Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia

With lots of hugs and best wishes I left the Balkan Han at 9pm for another soon-to-be derelict railway station that has been taken over by one of the ubiquitous Euro-bus companies. My night journey to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, was no worse than any other on this trip but I was getting a bit fed up of not being able to use my rail ticket and rather more concerned for the wider environmental issues this raises.

Almost all of these journeys could, until relatively recently, have been taken by train. They are still shown as available on both the Interrail and the Eurail websites and I had booked a continuous “go anywhere” ticket for this trip, hoping to use it to maximum advantage. The poorer countries of the Balkans now seem to be letting their railways fall into disuse while private, road transportation companies hoover up all the revenue and simultaneously pump out vast quantities of unnecessary toxins.

Anyway, however uncomfortably it was achieved, I got to Zagreb at 06.15h this morning and made my way straight to the railway station. Here I was surprised to find not only a helpful booking clerk who actually knew what she was talking about but a German train. The 0655h to Frankfurt, was standing ready in all its pristine glory, a smartly-dressed guard waiting to help me aboard with my luggage and, as if to underscore the division between Old and New Europe, real porcelain toilets. Mere seconds passed before I’d decided to give Zagreb a miss this time and head on to Ljubljana; perhaps in the hope of solving once and for all Slovenia/Slovakia conundrum.

Slovenia, Western outpost of the Slovenes (or Slavic peoples) turns out to be a sort of “Southern Austria” with rather less snow-capped mountains and not so many window boxes. The railway line runs along the great Sava River, revealing a lush, picturesque but sparsely populated landscape. The region is celebrated for its bio-diversity and, amongst the larger carnivores, is host to sustainable populations of lynx, wolf and bear. As laudable as this is, it perhaps goes some way to explaining why the First Lady’s former career as a glamour model was hampered by such a predatory expression in her cat-like eyes. Now, we all know that certain men love a touch of the exotic but not necessarily if it looks as if it is getting ready to tear the flesh from your bones.

I alighted in the capital but was unable to find a tourist office close to the station. Following instructions to “just walk down to the Dragon” I found myself going further away from the old part of the city and had to turn back and approach from a different direction. In no time I came to the delightful, chocolate-box faux-medieval Preseren Square with a generous helping of tourists crowded over on one side. We’d found the celebrated Triple Bridge: all three times twenty meters of it. Goodness, I’d found myself in a “pocket sized Prague” and what could make a more delicious interval between trains?

A short walk took in the Art Nouveau district, the fruit market, the Dragon Bridge and the tourist office where it costs 110 Euros for a special excursion to Melania Trump’s home village, if you are so inclined. Then it was time to take the funicular up to the bijou castle which overlooks the city in true picture postcard style. Parts of the fortification are over a thousand years old but there has been rather too much restoration for my taste. I found some quiet gardens and, using my shoulder bag of valuables for a pillow, lay back on a bench for a comfortable snooze.

The 1527h was waiting at the station to take me on to my next destination.

Categories: Europe

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