Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ljubljana - A Pleasant Surprise

Never heard of it? Me neither.

Until last summer, that is. I went on a study abroad trip with my school and spent some time in the Slovenian capital.

So... I know the big question on everyone's mind is how in the heck do you pronounce Ljubljana. Well, according to, it's pronounced lyoo-BLYAH-nah. Now that you still have no idea how it's pronounced, I'll try to explain. Just pretend that the j's are y's. Then draw out the first a as an "ah" sound. Yeah, that still didn't make sense. Just go to Merriam-Webster for an audio clip:

Got it? Great. Now back to business. This city rocks. Literally. I somehow managed to find a sort of wild underground night club (disco?) with a d.j. and lots of grungy backpacker types.

 Above ground, Ljubljana is a city of contrasts. Soviet-era concrete eyesores compete with intricate and beautiful Baroque and Vienna Secession masterpieces. Not sure what I'm talking about? Here's some pictures:

View from the castle: courtyard and a mixture of buildings.

Dragon Bridge. Rumor has it he flicks his tail whenever a virgin walks by.

View through a castle window.

I filmed the short video below from the tower of the Ljubljana Castle. Sorry for the shakiness, but what can I say, I was super excited by the view!

So as you can see, Ljubljana is incredibly beautiful. But this city is so much more than that. After taking the day to explore and see the sights, my friends and I decided to see if we could uncover a different side of Ljubljana. And boy did we!

While searching for adventure, we ran into a couple of English blokes who invited us back to the hostel where they were staying. The hostel was packed with young European backpackers. Everyone sat around in the courtyard, drinking and smoking while a local band rocked out on a small stage. As we walked in, the group loudly welcomed us and invited us to partake in copious amounts of strong, Slovenian beer. These travelers, while coming from all different backgrounds, were united by a feeling of having discovered the wonderful little gem of a city that is Ljubljana.

After a couple hours, our new English friends told us they were headed to a bar that was just down the street from our hotel. We agreed to go with them and that's how we ended up in the crowded, steamy basement of a building, sweating through our clothes and dancing to house beats churned out by the d.j.

Underground, locals mixed with travelers. I managed to hear a good eight languages spoken. I was sure the feeling of camaraderie and youthful abandon that consumed the place would leak out and fill the entire city. Or maybe it was that the city was leaking in and filling the entire basement. Either way, it was a magical night in an equally magical city.

The last thing that impressed me about Ljubljana was the art. Wait! Don't stop reading! Trust me, I find art just as boring as the next person, but bear with me. The art I saw in Ljubljana was not your typical, snooty, I'm-better-than-you-because-I'm-an-artiste type stuff. It was alive and vibrant. The art was not contained in a gallery, rather the city itself was the canvas:

Street art in Ljubljana

The white design was raised, creating an interesting texture against this black, ugly side of a building.

Even the more traditional art was anything but traditional:

I found this in the castle. Don't ask me what it's about; I have no idea.

Even the anti-establishment folks contributed to the art scene:

Capitalism: F*** it.

All in all, I loved my visit to Ljubljana. I would go back in a heartbeat. Before I went, I had never even heard of this little city. It just goes to show that great things can be found in the most unexpected places.

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