We arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, around 15:30 from Vienna on a direct train. When we pulled into the station, we weren’t that impressed. All it appeared to have to offer was an array of slightly run down buildings, something we’ve seen in every city, only everything looked a bit dryer. A little like a poor man’s Italy. We were so wrong.
Ljubljana is like Disney Land, only it’s not cheesy or tacky. The pastel colours of the buildings, the cobbled streets and the blue river brings a certain enchantment to the city, not to mention the lack of a metro because its so small. We bumped into the people we knew repeatedly, without arranging to meet. It’s also not a massive tourist destination, which adds to it’s charm.
We settled into Alibi Hostel pretty quickly. We’re getting used to moving around and relaxing in shared accommodation. The hostel is in the perfect location in central Old Ljubljana and has a communal area where there is access to free – albeit temperamental – wifi. Having the wifi in the communal area brings fellow travellers out of their rooms to mix with each other. It’s a bed at the end of the day, but there is no kitchen area and not the cleanest and most efficient shower and toilet facilities. In fact it felt like there weren’t enough bathroom facilities for the number of guests. However, if you’re not bothered about a kitchen area, it’s really not that bad.
We showered and freshened up before heading out for something to eat.
The travelling and late nights had really taken it out of us and we were absolutely shattered. We settled for the biggest slice of pizza I’ve ever eaten and went to a bar for a drink and decent wifi. After a glass of wine or a cocktail each, we were slurring our words, but we weren’t sure whether that was due to the alcohol or the tiredness. All we wanted to do was crash and burn, but as it was 19:45, we thought that was particularly uncool. Like Venice, Ljubljana has wifi all over the city, with 60 minutes free every day. We took a seat in the main square in the famous three bridges where we were entertained by street performers. These performances are of a good quality where you are delighted to be part of the audience, not watching because you feel you have to.
By the time we made it back to the hostel, we were pyjama-ed up and ready for bed. We were sharing a dormitory with four boys (Kieran was staying in another hostel with Sían and Ryan). They must have thought they’d gotten lucky when four girls rocked up in their room, so it wasn’t our coolest moment when they asked us if we wanted to go out, offered us drugs and cigarettes and we politely declined because we were tired. So lame.
(NB: I’m writing this blog post on a 10 hour train journey from Ljubljana to Budapest. It’s incredibly long and hot as there is only intermittent air conditioning. The train has been at a standstill for about 20 minutes, and we have just witnessed an old man, around 60, walk past our cabin in a pair of glittering emerald green speedos. We’re on a train in the middle of nowhere. Speedos I tell you! It’s not pretty. Oh wait he’s just walked by again. It is so bizarre.)
The following day, we signed up to the Ljubljanan equivalent to Boris bikes. You have to apply online, and for a euro you can have access to the bikes for seven days. The first hour is free and a fee of a euro per hour after that. But we did the cheapskate option of putting it back after an hour, waiting five minutes and then getting them out again for free. We got a little lost whist riding them, taking a scary trip through a tunnel under a hill whilst on the search for the castle- thanks for the directions Clo! Turns out the castle was on top of the hill, so we ditched the bikes and walked up. It was a bit of mission. After the castle, we took out the bikes again and cycled along the river.
In the evening we went out for dinner (shared meals obviously because we’re on a budget), and met Sían, Ryan and Kieran for drinks, where we became happily drunk on €1,50 glasses of wine. Until midnight when the music cut out. It was really funny, but we headed back as we were getting up fairly early for a day trip the next day.
On Saturday, day 9 of the interrailing trip, we boarded the train up to Lake Bled. This is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The blue lake is surrounded by mountains and holds a church on a small island in the centre. It is stunning. (A shop assistant who I later got talking to back in Ljubljana informed me that the island is the only Slovenien island, including along the coastline. “And what do they do with the only island in Slovenia?,” he asked. “They build a ****ing church on it.”) You can swim anywhere in the lake, but we paid €4,50 to spend the day in a slightly enclosed area where you could lock your stuff up and sunbathe on jetties in the lake. The water was cold, refreshing and utterly wonderful. Clo and myself spent the day topping up our tans, the Harris girls spent the day burning.
Whilst there, we hired a row boat for a few hours and rowed to the island in the middle. It was a laugh but we were safe in the knowledge that whatever situation we rowed ourselves in to, Rebec’s Camp America skills would save us. You are able to access the church but for a fee, so instead we invested in an ice cream. (Before we purchased an ice cream, Rebec really fancied a pancake. She accidentally asked the lady behind the counter “do you sell craps?”. The woman spoke English.) We hopped on a train back to Ljubljana around 19:30. It was easily one of the best days of the trip so far.
There are other things to do at Lake Bled, like canyoning, skydiving, hiking, caving and mountain biking, but we simply don’t have the budget for it. It was not heaving with tourists and was mostly uncommercialised giving the lake a fresh and pure atmosphere. I would love to return to Slovenia for a week with more money. I would stay in Bled for a week of adventure and then retire to Ljubljana for some rest and relaxation time. I feel an interrailing reunion coming on already…