This week the Teenager was away on a school trip—I love this about international schools!—and so we took advantage of the opportunity for a quick getaway. We didn’t want to spend too much time in the car, so we picked Ljubljana as a destination we could get to in half a day’s drive from Vienna.
It turned about to be a great choice. Kind of a mini-version of Prague, without the herds of drunken Brits on stag weekends.
Ljubljana is not a large city, and all the major sights can be covered on foot in a day or two. Apparently undamaged in WWII, and in pretty good shape for an ex-communist regional capital, the streets of the inner city are lined with Renaissance, Baroque, and Secession (Art Nouveau) architecture. The U-shaped Ljubljanica river winds throughout, its banks lined with cafés, bars and parks.
Interestingly, most of the tourists that we saw were American, and traveling as couples. (There were a couple of Japanese tour groups.) While there were a few backpackers, Ljubljana seems to be an adult destination, for the most part. So, it’s a low-key place, with focus on middle-aged married pleasures like classy restaurants and good wine. And it’s a lot cheaper than Vienna. I just loved it.
Unlike in Austria, nearly all signs, menus, and museum placards are bilingual (Slovenian/English). While I now have enough German to negotiate signage and menus here in Vienna, it really was nice to be able to fully understand museum exhibits for a change. A few days’ break from having to plan all my sentences in advance (where does the dang verb go this time?) was most welcome.
We actually understand basic Slovenian reasonably well, thanks to four years speaking Czech, but most of the Slovenians we met were charmingly polite young people with excellent English. They were some of the friendliest, most hospitable people I have encountered in Europe. I mean, they are almost as outgoing and nice as Americans and not the least bit officious. This was also a nice change!
So, in two days, we visited Ljubljana castle, the National Museum (which was not that great) the National Museum of Contemporary History (which was really interesting), walked all over the place, and ate and drank very well, indeed. The third day, we drove out to the resort town of Bled: more about that later!
Note: I have been told that my photo captions do not show up in Google Reader for some reason. If you are using Reader, you might want to click on the article title to open the full version, so that you can see the captions.