By Jim Ferri
Ljubljana is an amazingly beautiful and clean city. Even when you cross over the river from the old town into the “newer” part of the city you still find carless streets and walking thoroughfares, filled with people shopping, walking or sitting outdoor cafés.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Ljubljana. I went there after reading about it on a post from Abi, who authors the blog Inside the Travel Lab. Like her, I quickly became entranced with it.
It’s peaceful, clean and mesmerizing. And its architecture, which ranges from Baroque to Art Nouveau and modern, is really fascinating. On my second day there I decided to wander about the “new” town on the left bank of the river, and was surprised to find it just as fascinating as the old town on the right bank.
I crossed Prešeren Square and walked up Copova Street, heading for the National Gallery, which is only about 10 minutes away. Copova was a pedestrian zone, and had an interesting mix of shops and cafes (Slovenians love their cafes!).
The National Gallery is in a beautiful and elegant 19th-century building connected to a modern one, where you enter. The first thing you see in the lobby is the original of Robba’s Fountain of the Three Rivers of Carniola, replaced by the replica in the old town. It’s a good thing they rescued it since you can see how the weather and elements had begun to take a toll on it.
I wandered around and entered one room that was dark, with the paintings lit only by small spotlights from the ceiling, making them look as though they were all floating air. All around I found small interesting collections, but what was most spectacular was the interior of the old building itself. It’s superb.
After leaving the gallery I found the embassy of the United States in a beautiful late 19th century building right around the corner. When I stopped in front of it to read a brass plaque on the fence, which described the building and its history, a guard with a camera around his neck approached me.
Without saying a word he handed me a card with the history printed on it, obviously wanting me to move on. As I continued on down the sidewalk I looked back and saw that another guard had come out to watch where I was going.
I went across the street and turned at the next corner when I saw the Maxi center, a small upscale shopping center near a row of beautiful old buildings. In the courtyard of the buildings was the Parliament Pub, which was filled with students and adults enjoying the warm spring day.
But the real show-stopper was across the street from the Maxi. There I saw the National Assembly, Slovenia’s Parliament building, which was so non-descript I almost walked right by it. What caught my eye though, was the amazing bronze sculpture around its entrance, showing scores of intertwined figures depicting, as far as I could tell, everyday life in Slovenia.
Further along past the Maxi, I walked through a Park and onto Congress Square where I saw another beautiful old 19th century mansion, which to my surprise turned out to be the University of Ljubljana. I was standing their reading the small sign outside the building when the rain started so I jumped into a little pizzeria nearby and enjoyed a slice while waiting for the weather to clear.
Later in the day, after walking about for another few hours, I returned to Prešeren Square and found five musicians near the statue of the square’s namesake serenading those walking past. Also taking in the performance were the dozens of people who sat sipping their beers or afternoon coffees outside the nearby outdoor cafe. It seemed like the perfect ending to the day.
I know have to go back someday, this time bringing my wife with me, since you can never understand the magic of Ljubljana until you experience it for yourself. Just ask Abi.
If you go:
Tel: +386 1 24 15 434
Fax: +386 1 24 15 403
Admission: adults €7.20