Our hostel, Hostel AVA, was situated in the centre of Ljubljana, just off the main square, Presernov Trg. It is an art institution as well as a hostel in a beautiful building but the beauty kind of stops there. We dumped our bags and wandered off down a cobblestoned street with umbrella lights and across Dragon Bridge to the food market for lunch, as we had to wait a few hours to check in. We thought it was just an open air market, but we caught a glimpse inside an adjacent building with little shops selling different food in the archways, from fresh chickens and beef/horse to dates and nuts. It also had a couple of Vinotoc’s that had quite a few patrons. It was late in the afternoon and there was still plenty of fresh produce that would have been great to cook with, except our kitchen consisted of a kettle so we made do with sharing half a mushroom baguette.
Ljubljana is a lovely city, pretty chilled out as well, with people walking or cycling along the Ljubljanica, when they aren’t sitting in café’s drinking coffee or beer. We wandered the streets for a bit before we checked in to our 8 bed dorm. Thankfully we had it all to ourselves so we spent some time catching up on our life left behind and then wandered out onto the streets. We stopped at a cool bar at the base of the funicular where we had a quick drink. Mine was a beer called Human Fish that was nice but had a slight resemblance of the beers formerly brewed at the Shovel Bar at Casa Larkin’s in Kelso. While we sat, a kid sitting with a family in the bar adjacent decided to wander over and began chatting to the waiter. We could see there was a deal being made. 2 minutes later he was in the corner cleaning the ash trays, inspecting each one in minute detail before the barman came up and gave him about 0.40€ cents. He took it and sprinted of into the distance. Before we could put on our backpacks, he returned just as quickly clasping a brand new packet of stickers. We could only imagine he would sell these at school and return a tidy profit.
We opted to walk up the hill toward the Castle, even though we new there was a funicular. We were originally going to go up to the main tower where we could get a view of the city with the Julian Alps in the background but instead, we were roped into a tour of the castle. Not just any tour, we would soon learn, but a tour that would take us back in time… We were on the Time Machine Tour! We met Romans, and French Revolutionaries, prisoners and my favourite, St George who told his story of slaying the dragon to save the mayors daughter from slaughter and riding off as he was a free knight and “what could he possibly want with a Virgin?” The tour itself was actually pretty good. The castle was very cleverly designed to stop attacks and the view was even better. It wasn’t until we walked down the trippy spiral staircase of the watch tower that we saw “St George” making out with the receptionist – our only conclusion was she must not have been a virgin…
We wandered back down to the city for a quick bite to eat before heading to bed for an early night. As our hostel was right next to the main square, which was also overlooked by the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, meant we were in earshot of the harmonious bells. We laid our head down as the bells chimed at 9pm, and then 9:15pm, and then 9:30pm, and then 9:45pm and finally 10:00pm – until 10:15pm, and then all the way through the night until 7:00am.
We woke a little weary for some reason, but had to make our way to the train station, as we needed to catch the train to visit Skocjanske Jame – massive caves that are UNESCO World heritage listed. The train was actually a bus, but we made it there on time and relaxed at the main centre until the tour started. We were split into two groups – 4 Italian speakers in one and 40 German/English speakers in the other. We started by walking down a long and dimly lit man-made tunnel before they opened the door to crazy world beneath. The first part was the quiet cave and it looked like a scene out of one of Moebius creations.
We wandered along getting deeper and deeper, past a 15 metre high Stalagmite until we reached the underground canyon of the noisy cave, noisy as it contained the river running through it. From where we stood we were standing 90 meters above the river and where at one point in 1960 had risen to during a massive flood. It had actually 40 meters higher during its largest flood. We meandered down the side of the canyon where we made our way across the narrow bridge to the other side. Unfortunately we were unable to take photos until the very end so you will have to take our word (or click this link), but it was incredible. We had to climb the step up the side of the canyon to the visitors centre where we waited in a massive lightning and thunderstorm for our bus to take us back to Ljubljana. We are lucky enough to wait in the most uninspiring train station as well!
That evening we stumbled across a restaurant, Skuhna, that Sarah had read online that was meant to be a great Vietnamese. When we arrived it was serving Egyptian meals. It was a delicious and at the end we discovered that it was a social project that only opened a month earlier and their sole purpose was to employ immigrants from around the world to share their national dishes – definitely worth visiting to see what is on the menu each day. We finished our meal and wandered along the Ljubljanica River where we stopped for one last drink in a great bar called Tozd. A Kiwi fella and a Slovenian girl owned it and they even produced their own wine, Heaps Good Wine, which was heaps good too.
It was a pretty relaxed start the following morning; we stored our bags and meandered back to the food market to grab a cheap breakfast. It was 9am and strangely the Vinotoc’s were packed with people throwing back a few glasses of wine. It was even too early for us (this time) so we left them to it and wandered off to relax by the river. We quickly rushed to a small restaurant, Hitra Zlica, for a large bowl of Ljubljana Goulash before heading down to the bus station to try and find our bus towards the next stop – Zagreb, Croatia.