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Ljubljana: gateway to the Balkan
Zagreb (Croatia), December 26th 2013

Officially, little Slovenia isn’t part of the group of Balkan countries. However, most people have the feeling that Slovenia is part of this group, and that has mainly to do with the fact that Slovenia was part of former Yugoslavia. And everything what once was part of Yugoslavia, is nowadays often called the Balkan area. And to be honest, this is what we also thought before we travelled to Slovenia. And in some ways, this feeling is understandable. Because as soon as you leave familiar Austria, and you drive through the long Karawanken tunnel into Slovenia, you have the feeling of crossing the border to the eastern part of our continent.

But the Slovenians do not see themselves as Balkan people. Their focus is much more oriented to the west and they feel themselves much more connected to Austria then to Croatia, who is another neighbour of Slovenia. So, Slovenia isn’t part of the Balkan, but it is the gateway to the Balkan. And the capital city of the gateway to the Balkan is the city with the beautiful name Ljubljana. This is the place where we made our first real stop, on our way to Iran, our actual destination these months.

The old centre of Ljubljana with the Franciscan Church in the background

Ljubljana is probably not a destination that you would consider for a city trip. And to be honest, we wouldn’t either. The city is relatively small and the sights are limited. But that does not mean that Ljubljana isn’t a nice city to visit. To the contrary, if you are in the area, or if you are on the way to another destination in the south-eastern part of Europe, Ljubljana is a great place to spend a few days. The city has a very atmospheric old centre with some beautiful churches and other old buildings and the outgoing Slovenians give the city a year-round pleasant vibe. They like to socialise, preferably on an outdoor terrace, even in winter. And that’s why you see so many terraces in the city, which are seldom empty.

Ljubljanica River crosses right through the main heart of the old city

We chose not to stay in a hotel during our visit to Ljubljana, but in an apartment in a private home. This is a great way to get in touch with local people, and these apartments or rooms are often favourable priced if you compare them with a regular hotel room. The small disadvantage is that they are often in the suburbs of the city, which means that you have to take a city bus or tram into town. On the other hand does it mean that you have a safe and free place to park your car, which is very handy if you have your own wheels. It used to be very difficult to find a safe and reliable room or apartment in a private home, but these days there are very handy websites who do most of the work for you. Websites like booking.com and airbnb.com are great places to look around for a great place to stay, away from the often overpriced and impersonal hotels.

View on the old centre, seen from the castle
Preparing a meal in our apartment in Vila Ema
Ljubljana's old town is impressive
The town hall of Ljubljana
Time for a coffee at around nine degrees Celsius

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