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Franciscan Church, marking the beginning of the old town.

I have a habit of visiting countries that are hard to point out on a map. With Slovenia, I once again discovered that the out of the ordinary tourist spots are absolutely heavenly--and much less packed than Paris and Rome.

I took a day trip to Slovenia’s capital from Croatia. The bus ride from Zagreb to Ljubljana was filled with lush rolling hills and cute villages. Once we arrived in Ljubljana (pronounced lyoob-lee-yana), we walked through streets that smelled like baking bread until we reached the river that encircles the old town.

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Ljubljanica River.

 

 

The river banks are crowded with sidewalk cafes and trees sagging over the water. On one side is a Baroque-style church with a pink facade. Straight ahead from that is the bridge which is Ljubljana’s most iconic feature. As with any site that can be walked on or climbed, there is no point walking over the bridge (besides, y’know, getting to the other side). Turn right before crossing the bridge, walk downriver, and find the thin bridge with glass walls. This is the best view on the river.

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The Triple Bridge and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation.

Crossing the bridge takes you to one of the city’s main streets. The best part is it's totally pedestrian! This street is where I ate the best meal of my life at a restaurant called Julija. All the food in Ljubljana is incredible. The city is only a couple hours from Italy, so feel free to eat more than eight cups of gelato a day.

Finally, the crowning jewel of the city is the castle. It sits in the center on a green hill, towering over the rest of the city. It's the most fun when visiting on a “Castle Day,” which are days in the summer when admission is free and the site is full of people in medieval dress, inviting you to shoot a bow and arrow and (attempt to) walk on stilts.

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View from Ljubljana Castle.

A day of wandering the city made me wish I never had to leave. It's small, but bustling; foreign, but easily navigable; modern, but beautifully architectured. This destination may have been unusual, but it was definitely worth going out of my way for it. Hopefully, I’ll go out of my way and see it again.

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Aerial view of the Triple Bridge and Franciscan Church, from atop the castle’s tower.