All You Need is sLOVE(nia)

If I had to pick one word to describe how I felt about Ljubljana, it would be SURPRISING.

You might be asking yourself, “Why the hell did these clowns decide to go Slovenia in the first place? I wish I could offer a legitimate reason, like a deep secret love for Slovenian culture. The truth is, when researching places to see, Dylan and I couldn’t stop laughing at the name of the capital, Ljubljana. While the real pronunciation is something along the lines of “lee-yoob-lee-ahn-ahh”, the two of us spent a half hour upon reading the name screaming “LA-JOOB-AHH-LA-JOHN-AHH!!!” 

So that’s how we ended up in Slovenia, a country which a waitress informed us is the only country with the word “love” in the title. I didn’t have too many preconceived notions going in, but everything we saw in the one full day we spent there completely shattered my expectations. 

For starters, the locals’ English was much better than expected. Although Slovenia is much more advanced than a country like Bosnia and its Balkan neighbors, I operated under the naive assumption that Slovenia wasn’t as “advanced” as other European countries. I was proven wrong again in an exhibit on Slovenian history; after the country gained independence in 1991 following the breakup of Yugoslavia, it managed to quickly establish itself as a modern nation to join the EU and NATO in 2004 and switching over to the Euro in 2007. In 13 years (a short amount of time when it comes to international politics), this small country somehow went from drafting a brand-new constitution to joining Europe’s most elite club. Slovenia…a true underdog story.

I was also surprised at the actual city of Ljubljana. It’s simultaneously quaint and majestic…at least, as majestic as a city with a small village atmosphere can be. I expected to walk around, say “Oh, that’s neat”, and snap a few pictures, but nothing prepared me for the Ljubljana Castle. Like most castles, you have to climb a hellish hill to get to it but once you do, you get a spectacular view of the entire city unrivaled by most. If I had to give award for Best View, Ljubljana would take the prize.

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Another shocker of Ljubljana can be found in a neighborhood in the northeast of the city called Metelkova. Formerly a military barrack, the area has now turned into something of a hippie town. It was somewhat similar to Christiania in Copenhagen, but less isolated and without people selling drugs on the street. I would have never expected a place like this to be here, but as a fan of weird street art, I could have spent hours here. 

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What other surprises did Slovenia have in store? One was elaborate and high-tech waste/recycling receptacles that most places in the U.S. don’t even have. Another was the relatively cheap prices; despite using the Euro, I didn’t have a heart attack every time I paid for food here. The most pleasant surprise was the quality of the food  along with the fact that for the first time in Europe, I could get free water and bread at any restaurant. Overall, the biggest surprise was that a place like this even exists and that I might have completely missed it. My time in Ljubljana has taught me that (a) the road less traveled is sometimes worth taking and (b) going to a place because you think the name is funny can lead to fantastic results. 

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About teecheng
Teach for China fellow in a small town called Hepingzhen, located in Shantou Prefecture of Guangdong Province. My interests change as quickly as China has in the past few decades, but I'm using this time to learn about education and the Middle Kingdom, explore my cultural heritage, and travel as much as possible. People say I have characteristics of both a middle-aged father and an 8-year-old boy.

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