When I au paired in Trieste, a gorgeous city in the far northwest corner of Italy, I was most excited about how close it was to Croatia and Slovenia. Not only did this proximity make Trieste one of the coolest cities in Italy, it made it easy for me to explore the neighboring countries!
Or so I thought. I did make it to both Slovenia and Croatia, but Croatia came later in my trip and I flew rather than going from Trieste. Slovenia was a perfect weekend trip from Trieste, yes, but it was way harder to get there than it should have been. If there was a direct train, it would have been seamless, but for some unbeknownst reason there is none. However, it is possible – see the bottom of this post for instructions, which also work to get to Ljubljana from Venice!
Ljubljana was one of the most surprising places I’ve ever been. The name, for one, is incomprehensible (by the way, its pronounced loo-blee-ONna) and who really knows anything about Slovenia unless you’ve been there? I went with few expectations, booked the cheapest hostel available, woke up at 4:30AM to maximise my weekend and off I went for a weird weekend in Ljubljana.
And I was totally shocked. Prague is one of my favourite cities in the world, and I describe Ljubljana as ‘little Prague’. The red roofs, beautiful squares, and artful bridges – all in a compact city that feels much more casual than Prague.
There’s not a ton to actually do here – an underwhelming castle, some bridges to walk across – but you could wander forever, and the cafes and riverside restaurants are basically the purpose of Ljubljana in the summer. So this post won’t really focus on attractions: it’ll focus on random happenings.
Now you’re probably wondering, where does the ‘weird’ part come in? I’m getting there. The first sign that my weekend in Slovenia was not going to be totally normal was when I walked into my hostel room. The place I stayed was apparently a regular university residence during the school year (the name is Students Residence, so I guess this technically makes sense), and a hostel in the summer. So when I walked into a suite of three university dorm rooms, I was quite thrown off. But then I saw this view!
When I checked in my suite was empty, and after a day of sightseeing I came back, walked into our kitchen area and saw five Dutch guys who were all approximately twice my height. I used to be kind of intimidated when sharing an entire dorm room with a bunch of random guys, but after travelling through places like Morocco where I was often one of the only girls, it became normal – so that wasn’t the problem.
I was more intimidated by how gorgeous every single one of these guys was; one of them was named Jasper and was from Eindhoven and I still hold to the fact that he was the most beautiful person on the planet. They immediately struck up a conversation with me and invited me out for the evening, and I agreed with a giggle and a hair twirl. (I hate myself).
The next weird incident: the place we decided to go out was one of the strangest nightlife areas I’ve ever been in, and I went to a casino in Marrakech. It’s called Metelkova, and it’s an autonomous quarter built around some abandoned barracks. There is graffiti, there are weird sculptures, so many hippies, sketchy bars….the more I write, the more I realize that my mother is going to hate this blog post.
Back to the aforementioned Dutch guys twice my height: going to this kind of area would never be my cup of tea, but I felt quite secure with them nearby. We hung out in a treehouse, drinking beer that cost literally 30 cents and chatting about our travels. There was a bizarre cast of characters to watch, and it was one of the strangest and yet most entertaining evenings of my life.
NEXT. Later in my trip, I wandered down the river to enjoy one of my favourite pleasures in life: a solo dinner, accompanied by some alcohol, outdoors in a European city. I chose somewhere at random, sat down and ordered something at random, but carefully selected my drink based on the fact that they had Hugo (as discussed before, the greatest beverage in the world). The weather was perfect, the view was lovely, the waiters were kind.
However, these two guys at the table directly in my line of sight KEPT staring at me; again – not really intimidating since we were in public, but kind of irritating. Eventually, one of them took a phone call and the other came over to chat – the evening went from there and we all spent several hours at my table, talking about Slovenia and Italy and life and travelling.
One was Greek and one was Italian and this was one of my favourite parts of solo travel: the connections you make just because you happen to be alone. I still talk to them sometimes and they were nothing but gentleman!
Ljubljana: one of the weirdest and most charming places I’ve ever been. I can’t wait to go back.
From Trieste to Ljubljana, I took a direct bus from Trieste’s main bus terminal. It takes about four hours.
From Ljubljana to Trieste I missed the bus back, so I had to take a more circuitous route: but it was more fun! I did the reverse of these instructions, but here’s the route from Trieste to Ljubljana:
Take the historic tram (it’s charming and adorable) to Trieste’s Piazza Oberdan from Villa Opicina. It’s a funicular for half of the way and it’s super fun, but is often down for repairs with a bus replacement.
Then you can take the train from Villa Opicina station (it’s a 10 minute walk from the tram stop, load directions beforehand) right to Ljubljana!
If you’re coming from Venice, simply take the regular train from Trieste to Venice and follow the instructions above.