedestrian-only zone. There are expansive squares,

and everywhere you are close to the river.

The architecture is glorious and the colors bright.

The streets tend to be wide and so even if there are other people, one never feels crowded. Unlike Prague, Ljubljana has not yet been overrun by tourists.

There are lots of bikes, bikers. They have a rental system like Paris.

Some of the buildings are kept in pristine condition while some others have been allowed to fade a bit. These were among the most charming.

The palette used on the buildings is unexpected.

A network of bridges crosses the river from one bank to the other, and the quays are verdant.

The water changed colors through out the day.

The most famous of the bridges is the Dragon Bridge, which was two blocks from the gallery where Jos, Emily and Lois made their installation. Quinn became excited each time we crossed it, which was always at least twice in a day. He called it the "Dragonah-bridge" pronouncing the words with something of an Italian accent. The dragon is the symbol of Ljubljana. There were four such bronze dragon statues, one at each corner.

The Tromostovje (Three Bridges) is at the heart of the city. It seems quite Venetian to me.

All along the river you find cafes and restaurants. Eating and drinking are favorite pastimes. The restaurants are inspired. We had some remarkable meals here.

There is also a lot of commerce throughout the city, with open air crafts markets everywhere. The produce market is open most mornings and has stands of the freshest and best produce available anywhere, as every single stand offers only small local farmers produce. This is not always the case in the markets we have here in France, where many vendors are resellers and not necessarily producers.

Here is the only place where we found that no one spoke English at all. These are the traditional Slovenians who spend their time in the garden, not on the internet. We particularly liked this woman who specialized in beans. She had several varieties, but nothing else.

Once a week there is an antique/flea market where Jos, Emily and Lois found many of the things they used for their project. We really enjoyed browsing this seemingly endless row of stands. There were some unique pieces with reasonable prices.

One evening we came into town just as the sun was setting. All the buildings were bathed in pink light. As we were in the car, it was only my eyes, and not my camera, that could take in the sight. This was the best I could do after we had parked. It was a memorable vision.

Night life in Ljubljana is swinging, though not loud or obnoxious. Lots of restaurants on the streets were open to welcome people for a leisurely meal after a long hot day.


  1. Oh, Nancy! That was breathtaking! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I've never been to Eastern Europe, but it is on the list to visit. Looking forward to your next post. Tootles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  2. Hello Nancy, you have given me another destination to put on my 'bucket list'.
    Slovenia looks like a beautiful piece of Europe and I love the fact that it is relatively untouched by American tourism. That helps to keep it very real and that.

    So glad you are having such a lovely holiday and what better than to share it with handsome Quinn.

    I look forward to lots of vacation photos and posts.

    Enjoy the evening...Janet xox