By Natalie Burduli
The winter break is in full swing, and most of the worn-out students have left Middelburg for a quick break from the reality of deadlines and morning classes. Every other morning, with a cup of tea in one hand and my phone in the other, I open my Instagram feed and discover that UCR students have scattered across the globe. Some are soaking up the sun at a warm beach, while others are skiing down the slopes of the French alps. It is almost a reassuring thought, that what seemed like such a small and tight-knit community has the ability to spread miles away from Middelburg and become so global. It is almost as if the everyday routine of UCR has taken a different shape for six weeks, and upon coming back after our travels, we will all be a little more grown up, a little more relaxed, and perhaps, if we are lucky enough, a little bit more tanned.
As for me, I did not take any airplanes to far away magical places this time around. I started out my break the good old-fashioned way, by spending 24 hours in Amsterdam before catching a flight to Slovenia, a mountainous winter wonderland. Amsterdam never seizes to amaze me, despite the fact that it has a ridiculous number of tourists, occasionally including myself. It is a city full of possibilities, a city bustling with life, people with passion in their eyes, cafes filled with eye-catching strangers, museums to spend hours in, and streets that resemble a fairy-tale. After spending the whole day floating around the city center, I took the bus to Schiphol. Spending the hour-long flight flicking through the pages of Hemingway’s classic The Sun Also Rises, I landed in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is a rather small city, with a vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, Baroque style architecture with Italian and Austrian influences, and an alternative and modern nightlife. If all this didn’t make you want to book a (super cheap!) ticket to Ljubljana and see for yourself what it has to offer, then, let me tell you some of my favorite places so far that will definitely convince you to put this on your travel bucket list for 2019!
- Črno Zrno
Start your morning with a cup of authentic coffee from the Colombian Andes! The owner of this small-scale coffee shop (not the kind you find in Amsterdam), aims at making the best coffee in town, all the while supporting the biodiversity of the environment in which smallholder Colombian farmers produce their coffee. So, take a seat in the aesthetically pleasing cafe that is actually made inside a cave and has a beautiful blue and white design. The owner is the sweetest man you will meet, so strike up a conversation with him to find out more about why he decided to move all the way from Colombia and start his own business in Slovenia. You will be surprised to find out that the coffee is made in a sustainable and loving manner. As a result, he produces a quality blend that not only provides an unforgettable experience for the customer, but also supports families of the farmers who are struggling to sell natural coffee due to their inability to face competition from big firms.
The coffee here is so great, that even the New York Timesincluded Črno Zrno in their article “36 Hours in Ljubljana, Slovenia”.
- Ljubljana Castle
Now that you have had your morning coffee, it is time to take a small hike up to the castle that overlooks the whole city of Ljubljana. There is the option of taking a funicular to the top of the mountain, but since the entire hike only takes around fifteen minutes, I would suggest taking a walk and enjoying the wonderful nature that slowly reveals the view of the entire city the further you climb up. Once on top of the Castle, you can sit in the restaurant located inside and enjoy the breeze, or you can take a few more stairs up to the tower for a perfect view of the city. This view becomes even more ideal at sundown, when the city turns a pastel purple color, and the streets start lighting up with cozy and warm orange lamps.
Are you more of that hipster type of person who would rather explore the urban culture of Ljubljana? Well, I got you covered on that one too!
After heading down from the Ljubljana Castle, walk around the center, maybe grab a very tasty falafel at Abi Falafel for lunch, and then keep on walking in the direction of all the graffiti! Soon you will arrive at Metelkova, an autonomous cultural center that was previously the military headquarter for the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later the Yugoslav National Army. The military headquarters, later, became a place for squatters, and now functions as an independent community. Today, it is the center for arts and culture for young people. You can find a number of alternative bars and clubs within the territory of Metelkova. Moreover, it is home to a number of LGBT communities and migrants who are seeking to be more integrated in the Slovenian culture. It attracts a big number of tourists every year, much like Christiania in Copenhagen.
Not in the mood for partying in Metelkova? Would you rather have a quieter evening with great music and a glass of wine? Then Pritličje is your place!
It has a wonderful atmosphere, neon lights above the bar changing colors every ten minutes, a DJ with a great taste for non-mainstream music, a long menu of drinks and cocktails, and bizarre, yet, intriguing art hung up on the walls. An evening in Pritličje is bound to make you think that you have teleported your way to Berlin, and by the end of the night you might even be lucky enough to meet some cool locals who will share some secrets about their city.
- Tivoli City Park
Finish your trip with a walk through the Tivoli City Park. It is the largest park in the city, and you can spend hours strolling through the beautiful fields filled with flowers and tall trees. At the center of the park, there is the Tivoli Castle, build in the 17th century in the renaissance style. Today, it functions as a cultural center, and has a wonderful little cafe that allows visitors to enjoy a quick break while overlooking the green landscape of the park. Following a trail from the Tivoli Castle, you could take a hike up the mountain, and breathe in the fresh Slovenian air. There is nothing more beautiful than looking over the long trail of mountains that surrounds Ljubljana.
Make your trip memorable by taking pictures of the beautiful streets of Ljubljana, meeting locals, shopping at the farmers market on the town square on the weekends and enjoying the view of the Ljubljanica river as the sun quietly sets behind you. Ljubljana might not have been your top destination in the past, but hopefully with a few new tips and tricks up your sleeve you will be ready to hop on a plane to this magical city. If, however, you have more time to waste, you can also make a big road trip starting in Slovenia. Venice is only two hours away, while Zagreb is only one hour away! Don’t miss this opportunity to make your next holiday unforgettable.
Natalie Burduli, Class of 2020, is a Law Major from Tbilisi, Georgia
Image Source: https://w ww.expedia.com/Tivoli-Park-Ljubljana.d553248621532514225.Vacation-Attraction