Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 5 - Ljubljana

Fortunately enough, I booked two nights in Ljubljana, so that I could enjoy my bed in a (most probably) former room of a prison warden one night more. The breakfast was great, we had a buffet with eggs, cereal, juice, yogurt... It was nearly hotel-style! The coffee was disgusting though, and that in a country where good cappuccino comes to prices of 1.20 Euro or so.. In the morning, I decided to take the hike up to the 'mountain' and castle of Ljubljana. There is also a funiculaire, but why not at least pretend to be a little sporty. The view once up at the castle is gorgeous, especially from the tower, where you can see the Alps in the distance, the squares and buildings of Ljubljana laid out clearly before you and the Ljubljanica river snaking its way into the distance. The castle itself is extremely well renovated and updated with glass elevators and steel walkways, and even has a 3-D virtual tour of the city's history for just about 2 Euros. Oooh... The 'tour' was a little dizzying, but pulled together many strings of Ljubljana's history that I had vague ideas about. Like being included in various empires, being named the capital of Napoleon's Illyrian Provinces, upto the point where Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia and had to defend its decision in a 10-day mini-war. It is astonishing, how much perseverance and energy the Slovenian people had to define and re-define their country and their city.
Later, while wandering towards the PreŇ°eren Square (PreŇ°eren is the national poet of the Slovenes), there was a subtle noise that grew louder and louder until I stood in the middle of the square and of a student protest! The local student union had chosen that day to protest against what I now understand are new government reforms that would restrict students' working hours and maximum pay. The language barrier made and makes it tough to communicate with people, read their message or understand what they are concerned or worried about, though Slovenes seem to be rather multilingual.
After lunch at the hostel, I wanted to take the tour of all prison cells that were renovated, but apparently, since there were no other people interested, the guide had nixed the tour for the day. Nevertheless, the reception gave me access to the unoccupied rooms and I have to say, they are truly amazing, each in their own way. One had a round bed that was set on a second level so that there was a hang-out area underneath it, others had fireplaces or other accessories. It was interesting to see how, with the same amount of space, so many different ideas were realized. The afternoon, still with great sunny weather, I decided to enjoy the Tivoli Park at the Western border of downtown, and just read a little further and have vacations. Travelling around is soo exhausting! (I know, I know. There is some irony in there, don't worry). And in the evening, I got to enjoy some authentic Slovene cuisine and atmosphere in a really nice place in the Old Town... as in 'yes, yes, I will make you something special. Just sit down, sit down. Another beer? Oh, we bring you a little schnaps for the digestion. Do you want anything more?' I rolled back to the hostel, I was so stuffed. But oh, was it good.

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