We’d timed our arrival in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, to coincide with their regular summer, Friday-night food festival. As so often happens with large cities, we’d found an ‘aire’ – a simple, no frills, motorhome stopover – just within the city limits, where – for the sum of twelve euros – we could add ourselves to five allocated motorhome spaces, considerately provided (we assume) by the city council. And we were the sixth to arrive. Undaunted as we have become by this type of unfortunate circumstance, we just parked up anyway since the location was a municipal car-park with plenty of spaces – the occupants of the surrounding offices and light industrial units having clearly all pushed off early to fill their faces at the food festival.
We were greeted almost immediately by an English-speaking fellow camper, reeking of alcohol and tobacco, who stumbled out of a Belgian-plated motorhome of some age, to suggest we had parked too far away from the thoughtfully-provided, municipal electric hook-up – to which, he slurred in impeccable English, ‘we were bloody entitled to’ as part of our twelve-euro fee.
Staying for one night doesn’t necessitate our need for such an umbilical, so we graciously declined his suggestion that we just park transversely across three spaces in front of what were evidently roller-shutter doors to one of the surrounding industrial units. Our considerate English reserve was subsequently thus rewarded by a huge German-plated van which arrived soon after and simply did exactly that, with little apparent consideration for any potential consequences – but enabled them to plug-in and draw down on their share of valuable, all-inclusive Slovenian electricity.
Anyway. To market. Bikes were speedily unracked; a passing native provided pointed directions to the city-centre and off we set; a swift and busy cycle-laned trip (mostly on segrated pavements) into the beating heart of Ljubljana. Leaving our bikes on the threshold, having weaved our way through pedestrianised riverbanks we found the food-festival in full swing, thronged to immovability with rows of steaming food stalls creating narrow alleys of enthusiastic foodies.
Given our 45-plus years of soon-to-be-curtailed Europeanisation, it shouldn’t have been surprising that the types of food on offer didn’t really differ greatly from that experienced at home in Lich Vegas, so – apart from the fascination that was the horse-burger stand (from which your favourite author was – some would say – ignominiously dragged away), we decided to seek alternative sustenance elsewhere in the capital.
En-route, we paid a visit to the Cathedral, as it just happened to attract our attention with hordes of guided tours standing outside formidably huge closed doors, carved and embellished with saintly scenes. As such, the Cathedral itself appeared closed, but just around the corner, another set of doors – this time bearing a startlingly powerful bas-relief of a cluster of priestly faces and the whole door seemingly cast in burnished metal – opened at the tentative touch of a probing pilgrim, so we followed suit.
Well, the painted interiors spread from wall-murals up across the domed and vaulted ceilings where the depiction of heavenly goings-on was so ornate that the shrouded garbs of the fervent participants had the appearance of twisted seaweed, and was absolutely transfixing. Which I guess was part, if not the whole, of its worthy purpose when it was conceived and painted, in the early eighteenth century. Gothic Baroque would perhaps best describe the ornate interior, belied by its fairly uninspiring (apart from the doors) exterior. Although we’ve never seen it, we guessed that the Sistine Chapel might need to up its game a little, since – despite it attracting all the publicity – the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, Ljubljana gets our vote on the painted ceiling front.
We enjoyed a beer at a pavement café; were turned away from several pavement restaurants (it’s Friday night – do you have a reservation?) until one middle-of-the-road location (literally in the middle of the road) – Güjžina – found us a table from where we enjoyed more beer coupled with Slovenian specialities based on goulash and calves liver to sustain our ride home.
Dark had fallen in the meantime but we were well-lit and knew where we’d parked, so our cycle back through still-thrumming streets shouldn’t really have got us that lost, should it? Google Maps saved us from ourselves as we cycled through a busy bus-station for the second time and we eventually reached the security and safety of the Knumptywagen, patiently awaiting our return like a bored but faithful dog.
Thankfully, we were able to get the bikes quietly re-racked on the back of the van without attracting the attention of Drunken Smoky Belgian across the way and thus retired quietly to our car-park bed, having felt we’d done justice to Ljubljana – or at the very least, to most of its outskirts.