Ljubljana, once Emona, now the European Green Capital 2016

2016 is going to be an exciting year for Slovenia, as it celebrates 25 years of independence, and also particularly for Ljubljana as it has been chosen as the 2016 European Green Capital.

Two thousand years ago a Roman city, named Emona, stood on the site of present day Ljubljana. During the past two years there have been many celebrations taking place to mark the anniversary, such as this parade in late autumn which began in Congress Square (Kongresni trg) and continued through the streets of the capital, crossing the Ljubljanica river. There were plenty of strapping men dressed in clothing from Roman times, parading their finest weapons and armoury and generally looking ‘mean and menacing’!

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The Emona parade through the streets of Ljubljana (Oct 2015)

These days, there are still many different sights and places to visit around Ljubljana which bear witness to the city’s past. The best place to start is at the City Museum, where you can get a guide and take a self-guided tour (or upon prior arrangement a guided tour) of the Emona Roman Trail of Ljubljana. The circular trail takes you past finds from Roman Emona, which, in its entirety, measured a mere 524 x 435 metres and was believed to have had around 500 inhabitants. Amongst the sights are two archaeological parks, a Roman wall, the former town gate and one of the most beautiful finds from the antiquity, the statue of an Emonan.

Ljubljana was chosen as the European Green Capital 2016 by the European Commission for ‘its raising environmental awareness amongst its citizens, its sustainability strategy ‘Vision 2025’, its implementation of a range of urban green measures over the past decade and its impressive transportation network’. Amongst others, the city boasts 542 square metres of green space per resident, use of, and ease of access to, environmentally-friendly public transportquality drinking water, participation in the ‘zerowaste’ programme, good air quality and sustainable tourism.

As an introduction to Green Ljubljana the Water Exhibition, at the aforementioned City Museum, is a good place to start. In fact, even better since the entrance ticket to the exhibition also entitles you to entrance to the Emona Roman Trail.

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Part of the ‘Water’ exhibition at the Ljubljana City Museum

There will be various events and initiatives taking place throughout the year, too many to mention here individually, so the best thing is to keep an eye on the Green Ljubljana website for all the latest news and event information – http://www.greenljubljana.com/ and also the Visit Ljubljana website – https://www.visitljubljana.com/

The official opening event will take place in front of Ljubljana’s Town Hall on Monday 11th January at 5pm and is open to all.

Personally, I’m not much of a city-type, however, Ljubljana, fortunately, is not like other big sprawling cities and it’s easy to find peace and greenery. My favourite place in the capital is the expansive Tivoli Park, where you can easily lose yourself for hours among its forested paths. A particularly popular part of the park is the 391m-high Rožnik hill, accessible from numerous directions, where there is a church and where large crowds gather for Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve celebrations. On the southern side of the hill is Ljubljana Zoo, whilst Ljubljana’s Botanic Gardens, though small, offer an oasis of calm.

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When in Ljubljana I also enjoy a stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica river, where there is almost always something going on, or a walk up to Ljubljana Castle. Staying with the green theme, the Bicike(LJ) fleet of bike sharing bikes can be used for getting around the city, which is very bike-friendly, and Ljubljana’s main thoroughfare – Slovenska cesta – has recently been pedestrianised.

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A view of Ljubljana Castle from the riverbank (photo: D. Wedam)

Ljubljana’s other great asset is that just a few kilometres from the city you can be in the surrounding countryside and within less than half-an-hour can be hiking or skiing in the mountains, visiting caves in the Karst area or exploring the Ljubljana Marshes Nature Park.

The Polhov hills lie just beyond Ljubljana’s suburbs and offer many hiking paths. I sometime hike in this area in the late-autumn/winter, when there is snow in the higher mountains. Below you can see me on the peak of Grmada (898m), though not the highest – that is Tošč (1021m) – on a clear day it offers the most wonderful far-reaching views and is certainly more than worth the effort to get there. You can read more about my hikes there in previous blogs such as this one – http://wp.me/p3005k-93

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On top of Grmada in the Polhov hills

There are also number trails in and around Ljubljana including the Ostroverhar Trail, which starts in the village of Podgrad near Ljubljana and leads over Kašelj hill up to the ruins of two medieval castles, previously part of the Osterberg property and home to the Ostrovrhar knights. You can read more about it in this previous post –  https://wordpress.com/post/44329338/128/

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So, why not make 2016 a year to discover Green Ljubljana! I’m looking forward to it too.

A very Happy New Year to one and all!

© AdeleinSlovenia 2016

Reflections & New Year in Slovenia

If someone were to ask me what would be your ideal weather for Christmas, my answer would have fitted exactly what we had. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present than the perfect cloudless skies and warm winter sunshine we had last week. My parents were here from the UK for Christmas and the three of us sat outside having a picnic lunch on Christmas Day. Who’d have thought that possible!

However, not all the country were so lucky as many places were, again, shrouded in fog. This is the view on Boxing Day looking down from Možjanca, near Preddvor.

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During my parent’s visit we packed in plenty of sights including a trip to the Christmas market in Ljubljana.

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A visit to Kranj to watch the very popular annual Christmas tuba concert (tuba božički) – to get us in the festive mood.

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On Christmas Eve we went to see the preparations for mass at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Brezje http://www.radolca.si/en/brezje-basilica/

Brezje

On Christmas Day we visited a tourist farm (more about that next week), visited friends, watched the Ana Snežna street show in the old town of Radovljica, and finished the day with a meal at Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica.

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If you haven’t already decided how and where to see in the new year, here are some ideas of what’s on in Radovljica and the surroundings and also further afield.

On 30th December there will be a pre-New Year’s Eve party for children at 4pm in Linhart Square, whilst on New Year’s Eve the merriment will take place, also in Linhart Square, with live music from the Avsenik House Ensemble. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/what-to-do/events-1/festive-december-in-linhart-square/83/110/

If food, and of course drink, is on your mind, then look to one of the Taste Radol’ca restaurants, though hurry as some are already fully booked. Amongst others, Kunstelj Inn is offering a 4-course menu of local food for 33 euros, Grajska gostilnica  is offering a 6-course New Year’s Eve menu for just 37 euros per person and Gostišče Tulipan has a 4-course menu with live music for 28 euros per person.

Further afield, the capital, Ljubljana, is a popular destination to spend New Year’s Eve, with plenty happening all over the city or, if the weather is fine, spending New Year’s Eve in one of Slovenia’s many mountain huts can also be a magical. One year I walked up to the Sankaška hut above Begunje, from where, on a clear day/night, there are fantastic views and I was able to enjoy watching many fireworks displays across the valley. So, if the weather plays game and that appeals, don your hiking gear and a head torch and head on up there. More information here – http://www.radolca.si/en/st-peters-trail-begunje/

I have now been writing this blog for exactly three years. In that time it has had over 90,000 views from all over the world and this year I was delighted and proud that it was also officially recognised by the Slovenian Tourist Organisation and now also features on the homepage of their website – http://www.slovenia.info/en/Blog-Adele-in-Slovenia/Adele-in-Slovenia.htm?adele_slovenia=0&lng=2

People often ask me how I come up with so many ideas for what to write about and if I ever run out of ideas. Actually, sometimes I still have too many ideas so, if you keep reading, I’ll keep writing, and may the journey continue to make 2016 an even more successful year for Adele in Slovenia!

I wish all readers a very, very Happy & Healthy New Year!

 

It’s Spring and Radovljica is Alive!

Winter seems to have finally lost its vice like grip and spring has courageously battled through and taken over – yippee! Walking around Radovljica this week has been a pleasure – seeing people sitting outside cafes for their morning coffee, children (and some adults too!) eating ice-cream, people playing various sports in the sports park and generally people emerging from the long winter spent cooped up indoors – much like bears awaking from their winter hibernation – and enjoying feeling the warmth of the sun. Never have I been so pleased to see that large, round, yellow, warming object in the sky on Tuesday – it’s got some making up to do so let’s hope it’s here to stay. I also hope it will get to work on melting some of the metres and metres of snow in the mountains so I can get up high hiking again asap.

Although I’m not entirely adverse to winter walking in the fresh snow during the winter ‘proper’, by this time of year the novelty of walking in the snow has long since worn off am I’m longing to be able to start walking to some of the higher lying areas. However, in the meantime, its time to get resourceful and find places to walk which are a little lower and south facing, where the snow has already begun to melt. I co-wrote a guidebook about Slovenia some time back and from the time when I was researching it and gathering information, I have a folder full of brochures and leaflets which, at times like these come in very handy. So a rummage through the folder led me to deciding on walking the Ostroverhar Trail on Saturday, and a good choice it was too!

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The circular trail starts in the village of Podgrad, near Ljubljana and leads over Kašelj hill (Kašeljski hrib) and past the remains of two medieval castles, both of which were a part of the Osterberg property, home of the Ostrovrhar knights. The Old Castle (Stari grad) is thought to date back to 1256 and first belonged to the Spanheim family. Over the years it has had numerous owners but since 1930, it has been the property of the Kansky family, manufacturers from Podgrad. Another interesting feature of the path is the millstone quarry beneath the castle. Here, since the Middle Ages until production ceased, millstones were cut (like the one I’m sitting on below), with a diameter of about one metres and a thickness of 20 centimetres, and you actually still see where they were cut from the rock. The path is well-marked and it took about 2.5 hours to walk the entire trail.

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Sunday was a beautiful, warm, spring day so it was time to dust off my bike and get the cogs turning once again. I haven’t cycled properly since October so it was a tentative start but as they say, you never forget how to ride a bike, and once I got going it felt great. I cycled to the Završnica valley where, at the start of the valley, there is a small reservoir. This is also the start point for many hikes in the surrounding Karavanke Alps – more about which I will be writing as soon as the snow has melted!

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Preparations are in full swing for next weekend’s Festival of Chocolate in Radovljica – if you are anywhere near the area, don’t miss it, it’s sure to be a delicious weekend! Last year’s event was so popular that this year it has been extended to two days. This year, there will be a new system in place whereby coupons can be purchased which can then be exchanged for tastings of the chocolate goodies on offer at all the stalls. More information about the festival can be found here – http://www.festival-cokolade.si/  As probably the world’s biggest chocoholic, I will definitely be paying a visit!

© Adele in Slovenia