I boarded an overnight train that would take me from Split back up to Zagreb – where I would then change for Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. As I hadn’t had the opportunity to sleep in a bed on a train – I decided that the few extra pounds was well worth it. And plus, I had my own room! It was a rather surreal experience settling down for the night in a bed on a moving vehicle. Sleep was consistently disturbed by the noisiness of the train though, which journeyed incredibly slowly across the mountainous landscape of Croatia to reach the capital. I was sad to miss out on the daytime journey – as apparently the scenery is quite stunning – however, when you’re backpacking, time is always of the essence!
A knock on my door at around 5.30am prepared me for the arrival into Zagreb, and so I emerged bleary eyed and rather sleepy on a dark platform, and had to figure out my connection to Ljubljana amongst the morning rush hour.
The train journey through Northern Croatia and Slovenia was beautiful. I reclined on my chair and watched the scenery fly by outside. Despite the rainy morning, the lush green fields, trees and mountains was mesmerising and even though I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t! Slovenia has an overall population of only 2 million, their capital city, Ljubljana is the smallest capital in Europe, at only 250,000. The Slovenes love the outdoors, and that’s not surprising when you see how vast their countryside is.
By the time I’d arrived in Ljubljana it was still pretty early. I successfully found my way to my hostel, checked in, dumped my bags and headed out for a free walking tour – one of the first things you should do when arriving in a new city.
Even through the rain, Ljubljana is a beautifully green and compact city. As is common with a lot of European cities, the castle towers high above everything – so you can see it from virtually everywhere. Our tour guide told us all about the history of the city and took us around the important sites – the main square, the dual bridges, the cathedral (which has a very interesting bronze door), the market and the University. To be honest, there isn’t much to Ljubljana, but it’s very pretty and has a relaxing atmosphere.
The Cathedral doorknob
The food market in the centre of Ljubljana is vibrant with colour and buzzing with activity. Despite the rainy day there were still people everywhere. I love the feel of a market, it’s so alive with people and culture. The tour guide had earlier told us that people of Ljubljana generally went shopping and then stopped by at the plethora of cafes and bakeries that lined the market afterward – despite the rain people were sitting outside sipping their glasses of wine and coffee after a morning of grocery shopping.
Ljubljana also has a thriving art scene – the Metelkova Mesto District is an area covered completely in graffiti and odd sculptures. Metelkova was once an army barracks and prison, and has now become renowned for being an alternative and political hang out. The buildings have been long abandoned and are decaying – the places that once produced fear and punishment are now covered in a graffiti that not only provides a political stance but professes expressions of pain, loss and hope.
Once a city suppressed in communism, Ljubljana has become a thriving and beautiful place – you simply have to walk the streets to know the pain of its past – but you can see the hope of the future.