The alarm clock went off at 3am and Boo and I reluctantly dragged ourselves out of our hotel beds. We had stayed at the Holiday Inn at Luton as we needed to check into the airport at 4am for our flight to Ljubljana which departed at 6am.
We had decided that this festive season we would give Slovenia a try for the Christmas Markets.
This time last year we had visited Prague and whilst we had a great time the weather was really mild and not a speck of snow was seen, and so this year we decided to go a bit further afield and hope for snow.
Flying at 6am was a bonus in many ways; it gave us almost a full day in Ljubljana at the beginning and our return to Gatwick was scheduled for 9pm on Sunday, so again a full day was on the cards.
Flying over the Alps, we could see snow and got VERY excited. We were told though that although Slovenia had had some snow, there was none on the ground in Ljubljana as it is situated in a little valley and the temperature was a little warmer there, and so it didn’t always settle. Well, that took the jam out of our donuts a little to start with.
We landed at around 0930 am and had already organised a transfer direct to the Hotel Lev based pretty much in the centre of the City.
We were greeted by a lovely lady who escorted us to a luxurious Mercedes, loaded up our baggage and settled us in for the ride. The journey took approximately 30 minutes and our driver was so helpful, advising us of places to visit, things to eat and drink and what other activities we could do!
Now of course, we were so early arriving at our Hotel, we knew that we couldn’t check in until 3pm, but we hoped they may be able to store our cabin bags so we could start exploring. Going up to the reception desk, we started to say we had a reservation and could they store the bags.
However, the extremely helpful and efficient receptionist told us she would see if she could get us into our room immediately! What great service.
Whilst we were waiting, another staff member Matevž Kanoni came to assist us and was absolutely amazing!
He marked a few places on a large map, and told us how to get to the main centre of Ljubljana. We mentioned that we would possibly want to visit Lake Bled, and he was able to give us the options for doing it all ourselves, or he could organise a tour for us.
We were given our room key and went upstairs to unpack all our belongings before heading into town. The room was lovely. Two large twin beds, TV, telephone, en-suite bathroom. The whole room was spacious and very comfortable. We unpacked all our clothes and got ready to hit the town.
Putting on our scarves, hats and gloves we walked the 10 minutes to the main Square. The sun was shining, it was pretty warm and the City was just beautiful. We wandered along the streets, looking at all the sights we could.
Slovenia has a massive “cafe culture”. Every restaurant, bar and patisserie have an outside section, with chairs, heaters and blankets/furs. People sit outside until the early hours chatting, drinking, eating and socialising. It really makes for a lovely environment.
We wandered up towards the famous Dragon Bridge (more about this later) and stopped at a restaurant called Forum. Initially we sat out in the sun, enjoying a beer. We ordered burgers for lunch, however the sun went in behind some clouds making it a little chilly, so we decamped inside to eat our food in the warm. The burger was excellent, so tasty and moist and the chips were epic. I polished the lot off and then we went for a walk to get our bearing and see what the City had to offer.
We spotted the Town Hall and Cathedral and popped inside to look.
Walking further along the River, we found a patisserie and popped inside for a spot of cake. I had a beautiful portion of cake called Geisha, and it literally was like heaven on a plate.
For those of you who know me well, would say I can handle my alcohol really well. My favourite cocktail is a Long Island Ice Tea; a combination of Gin, Vodka, Rum, Triple Sec, Tequila and topped off with sours and coke. All of that for 8 euro. Bargain.
I have had this cocktail all over the world and they are pretty similar no matter where you go.
Apart from Slovenia.
I am ashamed to say that the drink defeated me. It literally was blow your head off toxic. The alcohol was so strong, I just couldn’t drink it. In the end, I asked for another bottle of coke and split the alcohol between two glasses so it was possible to drink it!
We were booked in on a festive evening lights tour, which Boo has pre-booked on the internet. This took two hours and included a guide who told us of the history of the City and lots of interesting facts.
Our tour took us to many of the sights such as the Dragon Bridge, LoveLock Bridge, Cathedral and Town Hall.
We finished off the tour in Lolita; a gorgeous cafe with wonderful cakes.
It was time to try a few local products including a glass of mulled wine and some gingerbread. I have always loved a glass of mulled wine, but had only ever had the red one before, but tried their white variety and it was amazing! In fact it became my drink of choice for the holiday.
I took hundreds of photographs of the architecture, Christmas lights, scenery and more. It was such a picturesque place to go.
Eventually we headed back to our hotel to have some food. I was hoping to try the Slovenian platter as an introduction to the food. However, some of it had already sold out so I chose to go with a bowl of beef soup. I was warned it was quite a small portion, which was good as I was full of cake.
Clearly a Slovenian small portion is different to mine. I could barely make my way through this huge bowlful. It was super tasty though and we then headed off to bed relatively early as we had been up almost 20 hours!
Friday arrived and we knew that there was rain scheduled for all day. We dressed accordingly and armed with a brolly off we set for our next tour, which was also organised online before we travelled. We had a second chance to visit some of the places we had seen the night before, only this time in the bright daylight.
The door to the Cathedral was just wonderful. The bas relief of past popes tending to Jesus was a humbling sight.
The markets were so pretty, in little wooden cabins. Opposite one of the main sections of the market was this amazing Nativity scene, literally crafted out of straw/hay. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
One of the most popular attractions in Ljubljana is The Dragon Bridge. This is due to the fact that it has 4 dragons on it; 2 at either side. It really is a wonderful looking attraction and I was lucky enough to get a few good shots.
The LoveLock bridge, like similar ones around the World has thousands of padlocks attached all over it. My favourite part was the little bronze “frog” sculpture on the top which had locks put onto it. Strangely one of my favourite photographs of the whole holiday!
We spent two hours walking around the City before heading to the base of a funicular situated at the bottom of a massive hill. This was going to take us up to Ljubljana Castle.
Arriving at the top we exited into the courtyard where a beautiful display had been set up. As it was still pouring it down, we headed into the restaurant with a plan to have a drink and maybe some cake, before exploring for a while.
What actually happened was we sat and chatted for a good couple of hours, drinking Mulled Wine and Hot Chocolate.
Now, when you get a hot chocolate here, you get a nice milky drink, topped with cream (and marshmallows) if you are lucky. In Ljubljana that is called a hot cocoa with cream.
Hot Chocolate is just what is sounds like. Thick melted chocolate in a cup. With cream and a spoon. You literally have to spoon it up like a yoghurt. Boo loved it, but it would have been my worst nightmare!
One really cool thing about the Castle, is that underneath it, dug into the “mountain” there is a Jazz club which has live music quite frequently. I think this has to win the award for the coolest location of a jazz club!
The dragon is part of the local folklore and you can find them everywhere as you can tell in my earlier pictures. However, I couldn’t resist on having a photo in the castle which made me into a dragon. Yes, I know I am a big kid at heart!
Eventually we made our way down to the city and decided to pop back to Lolita to try out their cakes. I had a blueberry cheesecake style one and Boo went with a tropical fruit variety. Both were delicious!
That evening we had a river cruise booked and unfortunately the weather hadn’t improved. It was lovely cruising along looking at all the lights, but sadly I didn’t get many good pictures due to the rain.
I did however love the abstract look of this one!
We finished the boat tour and made our way into Pops Place a highly rated bar which served amazing burgers. As I had cake a few hours before, I wasn’t too hungry. I decided to go with one of their smaller plates, sliders and sweet potato fries which were fantastic! I had a Moscow Mule cocktail, served in a copper cup.
The fun didn’t stop there!
Mid way through our visit, the whole block suffered a power cut. It certainly didn’t stop us from socialising in the dark. Power was resumed quite quickly and the evening was thoroughly enjoyable.
We knew that Saturday was an early start as we were to visit Lake Bled/Castle Bled with a pick up at 8am.
Early bedtime for us
Watch out for the next post featuring more cake, lights, snow and more!