Ljubljana On the Road

Ljubljana, Slovenia
If you have trouble distinguishing Slovenia from Slovakia and have never before heard the word Ljubljana nor have any idea how to pronounce it, don't worry, you're surely not alone. The tiny capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana is one of Europe's best kept secrets. In fact, Slovenia itself is the bigger secret, a lush and mountainous country that sits on top of the Adriatic Sea. Taking the train to Llubljana, I remember being surrounded by dome-like hills and a dense, green forest. Many of the hills were perfectly green and round, like bean-bags covered by a vast, fluffy carpet. The landscape was so inviting, I was tempted to jump off the train and dive in head first.

With hardly more than 200,000 inhabitants, you'll be suprised at the city's abundance of sites and attractions. Like many Eastern European capitals, the city is characterized by a beautiful river that runs through the center and a grandiose castle resting on a nearby hill, towering over the river. Many have compared Ljubljana to Prague for its history and beauty and the comparison is completely justified. The city hosts some famous bridges, such as the Three Bridges and Dragon Bridge, named for the symbol of Ljubljana. As you walk along the river in the summertime, you find multi-colored buildings with slightly crumbling walls, forested hills and posh villas looming in the background, lush willow trees amidst bright red flowers, and locals sipping espressos on cobble-stoned streets.

Being the most western of the Slavic countries, the city shares many characteristics with its eastern and western neighbors. Though Ljubljana stands apart from the sea, something of the climate, even something of the culture, gives you the distinct feeling that the Meditteranean is very nearby. Like its neighbor Italy, Slovenia has a distinct sense of fashion and the people take their time to enjoy the finer things of life. Because of its large university, Ljubljana has a young and vibrant energy, especially in the summertime, where every night in the city center is like a giant party.

There's something magical about this city, something pure and unspoiled. Maybe it's because it's still widely unknown to tourists. Part of me wants you to see it and another part worries about what would happen if all of us actually did.