Ljubljana was a wonderful surprise as I arrived with no expectations or prior knowledge.
This city has a very cosy communal feel flowing through it, I felt very much at home here. It’s evident from walking through the city centre that the residents are very proud of their recent European Green Capital award for 2016, an exhibition inside the Town Hall showed me how Ljubljana has changed from making the inner city area pedestrianised. This process began in 2008 taking years to complete, it must have been havoc trying to get traffic around the fiddly bends and narrow bridges of the city centre.
The famous Triple Bridge was once the only bridge connecting one side of the Ljubljanica river with the other, and therefore essential for residents. However when vehicles were introduced they realised there wasn’t enough room so in 1932 the two side bridges were added as pedestrian crossings to ease the traffic flow. The bridge was designed by Plečnik, as were many other parts of Ljubljana. This is one part of the newly pedestrianised zone that really appears to have benefitted from the change, turning what was a busy road into a pleasant central square area. As a direct result of cutting out cars from the centre car the local air quality has improved and black carbon emissions are down by 70% and haven’t raised elsewhere. I’m certainly impressed.
There are also fun little details that add to the feeling of an environmentally friendly city, such as the ‘Moo-machine’ which is essentially a vending machine of sorts for fresh milk. You bring your own container along with you and for €1 per litre it can be refilled with fresh raw cow milk. This seems like a fantastic way to reduce waste by reusing bottles and supporting local farmers; it even comes straight from a local dairy farm.
Further adding to the community feeling is the Open Kitchen food market taking place every Friday from March to October, about 30 local restaurants and chefs congregate to promote and cook their food in the city centre. I imagine for the local people this would be the kind of place where you can bump into everyone you know and eat and drink into the night. It’s open late too and the drinks were flowing. Of course the food was amazing and the choices plentiful; I had lunch and dinner there in one day. Make sure your trip to Ljubljana falls on a Friday.
Ljubljana’s Tivoli park is a sight to be seen, stretching out to 5km² there is plenty of space for all of the city’s residents to enjoy. I stumbled upon an outdoor photography exhibition near the main entrance, all photos were by National Geographic Photographers of National Parks. Along one side was Triglav National Park and the other was America’s various National Parks, it was great to see these two countries contrasted in this way. A local told me that this is a permanent exhibition space which I think is a wonderful idea, a great way to get art out to the general public.
Slovenia also boasts some fantastic landscapes, head just about an hour north of Ljubljana to find a not-so-hidden gem called Lake Bled, on the edge of the Triglav National Park. This will become your happy place for ever more, I hold the best memories from this whirlwind stopover than from any other location. With views like this how could you possibly have a bad time here. For all these reasons and more, take a trip to Slovenia.