You have probably heard about the small Balkan country, former Yugoslav Republic, Slovenia. Wait, you must have mistaken it with Slovakia? Allow me to clarify the confusion and break all the stereotypes by revealing you the first country's association, definitely its precious gem and the setting for many Paolo Coelho's novels. Now, either if you are alone, with your group of friends or a special loved one, let's continue our Balkan journey by stopping at its Western destination and discovering Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana. Rumor has it that it is so easy to fall in love with this city, and also fall in love there in general. So what are we waiting? Before you book your tickets for the next vacation destination, keep reading.
Ljubljana, the capital and largest city of Slovenia,has been the cultural, educational, economic, political, and administrative center of independent, former Yugoslav Republic since 1991. The city, is situated in the Ljubljana Basin in Central Slovenia, between the Alps and the Karst. The main assets and elements for its leading position are the very central geographic location within Slovenia, transport connections, concentration of industry, scientific and research institutions, as well as a rich cultural tradition. During the Middle Ages, the city was under Habsburg rule from the Middle Ages until the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the beginning of the 20th century. Back at the time, it was in fact a capital of Slavic inhabited people in the empire, due to its extremly convenient location and the closeness to Adriatic Sea and the Danube region. Habsburg Monarchy influence is definitely visible even today, in the city's architecture and small, narrow streets.
The origin of the name of Ljubljana is still within speculation, but in the Slavic language it means "to love and kiss", which is confirmed by many linguists and after all, by the lovely atmosphere of the city as well as the bridge, called Butcher's Bridge, dedicated mainly to the love locks, which also makes it a great tourist attraction, especially for couples.
What you will notice upon arrival and definitely acknowledge is that the symbol of the city is the Ljubljana Dragon, on the top of the tower of Ljubljana Castle and on the most famouns Ljubljanica river crossing Dragon Bridge, which represents power, courage, and greatness. However, if you thought there are no mythology and legeneds behind this symbol, then you are mistaken, as there are so many different stories that aim to explain the trademark of Ljubljana. Apart from the Greek legend with Jason and Argonauts, there is a popular Slavic myth, which explains that the slaying of a dragon releases the waters and ensures the fertility of the earth, as it has been commonly believed that the myth is tied to the Ljubljana Marshes, the expansive marshy area that periodically threatens Ljubljana with flooding. However, historical transcripts elaborate that the dragon was adopted from Saint George, the patron of the Ljubljana Castle chapel built in the 15th century, which represents the old ancestral paganism overcome by Christianity.
What you will certainly pop into your eyes that you will find quite lovely is that the city's architecture is a mix of styles, with huge buildings at the city's edge, and the preserved, old Ljubljana's historic center, dating back to the Roman periond and Middle Ages. In fact, in the 16th century, the city was rebuilt in the Baroque style following Italian, particularly Venetian, models, which today stands hand in hand with Habsbourg Vienna style.
What you definitely should not miss is the center square of Ljubljana, called Presren Square, dating back to 17th century, as well as the already mentioned Ljubljana Castle, with Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance architectural elements. Also, Ljubljana Cathedral or St. Nicholas's Cathedral will be so easily identifiable to you due to its green dome and twin towers. You will find it at Cyril and Methodius Square,e nearby Ljubljana Central Market and Town Hall. The nature lovers will be thrilled, as Ljubljana is rich in green areas and parks, which of the most popular ones are Tivoli City Park, the largest park in Ljubljana, designed by the French engineer Jean Blanchard and named after the Parisian Jardins de Tivoli. Also, you should not miss Ljubljana Botanical Garden, the country's oldest cultural, scientific, and educational organisation.
After all, Ljubljana offers variety of squares and bridges to be discovered, as well as the best of the local restaurants and cafes, as well as incredible festivals during the summer days.
Finally, this has been just small introduction and something to allure you to this city of love. I know for sure I have fallen in love with it. There are plenty more attractions and hidden places that Ljubljana offers, so I warmly recommend you to stay tuned as I promise to keep you updated and bring you closer all these Balkan gems.
I am Lejla, from Serbia, passionate about writing, radio and theatre. I would love to show you the hidden gems of my beloved Balkan countries.