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’!


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.


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.


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.


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


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

The Polhov Gradec Hills

Many of Slovenia’s ski resorts opened this past weekend, at least in part, with others due to open during the course of this week. The main and largest ski resorts are at Kranjska Gora, Krvavec, Maribor Pohorje, Vogel and Cerkno, but there are also many others too such as Golte, Stari vrh and Soriška planina, to name but a few.

Sadly Kanin, Slovenia’s highest ski resort, remains closed and looks likely to be so for the foreseeable future. Personally, I cannot understand how this can be allowed to happen without the government, or someone, stepping in to offer assistance before it is too late; to allow what was the ‘crème’ of Slovene skiing to be left to rot taking with it the business and livelihoods of no doubt countless people in the town of Bovec, and the surrounding areas, where there is little work other than tourism. Let’s hope it won’t come to that and the resort will be revived to its former glory.

Sunday was a glorious day; very crisp and frosty but with brilliant winter sunshine, so I made the most of it with a trip to the Polhov Gradec hills, also known as the Polhov Dolomites (Polhograjski dolomiti), due to their rocky appearance. The area consists of a hilly region that extends from the southern side of Ljubljana to the northern side of the Škofja Loka area. The highest of the hills is Tošč (1021m) follow by Pasja Ravan at 1019m. It is interesting to note that Pasja Ravan was previously the highest however approximately 10 metres of its height was lost during the setting up of a rocket base there by the then Yugoslav Army. My favourite peak in the range is Grmada. At just 898m it is far from high but one really has the impression of being in the high mountains as the views from the top are simply stunning and far reaching in all directions.

There are a number of paths, leading from various directions, to reach the peaks. Many locals start from the visit of Topol, also known as Katarina due to the name of it church or from the village of Polhov Gradec. From either of these villages the walks are well marked and it takes only around an hour and 1.5 hours respectively, to reach Grmada. However, from where I live in Radovljica, it is closer and easier to access the area via Medvode, rather than having to drive up and over the hills or around Ljubljana. I therefore started my walk from Slavkov dom at Golo Brdo, making it a longer walk but then I would always rather walk further than drive! The path leads gradually uphill, never steeply, taking about an hour to reach Katarina, then a further good hour’s walk to Grmada.

Below are some photos of my walk beginning with the beautiful sunrise I was treated to as a reward for my early start and the view looking back towards Katarina.

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One of the signs I encountered en-route  – you’ve really got to know where you’re going here!


Here you can see the final part of the ascent to Grmada, complete with a light dusting of snow, from the direction of Gonte, which can easily be avoided by taking the direct path up to Grmada; me at the top with Triglav in the far background and wonderful views all around as far as the eye can see.

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As I wrote in a previous blog a few weeks ago (October 2013, Christmas comes early to Radovljica), Christmas came early this year to Radovljica, but only for one day, when a commercial, for a well-known Italian product was being filmed in the old town centre. Thn town was transformed into a magical, fairytale Christmas scene. Now the advert is available on YouTube, so you too can get a glimpse, an all too short glimpse, of the beautiful town where I live – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t78uVV50pdY