You know that you are approaching Ljubljana courtesy of the roadsigns, but you find no other evidence of a capital city approaching. Most cities announce themselves from afar, with tall buildings, some industry, or at the very minimum a water tower. Not Ljubljana, which I shall now refer to as the hidden city. It goes from forest to a city in an instant. One moment you are looking at trees and the next you are on the off-ramp into the center.
As you leave the motorway and drive through the city you cross nothing special. There are some clean and modern glass offices and some old grey concrete blocks of flats. It looks and feels like like most other Eastern Bloc cities. Hopefully the center will be interesting. Looking for a parking space you are unable to spy any of the pedestrian area. Doing a few loops you are amazed to find that there are no spots, which seems old on a weekend. Giving in you pull into a garage and park right next to the elevators. Why the spot is painted red you don’t understand. Another car parks next to you and asks in English why the spots are painted red. You answer that you have no idea. They decide to drive higher into the garage but you decide to risk it.
Leaving the garage you enter an empty and dark plaza. In the corner is a casino, which is the national icon of Slovenia. Walking towards the center you start to see people wearing hiking packs and other obvious tourists. On your walk you pass a little fountain decorated with many cute and fat horse statues as well as a very colorful building that would be more at home in Barcelona.
Arriving in the old town surprises you. The city opens up and a beautiful view presents itself. A large predestrian area complete with river and bridges fills your view. To your right is a church but you skip it. You cross the river and walk along beautiful shops and restaurants. In front of you rises a castle up on a cliff face. You would love to go up there but time is not permitting, so instead you roam up and down the little alleys of shops. All clean and beautiful as you have come to expect from this country.
After ducking into a few of the shops you settle down at a restuarant on the riverside and get a coffee and nachos. The river is flowing heavily due to the recent downpours. The water is not the crystal blue you hope for but for some reason the brown water doesn’t bother you. Your view upriver is fantastic and the one downsteam isn’t too shabby. After finishing your meal and watching all the well behaved dogs being walked, it is time to explore some more. Crossing to the other side of the river you stumble across a little market. Vendors are selling what would best be discribed as junk. Toys from your childhood, old books, posters, and kitchenware. You wonder to yourself if anything might be a collectible, but are there really such finds these days?
Loving this city you are sad that you have to get to the mountains in the west before nightfall to set-up your camping tent. A shame that you haven’t gotten to see more of the sights. A castle on a hill, a huge park, and even dragons on a bridge. If only you could spend a few days here, but no worries. You make a mental note to return as soon as possible.
Walking a zig-zag back to the parking garage you stumble across more shops, plazas, government buildings, and restaurants. All of it looks wonderful. Lucky Slovenians you mumble to yourself.
Arriving back at your car you are happy to find that the red spot apparantly doesn’t mean anything, as your windshield is free of any papers and the tires are free and clear. Exiting the structure and driving to the motorway you bid the hidden city farewell. You will return, given that the road signs stay up and you are able to find it again.