Saturday, June 4th, 2022
Distance ridden 88 kilometres
I had discovered that the decoration of our room was the result of a competition held, in 1991, when it was painted by a group of three girls in three days. According to the notice, two other rooms were also in the competition, but we did not see those.
In our, not very large (two beds and a bunk bed) room, there were naive-style trees around the bunk bed, whose crowns ended up on the ceiling. In the branches animals – such as squirrels or cats – could be seen, but there were also other animals that were harder to notice.
Above my bed, the motif was of Bled Castle with its a bright red roof and a deer romped in the castle grounds.
There were birch trees and insects above Lucie’s bed. The whole decoration was pretty wild, but it had to have taken a lot of work to paint it. Overall, we liked the hostel. It was a bit old-fashioned, but it was in a beautiful place and the staff obviously worked hard to keep it nice.
After our simple, hostel style breakfast, we packed and left our beautifully painted room and set off on a relatively short trip to Ljubljana which was only just over 80 kilometres away. In the quiet of the early morning, Lake Bohinj was shrouded with mist and eerily beautiful.
We came to Lake Bled where Bled Island (strangely, the largest island in Slovenia) was visible as was Bled Castle. The latter, quite far away on a bluff, was somehow less impressive in real life than it had been on my wall …..
As always, there was a huge traffic jam when passing through the town of Bled but, luckily, this was mainly in the other direction than which we were going. It seemed as if the whole population of Ljubljana went to Bled for the weekend.
Ljubljana welcomed us with proper Summer weather or, to be more precise, with scorching heat. Thanks to Booking.com, we were soon parked in the garage of the U Hotel (Miklošičeva cesta 3, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia), very close to the town centre. The U is a modern extension of the, more traditional, Art-NouveauGrand Hotel Union. Booking.com had really come up trumps this time. We have an “informal” limit of 100 EUR a night – and this modern, four-star hotel slipped in under that ceiling. We quickly checked in and went to relax briefly in our well-appointed and air-conditioned room.
A nice touch was a welcome message to Lucie displayed upon the tv screen when we first entered.
As ever, I was itching to explore the city and I felt we would have too little time to do it properly so, after a short siesta, we hit the streets which contained many well preserved buildings.
Ljubljana is proud of its “green” credentials and motor vehicles are banned in the centre except for early morning deliveries and trash collection. Pedestrians, bicycles and, of course, the accursed electric scooters are everywhere and care is needed, especially with the latter because they are quite speedy, totally silent and frequently driven by idiots.
Perhaps because of the likelihood of hot weather, Ljubljana has literally dozens of public water fountains. Forewarned, we had “borrowed” a glass from our hotel and sampled every one that we saw. There is even an App for your iPhone called “TapWater Ljubljana” to help you locate them.
Strangely, some fountains simply were not where it said they should be, which surprised even the nearby statues !
The whole centre of Ljubljana is more or less a promenade on either side of the rather narrow river Ljubljanica and is filled with restaurants and bars. These were all very crowded indeed, it was, after all, Saturday lunchtime. Dragons are the emblem of the City and they appeared everywhere as statues or motifs.
At the end of the promenade nearest our hotel was the famous “Triple Bridge” and the Fish Market, both of which were designed by the architect Jože Plečnik who later did some work in Prague. The cable car to the castle was just across the river. The cobbled, vehicle free promenade extended all the way down the river but, a short way beyond the somewhat unusual National Library (also designed by Plečnik),
it dwindles into more conventional riverside paths.
Both banks are connected by a number of bridges. In beautiful weather it was a nice walk and, thanks to the App, we found a fountain right at the turning around point.
The centre was charming but, to our taste way too crowded and this, coupled with thirty degree plus heat made it very tiring. We decided to wait out the worst of the heat with a second siesta in our beautifully cool room. I was a bit nervous that the castle would soon be closed for us and I insisted that we must set out to see this sight in good time. In truth, I should not have worried, the cable car runs until seven in the evening and the tour, even with a quite inventive film about the history of the castle, lasts a maximum of an hour. I expect that, during high season it would be worse with the queue for the cable car, but in both directions, we got to the first one that arrived.
Sadly, the price of 13 EUR per person for a ride of about a minute took our breath away and I thought it is no wonder that tourists consider Prague to be so cheap.
Comparing the history of Ljubljana Castle with its counterpart in Prague is a bit out of place as they are very different. According to the film, the castle has been inhabited since the Middle Ages and, at one time, it was captured by the Czech king, Přemysl Otakar II. Subsequently, it fell into disuse, then it was the local arsenal and finally a prison before being purchased for the city by an enterprising mayor called Ivan Hriba in 1905. it was then renovated in the original medieval style. Plečnik (remember him ?) devised several plans on how to rebuild it, but they bordered upon the megalomaniacal and they did not happen.
Perhaps sulkily, Plečnik then turned his focus upon Prague. He did some work upon the castle there and also designed the Kostel Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně (The Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord) in náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad. The latter is an imposing edifice for which the city has applied for UNESCO status.
Sadly, apart from an impressive view of the surroundings from its highest tower, there are not many distractions for tourists in the Ljubljana Castle. It is, however, claimed to be the social and cultural centre of Ljubljana. You can actually drive up to it and there are cafés, restaurants and even a jazz club within the precincts.
After our descent to ground level, we thought that we would sit somewhere and have something small to eat and drink. Everywhere was still very full and we were grateful when we finally found a free table near the fish market.
The guide claimed that there are fish restaurants in the area, but a plate of prosciutto, cheese and olives was the only thing the waitress offered us. However, it exactly fulfilled our expectations of a small meal, even though we had to wait what seemed like an eternity for it to appear. On the way back to the Triple Bridge, we did at least find some quite delicious ice-cream.
After yet another rest in the hotel (it was VERY hot) we set out for our evening meal. Paradoxically, despite the huge number of restaurants, we were unable to find a seat anywhere. The ones we would have preferred all had long queues and even the ones we did not want to go to were full. After more than an hour of futile looking, Lucie remembered that earlier, while we were looking for the water fountains, she had half-noticed a promising restaurant in a side street, away from the centre.
We went there and easily secured a table – and the food was great. Of course, with such unexpected good fortune, there is usually a “but” and this was no exception.
The place we chose was Restaurant Manna (Eipprova ulica 1a, 1000 Ljubljana).
The Maitre d’ spoke good English and it was obvious, from the menu that the place had considerable culinary aspirations. We arrived around half past eight and from a set menu of three or four courses of either meat or fish, we chose the four course fish option.
The problem was that at ten o’clock in the evening we were not sure whether we would be able to finish the menu by morning. At that time we had only the home made bread, the amuse-bouche and the cold appetizer behind us
and we were already wondering, a little nervously, just when our warm appetizer,
would appear. Lucie was even driven to recall a memorable dinner we once had with friends, where we arrived for dinner at seven and it was served just before midnight. To be fair, the menu did state that we should allow 75 minutes to complete the four-course menu, but in the end, it was two and a half hours.
The above sounds critical and to be honest, it is. The food, however, when it did arrive, bordered upon the sublime. It was cooked to perfection, by someone who obviously understood what they were doing and was simply delicious. The following evening, as you can read later, we were unexpectedly to experience the delights of an accredited, Michelin starred restaurant. The food in Manna was practically on a par with that – only the level of service fell short. It did seem quite “new”, so perhaps they were still ironing out processes, the waitress also seemed baffled by the delays. If they ever manage to get their act together, Manna will definitely be a place to go and eat in Ljubljana.
Much later than we expected and after a quick final drink from the nearby tap water fountain, we wended our way back through the dark, but still heaving streets to our hotel.