Ljubljana, Slovenia

Trip Taken: 2005

L-J-U-B-L-J-A-N-A. I have never heard of the country of Slovenia much less the capital of this country until I was asked to go on a trip to this country. This would be the farthest east I have gone in Europe and in an unpronounceable city. I believe it’s Lee-ewb-lee-ana. That’s how I’m going to say until somebody corrects me.

Ljubljana sits on the Ljubljanica river which is a tributary of the Danube. It is said that the Argonauts, who found the golden fleece, founded this city. That’s what is written in my guidebook. In any case, I am heading there with zero expectation.

We took an overnight sleeper train from Munich to Stuttgart. The trip was from Munich to Ljubljana. It wasn’t a Deutsche Bahn train and I still have no idea which company owns the train we were on. In any case, I was sharing the cabin with Geir and Jon, two Stuttgart interns. One from Norway and the other one from the Midwest in the USA.

Celica Hostel

Celica Hostel Lobby

Arriving in Ljubljana, we went straight to our hostel to check in. We were staying at the Celica Hostel, which was is a converted prison. The rooms still had some of the original prison bars in it. However, they made everything fairly bright and cheery with light wooden floors and paneling.

Another interesting aspect of this hostel is that is in the goth-metal area of town. I think there is a junkyard behind the hostel. On the first night, there was an interesting rave like party going on in the junkyard. People were drinking and this one Irish girl was trying to teach everyone how to do an Irish dance. A lot of people tried to follow and soon there was a big circle around the trash can fire. It was pretty fun actually.

Ljubljana Castle

The dragon motif can be the most strongly seen at Ljubljana castle. The castle is one of the first stops we took on our day here. The castle is the main attraction of the town and sits on top of a hill like many castles do.

The view of the town of Ljubljana is pretty amazing up on the castle hill. We had to take the funicular up to the top as it would have taken too long to hike up the hill. Of course, there are dragons all along the path up to the castle. The dragon is a symbol of the town. I have been told that it traces back to when Jason and the Argonauts faced the Ljubljana dragon on their way to the sea. I never read the story but I’ll believe it.

The castle itself is not very big. It was a fortification and no rulers really ever lived here. The decorations are bare and there is only one open courtyard. Today it’s mostly used for cultural events for the town or private parties.

Museums, Hiking, and Cafes

OJ at a cafe

The museums in Ljubljana are nothing to write home about so this sentence is all I’m devoting to it. But it has some really interesting hikes. The group took a short hike through the hills to see the wooded areas behind the town. The hike is pretty nice and nicely marked. At the end of the route was a little cafe where we all took a little beer break.

We broke up into smaller groups after the hike. Some of us stayed at the hostel to rest while I and some of the others went to go check out the town. The main areas in the city was centered around Dragon Bridge. It was definitely a street cafe atmosphere all along the river. This is what I imagine Venice to be like if it was smaller and not in Italy. The small group I was in had some nice pizza at a restaurant overlooking the river.

On our last night in Ljubljana, we went back to Dragon Bridge to find something to do. There was a cool little bar that was right up against the river. We sat there and drank a little bit before I decided to pack things up. The rest of the group stayed in the city to find something else to do. On my way back to the hostel there were some people having fun on the bridge. Several people were jumping off the bridge. Maybe that’s what the Argonauts did to escape the dragon.

The Orient Express

The expected arrival time back in Stuttgart was supposed to be early Sunday evening. Arriving in early evening on Sunday didn’t happen. There was an expected twist to all of this that would lead us to riding the famed Orient Express. If I remember correctly, the Orient Express starts from Istanbul and runs all the way to Paris.

Midnight Orient Express to Paris

All of us were sitting on our train and we have been on it for several hours. We were already in Austria and were just passing the time before we arrived at the German-Austrian border. The train slowed down at a small town in Austria and I just thought it was a routine stop. Unfortunately for us, the conductors soon told everyone to get off the train. This was going to be its last stop. We didn’t know what to do. Our organizer, Michael, couldn’t get anything out of the conductors so he went to the ticket office at this town. Apparently, train delays just piled up and they needed to reroute this train for different journey. We waited for about half an hour before we found a route back to Stuttgart. We had to take a train to Salzburg and that train wasn’t coming anytime soon.

We waited at this station for about two hours before we got a train to Salzburg. By the time we got to Salzburg it was already pretty late and none of us had eatedn dinner. So we dined on the international fast food of the weary traveler, McDonald’s. Yes, it’s pathetic but that’s what was available. We waited and waited and waited. It was approaching midnight and we find out that our train to Stuttgart is the fabled Orient Express. I thought to myself how neat and it made what was a terrible day into a somewhat more bearable one.

It wasn’t exactly an Agatha Christie novel like I had imagined. It was just a regular train with chairs that reclined a little farther back than usual. There were lace curtains though, but by this time I didn’t care and just fell asleep. We arrived in Stuttgart around 5am and I just put down my bags in my room. I had work in an hour. The trip to Slovenia was fun and it definitely had an interesting twist at the end.

Parting Words

After reading more about Slovenia, two destinations that really intrigued me were Lake Bled and Skocjan Cave. Lake Bled just seems as picturesque as Lake Como in Italy. Probably cheaper too. As far as the Skocjan Cave, the remoteness and the desricption of its large chamber with a small bridge crossing a deep chasm got to me.  The description makes it seem like the Mines of Moria from the first Lord of the Ring movie.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site too.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.