We had hoped to walk around Lake Bled this morning, but a heavy mist hung in the air and dashed our plans….so we packed up and drove, in ever increasing rainfall, to Ljubljana….Slovenia’s capital. Even in the driving rain, Luka’s directions helped us to easily find the hotel. We checked in and, with nothing better to do on this rainy day, took a nice, long nap.
When we woke, the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing. We slipped on our shoes and, relishing in Ljubljana’s colorful architecture, walked to Prešeren Square, the heart of pulse of this delightful city.
We crossed the Ljubljanica River at the Triple Bridges (a stone bridge built in 1842 flanked by two newer bridges that were added in 1931 by Ljubljana’s own master of neo-classical architecture, Jose Plecnik) and strolled by cafes and restaurants ensconsed above the river, flowing calmly through tall banks of stone below.
After a cursory cruise through town, we stopped for dinner at Zlata Ribica….a guidebook recommendation. Dinner (mushroom soup in an adorable bread bowl, local cheeses and lunchmeats, gnocchi, mixed grill and chocolate torte) was good, but not outstanding.
The next morning, we joined a small group of English speakers for a walking tour. A young man with a great sense of humor (“You remember the Romans, the people who had so much food, they invented bulimia.”) met our small group and led us through “his” city…..from the optical illusions in Plecnik’s work to Jakov Brdar’s sculpture of Adam and Eve; from a raw milk machine in the square to bottles of pumpkin oil at the marketplace…..listening to his narrative helped bring the city to life for us. We finished our tour with panoramic views from Ljubljana Castle, high above the city.
He suggested a local restaurant for lunch, but we lost our way and ended up at a gostilna (a small inn or restaurant). Too early for lunch, we chose to sample Prekmurska Gibanica, a traditional dessert layering poppy seed, soft cheese, walnuts, apples and raisins. We were looking forward to trying this Slovenian speciality but were (once again) disappointed when we bit into a soggy, microwave-warmed concoction.
We strolled back into the heart of town, stopping for a pizza at a cafe with an interesting name. “Abecedarium” (as well as being the name of the cafe) was the name of the first book printed in Slovenian….and it’s author, Primoz Trubar was a former tenant in building that houses this restaurant.
We had enjoyed our time in Ljubljana…..like Zagreb, it reminded us of a smaller, more charming Vienna….but our trip was nearing it’s end; it was time to return to the hotel and pack up for our last destination, Samobor.
The drive to Samobor, back in Croatia, was uneventful….save for the border crossing when the guard made Craig remove his sunglasses as he scrutinized our passports.
Our hotel room at the Hotel Livadic in Samobor was more Hollywood elegance than rustic countryside….with chandeliers, mirrors, a king-sized bed and a marble bathroom, we couldn’t have been happier. Downstairs, the Livadic Cafe was in full swing….we stopped at one of their outdoor tables and tried a glass of Bermet, a local aperitif made from red wine, herbs, fruits and wormwood (the hallucinatory ingredient that caused Absinthe to be banned).
We arrived so early for dinner, we thought the restaurant wasn’t yet open. But it was….. and we were quickly seated and presented with menus. I asked the waiter if the restaurant was always this empty at this time of year. He smiled and said no….we were just early, the locals wouldn’t arrive until after 9:00 p.m.
We started with glasses of Bermet…..we enjoyed it’s herbal taste, but who knows, maybe we were becoming wormwood addicts.
With a slight chill in the air, we started with soups….mushroom for me, tomato for Craig. For our main course, we ordered the Mixed Grill….a Croatian specialty that we hadn’t yet tried. A large barbeque was fired up while platters of meats and vegetables were brought out. The end result was perfection….pork and more pork with savory grilled vegetables.
It had been a long day and we were tired. We skipped dessert and strolled back to the hotel past happy villagers just starting out for the night.
“I understand that absinthe makes the tart grow fonder” ~ Ernest Dowson