Ljublijana – No, I’m not sure how to pronounce that either.

I was so lucky to spend a weekend with the best company in the Republic of Slovenia, which borders Italy, Austria, Croatia and Hungary.  And although I was a bit apprehensive at first because of the sheer amount of consonants in the capital city Ljublijana –  it a totally unique charm and I dare anyone to visit and not fall in love.

Having been told it was ‘the sunny side of the Alps’, we were seeking to rid ourselves of our vitamin D deficiency and set off.  The bus journey through the alps was beautiful.

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As promised, there was a warmth to the sunshine that was thoroughly welcomed when it kissed our cheeks as we got off the 6 hour bus. It was officially that type of ‘sunglasses and scarves’ weather we all love.  As it definitely isn’t the height of the tourist season right now and Ljublijana doesn’t have the same coverage in the media etc as Rome or Paris, we were able to enjoy a really local experience. I really can only describe it as an (relatively) undiscovered gem.

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The river flows silently through the heart of the city centre and the cafes and bars alongside it could easily be in Amsterdam or Rome.

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As a country that I previously could not even point out on a map and knew even less about its history – I was fascinated with it by the end of our trip. Slovenia is the furthest east in Europe that I have ever been (despite it being slap bang in the middle of the continent).

Unfortunately the country was hit badly in the recession. Fortunately, we managed to profit from this. This mostly meant.. FOOD.  As someone who loves to cook and is just an all round greedy person, sometimes it can be a bit ridiculous and I tend to have a habit of rating a place I’ve visited on the food. For example.. ‘Hey Jen, how was Prague?’ Me: ‘Oh my goodness it was amazing.. the Goulasch soup was UNREAL! And kit kats were only 9p!’  Them: ‘Right so.. how was the city though?’ Oops.

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We enjoyed huge portions of amazing food, for so cheap.

Even though there didn’t seem to be one type of food that was particularly Slovenian due to the country being so young, it was as though Slovenia had stolen all the best foods from all the surrounding countries and made it their own.. and we really loved it. Every dish was really made with care.

The architechture is striking to say the least and the city has been described as a ‘mini Prague’. While this has some truth, the city’s medieval fairytale feel has a charm all of its own. The city looked absolutely gorgeous all day long but in particular at ‘golden hour’ when the sun cast shadows on all the enchanting artwork across the buildings. Reason number 101 to love the sun: shadows.

We were lucky enough to spend 3 days there and saw the city in it full elegance. There’s a huge student population and that’s perhaps why the city has a certain youthful feel to it.. it feels alive. Although the city has an enormous beauty, it’s actually tiny with only around 250,000 inhabitants and feels really intimate.

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Watching the sunset over the city from the Stalin Grad (castle) which is perched above the city centre.
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We felt a sort of calm looking over the red roof-tops with a mountainous backdrop.

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There’s a buzz to the atmosphere as people wander along the ancient streets. The happy chatter fills the air.  It is very beautiful.. BUT one thing I would say here is that EVERYONE smokes! I really sometimes wonder if there’s anything worse than trying to enjoy a nice day and getting a puff of smoke blown in your face. (Obviously there’s things worse.. like world starvation and the greenhouse effect but you know what I mean, why clog up city air even more?!)

We also made the trip to Lake Bled. It was a romantic setting with a romanesque castle in the middle on a little island.

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I loved visiting this beautiful country.  I felt so ignorant about the fact that I couldn’t speak the language and wished that I had learned some Slovenian before travelling even though the Slovenians had great English.  I guess since there are only 2 million Slovenians althogether, they’re probably in a rush to learn other languages.  This doesn’t excuse my lack of knowledge though!

However, I have promised myself to see more of Europe before I hop back over to the more isolated and difficult-to-travel-from UK. But I have found that, in my case in particular, sometimes we make promises like we make sandwiches. With not a lot of conviction.

The Slovenians are welcoming people and they are really proud of their country. And so they should be.

Also, if I haven’t given you reason enough to move to Slovenia.. the retirement age is 57!! 

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