I find the best way to get to know a new place quickly is to do a walking tour.
Generally you get a really informed local who likes to meet people. Why else would you do this job? In the last few places we have visited we used Tours for Tips – a company with tours operating all over the world. Here Steve booked one in the local travel centre.
We slept well and headed out for a walk and coffee before meeting at 10am at the City Hall. Our guide – I think her name was Carmen – was a woman in her forties with a charming direct personality, who grew up here in Ljubljana. She knew a lot about the workings of the city and is an interested foodie and gave us lots of hints on the local food.
In fact, after orientation to get ourself into the cities history – we entered the city hall building to do this – we headed to a typical restaurant to taste the local sausage- a Kransky style pork sausage served with horseradish cream. This was followed by a small taste of their walnut pastry called potica. Like many of these European cities, cakes and pastries are consumed as a national pastime. No-one worries about eating too much. I’m also very keen to try their vanilla slice.
History is reflected in the food. Austria has been very obvious in the history here and you see it as you notice the cakes and pastries in the windows of the shops.
We walked along cobbled streets, past the Cathedral and it’s magnificent doors, and caught the funicular up to the castle. There has been a very clever restoration of the castle. The new blends in with the old so well. The rooms are now used as a museum, restaurant, the civic centre for weddings, and a beautiful chapel where you can sit in the quiet and take in the art and frescoes covering the ceiling and walls. A tall, rather handsome gentleman was sitting demonstrating his calligraphy art, making name plates for the visitors. I stood watching his accuracy, speed and beautiful work when he handed me a card with the words Amore vincit omnia which means ‘Loves conquers all’. So sweet of him.
We walked down one of the many paths from the castle, back towards the red roofs of the old town. Carmen told us many more little stories about this lovely city as we steadily walked down the steep cobbled streets. For a while we shaded beaneath the chestnut trees that surround the castle and as we got lower we walked in the shadows of the stone buildings.
The tour ended outside the City Hall and we bid Carmen and our fellow travellers farewell as we headed towards a restaurant I’d noticed on our walk. Julija is a well presented restaurant serving a modern menu including some of the local dishes. Steve had some veal with porcini and I had duck leg with polenta and sour cherries. Sounds Italian but was Slovenian (without the sausage!)
No dessert cake for us – we were saving ourselves for gelato. Now that is Italian, but is just as popular here. The streets after lunch are awash with the drips of gelato as people wander along licking their unusual flavours. Mine – pink grapefruit with basil – was a first and so refreshing.
We walked off lunch then headed for our apartment which is above a few cafe bars – so the afternoon was spent watching a little of the Tour d France and listening to the cafe music.
Late afternoon we headed off for our passagiata along the river before stopping for an Aperol Spritz and a beer. It is quite the aperitif hour and the cream umbrella cafes (the city declared all cafes were to have large cream umbrellas only) were crowded with a variety of people – mostly young, some families, some Asian tourists and a few oldies like us! It seems to be a toss up at this time of the evening. An alcoholic drink or a gelato?