Sometimes the most delightful adventures are the ones you don’t plan on. The ones you dream up at the last minute.
Late one spring night in a Slovenian hostel, four girlfriends and I were crammed into a teensy room under the eaves, wondering how on earth we were going to sleep in such sweltering heat.
It was midway through our ten-day road trip through the Balkans with our friend Ben and my brother Ryan, and although we were loving every minute of it, we were exhausted, longing for soft beds, cool sheets, and a good, long sleep-in. Alas, the next day we had to drive through Bosnia on our way down to Croatia, so an early start was inevitable.
In spite of our fatigue we really, really wanted to see Ljubljana, a medieval city and the capital of Slovenia, before we left. Our late arrival had given us only a fleeting glimpse of the night-shrouded city, and we knew we’d kick ourselves if we drove all that way only to see the doors of our hostel and nothing else.
So with moans and groans of protest, we grudgingly agreed to rise at 4 in the morning to explore Ljubljana before hitting the road.
We were so glad we did.
The moon was still visible, glowing brightly above the turrets and towers of Old Town Ljubljana, making us feel as though we’d stumbled into a medieval fairy tale as we ambled through the empty streets.
We crossed the beautiful and imposing Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most) which spans the Ljubljanica River and features 20 different dragons.
Originally named The Jubilee Bridge of the Emperor Franz Josef I, the bridge received its current name in 1919.
The Ljubljana Dragon is the symbol of the city and signifies power, courage, and greatness.
There is a fascinating juxtaposition of medieval and modern in Ljubljana, an often startling mingling of jaunty street art and sobering war memorials, classical buildings and contemporary shops.
I like it.
I found myself catching my breath in amazement wherever I looked. Aged statues stark against the lightening sky, lacy architectural details, staid European row houses, the emerging of locals doing what people everywhere do in the early morning hours: buy coffee, pick up the newspaper, take the dog out for a piddle.
The sun had nearly risen when we forced ourselves to leave beautiful Old Town Ljubljana and clamber aboard our van for the next leg of our Balkan adventure.
Our experience of Ljubljana was the merest taste of what it has to offer, and I hope one day I will get to return for a more leisurely exploration of the history, food and culture of this Slovenian city.
It is definitely worth getting up early for.
What city would you be willing to get up at 4 a.m. to explore?
PS – Thank you to all of you who participated in my Aussie Giveaway last week. The winner is Ruth Sutherland. Please send me your mailing address, Ruth, and I’ll be sure to get your parcel out post haste. 🙂