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Day 1: Ljubljana

In 2012 my sister Helen and I visited Ljubljana and Zagreb for a few days before Christmas with the intention of visiting the Christmas markets and giving me a chance to practise my Croatian. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to return in December 2013, and bring Tim along with us this time to sample the delights of white Gluehwein.  It's easy to fly to Ljubljana from Luton with Wizzair, and we managed to book return flights for the bargain price of £50. We flew out on Tuesday afternoon at the civilised hour of 4pm, and arrived in the Slovenian capital a little after 7pm. We had planned to catch the public bus which runs from the airport into the centre of Ljubljana and costs €4.10. Tim and I had caught this a few years ago when we visited Ljubljana in the summer, and although it took a rather circuitous route, stopping in numerous small villages, it did drop us off conveniently outside the main train station. As we emerged from the airport, however, and investigated the bus stop to confirm that there really would be a bus at 8pm as promised, we were approached by an enterprising taxi driver who had three spaces free in his shuttle bus. He offered to take us to the train station for €5 - a bargain compared to the normal shuttle bus price of €9 - on the grounds that it was better for him to do that than have empty seats. We gladly accepted and so arrived at our hotel earlier than we had hoped; so early, in fact, that the hotel restaurant was still open and we were able to relax with a tasty pizza. 

We were fairly tired after a day of travelling, so we had an early night and agreed to meet for breakfast at 8am the next morning to make the most of the daylight hours. The hotel had quite an extensive breakfast buffet, marred only by the fact that the coffee didn't seem to contain any actual coffee and the central heating in the entire hotel seemed to be an extrordinarily high setting. We shouldn't have complained, because we were about to become very cold indeed as we ventured out into a misty Ljubljana. Our first stop was the train station to buy tickets to Zagreb for tomorrow, and and as we made our way there we were excited to see tiny drops of snow starting to fall from the sky!

The timetable at the station confirmed that there would be a train to Zagreb at 08.25 the next morning. It was time for me to practise my Slovenian and buy us some train tickets, a process which seemed to go remarkably well; I even understood when she asked if we were travelling today and when I said no, explained that the tickets were valid for a month. Travel arrangements sorted, we headed into the main town centre and towards my favourite bridge in Ljubljana, Zmajski Most (Dragon Bridge).


The dragons are really quite scary when you look at them up close, but we spotted some cute baby dragons as well :)


We soon found ourselves in the main square, complete with enormous Christmas tree, which looked like it was going to beautiful once darkness fell and the lights were turned on. We stopped for a photo outside the pink Franciscan church, where Tim got accosted by two Slovaks who wanted their picture taken together. It seemed like a simple request but their camera was rather complicated and poor Tim had to have multiple attempts before he got one which they were happy with!


It was quite a misty day but we decided to climb up the hill towards Ljubljana castle and see what we could see. The branches of the trees looked amazing, covered in dusting of white snow.


It was a steep climb up and when we arrived at the castle, we found in shrouded in mist so that we could hardly see back down to the town. We decided not to pay €6 to climb the viewing tower, but we were able to walk around inside the courtyard and around the castle ramparts.


We could just about make out a few roofs in the town below through the trees.


We took an indirect route down from the castle, through the forest and back into the town along the river. Just outside the castle we came across this slightly frightening monument commemorating the Slovene peasant revolts.


It was only just after 11am when we reached the main city centre again, but we were feeling frozen and also pretty hungry so we decided to opt for an early lunch. After a little walking around, we found a nice restaurant which we'd eaten in last year and which seemed prepared to serve dinner before noon. Tim decided to experiment with Slovenian sausages, while Helen and I played it safe with pasta. The food was lovely, but we were a bit disappointed that the restaurant itself wasn't particularly warm! Once our meal was over, we weren't appreciably warmer than when we had started, so we took the opportunity to have our first white gluehwein of the holiday... and it was then that we made a shocking discovery: TIM DOESN'T LIKE GLÜHWEIN!!!! Not even white glühwein :(

Somewhat confused by this revelation but at least now suitably warm, we decided to go for a walk in Tivoli Park, an enormous park just outside the city centre. It looked absolutely beautiful in the snow :)


We went for quite a long walk, climbing up another steep path to a hill called Cankarjev Vrh where the Slovenian poet Cankar once lived in an inn. When we were there last year there was quite a nice view back towards Ljubljana, but today everything was hidden in the mist. We did see some more beautiful trees though :)


By the time we got back down to Ljubljana, it was not quite 3pm but we were cold through and needed to go back to the hotel to warm up. Unfortunately we had been so hot in the morning that we had all turned down the radiators in our rooms to zero, so they weren't quite as cosy as we hoped. It took the best part of an hour before we felt properly warm again, and then it was nearly time to head out into the cold again to see the the Christmas lights and markets...


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