We managed to get out of bed in time for our lackadaisically-planned return visit to the city walls of Piran, so we did it. We laid there for a while dreading such a steep early morning climb up the hill but in reality it wasn’t so bad, and as a reward the guy in the ticket booth let us in for free when m’lady showed him yesterday’s ticket stubs and explained that we just wanted to get some pictures from the tower in the morning light.
It was worth it. With the city laid out the way it is the pictures came out much more vibrant under the glean of sunrise than they had during twilight.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed another breakfast overlooking the sea and checked out. A short stroll away we opted to wait for a free tourist bus that dropped us a few hundred metres down the road at the actual bus stop.
After about forty minutes (during which m’lady received a burning evil eye when the gelato lady came to open her shop for the day and found a cute little tourist and her luggage standing in front of the side door to her gelato stand, a move that definitely cost her her first sale of the day) we got on the bus to Slovenia’s capitol city, Ljubljana (roughly pronounced “Lubbly-Anna”). When we started off the bus was almost empty. We stopped here and there and took on a few more passengers but after stopping for a group of students the bus packed out, standing room only. Full or not, the scenery outside the bus was absolutely lovely as pleasant landscapes dotted with red-roofed houses slid by. Slovenia sure is beautiful.
In Ljubljana we got off the bus and piled our bags on the sidewalk. As we were flagging a cab a guy approached us looking to bum some change, the only time that would happen on the whole trip. Our taxi driver was super-friendly and even gave us a pass for the city funicular that a previous passenger had left in his cab. He surprised us by asking, “So, you will be visiting Ljubljana for just one night before vacationing in Croatia?” and we surprised him right back by telling him no, we were excited to be spending the remainder of our vacation exploring his beautiful country. He smiled broadly and thanked us generously before grossly overcharging us for the ride to our hotel (17.5 euros + tip; I’ll never understand tipping).
The hotel was nice, very eco-friendly with hallway lights on motion sensors and the room electricity running only when you slid your key into the appropriate slot. They even had a power adaptor available for us so I was able to power up and I immediately sent an email apologizing to Marej for semi-standing him up on his offer to show us Piran the day before. After we settled in we had the desk clerk call us another cab and we rode back in to the city centre (for 3.5 euros; this is when we discovered our first cabby’s lack of scruples).
My goodness, downtown Ljubljana is so very, very nice. Like, amazing.
The entire downtown core is pedestrian-only with wide, winding cobbled streets running over and around a canal rich with ornate bridges. There are lots of cool statues and architecture anywhere you look and people are out in droves having a good time everywhere. And all of it is overlooked by the stunning Ljubljana Castle perched high up on a hill overlooking the city.
It was all so very beautiful. I can’t even…
We stopped at one of countless restaurants and though the temperature was dropping we opted to sit at one of the tables outside on the sidewalk. Cyclists whizzed by and pedestrians carried bags from the shops as we sipped beers and casually pored over the menu. I had all but decided on the goulash when m’lady asked the waiter, “What is this thing called a ‘Ljubljana Cannonball’?”
When the waiter explained that a Ljubljana Cannonball was a deep fried ball of crumbled chicken stuffed with bacon, peanuts, and a local cheese called kajmak and held his hands in front of him like he was holding a small bowling ball, well I just had to change my order. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing and survived to tell you about it but it was so good I just couldn’t let even a crumb escape my gulliver, even if it meant barely touching the also-amazing roasted potatoes.
(I just searched google hoping to find a photo of a Ljubljana Cannonball and discovered that it was the signature dish at Mediterraneo, so now I know the name of the restaurant. Unfortunately I also learned that Meditarraneo has since been shuttered, and that the Ljubljana Cannonball is no more. No photos exist of the astounding entrée but I will cherish the memory forever.)
Add in a generous sheep cheese starter and way too much bread (of course…curses to good bread before a great meal) and by the time the bill came I could barely move, though I was quite chilly by then so I had to. We followed dinner with more walking through the pretty streets and when it came time to get a taxi back to our hotel I was still so full that I suggested we walk the two or three kilometres back instead – anything to work off some of that wonderful food that was seriously stretching my stomach lining. Thank ye gawds I somehow had the good sense to leave some of the potatoes. Having good sense and not eating all my potatoes are not generally in my nature.
And what a pleasant, relaxing walk it was too. We zig-zagged a straight-shot along the main drag that brought us past scores of nifty statues and engaging architecture which, combined with the beer, food, and wine rocked us pretty hard. Despite the walk I was still too stuffed for a nightcap when we got back.
But I suppose that’s what I get for eating an entire bacon-stuffed chicken cheese cannonball. With nuts.