Park Life or: A Long Slo(venian) Goodbye 28Jul08 | [NickS] 0

As a leisurely morning broke on our frankly enormous bedroom, it dawned on us that we were almost at the end of our travels.  However, the intense emotion was overpowered by another need:  hunger.  Putting our sentimentality aside, we went round the corner to a café and had a hot chocolate.  When I say ‘hot chocolate’, one normally thinks of a drink comprising chocolate, milk…generally powder-based with hot water, perhaps.  Not in Ljubljana.  We were served, quite literally, hot, thick, melted chocolate.  Yummy.  Polishing this off rather sharpish, we had a wander around the impressive colonnaded market under the shadow of the Catholic church. Another slab of watermelon later, and some  shopping for dinner (we were going to cook pasta, what else?), we dumped out bags in our room –  a luxury afforded to us by the incredible location of our accommodation.

Deciding to rent bikes after the success of our journey in Prague, we hit the nearest tourist office.  After passing over ten bikes chained up in the rack outside, we were informed that only 3 bikes were fully functional, with another two to be returned in an hour and a half.  Claiming to be ‘the only bike-rental place in Ljubljana’, the girls, reluctantly agreed to wait, choosing to pass the time by forcing themselves into the nearest H&M.  Myself and Nick Manners, choosing to immerse ourself in culture, scarpered.  We had a walk around the impressive museum buildings (they were closed, because it was a Monday) and saw the lavish university.  Wandering across the river and having an altogether nice little circuit of the city’s back streets, we settled into a table at the Abcedarium (in the oldest house in Ljubljana) for some lunch and to work on our tans.  Running late for our bike reservation, but full of salad nicoise and lamb cutlets, dumplings and ravioli, we arrived at the tourist office, where we found the information lady telling some other people about other bike agencies in Ljubljana.  Well I never.

Parting with five euros each, we were off.  Not the most structurally-sound bikes ever engineered, as mechanical undergraduate Mr. Manners could testify after Maz was lumbered with a unique tilting saddle, but two wheels was better than none, as we didn’t have an adequate spare bike.  The slicks were holding up and we had enough fuel to last the middle stint.  Aiming to get to Tivoli Park for some yoga at six (favourably advertised in the Ljubljana festival/events calendar), we cycled to the nearest bank to change various currencies we found in various nooks and crannies (except Lei! Why can’t we get rid of our Lei?) and decided to see Parliament, which, as a building, turned out to be less impressive than the Science Museum in London.  Right.

By the time we needed anotherr pit stop, we’d found a café after a particularly gruelling section through the centre of the park. With the gravel traps wreaking havok with our tires, we found a grassy patch to sit down in.  Smothering ourselves in a sun-tan top-up, the men tested the brakes and put in a few warm-up laps for the evening session.  Leading the formation out to find the yoga, a catastrophic navigational failure meant that we returned to the pits with terrible telemetry.

Cooking pasta back at the hostel, we struck up further conversation with  Guy, an Oxford hopeful, Kim, an Australian and Steve, the resident Scouse.  Well, everywhere’s got one. Kim and Steve headed off to the castle for a drink, where we were to join them later to watch Last Train to Elah (with Slovenian subtitles) on a huge screen in the castle grounds.  Guy was heading to Belgrade, and on our advice was going to book a stay in Sibiu and Sighisoara.

After two and a half hours of Tommy Lee Jones, we walked back down the hill with our two new friends in tow and finished off the night in the same café we had our ‘breakfast’.  Sadly, by this time they had worked out how to make an old-fashioned instant hot chocolate.  Powder and water – how very disappointing.  We were left with sharing anecdotes in our dorm room (did I mention it was frankly enormous?), sentimentally reflecting on our journey drawing to a close.

Making the Most of It 27Jul08 | [Maz] 0

We left Zagreb early in the morning to catch the train to Ljubljana, a mere two hour ride which passed without a hitch, allowing Gill the perfect opportunity to perfect her travelling past-time – knitting purple wrist-bands for us.  Others find it odd, we find it charming.  Anyway, the unattractive Ljubljana station was flanked by a McDonald’s, conveniently enabling us to eat both breakfast and brunch, before walking to our hostel.  Turning the corner, we found the most attractive city we’d been to, yet.  Yes, even better than Prague.  There were few people milling around, and the hostel was just in front of the quaint Dragon Bridge, with a view of the impressive castle.

We found out that we could not check in until about four, which left us with three hours to kill, so we went to the castle and had a wander up and down the river.  The array of bridges, fountains and statues added to the charm of the city, as well as the imposing Catholic churches dotted around the squares.

Returning to Most Hostel and settling in, we relaxed in our massive dorm (with its own sofa), freshened up and went to the double-recommended Sokol restaurant.  It means ‘eagle’ and was in both the guidebook and the hostelier’s recommended list of places.  The fantastically atmospheric inn-style place served up some traditional Slovenian cuisine for us, including Gill’s onion soup, served in a bread cup, and Nick Stylianou’s lovely game goulash.

We looked for a club called Global, but again, without breaking our little tradition, we found that it had been shut for two months. Then we went to bed.