Slovenia wasn’t even on my radar. No, not at all. It just kind of happened–and I’m oh so glad it did.
I had quite the trip, quite the trip indeed. A trip, I’d venture to say, most Americans would never even think of taking in their entire lifetime, let alone at age 21.
Thoughts like these help remind me how fortunate I really am; they help me realize just how powerful my adventures really are: expanding my mind and teaching me in ways no classroom ever could. And so Slovenia goes on my gratitude list (a list I keep in my journal of things I find myself grateful for; from ideas as simple as eating my favorite food to as complex as appreciating my eyes for allowing me to see the beauty all around me, my gratitude list has helped change my perspective, and for that, I am grateful too).
But anyway, okay… So… where exactly is Slovenia, you ask? It’s okay, I wasn’t too sure either.
Slovenia is nestled between Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary. All, coincidentally, places I have traveled to as well. But Slovenia was different.
I think my weekend will tell you why:
First off, all the trains look something like this:
Decorated to the nines in graffiti. And not just your ordinary spray painted letters or characters, gang signs or foul words, but beautiful drawings and pieces of art. It was strange at first, but then I began to appreciate its unique charm.
After three train rides and six hours of travel, we (my four friends and I) finally made it here…. to Slovenia’s capital:
Don’t let those clusters of consonants intimidate you. It’s pronounced: loo-blee-ah-nah. Just kind of pretend the J’s aren’t there. See? Not so bad after all.
So when we ventured out of the train station and into the town, that oh too familiar foe named exhaustion decided to pay us all a little visit. He seems to be a package deal with my best friend travel, and I’m not too happy about it. The two are inseparable lovers, for I can’t seem to get one without the other. But that’s okay, its nothing some sleep couldn’t cure.
After a well rested night, the morning began with a walk around the town.
It started at this cute little coffee shop called Lockal Bar:
Located on (stick with me here) Petkovškovo nabrežje, the cafe is quiet and quaint; it gives off this strange feeling of comfort and camaraderie that almost any traveler would appreciate.
The shop is open from 7:30-24:00.
Their warm flakey croissants are filled with fresh marmalade, while their hot chocolate is so thick, you’d think you were eating pudding. I ordered two croissants since the first was so good… but are you even surprised?
Speaking of good food, after breakfast we walked over this bridge with love locks like Paris and stumbled upon a market in the center of town.
Oh, and did I mention they have a thing for dragons here?
Here’s a little taste of the extremely local Slovenian experience:
After that lovely sales pitch, we found a jewelry vendor who was a little more my style. Not crazy, but kind.
I even bought myself a ring from him. Oh, and I got my mom a present. He made all the jewelry displayed and explained the significance behind the design/stones of the piece I picked out:
(MOM DO NOT WATCH THIS, unless you want to see your gift before I give it to you!)
After roaming around a bit more, we found this sweet, little apple man who didn’t speak much English at all:
Language barriers are tough, you can’t really go wrong with hand gestures but we were still lucky he was so sweet.
The weather was getting chillier by the minute, standing out there in the morning breeze. Lucky for us, however, the market continued inside.
Being the bakery coinossiour that I am, I was, of course, attracted to this particular section of the market.
Contrasting this young guy to the older man selling apples, it’s easy to see how globalization and English is spreading across younger generations. I appreciated his impeccable English because he helped me pick out which dessert to try.
Then we ventured to this chapel where we found this beauty...and an unexpected friend. Sitting quietly inside the chapel doors, was a calligrapher and his young daughter.
He saw us admiring the chapel’s ceiling and asked us where we were from. Answering "America" led to much discussion, and next thing I knew, he was writing down all of our names and these latin sayings that I liked to call “fortunes” for everyone in his beautiful, perfected craft.
My fortune was this:
Love conquers all, it says. Being the romantic that I am, I began to think this really was my fortune.
I talked to him to him for over an hour and got so close that he even let me do this:
It was fun to say the least.
Then we wandered around the beautiful town just a bit more.
We went up to an ancient castle, shopped, ate (of course), and eventually found our way back home, which was an apartment complex we found through airbnb. The small room with two beds, a couch, a kitchen and a shower was great for what we needed. The twist, however, was that in order to use the toilet, you had to go out of the apartment, and into the main hallway, which was shared with the owner’s mother. She was a mystery, for we only saw her head peak out from the door at times, but never any more. I was actually kind of sad, because I think it would have been fun to talk to her as well. But I guess I had met enough Slovenians for the day. And just like that Slovenia Day 1 was over, and Slovenia day 2 was about to begin.
Day 2 was overtaken by a day trip to one of Slovenia’s more famous and popular attractions: Lake Bled.
Obscure name I know, but it’s beauty can't be denied.
There was a magnificent, fantasy-like church out on the middle of an island in the lake.
At first, we just admired it from afar on the dock.
It was serene and sunny and silent. Just the birds chirping and families playing, dogs roaming around. All right, so not silent at all, but my mind was still like the water, and once again, I had yet another thing to add to my gratitude list.
Then we decided to get a closer look at the beautiful church…. and yes, this is going exactly where you think it’s going….
Yes, indeed. We took a little row boat all by ourselves. Five girls, one boat, and a whole lot of confusion. Turns out they elected me, or rather I happened to sit exactly where the “rower” sits. That means I was the entire boat's manpower. Funny thing is, however, I have never rowed a boat in my life, and other than watching the canoe scene of The Notebook about 100 times, I had no idea how to even begin rowing a boat…
I guess something went wrong in my childhood, but there I was, at 21, flustered and holding the oars the wrong way going negative miles per hour toward the itty bitty church in the distance.
We decided to switch and put others in charge. Ergo, I was fired as the rower. Oops.
Once I had my hands free, I did manage to capture a bit of the ride a little later on.
Here’s a tiny clip:
After slowly making our way to the island, we walked up old steps made of earth, all the way up to the church.
Once there, a few euros and a gift store later, we saw the church, and it was basically the same as we saw before from the dock. Not that much exciting going on in the inside, but it was a fun experience nonetheless.
It was cold, and we were paying for the boat by the hour, so we didn’t spend much time out there and made our way back to town.
After returning home, we made it out to this SUPER HIPSTER part of town.
There’s not many words to describe it, so I’ll just show you my pictures.
It’s called Metelkova Mesto, and its quite an interesting form of an “urban squat town." The location used to be an old army base filled with barracks and all.
The Guardian has this to say about the hipster town on the rise:
“Sprawled across 12,500 sq m of an abandoned army base, the self-proclaimed city has become the leading centre of underground music and art in the region. Vivid, cracked-tile mosaics adorn the walls of the complex’s galleries and studios; rusty sculptures, fashioned from broken bike frames and upturned oil drums, cover its concrete gardens. And at night thousands of students and artists congregate to revel in its streets and bars.”
And yes, we did go out here at night to experience what it would be like to be a part of the scene. It was honestly one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. People of all ages, as young as high school and as old as mid- 40s gathered in the abandoned barracks where loud music accompanied dark rooms. People were drinking and smoking, dancing and singing all around. There were clear signs stating no smoking allowed, but they didn’t seem to care. Kids were roaming from barrack to barrack, a different feel and scene in each one of seven. One was themed like an arcade, while another was simple with just music and lights a bar and a stage.
I had a bit of a weird, creepy feeling while being there. I didn’t feel like I was still in 2016 or even on planet earth to be quite honest.
With seven buildings and 12,500 m² of artistic freedom and Slovenian history, I would definitely say this site is a must-see when visiting Slovenia. Its history is actually quite cool.
So that was my night.
The next morning we had THE BEST PANCAKES EVER at this restaurant called Makalonca located right in the center of town at (stay with me again) Hribarjevo nabrežje 19 1000 Ljubljana.
What makes this restaurant special is they not only have nutella and delicious combinations of pancakes all day/night long, but they also have most of their seating outdoors overlooking the beautiful town and river.
Our last morning in the city, there was sunshine. So we took full advantage of the opportunity at hand.
I had apple crumble pancakes, and they were amazing.
And just like that, as my breakfast was coming to close, so was my trip. So with a full and happy stomach, I said goodbye to the land of the dragons (their mascot on every corner, trash can, sewer sign, window, gift shop, post card, gate opening, statue, etc.).
Until next time sLOVEnia,
your cool calligrapher, failed boat-rower, Slovenian hipster-in-training, Lauren