Monday, July 25, 2011

Part 6

Wednesday, July 13

We started the day by having breakfast in the apartment.

Then, we wandered through the market and picked up some fruit and vegetables for the next few days. On our way back to the apartment, we stopped at the local grocery store to get some bread, meat and cheese. Now, we're all set for the next few day's breakfasts and lunches.

We dropped our food back at the apartment and then made our way across the river to the foot of the path leading up to Ljubljana's castle.

Along the way, we stopped in at our local neighbourhood "Goth" shop. We had a very enjoyable conversation with the owner about Slovenia, Croatia, recent history, the post-war diaspora, Slayer and Metalkamp; he was a very well-spoken young man. In listening to him, I get the impression that many of the younger generation are ready to put the past in the past and move forward.

We continued our wanders and headed up to Ljubljana castle. There is a funicular that runs from the base up to the castle, but why ride when you can walk. Our guidebook mentions two trails up, we (of course) chose the steeper one. And when I say steep, I mean *STEEP*! Not quite steep enough for a ladder, but nearly so. It was one of the steepest trails that I've ever walked on. The good part though: it was all (but for a couple of short sections) in the shade.

The views from the top are spectacular. It was a bit hazy - from the heat - but i have no doubt that we could have seen all the way to Mt. Triglav (tree-glau). We wandered around the castle exploring the nooks and crannies. In the centre of the castle's courtyard was a stage and chairs set up as part of the Ljubljana Summer Festival. We found a small Gothic-style chapel and an old armoury that was hosting a modern art exhibition.

After exploring the castle, we headed back down using a different part of the trail that was not quite as steep. Once we got to the bottom, we headed back to the apartment to have a bit of lunch.

One of the things I really like about staying in rental apartments is the option you get to just go back and prepare your own meals. A well-situated apartment is like a small oasis in the middle of the desert. When I'd booked this apartment I was a bit apprehensive; from the photos, it looked like a much newer building when compared to the parts of the city centre we were interested in seeing. It turns out that the building was right on the edge of the historical centre. In the end, we had all the conveniences of a modern place, with all the proximity of an old place. It was the best of both worlds.

The old part of Ljubljana is pretty compact. The river moves in a looping arc around the hill upon which the castle sits. On the "castle" side of the river (at the base of the hill) is the market area and two pedestrian-only streets that run more or less parallel to the river. The street closest to the river is lined on one side with cafès and bars; the other side is the wall of the river with cafè tables. The street parallel to this is home to shops, a couple of restaurants and City Hall. And everywhere, vendors selling (and strollers enjoying) "sladoled" (ice cream).

The other side of the rover is more of the same. Cafès and restaurants on the street bordering the river; shops along the streets running parallel. Then whole area is pedestrian-only; although there seems to be some peculiar Slovenian preoccupation with riding bicycles (and occasionally mopeds) through these crowded streets. Not that they were moving very quickly. But we had to keep our eyes open and got into the habit of always looking around before moving from the centre of the street to any shop windows that caught our eye.

We've had our bags back now for two days and Marg has come to the realization that she brought too many things. Helen leaves on Sunday, so we hatched a plan to buy another bag, load it with the excess (along with any of the souvenirs that we buy here) and send it back to Canada with her. During our wanders we kept our eyes open for something suitable.

But the biggest attraction was the street scene. The night before, we'd picked our way through the riverside cafè scene. It wasn't quite as busy during the afternoon, but many of the cafès had quite a few people sitting, enjoying the afternoon. People watching people; that seemed to be what the afternoon was all about. And at the street corners and in the small squares were buskers. All in all, a pretty laid-back, fun kind of place.

We wandered through this street scene for a few hours and towards the end of the afternoon, headed back to the apartment for a bit of a rest and to get cleaned up for supper.

Our neighbourhood seems to be more of a " local" scene than the central (old) part of downtown. Just near the door to the building is a small coffee shop called "The Prince of Orange". and just down from there is a place advertising tapas. We thought we'd try the tapas place, but when we got there, the owner - a Frenchman - said that he and his Spanish partner had not yet received the appropriate authorizations to serve food. However, his bar was open.

We finally settled on a spot a block up from the river ... on the east side, right near the city hall. Supper was very good. Margaret and I shared a chicken wing and potato mixture that had been wrapped in a flaky pastry and baked in a hollowed-out piece of wood. My description does not do it justice.

After supper, we strolled through the old city. Once again, the weather is nearly perfect; the evening was warm, the sky cloudless and the streets filled with people enjoying the city in the evening. We stopped for a short while to listen to a one-man band busk at the eastern end of the Triple Bridge. And looking back as we crossed to the western side of the river we could see the castle on the hill. It was lit from the front by spotlights, and from behind by the rising full moon. The bridge, the street, the castle turret and the moon all in near-perfect alignment. I took some pictures, but ...

We left the core of the old city and wandered back to our "neighbourhood"; when we were out earlier, we'd noticed that one of the restaurants in our area was serving a chocolate/orange cake for dessert. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, they were in the process of closing. In the end, we settled for sladoled instead.

Once again, I expect to be asleep before my head hits the pillow.

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