Eurolog X: Cycling Ljubljana

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Breakfast at the hotel was quite tasty which was good because we needed to fuel up for a calorie-burning day.  Our hotel offered bicycles for rent so we booked a couple for the day.  After we ate we gathered our cameras and such and hit the road.

Or more accurately we hit the pathway, though we did end up on roads – albeit very narrow and nearly empty roads – for most of our ride.  We initially headed away from the city and followed our rudimentary pocket map until we were absolutely sure we had no idea where we were.  Out in the country passed quaint houses and expansive fields, small stands of trees and stout mountains topped with churches.  

When there was traffic it was very conscientious, giving us plenty of room on the side of the road when there was no bike path to be found.  We ended up going farther afield than we intended to, and as we were attempting to work our way back to the hotel we found ourselves instead in a dead end that proved to be a very industrial-looking city dump.  As an employee at the gate gave us directions he made small talk, asking about our intended travels around his country.  He grunted at this and that, finally telling us that we must go and find the Socha River in the country’s north-west.  In his opinion the Socha River was the most beautiful thing to see in all of Slovenia.

“The water runs the colour of a soldier’s tears,” he stated.  Duly noted.

His directions led us back to the hotel where we rested for a short while before setting out once again on our rented steeds.  This time we headed straight into the city.  We wound our cycles along the pretty bike paths to Tivoli Park, stopping to take pictures of several impressive mansions that have been converted into museums.

We stopped for lunch at Hot Horse, a popular foodstand that sells nothing but horsemeat (and fries and drinks).  They have hot dogs made out of horsemeat, horsemeat kebabs and horsemeat wraps too but of course I had the horseburger, and a beer.  It was pretty okay – it tasted kind of like a Harvey’s burger…almost suspiciously so – and it was huge; big enough to choke a horse (too soon?)!  Even with m’lady helping me with a few bites I still couldn’t finish it.  To be honest it’s not that I was full, but I eventually lost my appetite and I didn’t finish the burger (when have you ever heard me say that before?).  I ultimately found it too difficult to get past the weirdness of eating a horse  (though it’s interesting to note that it’s rather common to see horsemeat for sale in Quebec supermarkets) and just enjoy the food for what it was.  But I’m glad I tried it.

After lunch we rode through a nice park and made our way to the very nifty Dragon Bridge that serves as the central focus of the city.  We half-rode and half-walked through the busy old town, time and again passing by the restaurant where I ate my beautiful Ljubljana Cannonball.  Sigh.

We eventually parked our bikes and did a little souvenir shopping, took a bunch of pictures and happened upon a square full of international food and craft beer stands.  It was like a culinary Shakedown Street tailgate party and it was busy.  We grabbed a couple of beers and strolled through half of it, vowing to come back for dinner.

Armed with a single funicular ticket gifted to us by a cabbie we headed towards the base of Ljubljana Castle.  I purchased a second pass for the mountainside elevator and the two of us slid up the steep cliff to the front door of the grand structure.  The castle is comprised of a rather large compound with a large open square in the middle and it was stunning.  We wandered here and there before we finally found the ticket booth at the base of the tower.  

We paid our fees and walked a hundred steps up and around a steel spiral staircase, ultimately joining a handful of tourists at the top.  The views of the city from atop the highest point of a castle that is itself perched upon a mountain…well, they were just spectacular.  After a minute or two the other tourists disappeared back down the lengthy staircase leaving us alone on top of the world.  We gaped and gawked, held hands and took pictures and generally wallowed with impunity, utterly safe from surprise intrusion up there in our perch of lofty isolation as a giant Slovenian flag flapped in the crisp wind o’er our heads.

Dizzied with our milieu, when we finally descended we did so carefully.  When we reached the bottom we noticed that the info film had started.  So that’s why we had been left alone; everyone had come down to watch the film.  Now that the film had started we weren’t allowed to go in which was a-okay with us.  Instead we sat outside the little theatre gazing out the perfect turret windows and listening to the castle’s history through the closed doors.  We leaned back with a sigh, held hands, and fully appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the cozy experience all on our own.

We learned that the site had been occupied since the 1100’s, with the present castle being built in the 1400’s.  It was eventually turned into a prison – twice (but then, aren’t all castles self-imposed prisons?) – until the complex was ultimately purchased by the city and turned into a collection of museums and public places, such as it is now.

And speaking of museums, we did it all!  We went through the small and slightly creepy prison museum, I fell down some stairs in the poorly-lit modern art gallery and somehow didn’t break my leg, we visited the small but impressive chapel, but my favourite by far was their interactive puppet museum, which we had literally all to ourselves.  I put on a silly marionette show for m’lady and she put on a shadow-puppet performance for me; it’s good that we were alone ‘cuz we were laughing our heads off.  There was all kinds of things to pull, push and play with in there, and it was a whole lot of fun.  All-in-all our afternoon at the Ljubljana Castle was a great time.

With gravity on our side we shunned the funicular for the trip down and walked the very, very steep path back down to the city’s Old Town.  After witnessing first-hand what the walk up the mountainous hill would have been like we realized just how much of a bargain it was to have taken the funicular up for just 2.2 euros.

We went back to the food fair (passing my Cannonball place again on the way) and checked out every booth before we both decided on Zimbabwean food.  We found a spot in the still-crowded table area and enjoyed our dinner with a few beers.  The temperature was much warmer than the previous night and it was just a great evening to be out and about.  Obviously the hundreds of people eating, drinking and socializing around us agreed.

After dinner we meandered and stopped on one of the many canal bridges where we sat for a spell under a life-sized statue of Satan.  Who puts up a statue of Satan?!? 

We eventually retrieved our bicycles and rode again through the Old Town, this time with significantly less foot traffic we were free to concentrate on the beautiful architecture that constantly surrounded us.  We stopped in the main square and I almost went to the Illusion Museum but balked when m’lady was concerned that it would make her dizzy.  She took more pictures of the gorgeous town and finally, turning on our headlights and finding m’lady’s broken, we slowly cycled back to our hotel.  When we arrived well after nightfall one thing was certain: we had bled about as much as we could out of one day’s bike rental.

It had been a long, full day and we climbed the stairs to our room tired and happy.  The few drinks we had before bed probably weren’t necessary to help us sleep soundly but we didn’t let that stop us.

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