Ljubljana

Ah, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Pronounced “Loob-Lee-Ah-nah,” or “Loob-lee-ah-no” depending on where you’re from, I guess.

The place I’ve been trying to get to (and saying I’d get to) for the past weeks.

Finally.

And wow, did you live up to the hype.

So here’s what you need to know: I’ve heard high marks all around for Ljubljana. I didn’t quite want to get my hopes up, in case they’d be dashed by a disappointing city that I didn’t end up liking.

And wow, the city was PHENOMENAL. Definitely next to Berlin on the coolest cities in my opinion.

This is a shorter blog post, relatively, because to be honest, we didn’t really do all that much in Ljubljana. Lot of wandering around and eating. It’s just a beautiful city – truly breathtaking – with fantastic people. I don’t think I stopped smiling for the entire weekend.

Getting there? Not so great.

So I went to Ljubljana with Mattie, who I’d traveled to Vienna and Prague with. Mattie and I left on Friday morning to get to Salzburg Süd, where we would catch a bus to Ljubljana. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong.

We got to the bus station and couldn’t find our bus. We even got there early to give us extra time in case something happened. I ended up spotting a guy taking money (for tickets), and they were definitely NOT speaking German, so I assumed, “Hey, maybe this is the guy I have to give my ticket to!”

So I went up (and I’m pretty proud of myself for this to be honest) and spoke ONLY in German to him (despite him not speaking German a minute prior) regarding our tickets. Our bus schedule, tickets, bus provider, company, who to go to, etc. He said he was with Eurolines, not GoEuro (which is who my ticket was through), but he said our bus was probably a little bit delayed. Despite not even being with the company that I needed help and information from, he did his best to try to sort things out. A really nice, very helpful guy. He helped me try to find my provider, but couldn’t figure it out (our ticket didn’t have ANY information about this, nor did the representative when we called, but we ended up going on Croatia Buses – cannot UNRECOMMEND this enough, you’ll see why). Eventually, he came back and recommended that I call GoEuro (our bus was around 45 minutes late – so we thought we’d just missed it entirely). It was really exciting because I handled all of the interaction with the guy in German, and I knew EXACTLY what was going on! At the end of it, when he heard me speaking in English on the phone with GoEuro and with Mattie, he smiled at me, acknowledged that I spoke English, gave me a thumbs up and said “Sehr gutes Deutsch!” (“Very good German!”). Really, really helpful guy and TOTALLY alleviated the stress that I was going through trying to figure out what was going on with our bus.

So anyways, I called GoEuro, and they said they didn’t know what was going on. But as I was on the phone with them, the Croatia Buses arrived; I wasn’t even sure that the Croatia Buses was our bus (again, there was no information to lead to that conclusion, on the ticket, on the phone, or whatever). So we flagged down the bus driver – he was just flying through the parking lot, and I asked him if the bus was going to Ljubljana, which he replied yes.

So Mattie and I got on the bus. It was fairly empty, really gross, and reeked of urine. Keep in mind – we were not sure AT ALL if this was actually the bus we needed to be on. But I figured, “if the bus goes to Croatia, we can just take a bus from there to Ljubljana.”

So once we were on the bus, I’m not even sure that the people working (the driver and his assistant/ticket person) knew that we were on the right bus. The ticket person took our tickets and scrutinized them for like 20 minutes – Mattie and I were SURE we were getting kicked off at some point. However, it ended up with him giving our tickets back, questioning our trip (he was looking at the wrong side, which said “Ljubljana -> Salzburg” instead of the opposite way around), but we eventually did get it back and we realized we were on the right bus.

Also, something to note: neither the driver nor the assistant spoke any English or German, nor did we speak Croat(?) or Slovenian(?) – I’m not even sure which one they spoke, if we’re being honest.

However, we drove for a couple of hours, without any issues, but when we finally got to Ljubljana, there were multiple exits that we could have taken – different areas of Ljubljana. But we passed every single one of them. I checked my map, and we were well outside of Ljubljana.

So I went to the front, and “excuse me’d” myself, then pointed at the ticket saying “Ljubljana” as the destination, and was angrily waved off by the driver. I thought I totally made a fool of myself and angered the bus driver, but turns out I was in the right, because the other passengers (Croats or Slovenes – not sure which, but they spoke their language and one of the ladies spoke English) came up and started yelling at the driver and the assistant because we passed Ljubljana. The elderly lady who spoke English came up to Mattie and I and very politely asked if we were going to Ljubljana, then proceeded to yell at the driver about passing by Ljubljana. As she walked away, I’m pretty sure she muttered in English (so we could hear) about him being incompetent. So eventually, the bus driver turned around and begrudgingly took us to what was actually supposed to be our destination. When we got into Ljubljana, we weren’t sure if the bus was at our stop, because the nice lady who had yelled at the bus driver wasn’t getting off (she said she was going to Ljubljana, so we assumed we weren’t at the right Ljubljana station) but she smiled and reaffirmed that we were at the right stop, wished us farewell, and told us to enjoy our stay. Definitely brought our moods up from the stressful trip out to Ljubljana.

Anyways, let’s get a tally of Croatia Buses’ mistakes: they were 45 minutes to an hour late, almost didn’t pick us up from our bus stop, absolutely disgusting, passed our destination… nothing can go wrong past that, right?

Also wrong. But that’s on the return trip, so I’ll get back to that later.

ALAS, after a long day of travel and language barriers and pretty much unending stress, we made it to Ljubljana!

And it was SO worth it. The city is just phenomenal.

We checked in, then dropped our stuff off, then headed out to go check out the city before sundown. Didn’t get a lot of pictures, unfortunately, of the sunset. But it was gorgeous. We ended up finding a place that served gluten-free pizza – called FoculuS, if you’re ever in Ljubljana – so we ate that (delicious, and cheap!). We wandered through a park and through the famous Old Town as well. So we actually arrived in Ljubljana on their Prešeren Day, which is their cultural celebration day – so a lot of stores and whatnot were closed, so we couldn’t really do much other than find a restaurant to eat at. We ended up finding this really cool bar called Captain’s Cabin, but we didn’t stay for long. But the atmosphere was pretty cool – it was an underground cozy little place and the people were all very nice.

Mattie imitating a statue

The next morning, we headed out fairly early to just check out the city. We had no plans and nowhere to be, so we just wandered around aimlessly for hours.

So Ljubljana. I really can’t state it enough, but the town is like a fairy-tale town. It’s like it’s out of a dream. It’s phenomenally beautiful, and the people are SO friendly. As we were walking, this lady was just handing out balloons to people on the street. People were playing music (accordions, tubas, etc.), and spiritual musicians were walking down the street and laughing and enjoying each others’ company. The balloon lady gave the musicians some balloons and they all hugged – literally nothing in this city felt real. It felt too good to be true. A lady handed out cookies to passerby (delicious, by the way). A rollerskating spiritual dude came up and talked to me for awhile about his spiritual master and George Harrison, who was apparently one of the most well-known followers of this spirituality. He was a really nice, friendly guy who genuinely just wanted to spread his faith, which I respected. He even gave me a book about it! He talked to me about California and Salzburg and my own faith and stuff. And the cool part was he was genuinely interested in it! Like he actually attentively listened to what I had to say, and commented on it.

So we wandered around – we saw the famous Ljubljana triple bridge, the Dragon Bridge, checked out a farmer’s market, and headed around the little nooks and cranny alleyways of the city. We got gelato at a place called Cacao (REALLY good), and I got Nutella and cheesecake pancakes at a place called Puffy’s – WOW, it was delicious.

In the afternoon, we checked out more of the city and wandered around some more:

We weren’t really sure of what to do – Ljubljana is beautiful, but it’s small, and we planned on hiking up to the castle on Sunday, so we headed to this art district called Metelkova or something like that. It’s a really interesting place: it was a Slovenian military base during the Yugoslav Wars (and when Slovenia fought against the Yugoslav People’s Army) and it’s been illegally occupied/squatted since 1993. It has its own political parties, laws, and social system, and it’s all located in this tiny little military base – it’s its own autonomous space, and the city authorities don’t like it, but they tolerate it. For a while, they didn’t even have running water because authorities controlled it, but now they have the same water as the rest of Ljubljana (which, for Eastern Europe, is incredibly safe – there are free drinking fountains all over the city and one of the city’s “proud highlights” is just how safe its water is. For water, it’s quite tasty, actually.). We didn’t get to see Metelkova at night, but there are a lot of grungy underground clubs and stuff like that. Apparently it’s quite a sight to see.

After that, we just basically wandered around Ljubljana some more, then ended up eating more glutenous and gluten-free pizza at a restaurant a little way down the river, called Trta. It was ABSOLUTELY PHENOMENAL (also cheap – most things there are, which is fantastic) – I had prosciutto, mozzarella, zucchini, and basil pesto pizza, which was probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. If you’re in Ljubljana, Trta is fantastic. (And the atmosphere is very cozy!)

On a side note, because I don’t know where else to include it, but something you need to know about Ljubljana, and something that I think makes it so special, is that it’s like a combination of Vienna, Prague, and Venice, but practically no tourists. Turns out, the architect that designed many of the buildings in Prague and Vienna designed much of Ljubljana – and he modeled the city off of the ideal Ancient Athenian city. And it shows – the architecture, the spacing, the colors, EVERYTHING is just beautiful. Everything just feels right in this city – it’s hard to explain. I really fell in love with this city, and I am sure I will return in spring, because there are more beautiful places surrounding Ljubljana, like Lake Bled, Piran, Lipica, Kranjska Gora, Maribor, Bohinj, Postojna, and Ptuj, which I didn’t get to explore.

And I cannot wait.

Out of all of the cities I’ve visited, Ljubljana was the one I fell for the hardest – I cannot emphasize how much you need to visit. It’s truly one of a kind.

On Sunday morning, we just walked around for a while after our check-out, then got food. Mattie fed fries to some birds, and I got a pretty funny video from it:

“I AM THE BIRD LADY”

The amount to which I love this city made leaving that much harder.

And leaving was pretty hard, not necessarily because of the fact that I missed the city before we even left, but BECAUSE OF CROATIA BUSES.

So our bus (because Croatia Buses is apparently too good for that) didn’t show up on the Departures board at the bus stop. We didn’t know it would be with Croatia Buses, but we had an inkling that it was. No worries, I’d ask an information person, right? The people in Ljubljana practically jump at the opportunity to speak English, which was pretty nice. The guy at the counter was very helpful, and he told us exactly where to go.

So we got there. And we waited.
And waited.

And finally, well past when our bus was supposed to come, a Croatia Buses bus came! And it turns out it was going in the opposite direction – not towards Salzburg/Munich, but towards Zagreb. The bus driver was quite rude and dismissive, so we waited even longer for our already-late bus. I talked to the information guy again, and he said our bus should have already gotten there and left. He recommended I talk to the traffic controller, so I did, and he was also puzzled about our bus, but said that it should be arriving shortly.

When it finally did arrive, we got on – it was yet another gross, cramped bus, and there was practically no room. Despite already being late, we got delayed at border control – they took all of our passports off the bus! – and ended up getting further delayed. However, the assistant this time spoke just a little bit of English, and he was significantly nicer than the assistant on the bus TO Ljubljana. He actually wanted to help us and make sure we understood what was going on timing-wise with rest stops and whatnot. He definitely made me hate Croatia Buses less, but it still didn’t make up for the delays and passing Ljubljana on the first trip. But it did cut down on my hatred for them slightly.

However, to anyone who reads this and wants to visit Ljubljana – JUST GO WITH FLIXBUS OR A TRAIN. It’s slightly more expensive but it will lead to a much more enjoyable, comfortable travel experience, and one filled with less stress/dread than mine was. And it’s not just our luck – apparently this is quite common for them, according to my friends who have gone to Croatia with Croatia Buses.

Despite Croatia Buses’ inability to be on time or give literally any information to the passengers (minus the nice assistant on the way to Salzburg!), it definitely did not put a damper on the mood of this weekend. Ljubljana is a dreamy, idyllic little town that I can not recommend visiting enough. I am sure I will be back and I cannot WAIT. I legitimately want to learn Slovenian and live out there – it’s so quaint and charming and just whimsical. If a city has the capability to emit love, Ljubljana is that city. It really did, in an odd way, make me feel very welcome. The city and the weekend just made me feel truly, genuinely glad to be alive. The whole city had an aura of carefree, loving happiness and it just oozed out of every single nook and cranny. The city emanates culture and weirdness and a quirky attitude and LOVE. It’s an indescribably beautiful thing. The food is cheap and delicious, the city is beautiful, and the people are just absolutely wonderful and incredibly warm and welcoming. The city is pretty much out of a dream. Seriously, visit it.

Anyways, that’s all for this trip. I’m not sure if I’ll be travelling next weekend – maybe a day trip somewhere – but then I have Spring Tour to Italy and Greece!

The song is “You” by Good Morning!

Mit Liebe aus Ljubljana/Z ljubeznijo iz Ljubljane/With love from Ljubljana,

Cal

SONG:

“Or So He Sphinx” by The Speed of Sound in Seawater. They’re a local Sacramento band, and they got back together after 5 years to perform!

PHRASE:

Hvala! = Danke! = Thanks!


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