Bill and I decided to go to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, on Saturday. We correctly surmised that there would be many day trippers coming to Lake Bled on Saturday and it would probably be a madhouse. As we left Bled Saturday morning and observed the long string of cars coming into the town, we could see our hunch was right. Making matters more complicated was the road construction going on. Bled has a two lane road going through it that is currently being worked on, probably in time for what promises to be a busy summer season.
Ljubljana is only about an hour from Bled, so we got there at about noon. Bill found expensive parking in a garage at a galleria. There was a Spar grocery store there, which we made plans to visit on the way out. We’re always looking for interesting wines and beers. After we parked, we made our way into the main drag in the old town. It was very festive this past Saturday. There was a market going on where people could buy all manner of fresh produce, gifts, arts, and crafts. Lots of musicians were busking on busy corners and most of them were skilled. The air smelled of cheeses, meats, and fruits.
One of the first things we happened upon was a bunch of Hare Krishnas dancing to a young woman’s surprisingly lovely vocals. Bill and I stood and watched; it was happening right where the boat tours start and some woman asked me if we wanted to take one. I declined at that time, since we’d only just arrived. Really, what I wanted was lunch. As we rounded the corner, we were delighted by the sight of bubbles everywhere. Some guy was blowing them by the dozen and kids were chasing them in the sunshine. It made for quite the whimsical scene.
Raw footage of the Hare Krishnas and the boat tour we took in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
One thing I always do when I check out new cities is look down alleyways and in alcoves. I try to get out of the tourist drags, especially when I’m looking for a meal. I find that a lot of the better restaurants aren’t necessarily in the thick of the action. Not only do the out of the way restaurants tend to have better food and service, they also tend to have more reasonable prices.
We rounded a corner, where I heard the majestic sounds of a flute, a violin, and a harp. Three young ladies were playing beautifully as we passed and I noticed a tiny wine shop that I made a mental note to visit later. We got to a corner of a cafe that promised food, beverages, and speedy sewing jobs (it seemed to be paying homage to Singer sewing machines). Then I spotted an open door, wine bottles, and corks. I headed across the street, well away from the tourist action, and spotted where we’d be having a leisurely lunch.
I see that according to TripAdvisor, Spajza is ranked ninth out of 407 restaurants in the city. Having chanced upon it Saturday, I can agree that the food at Spajza is indeed excellent. So is the service. When we arrived, we were among the first there for lunch. We were ushered to a two top in the restaurant’s charming terrace area. I could see several large tables set up and knew that the peace and quiet wouldn’t last. Clearly, there were going to be a couple of big groups joining us.
Spajza has a number of dishes that might seem exotic to the average American. They serve “young horse” there, which I would never eat for many reasons. At a less American friendly Slovenian restaurant, I saw the “young horse” billed as “foal”, which is even creepier to me. I didn’t see any bear on the menu as I did in other Slovenian restaurants, but there was also rabbit as well as a host of seafood dishes. I wasn’t feeling too adventurous and the beef dishes mostly included mushrooms, which I don’t eat. I ended up having a couple of starters and Bill had a shrimp salad. Bill and I started with three scallops au gratin, which were served in the shell. Then I had a shrimp and asparagus risotto. We also enjoyed the awesome rolls and fish paste amuse that came with our meal, which we washed down with two bottles of local wine and sparkling water.
We might not have stayed as long as we did, but I got a kick out of one of the groups. It was a large group of guys who were obviously bonding over good food, beer, wine, and cigars. They were fun to watch. I think the waiter was surprised when we ordered more wine… and maybe even more surprised that I didn’t fall out of the chair.
After we enjoyed lunch, we stopped at the tiny wine shop– seriously no larger than a closet– and bought a couple of bottles from a guy with excellent taste in music. He was blaring Dire Straits and every time I hear certain Dire Straits songs, I’m reminded of a wonderful long weekend Bill and I enjoyed in Barcelona back in April 2009.
Further into the tourist district, I saw a sign that read “Beer”. Not being able to resist such an advertisement, I followed the sign into a little craft beer shop. The very friendly and enthusiastic lady who was running the store chatted with us about beer and nodded approvingly when I picked up a few Belgians I haven’t yet tried. Next, we picked up some Slovenian honey at the farmer’s market.
We pressed on to the parking garage and entered the grocery store, where we found a few more bottles of wine and a bottle of chocolate liqueur. Then, something funny happened. A couple of weeks ago, an acquaintance introduced me to a hideous disco song called “Lady Bump”…
Penny McLean, who was a member of the Euro disco group Silver Convention, sings “Lady Bump”. Turns out she’s from Klagenfurt, Austria, which we passed through on our way back to Germany.
I happen to be a serious music nerd and I especially enjoy crappy music from the 70s and 80s. But I had never heard of “Lady Bump” until my friend introduced it to me. Sure enough, while we were wine shopping at the grocery store, that song came on! It was kind of surreal. After we bought the wine, we dropped it off in the car and went back to the boat tour dock. Bill needed some time to sober up and it was a really gorgeous late afternoon.
The lady who sold us the tour was trying to chat us up and coming off as a bit disingenuous, especially when her machine malfunctioned and she had to handwrite us tickets. But we got on the boat and enjoyed a lovely little cruise, especially when we ran into a regatta! A bunch of kids, no doubt learning how to sail, were having a race on our route. You can see the footage in the first video I posted. They were pretty awesome.
Ljubljana is a great town and I’m glad we visited. I’m actually glad we stayed in Bled instead of the capital city, since I have a feeling parking can be a challenge there. However, if you want to go shopping or eating, I think Ljubljana is a great bet. I hope we can visit again, if only because I want to find more awesome restaurants and visit the castle. We spotted it as we drove into the city, as well as the handy funicular that takes people up the hill. Had we arrived a bit earlier, maybe we would have toured the castle, although we were both a bit tired of tour groups by Saturday and we knew the castle would probably be teeming with them.
This is why I always check alleys… really cool art here.
A church near where we had lunch.
Food and sewing…
Our spot for lunch!
Bill’s tiger shrimp salad with delicious wasabi dressing…
My risotto with shrimp and asparagus…
Scallops and mild cheese.
Awesome bread and amuse.
Our first bottle of wine…
The terrace before things got busy!
A good spot for beer!
Our boat cruise.
I snapped this shot of the mural on the building. It must have taken forever to do that…
On the way back into Bled, we saw yet another stream of cars. They were headed in the opposite direction. Yep, day trippers! I recommend for those wanting to visit Bled, go somewhere else on Saturday. Take a trip to the city to avoid the crowds! Saturday is fun in Ljubljana!