When I learned that I would get a day off on July4th as an American National holiday (Independence Day), I got my traveling gears together (as in my ticket, maps, itineraries, and passport). I couldn’t wait to get back on the train. The previous weekend I had to cancel my trip last-minute due to my sprained ankle. But I was determined to get better soon to continue my journey. So here I was back at the train station on the night of July 3rd. Oh, how I missed these moments! This time since I had to return back on time to work on Thursday morning, I decided to go somewhere close…..SLOVENIA!!
I already missed that night’s direct train, so I took a train that passed through Salzburg. Hence my 7th train trip on July 4th’s itinerary went like this: midnight at Salzburg, morning in Ljubljana, afternoon in Maribor, and evening in Graz. (And since each location deserves a story, I will divide this trip story into three: Ljubljana, Maribor, and Graz).
“So what does Slovenia offer? Is it worth a visit?” This is a question that many travelers ask when they pass by Slovenia. While Slovenia is small, travelers pass by or consider passing by it because it is accessible from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Serbia. I was also hoping to visit some cities in Eastern Europe, but most areas were hard to reach via train, even from Vienna. Slovenia was one of the few places that I could try. Plus, whenever I read individual stories online and Slovenia’s official tourist sites, the reoccurring impression I got from both sources was that Slovenia is a small, clean, green, and cute country. I was curious how true these impressions were. (In fact, Slovenian’s official tourist websites are not only useful but also very convincing! I admit that I was convinced by their well presented introduction of its country. So if one plans to travel here, I suggest he/she have a look.)
Now having made that trip, I agree that their impressions were not wrong. In fact, my top three impressions for Slovenia is the friendly people, the greenness in nature, and the small home village feeling. And this is why…..
When I woke up during the train ride, I could tell that I was in Slovenia because the greenness was somehow different from the one’s in Austria. It was more petite style, more home-like…more mountains..
When I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, it was 6am on Wednesday, July 4th. The sun was already up, and there were some people on the streets but not many. I tried to find where the city center was with the map I printed out earlier…and Wala!! I think I arrived where I hoped to reach.
Ljubljana was small indeed, for I quickly found the city center. Once you hit this main area, you can see why people say it is cute. It is small, but it is cute. The morning streets were still quite and slow since it was still early, but you could tell that it was well-kept. I read that one could get an amazing view of the city if one walks up the hill/mountain in the middle of the city, so I decided to do a morning walk up there first.
And, oh boy, that was a good decision indeed!! For while the morning streets were quiet, there were many people at the hill doing their morning walks, jogs, and dog walks. It seemed like every other person was walking their dog. Plus, the higher and higher I walked up, the better and better the view of the city was. And the city view was magnificent!
Every step I took forward towards the castle at the top of the hill, the more dazzled I became by the glimpse of the city view I was able to see between the forest. Plus, seeing so many local people enjoying their morning made me feel like I was part of this town already instead of being a visitor. And this was just the beginning..
While my stay in Ljubljana was short, I meet at least three locals who were eager to tell me of their love and pride of their city and country. The first local I meet was a freelance journalist that I meet near this castle who recommended me the best local coffee and must visit places in the city. The second local I meet was the shop owner who explained the four major different kinds of art crafts specialized in Slovenia. The third local I meet was in the old book store who explained me the history of Slovenia and its bookshop. All of these conversations were in English, so yes, there were many who spoke good English. Plus, the more questions I asked, the more eager they were to sit down and explain, which I was grateful for. Because of their personal stories and enthusiasm to their heritage, my visit to Ljubljana felt more warm and home-like. Already within few hours, I kept bumping into the same people I saw few minutes ago – and that is how you can tell how small the city is. In fact, one admitted that the small village like aspect is one of the reason why she loves being Slovenian living in Ljubljana.
The tourist office people were super helpful too. Even though it is a small city, there are at least four different tourist office shops with at least two or more people who are ready to help tourist. There is also free English walking tour that starts at the middle of the city. (But just because there are tourist shops doesn’t it mean it is super touristy which is the beauty of this city. It still feels like an actual place where people live, which is the great part of Ljubljana.
If I had to suggest others who are visiting here what they should do, my list would be as followed: (a) go check out the general touristy areas, they are all relatively close, (b) sit down at a cafe and enjoy a meal or a coffee and relax, and (c) strike a conversation with a local who is willing to tell you why they love Ljubljana as it is. I’m sure your day in Ljubljana would be wonderful.
Presented below are some photos I took during my day at Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Now..part 2 to Maribor, Slovenia!