Speed travelling in Europe - 3000 miles, 14 days, 12 cities, 2 lakes

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Day 7 - Ljubljana

Slovenia and Slovakia may have lots of letters in common but to us they were very different as countries. Slovakia retains that certain eastern european feel whilst Slovenia seems to have embraced a more western outlook. Wandering around the back streets of Ljubljana you could be in Barcelona or Milan, whilst crossing the bridges over the Ljubljanica river it could almost be Bruges or even Venice.

Even the cuisine confuses. Excellent pasta and pizza restaurants would put some of their italian neighbours to shame and fantastic slovenian wines offer excellent value compared to some of the more famous wine regions of europe.

All this and more is making Ljubljana one of the most popular new destinatons for tourists from all over the world. Be warned, we arrived on mid-week evening in the off season and struggled to find a reasonably priced hotel with rooms available! Anyway, we did eventually find space at the City Hotel for 100 Euros per night including breakfast. A clean and tidy hotel with an excellent central location (about five minutes walk to the river)... in fact so ideal that we ended up staying two nights to make the most of our favourite city so far.

Our first morning, we decided to orientate ourselves by checking out the 12th century castle - Ljubljanski Grad. I'd recommend the walk up if you fancy some exercise, if not then the more sedate route is via the funicular railway. Either way, once there you will be rewarded with some fantastic panoramic views of the city of Ljubljana and the surrounding Slovenian countryside. For the full 360 degree view, you can pay a few Euros to climb the main tower... we went up there and interrupted a very nervous local man proposing marriage to his blushing, crying & giggling girlfriend!... all very romantic so we beat a hasty retreat having made ourselves useful by taking a photo of them to mark the occasion.

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As for the rest of Ljubljana, it's small enough just to wander around and see where you end up. The Ljubljanica river runs through the centre of town and helps to keep you orientated. It's also the main areas for bars, restaurants and nightlife. No matter what time of day or night you will always find a lively cafe or bar with plenty of animated talking, laughing & drinking. We loved it... the river and old buildings offer a beautiful backdrop and the people watching is as good as anywhere in Europe!

For you history buffs, Ljubljana again offers a wealth of interest... originally a Bronze age settlement, it went on to become a Roman settlement and later came under the rule of the Habsburg Empire for over 500 years, with just a shorp interruption by Napoleon in the early 1800s. More recent history has been less stable but Ljubljana has emerged as a city that makes a wonderful addition to the list of must-visit European cities for your next citybreak.

Other recommendations... Petkovskovo Nabrezja and Gallusovo Nabrezje for bars & restaurants. Go to Presernov Trg and admire the red Franciscan Church & busy central square. Walk to Vodnikov Trg and amble through the flowers, fruit,veg & clothes stalls of the Trznica (market). Finally, for all you secret smokers out there... at the kiosk shops that you will see on almost every street you can buy cigarettes at prices way below most of the rest of Europe (apparently!).