It’s early morning in February, waking me into an idyllic urban setting. The gaze darts across the brick rooftops of Old Ljubljana, dressed in shiny-white now. Beyond rises the lovely Ljubljana Castle in its winter attire. Further, towards the city’s scenic mountain backdrop, the bright peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps are reigning at the outskirts, what seems like a stone’s throw from the urban centre. On the right day, in the right light, the winter sights of Ljubljana are truly the stuff of fairy tales. A recent northern shipment wrapped the streets in a crunchy blanket, providing many opportunities for snow activities even in the lowlands. Simply perfect for an exciting, fresh winter incentive.
But first, breakfast! When a tasty meal’s been enjoyed – Ljubljana pancakes with cottage cheese and tarragon, perhaps – coffee in a bar by the River Ljubljanica is next on the menu, a typical lifestyle moment of the Ljubljana Saturday morning: socializing in a popular coffeehouse frequented by several generations of locals. For a true experience of the capital’s heartbeat, we head over to the central marketplace with its many colourful characters. Chicory, rapunzel and the latest gossip are best purchased from the salad nan of the Trnovo district, hearty potatoes from the chatty Dolenjska farmer, the corner of fruit sellers from Primorska and the Kras supplies organic apple juice and vinegar, while the jolly Carinthian costermonger offers the best sour turnip and love advice you’ll ever get. Last stop is the perpetually smiling old lady, conjuring up fresh hot-pot vegetables any season of the year. Then, into the marketplace building, where there’s finest cream and cottage cheese offered up for a taste by the gentleman of T’min, as he refers in an endearing accent to his birth town Tolmin, the home of heavenly dairy.
Zzzzap … the guide zips his backpack, announcing departure to the next location of the Ljubljana incentive. “Time flies! Leave some surprises for a future visit.” Any interesting sights nearby? You bet!
When the pleasures of coffee and lively talk on the local sights and culture are done, we hurry for the ice rink in the core of the Tivoli city park. There, a test of mettle on the ice awaits, under the guidance of Slovenia’s sports greats. Perhaps we’ll even get a surprise visit from the hockey superstar, Anže Kopitar? Or the iron lady of cross-country skiing, Petra Majdič? In the spirit of friendly competition, teams of attendees engage in a hockey match while others try their hand at a cross-country ski race. Who’s the best? Let’s see! Completing the sporty challenges, we toast with Dragomir, the “dragon’s brandy” – of course, since we’re staying in the “Dragon City”!
Onward to new victories! In cheerful team spirit, we head through the Jakopič Promenade, peeking as we go at the current photography exhibition “The Face of Ljubljana” presenting the architecture of Slovenia’s capital. An ideal opportunity to see the city from a variety of perspectives. We cross the Bleiweis Street, walking past the National and Modern galleries to the Opera, where we encounter a surprise teased by a special invitation: codename #betheking. What could it mean?
Next stop, the Figovec – lunch in one of the oldest restaurants in Ljubljana, in the Slovenian House, once a pit stop for carriage drivers where they’d rest, feed their horses and enjoy a good bite. In the same manner, we’re up for a genuine Slovenian culinary experience, served with premium wines of Slovenia, the hidden jewels of our land. Frivolous enjoyment, a balm for the nerves.
Companionship seamlessly glides into the afternoon. Well fed and motivated, we’re ready to start the yearly meeting of the company’s most successful managers, about to begin in the pleasant ambience of the nearby hotel’s conference hall.
After the formal part, guests get some time for themselves, just enough to rest and prepare for the evening event titled #betheking. At the hotel, we’re met by carriages drawn by elegant Lipizzaner horses taking us … where else, but to the Ljubljana Castle! There, a welcome in castle style has been prepared – the red carpet, a wonderful vista of starlit Ljubljana, the award ceremony, the crowning of the “king” and “queen” of management, a gala dinner with dance and song, all this in the fascinating embrace of the castle walls. A magical end to the day.
Ljubljana is truly beloved. In the summer, too, its liveliness and pleasant character are on full display. The same holds true for the near surroundings, known as the city’s “cloak of green”, a unique medley of nature and urban elements. No doubt, I’ll be returning to the adorable capital, on business or pleasure regardless – but certainly soon!
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