19.05.15 – 22.05.15
We actually caught a train from Budapest to Ljubljana, which was a nice change. We’ve favoured buses so much because usually they’re so much cheaper, even though they take a little bit of extra time. It doesn’t matter to us though, as we’re only short on cash, not time. The train ride was enjoyable as well, and even though there were quite a lot of stops along the way, the scenery remained just as green and lush throughout. Buses and trains are definitely a good way to see more of a country, you get to stop in all sorts of out of the way towns and cities, places you wouldn’t normally see if you just caught budget airlines everywhere. It’s hard to believe Ljubljana is a capital city, it sort of feels like some sort of quaint village in many ways. There’s only about 250 000 people living here for a start, plus everything in the city centre is generally in walking distance, the most you might walk is 15 min to get to somewhere right on the other side of town –otherwise it’s a super compact city. No need for metros here. We’ve checked into Hostel Tresor for a few nights. It’s a massive improvement from the Budapest Bubble in terms of cleanliness and facilities. In a way it’s unfair to compare them though, as Bubble only had 18 beds whereas Tresor must have at least 100. Although it is impeccably clean, with comfy beds and modern bathrooms, there isn’t much of a social atmosphere. Nonetheless, sometimes you just need a spacious room with a comfy bed. Interestingly, Hostel Tresor actually used to be a bank, and you can see hints of this throughout, and is why every room is named after a different currency. We’re in the Swiss Franc room. It might be the closest to Switzerland we get. Slovenia is definitely a budget traveller’s haven, up there with Budapest, except in euros. Our first meal was at a local small restaurant called Pri Skofu, where we got a three-course lunch menu for only 8 euros! It was good food too, although we both weren’t big fans of the desert –I think the ricotta cake was a bit of an acquired taste. Daniel compared it to scrambled eggs gone wrong, but when you’re paying 22 euros for three dishes each, plus a half a litre of beer each, you can’t be complaining really. Dining along the river is a must do, although I’d still recommend Pri Skofu, it’s barely 10 minutes out of the main centre but you feel like you’re a local, dining at this endearing little Slovenian eatery. As far as main tourist attractions go, Ljubljana won’t take up too much of your time. There’s honestly not a whole lot to do here, but for us this was a nice change. We so often feel guilty if we sleep in too late, or don’t cram our days full of ‘stuff’, but we’re already starting to burn out, lacking energy because we’ve been so busy for nearly every day for the past two months. Like I said, Ljubljana is a nice change for us, because it’s got such a relaxed vibe; the small number of residents, the fresh air, plus the endless shops, cafes, restaurants and bars lining the river all mean that you walk around Ljubljana always at a slower pace. You don’t feel the need to rush anywhere, because everything is only ever 5-10 minutes away from you! Something that I wasn’t really expecting is the whole incredible landscape of Slovenia, it’s amazing. The train ride in, and exploring the city and surrounds, it reminds me of a driving holiday we did three years ago through the south island of New Zealand. Lush forests and greenery go for days and days, even covering the mountains; which imagine during the wintertime are white with snow and the trees buried underneath. I’m excited to head to Lake Bled soon and see how the landscape changes and becomes more rugged as we explore more of this quiet country. Our bus to Bologna leaves at 5am, so for our last night we moved hostels –from Tresor in the heart of Ljubljana to Hostel Celica, in the alternative area of Metelkova –which is only a five-or-so minute from the bus and train station. We were excited to be staying at Celica, the building is a former jail, turned art gallery, turned hostel. Many of the cells have actually been simply transformed into private rooms, one of which will be our room for the night. As expected, the room is small, and three quarters of the room is taken up by the huge bed going from one side of the room to the other! A small luxury for a couple who have been spending most of their time in bunk beds. So the room is interesting, and so is the building –especially the entrance and ground floor- but aside from this, it’s an alright hostel. I say ‘alright’ mainly because the bathrooms were quite average, maybe Celica is trying to give us an authentic jail-house experience by leaving the bathrooms so derelict? Metelkova is also an interesting area to be staying in, it’s a 10-15 minute walk from the city centre, and you do feel as if you’ve entered another world when you arrive here. It’s grungy, gritty, buildings formerly squats covered in anything as tame as graffiti but then as creepy as some Gollum-esque looking statues. I don’t think I took one photo here, because I didn’t want to seem like some lame tourist in the eyes of the young locals peering down at you as you cross the estate. I’m sure they probably wouldn’t have cared if I’d taken photos, and I’m positive they weren’t peering; but still, better to be safe than sorry when it comes to not pissing off the Metelkova locals. For our last ‘lunch special’ we find ourselves at Druga Violina, another small place just one or two streets back from the river, nestled in a tiny piazza. The restaurant also had a winning lunch menu; we both got a dish for around 4-5euros each. For me, I tried the Goulash soup (much, much heavier than the Hungarian version), while Daniel opted for a Slovenian meatballs and mash. Both plates were delicious, good for the budget traveller as they would ensure we wouldn’t be hungry again until dinner! As an added bonus, turns out Druga Violina is also a project intended to help Slovenians with disabilities. This means most of their produce is sourced from a local farmland, with workers who would sometimes struggle to find work, and as well as many of their waitstaff –all people who have some kind of disability. It just further exemplifies that having a disability shouldn’t mean you have any less opportunities than those who don’t, that really, we are all one in the same. Our time in Ljubljana was short but very sweet. It cemented for us that big cities are great, but over time they do become tiresome and sometimes exhausting. Ljubljana just proves that you don’t need tonnes of historical monuments and a big ‘to do’ list for tourists, usually friendly people, cheap beer and stunning scenery will do it. For us it’s always enough. Also, for some amazing ice cream head to Vigo’s. That’s all I’ll say on that. Now we were meant to be going on to Lake Bled, but the weather forecast is not on our side, so we’ve decided to change plans and head to Bologna instead. We’ll spend a week there, staying with my old exchange family from over eight years ago.