Love at First Sight in Ljubljana

If the historic centre of Zagreb is like Duloc from Shrek, then Ljubljana is yet another Fairytale Capital city. In an area of the world where most people expect to find dull grey communist style buildings left over from the days of the Iron Curtain; Slovenia shows that not all is what it seems.

Looking across the Triple Bridge to Ljubljana's main square

With a hilltop castle, a pretty pink church in the main square and dragons adorning bridges you'd be forgiven for thinking you were on some sort of movie set. I'd read about Slovenia so much in the year running up to my actual visit that, in spite of being told to believe it's hype, I just couldn't bring myself to fully believe it could be as utterly stunning as I was proved it was.

So small that the city didn't even require an orientation. We started on the Triple Bridge and headed up to the castle to look over this city. The castle itself can be seen all around the city. It was built in the 15th Century to protect against a Turkish invasion and has had many roles through its history including military hospital, arsenal and even being used as prison. More recently, back in the 1950's the castle was used to house the poor as no one lived there and before this it had started to crumble. Since it's renovation the castle has been used for weddings and cultural events. It is free to wander the courtyards but the museum requires you to purchase a ticket.

Ljubljana Castle's inner courtyard

Photo's taken, we started to wander down the hill, it was pretty early in the day but it was our only chance for a lunch stop before getting to our destination for the next couple of days so we went with the Mandatory Mushroom Soup. It was easily the most delicious mushroom soup I've ever eaten, served in a bread bowl (which can taste pretty dingy after the soup has gone) it has chunks of mushrooms in and tasted like heaven.

Delicious mushroom soup 
Having taken our time meandering around the castle and back down into the city, I was running out of time to fit in the last thing I desperately wanted to see; The Dragon Bridge. Walking along the picturesque street alone after lunch, I moved quickly but took in the details of the gorgeous city. Unlike any other capital I'd been to, it was seriously gorgeous. I walked along the side of the Ljubljanica river in the sunshine passing first the Butcher's Bridge, connecting Ljubljana market with the other side of the river. On this bridge, like many other places in Europe, are love locks. As well as those there are statues of all kinds of strange creatures including one of Prometheus disembowelled for giving his knowledge of fire to mankind.

Finally I made it down to the Dragon Bridge, I was the only person wandering around the bridge in the middle of a summer's day in July. It was a reminder that this gorgeous city isn't on everyone's list, that Slovenia is still relatively undiscovered by your average traveller. The bridge is colloquially known as the "Mother in law" bridge (can't imagine why). Originally the bridge had been named for Franz Josef I, but with the four dragons on each corner, the name soon changed. The Dragon is a popular motif of Ljubljana and can even be found on the city's coat of arms. It is believed that, when Jason (as in Jason and the Argonauts) had stolen a golden fleece from the King of Colchis on the Black Sea, they used the Danube to escape, entirely by accident. However being pursued for their crime they had no way back, so were forced to continue their path which took them to the River Ljubljanica, where they had to stop. They took the boat apart and carried it on their shoulder's to the Adriatic where they continued their journey. On their arrival in Ljubljana, the Argonauts came across a large lake where a terrible marsh Dragon lived, which after a heroic struggle Jason killed. It is said that Jason should have been the first citizen of Ljubljana.

Dragon Bridge, Ljubljana

Walking back towards the main square to re-join my group, I couldn't help but believe that perhaps all the hype surrounding Slovenia was entirely justified....

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  1. Slovenia is so close to Romania and still I never visited it while living in Europe. Now I'll have to cross the Atlantic to get there, but it seems worth it. Very enticing post and nice pictures.

    1. I hope to get to Romania next year, all being well!


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