Familiarity is Good

Ljubljana (14 – 17 May 2013)

As the plane started its descent into Ljubljana Airport, I looked out of the plane window and decided that I liked Slovenia already. The area surrounding the airport was so green. It looked like Slovenia had done a fantastic job keeping its forests. I love places with lots of green.

I took an airport shuttle into the city. It was a nice ride because I had the company of 2 local ladies on the same shuttle who spoke to me about the city and gave me some pointers on what to do and where to go. In fact these two ladies were on the same flight from Belgrade and one of them while we were on the bus from the plane to the airport had told me that she thought my tee shirt was cool. I must say that I had not expected to find such friendly and sociable people in Slovenia. That was a very pleasant surprise and a wonderful welcome for me.

My hotel, Macek Rooms, was in the old city, and I discovered that it was just above a bar. It got noisy at night till midnight but surprisingly I did not feel like it was a very big deal. The accommodations had a somewhat hostel feel to it but I got a large modern and really comfortable ensuite room. I was also very grateful that they had waived the cost of the previous night’s booking which I had to cancel because of my flight issues.

As I started walking around old Ljubljana, everything started feeling really familiar. I was in the middle of pretty and colourful old European buildings in warm sunny weather and feeling rather smug about myself. I have been travelling to Europe so often since 2006 that I felt right at home in old pretty Ljubljana. Although I had come on this trip for new experiences, it was still nice to be able to feel that sort of familiarity for a while. It was also a nice change from Belgrade as the parts of that city I had managed to see were really quite depressing.

Ljubljana is really more a big town than a city. It is definitely not like London, Paris or Belgrade. It is a place that does not make a person feel like he is drowning in people, buildings and traffic. There is a certain relaxed feel to it, and the city does not try too hard to impress. It is not a frantic city.

Ljubljana street

Ljubljana Town Hall

University of Ljubljana

The Ljubljana Dragon on Dragon Bridge

My first stop was Ljubljana Castle, which seems to me to be the main attraction, though not the best, of the city.

View of Ljubljana Castle from Congress Square

Castle courtyard

There is a permanent exhibition in the castle on Slovenian history from prehistory to independence and a video presentation on the history of the castle itself. The castle makes for a pleasant half-day visit.

What I liked best however was the view of the city from the castle.

View of Ljubljana from the castle

The interior of the Baroque Ljubljana Cathedral was surprisingly pretty. I have to say that I was not expecting very much based on the exterior of the building. So it was a good thing that I had decided to go in for a look.

Ljubljana Cathedral

Cathedral interior

Ljubljana Door (side door of Cathedral installed in 1996)

One must-visit place in Ljubljana, in my opinion, is the National Museum of Slovenia. The museum houses many artifacts of historical value and is absolutely interesting. They even have a Neanderthal flute in there. If this is true (Wikipedia does not seem so certain about it unlike the museum), this particular one will be the oldest known musical instrument. I wonder what music from that period sounds like.

Neanderthal flute (found near Cerkno in northwestern Slovenia)

It was also fascinating to me that the flute was made from the femur of a cave bear. This bear species has been extinct for some 27,500 years. So this particular artefact is associated with 2 different extinct species.

Speaking of extinct species, the ancient Roman city of Emona was located within present day Ljubljana. Remains from this part of Slovenian history are also exhibited in the National Museum. The Citizen of Emona is a bronze statue created during Roman times. There is a replica of the statue in the archaeological site in the city. The original statue is in the National Museum.

Citizen of Emona

Conveniently in the same building as the National Museum is the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. This museum houses an almost complete skeleton of a woolly mammoth and uses the skeleton as its symbol.

Skeleton of woolly mammoth (found in Nevlje in north-central Slovenia)

Another interesting sight in Ljubljana is the main portal of the National Assembly Building. The portal is covered with sculptures of naked people doing various mundane things, just getting on with life.

Main portal of National Assembly Building

Yes, there are naked people on the main entrance of the very building housing the legislature of the land. Yes, their bits were all there for everyone to look at. If someone had suggested doing the same thing in Singapore, certain groups of people would have condemned that someone to hell. Singaporeans are funny that way. They think that they have the power to decide who goes to hell. I wonder if they shower fully clothed.

Ursuline Church of the Holy Trinity with the Holy Trinity Column in front

At the market on Friday morning

Crossing the Triple Bridge on the Ljubljanica (only 2 bridges in the picture)

A view over the roofs

Ljubljana street

I was definitely charmed by this city. It was not a very exciting city and neither did it really intrigue me very much. However, I felt comfortable there and it still gave me sufficient city vibes to satisfy that city soul of mine. It was a place to just be in and allow one’s heart rate to go down. I am quite sure that my heart benefited from my time there.

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