The Republic of Slovenia in southern Central Europe is bordered by Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and the Adriatic Sea. History records it as being part of the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, Austria-Hungary, the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (named the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929) between the world wars, and the SFR of Yugoslavia from 1945 until achieving independence in 1991.
Since then, Slovenia has flourished and is a wonderful alternative to much of Europe's crowds and high prices. The country is rich in resources, has natural beauty and is very peaceful.
Many of Slovenia's cities and towns bear the imprint of the Habsburg Empire and the Venetian Republic. In the Julian Alps you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Bavaria. The unique Karst region, the Adriatic coast, the mountains, the hilly wine-growing regions, the spas, and many historic towns are all within a two-hour drive of Ljubljana, the capital city.
Ljubljana is dynamic and its geographical location has governed an interesting past. It is on a natural passage leading from Central Europe to the Mediterranean and towards the east. Trade routes and waves of migration have passed through it for centuries.
Legend says Ljubljana was founded by the Greek mythological hero Jason and his Argonauts. After stealing the Golden Fleece from King Aetes they fled across the Black Sea and up the Danube, Sava and Ljubljanica Rivers. They stopped at a large lake, the dwelling place of a monster, now known as the Ljubljana Dragon which has prominence on the city's coat-of-arms.
From its beginnings, Ljubljana's culture and lifestyle have been influenced by trends in Europe, with Central European and Mediterranean spirit are evident in its residents' temperament. First-time visitors are surprised and delighted by the tranquil but bubbling city. It has much greenery and its centre has parks and forests. Culture is an important part of life and many theatres, museums and galleries satisfy those needs.
Ljubljana's Old Town is shadowed by a medieval castle, Renaissance and Baroque façades, ornamented portals and uneven roofs. Remnants of its communist decades are now rather out of place on the other side of the Ljubljanica River. Old and new are linked by bridges which are a feature of the little city.
The Central Market is between the Triple and Dragon Bridges. Its rows of stalls sell crisp and colourful fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs, arts and crafts and are tended by friendly vendors. There is a wide and varied array of food, including delicacies such as the Karst prosciutto and the potica cake.
When it was decided to connect the market with the Triple Bridge, Joe Plecnik, the architect, built a flower shop resembling the temples of classical antiquity next to the bridge and added a roofed colonnade connecting the original market.
The elongated and gently curving white pavilion has a collection of eating places and a fish market. It is adjacent to two squares, Pogarcarjev Trg and Vodnikov Trg, perfect for experiencing the city's daily life.
The thought of erecting a funicular in Ljubljana first popped up at the end of the 19th century. At last they have one, and it carries passengers to Ljubljana Castle, the city's most spectacular sight. There is evidence that its hill top site was inhabited in the 12th century BC.
With the exception of the outer walls of the Chapel of St George which was consecrated in 1489, all buildings of the present castle were built or rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries. Until 1814 it served as a garrison and later a prison. The Outlook Tower was built in 1848 for cannons acting as warnings and announcing important visitors and events. Views from the castle are the best in town.
The funky and brightly painted Hostel Celica was once a prison. Cells have been made into twenty comfortable dormitories and rooms with bathroom. The restaurant and terrace are pleasant places to eat and meet other travellers, and the bar is the place to socialise until midnight. The hostel's location is fantastic and much exploring can be done on foot.
Ljubljana Card is a privilege tourist card just for those who want to get to know the city. It offers free bus transport, free or discounted entry to galleries, museums and events, lower prices for accommodation, meals, sightseeing tours and souvenirs, discounts on taxi fares and car rentals and shopping discounts. It is valid for three days and can be purchased online before you leave home.
For hikers and climbers, September is an excellent time to visit and most of the summer crowds have gone home. December to March is for skiers. July and August see hotel rates rise and loads of tourists, especially on the coast.
The capital city of Slovenia.
Central Market is closed on Sundays and holidays. It is open between 6am and 6pm and in winter closes at 4pm.
The Ljubljana Castle is open between 9am and 10pm in summer and 10am and 9pm in winter. Tours cost around $10. Funicular rides are around $5.
Intrepid Travel has eight-day Slovenia and Croatia tours. Accommodation, most meals and all transport are included. Prices start at around $2285 per person twin share.
Ljubljana Card is about $20 and can be purchased right across the city.
Emirates has flights to Venice. Ljubljana is a three-hour drive away.
Valid for travel between February 1-21, 2008 and October 4-31, 2008. Valid for sale between October 1-December 18, 2007.
For more information
Ph: 386 1 300 1200
Hostel Celica Ljubljana
Metelkova ulica 8,
Ph: 386 1 230 97 00
Fax: 386 1 230 97 12
Grajska planota 1
Ph: 386 1 232 99 94
Ph: 1300 364 512
Ph: 1300 303 777
Travellers should be in date for standard Australia and New Zealand immunisation schedules. Depending on the time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information visit www.we..togo.com.au
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