We had no idea how to even pronounce the name of where we were going. It is the capital of Slovenia and roughly 10% of the country’s population lives there – 200,000 people. Ljubljana is its name and now I can mumble out something which sort of sounds like how it should be said.
We took for granted that it was only a 40minute train ride from Lake Bled. It ended up being an hour on a bus and then everyone had to hop off at a train station along the way and then take the train 20 minutes into the city. It doesn’t sound that bad but when it is all being explained in Slovenian it can be a tad confusing as to where we were actually going! So far train travel in Slovenia hasn’t really been easy on us.
We arrived in Ljubljana in the early afternoon and since I was still recovering from my sudden pang of sickness we really did treat ourselves and took the bus about 15 minutes up the road to our hostel. However we didn’t have to pay for this as Morgan had met a lovely middle-aged Australian woman at our hostel in Bled who gave us her city bus card which had two rides left on it.
We arrived at our hostel in the beautiful old side of the city known as Trnovo. It was this part of the city where the Slovenian poet Preseren found his muse and where the great Slovenian architect Ple?nik lived and worked. Our hostel was superb – Confidenti Hostel. We were paying less than 40 Euros a night for a private double that was super comfy and clean. Plus the added bonus of this hostel was that they had a washing machine and powder you could use for free! Of course we took full advantage of this and had to do a couple of loads.
Our first afternoon was pretty relaxed while we investigated what we could do the next day and also where we should head to after Ljubljana. We had a supermarket dinner – pasta, pasta sauce and veggies followed up by some fresh Slovenian apples and of course a couple of bottles of the local wine.
Morgan did some fantastic research and found out that the big brewery in Ljubljana called Union opens it doors to the public on the first Tuesday of every month and what do you know – that was the exact day we were there. It was fate! So we wandered the length of the city (only 30 minutes, it’s not too big) to get to the brewery while munching on some delicious bakery snacks. We weren’t too sure what to expect. Would there be a lot of people there? Would they speak English? More importantly, as it is for any backpacker – how much would it cost??
We walked into the brewery and asked the lovely receptionist if we could visit the museum and we were told to sit down and wait a moment. A few minutes later a lovely young Slovenian girl who was to be our tour guide greeted us. How’s that our own private guide to explore the facility with and her English was fantastic!
The tour started off with a movie to learn more about the company that began in 1864 and the wide selection of products they produce from beer to water to ice-tea. We were then guided through the museum, which our guide explained thoroughly to us as all the explanations by the bits and pieces were in Slovenian. The museum was established in 1987 and is one of the largest in Europe. The museum is actually housed in the attic of the original malt-house, which you will easily notice by the two characteristic chimneys.
The museum tour was followed by a walk-through of the production facilities. Unfortunately for us, not much was going on at this time of year. However if you visit between May – September you maybe lucky enough to see the brewery in full swing. After a good look around the facility we then made it to the pinnacle of every alcohol-related tour – the tasting!
We tasted a light and dark Union beer as well as their newly popular grapefruit radler (absolutely delish!). Being backpackers, we absolutely love free stuff so we were super stoked when she also gave us bottles of their water, flavoured sports water, lemonade and ice-tea to take away with us. Not to mention she also gave us postcards to write and then sent them for us – awesome!
So two and a half hours later we finally emerged from the Union brewery with smiles plastered on our face and harboring a new love for this city that we still could hardly pronounce – Ljubljana. If anyone is interested we were told you could also call up anytime during the month to organize a tour, otherwise the first Tuesday in the month you can rock up anytime between 8am and 1pm.
At this point after a de-tour to the train station to check if we needed a reservation for our train the next day we wound our way back through the city to get something to eat. Along the way we saw the dragon bridge (Zmajski Most), the triple bridge (Tronostovje), and the Vodnikov market place that all sit along the banks of the Ljubljanica River.
Lunch was at a place called Pri Škofu very close to our hostel, which was recommended to us by the manager at our hostel – Rok. The thing about Škof is that they don’t have a menu they simply make whatever they get fresh at the market that morning so you guaranteed a super fresh meal. It’s basically the closest thing you can get to a good traditional meal other than it being made by someone’s Slovenian grandmother.
So more to the point.. What did we eat??? Morgan opted for the bacon rib stew with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Whilst I went for a lunch menu which consisted of broccoli soup followed by salad and a main consisting of a beautiful cooked chicken breast with truffle and cream sauce. Delish! I also of course had a glass of Slovenian white to aid the chicken. For dessert we were given a cream dish topped with fresh red berries (sorry I couldn’t work out exactly what kind of berries and the waitresses English was very basic). All up it was probably the best meal we have had for a long time and it only set us back 16.50 Euro. Well worth it.
The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent lazing around and planning the next part of our trip as we were overly full and could hardly move! We decided to take an early train the next morning which meant getting up at 6am in order to have time to walk to the station, grab breakie, etc.