in slovene, “ljub” is a root word that means love. which is perfectly fitting for the capital of slovenia (as the tourism slogans are branding it these days), a small city that is easy to love. it was a wonderful place to land on a first visit to slovenia. everyone is relatively friendly and helpful, speaks near perfect english, are excited about sharing the best their country with you. it’s easy to make comparisons to other cities, like prague, vienna, or even perhaps venice near the waterfront. it felt like a welcome strangeness to see famiiar slavic words written all over, but a much more mediterranean feeling to the actual city life and its people. 

upon a first walk down bustling čopova street, i knew i would like it here. we arrived about 9pm on a tuesday evening, and upon surveying our dinner options on this street near the square, it was so full of life, people, and music… even on a tuesday evening. everything was lit up: from the castle to every beautiful building and people were enjoying the warm summer evening drinking cocktails on terraces facing TV screens showing the world cup.

by day, the square and river promenades invite you to linger with an ice cream cone, dance around to a (favorite) polka busker band, and smile at the colorful architecture and interesting bridges melding with the ljubljianica river. the ambiance is thick with whimsy. i got that true giddy “i’m on holiday” feeling here i haven’t felt in a long time.

our first full day, we took a free walking tour (90 minutes) that i would highly recommend, which wound us along the river, across various bridges, through small alleys, churches, and squares, and finally toward a monastery turned theater. (below, the unique jože plečnik designed exterior of the national library, near novi trg)

there were so many fun events happening here in late june! the ljubljana festival (which began july first and goes until september) was getting ready to kick-off, and there happened to be a slovenian food festival, open-air cinema (my favorite!), and the world cup happening as well. we definitely took advantages of the cinema culture here, making a night out to kinodvor to finally see only lovers left alive, a modern day vampire flick starring tilda swinton that was fabulous. alex wanted to finally see the sound of music, which was playing one night, open-air cinema style in kongressni trg (congress square).

and of course: world cup match viewing! while we also watched in a great pizzeria and a vegan restaurant (described below), my favorite viewing experience was right on the banks of the ljubljanica near the triple bridge at a cafe that has installed a large screen tv and great sound facing the cafe goers. with a nice frosty mug of the local union beer, it was a perfect ljubljana night.

free walking tour, every day at 11am and 3pm, meeting on the steps of the pink church in prešeren square. great use of ninety minutes, and i liked their motto of “pay if you learned something”… we definitely did!
the friendly loving hut vegan chain restaurant (my go-to joint in prague) is nestled on a strip near the corner of  miklošičeva cesta opposite the train and bus stations. it makes a super handy pit-stop for necessary healthy food before or after a day of travel. believe me, i needed it… from eating carrot salads to sandwiches & pizzas, it was a great detox stop.
loved the pizzeria foculus near the student library on gregorčičeva ulica. the atmosphere and menu seemed completely american style (which for me was perfect) and the jams were great– to my delight (and alex’s disappointment) they played the loveable “mmm” song by crash test dummies, and many more along the same vein– it was like nineties night in there. loved it. 

don’t forget to try a cockta (coke-tah), the slovenian version of coca-cola. it tasted more like cream soda that coke does… delicious.

the riverside daily market, where i marveled at the heirloom tomatoes and picked up some fantastic local triglav cheese. (i’m a total cheese tourist! did not buy one other souvenir)

below, the lovely flat where we stayed (felt just like home), the view from the window, and more ljubjana spunk.

this song by icelandic group fm belfast sums up the general gestalt of this city… and it goes along with their slogan, i feel slovenia. more slovenia posts to come! for now, i’m off again to the karlovy vary film festival. i’ve learned, when you’ve got time off, take it and run with it!

happy july, my friends. feel love.