A Travellerspoint blog

Austria

Salzburg

The hills are alive with the sound of music! Salzburg -- the setting for the Sound of Music -- is an incredibly beautiful place. It is probably the most picturesque city I have been to yet. DSC_0261.jpgThe Salzburg fortress sits atop a hill high above the city, the old town has been preserved (survived WWII bombs unscathed), and the small city has over 36 churches! It is really beautiful. You can see why the Sound of Music was filmed here. Of course, it is based on the true-life story of real Salzburg residents - Maria and Georg von Trapp. I took the half-day Sound of Music tour -- and it was really fun!DSC_0297.jpgDSC_0293.jpg Our guide was great, and told us many stories about both the filming of the movie and the true story of the family. One of the highlights was touring the lake district outside of Salzburg. It is absolutely beautiful. Rolling green hills filled with cows grazing, snow-capped mountains in the distance, beautiful lakes and classic Austrian farm houses. DSC_0298.jpgDSC_0301.jpg

Salzburg is a beautiful city to just wander around in. It seems that I walked all over the city several times over. The streets are so quaint, and there are a lot of squares in the old town.DSC_0311.jpg DSC_0265.jpgThere are also several beautiful gardens. The town is really made for strolling or biking, and the riverbanks have wide promenades for both. The first day was a little rainy, but it was still beautiful to wander in the rain. My second day in Salzburg it was clear and sunny -- a perfect day for strolling. DSC_0283.jpgDSC_0286.jpg

I spent the next afternoon at the fortress. It is really beautiful and it dominates the Salzburg skyline. It was originally built over a thousand years ago to defend the city, and it was never attacked. It was interesting to imagine living in a fortress like this and all the different parts needed to make it work. Plus the view was amazing! The rolling green hills with the mountains behind them is just breathtaking!DSC_0341.jpgDSC_0334.jpg

Salzburg is known as a city of music -- and the most famous resident was Mozart. It seems like everywhere you turn someone is trying to make a buck off of Mozart. People dressed as Mozart plugging concerts, tours of his birthplace and his house, etc. I didn't make it to any concerts -- too little time here. I did manage to eat some "mozart chocolate." Not sure what made it Mozart's, but it was tasty!

One of the highlights of my time in Salzburg was the Augustiner Braustubl. It is an old-fashioned beer hall connected to a monastery. The beer was originally brewed by the monks and served to the locals. It was such a fun place! It was a huge open hall, filled with wooden tables and lots of locals greeting each other for a beer and dinner. You just grab a mug from the wall, pay for a beer, wash your mug yourself and head to the keg! The beer was delicious. There are also several small food stands in the hallway -- you walk up and serve yourself. After sitting and enjoying the scene for awhile, a group of Austrians invited me to join them. It was really fun. They were of all different ages and were entertaining a friend from India -- so they were all speaking English. I really enjoyed having a beer with them and talking about all sorts of things -- from beer to Obama to travel.DSC_0280.jpg

Posted by jenniesue 04:23 Comments (0)

Czech Republic

Prague

DSC_0226.jpgDSC_0186.jpgI really like Prague. Actually, I should clarify that -- I LOVE Prague before 10 a.m., when the throngs of tourists come out. I really can't believe how many tourists are here -- similar to the amounts in Venice. The streets are crowded with tons of Europeans. It seems that Prague is the new playground for all of Europe. Especially for roaming groups of British boys on "stag" weekends! And there are tons of bars, "massage parlors" and strip clubs to cater to them. It used to be that Prague was a cheap vacation city, but that is definitely not the case any longer. I was amazed at the prices of things here! Restaurant food was more expensive in Prague than it was in Vienna. The city and the people running the businesses in the tourist center seem to know exactly how to make money off of all the tourists. The interesting think is that food in the supermarket is incredibly cheap. Where tourists come, money follows and people learn how to make the most of it.

Speaking of money, this is the first country I have had to change money in that wasn't the Euro. It definitely made me appreciate the Euro-zone! I wasn't sure how much money to take out -- I didn't want to be left with a bunch of Czeck crowns -- and the exchange rate was about 20 to 1. So most purchases are in the hundreds of Czech crowns, which took some getting used to. It is really nice to be able to travel in Europe and not worry about doing this in each and every country. Makes travelling much easier!

Prague is an incredibly beautiful city. I spent the first evening wandering around the Old Town Square. DSC_0162.jpgIt is a beautiful square that is the center of the city. On one side is the Old Town Hall with the amazing Astronomical Clock. DSC_0169.jpgThis clock was built in the 1400s and is incredibly complex (and still accurate!). It shows the time, the time of sunset and sunrise, the phase of the moon and the zodiac signs. I couldn't figure it all out, but it was interesting. The Tyn Church is on another side of the square. Once upon a time, Prague was the center of Protestantism. About a century before Martin Luther, Jan Hus proposed that the Catholic church was not the center of a relationship with God. DSC_0157.jpgThe Tyn Church became a battleground for this kind of thinking and was changed from a Catholic to Hussite church. However, the Catholic church (and the ruling Hapsburg empire) crushed the revolt and it again became a Catholic church. The spires are very distinct looking, unlike other churches I have seen.

On another side of the square is the Church of St. Nicholas. DSC_0158.jpgI ended up going to a small orchestra ensemble concert here. I had planned on going to a concert while in Prague, and it just happened that the concert that night (a selection of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart et al) was featuring a trumpet player. I figured Mary T. would kill me if she found that out and I didn't go! It was really fun to experience the concert inside a small, authentic church. The music and the acoustics were beautiful.

The next morning I got up early and I was really glad that I did. Before 10 o'clock, there was really no one on the streets. I had the whole city to myself, and it was really nice to just wander around the old town area. I explored the Charles Bridge, one of Prague's most famous landmarks. 7DSC_0176.jpgDSC_0178.jpgAt 8:30 in the morning, I was only one of three people on the bridge. Later on in the day, there were so many people that you couldn't even cross it! I made my way up to the Prague Castle, a huge complex the overlooks the city. The Castle has been the center of Prague for more than 1,000 years, with generations of rulers controlling the city from here. DSC_0240.jpgIt is still used for this purpose, and the President's office is in the castle complex right next to a courtyard where hundreds of thousands of tourists pass by. Of course, my paranoid American post 9/11 mind immediately thought "security risk." But it doesn't seem to concern anyone here that everyone could have immediate access to the President's office. The castle complex was a little different than what I was expecting. When I think castle, I immediately think of an old crumbling fortress. But the Prague Castle has been modernized as needed for current political needs.
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I arrived at St. Vitus' Cathedral right as it opened at 9 a.m. And good thing, because by the time I left the line to get in was all the way around the cathedral walls. One of the reasons that the throng of tourists seems so overwhelming is that many people take guided tours of Prague. So it is not just the amount of people, it is large groups of people standing around listening to their guides talk. But I managed to have a fairly empty cathedral to explore. The cathedral is really beautiful and is the 7th largest church on earth. The stained glass was amazing. DSC_0205.jpgI also really like the Wenceslas Chapel, the chapel where Czech kings used to be crowned. The wallpaper is made of semi-precious and precious stones.DSC_0201.jpg

I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the Castle quarter. I enjoyed the view over Prague from the hill. It really is a beautiful city, and perfect for just strolling around. The weather was beautiful (even a little hot!), which I was not really expecting in May. I thought it would still be a little cool. Prague has many beautiful parks and gardens and I spent the afternoon just wandering around and enjoying them. All of the spring flowers are blooming -- lilacs, wisteria, tulips -- and it is just beautiful. I love Spring!DSC_0235.jpg

The next day I explored the Jewish Quarter and the Jewish Museum. It was incredibly interesting. During the reign of the Third Reich, Prague's Jews were allowed to collect and archive Jewish artifacts from all over the region. Hitler had planned to use these artifacts in his museum to the "extinct" Jewish race. Because of this, there is an incredible wealth of objects, artifacts, and great descriptions, probably the best collection in Europe. Of course, Prague's Jews were devastated by the Holocaust and over 3/4ths of the population were killed. The Jewish Quarter Museum has done an amazing job preserving what life was like at this time and creating an appropriate memorial. The Pinkas Synagogue was an overwhelmingly moving memorial. The synagogue has the name of every Czech Jew who was killed in the Holocaust hand-written on the synagogue walls. It is amazing to think that each name represents a life, a real person whose life was cut short, someone's family member, an incomprehensible loss of knowledge and skill. It was very powerful and really affected me. During the communist era, the walls were scrubbed clean. Since the Czech republic re-gained its freedom, the Jewish community has pain-stakingly re-created each and every name. There was also an exhibit in the synagogue of drawings down by children in the Terezin concentration camp, just outside of Prague. It too was very moving -- seeing what these children experienced through their eyes and their art. Of course, almost all of these children were eventually killed at the camps. So much sadness.DSC_0244.jpg

One of the interesting things about Prague is the architecture. There are so many different kinds of architecture -- Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Gothic, Baroque, Communist-era. The buildings are really quite amazing. Walking around the city, it is really hard to imagine this as a Communist country. The people have obviously embraced their freedom and have quickly caught up to the western world. There are a number of American restaurants and shops (including 2 TGI Friday's for pete's sake!). I found it quite funny that the Museum of Communism is over a McDonald's and next to a casino. Such a striking contrast. I wandered around the New Town area and Wenceslas Square. This is the square where Czechs rallied to overthrow their Communist regime in 1989. I vaguely remember the Iron Curtain falling and the feeling that something really important was happening in the world. Standing in the square, it was awesome to imagine the people coming together in a peaceful protest to rightfully take back their country.
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Another big surprise in Prague was how much I enjoyed the food. I didn't think I would really like the meat-based Czech cuisine, but it was absolutely delicious! I had a great beef goulash, complete with potato pancakes and thick dumplings. I also had a number of yummy pastries -- including a traditional honey cake that was awesome! One thing that didn't come as a surprise was how good the beer was. The Czech Republic is known for it's beer, and it definitely didn't disappoint. It is amazing how different beer can taste in different places. I met a really fun Aussie girl at the hostel, and we went out for dinner and sampled several different brews. Pilsner Urquell, Krusovice, Budvar -- all delicious!

Posted by jenniesue 03:28 Comments (0)

Austria

Vienna

DSC_0058.jpgDSC_0071.jpgWhen I first got to Vienna, I wasn´t sure I was going to like it that much. It is very different from the other places I have been recently. It feels so big and modern -- in fact it feels like Chicago...except everyone is speaking German. It seems like you can get everything here that you can get in the U.S. I am sure the same is probably true of Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, etc. But all of these other cities have a very distinct feeling to them that constantly reminds you that this is Europe, not the U.S. I didn´t get that in Vienna. At first I thought it might be the area that my hostel is located in. But even in the historic old center of town, within the Ringstrasse, it still feels the same. There is a Starbucks next to the Opera House and a McDonalds next to St. Stephen´s Cathedral.2DSC_0066.jpg I probably wouldn´t have noticed this as much, but all of the places I have been recently have been the opposite. The Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Lake Como, Venice, Ljubljana -- not exactly major modern cities. So the size and bustling of Vienna surprised me a little. I had such a great experience in Ljubljana and was so charmed by that city, that Vienna took a little getting used to.

As I have spent more time here, the city has really started to grow on me. There is so much history here, and so much to see and do. The majority of the sights are related to one of two things: The Hapsburgs or the music scene. The Hapsburgs were once the monarchy of the Holy Roman Empire, and their empire spread from the Netherlands to Spain to Hungary, Bulgaria and central Italy. Their home base was Vienna. I really didn´t know a lot about these royals, other than the assassination of Franz Ferdinand started WWI and that they once wielded great influence in Europe. I have learned a lot, and it has really been interesting. It seems that for European royals they were actually pretty good rulers. Any citizen could have an audience with the emperor, and the last major emperor (Franz Josef) took his job as a leader of his people very seriously. He worked constantly and was never far from his desk. This is probably why they ruled as long (and as far away) as they did.

The Hapsburgs were great patrons of the arts and music, and you can see the effect all over Vienna. I went to the Kunsthistoriches museum, a huge building that houses art the Hapsburgs collected over the years. It is easily one of the top 3 museums I have been to so far. The huge collection of painters from all over Europe was amazing. My favorite pieces were by Pieter Brughel the Elder.DSC_0080.jpg I liked his paintings when I studied them in art history, but in person they were really remarkable. They are very colorful depictions of everyday life in small villages. Other than the paintings, the museum also has a large Greek, Roman and Egyptian collection. I loved the collection of Roman coins -- a representative coin for each of the Roman emperors. So much like we still do with our money today!

I also went to the Treasury Museum of the Hofburg Palace. This is an incredible collection of some of the most important (and expensive) jewels in Europe. DSC_0119.jpgDSC_0125.jpgI loved the crowns -- the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor and of Rudolf II. The amount and size of the jewels in some of these pieces is just amazing. There is even an emerald piece that is over 2,000 karats! The elaborate coronation robes were pretty remarkable too. Some of the most bejeweled pieces were reliquaries for Christian relics. Displayed were pieces of the "true cross" as well as one of the nails believed to have been used to crucify Christ. Crazy stuff!DSC_0124.jpg

I spent the morning at Schonbrunn, the Hapsburg´s country estate. It is incredibly beautiful. According to my guidebook, it is one of the only palaces in Europe that rivals Versailles. I actually liked it more than Versailles. Versailles is much more opulent, with unbelievable, out-of-this-world decorations. Schonbrunn seems more like a working palace. Plus I thought the tour was much more organized and informative. DSC_0097.jpg3DSC_0104.jpgThe gardens were beautiful and have been a public park for over 150 years. One thing I found really interesting is that part of the palace has been divided into apartments and is lived in by civil servants. I can´t even imagine living in a place like this -- although I would guess that you would get pretty sick of tourists.

Last night I went to the ballet at the Staatsopera. The State Opera house is considered one of the most important music venues in the world. Considering that Vienna was once home to Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and a whole bunch of other famous musicians, you can see why. DSC_0090.jpg9DSC_0092.jpgI was planning on going to an opera, but the Vienna Ballet was performing Romeo and Juliet, so I went to that. The great thing about the Opera house is that even when all the tickets are sold out (as it was for the ballet), anyone can get standing room only tickets for 3 euros. It is such a great idea. It allows students, tourists, and anyone else who can´t afford a full price ticket to still access all of the great shows. All that culture for less than the price of a movie! And my seat (standing place?) was great! I had an amazing view and it really wasn´t that uncomfortable to stand for the show. Plus the show was absolutely amazing! I have never seen anything like it before. The costumes, the set, the music, the dancing -- it was beyond beautiful. It was like a painting coming to life. I have never been a huge fan of ballet, but now I see why people are (and why I will be in the future). I loved it! I did manage to go to an opera tonight -- Manon. It was great to watch an opera in such a famous opera house, but it really couldn´t compare to the ballet.

One of the things that really surprised me about Vienna was how much I love the food. This has probably been one of my favorite food cities! After all of the great Italian food, I was kind of dreading heading north to "meat and potato" country. Especially since I don´t eat a lot of meat, I was thinking that I wouldn´t like the food here much. I have been very pleasantly surprised! Everything has been so yummy. I had the best lamb kebab sandwich of my life here, the bratwurst is to die for, and the breads are fantastic! Even weinerschnitzel is really tasty (although I did cheat a little and have the chicken version, not the classic veal). I had lunch in the famous Naschtmarkt -- a great open air market with all different kinds of foods from all over the world. DSC_0113.jpgI wandered around for over an hour just sampling things from different stalls. Cheese stuffed olives, dried papaya, falafel, and the best turkish delight ever made a great lunch. I also went to the Cafe Sacher, home of the original chocolate sacher cake. And I can report it is very good! Plus I have been enjoying Vienna´s great coffee and coffeehouse scene.DSC_0043.jpg

Posted by jenniesue 13:56 Comments (0)

Eating

Snacking my way across Europe!

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love to eat! I really think that food is one of the basic things that distinguishes one culture from another. It can be so distinctive -- and eating is such an experience! I have made a point of trying to eat food distinctive to each country that I have been in while I am there. And it has been wonderful! I would like to say I have been eating my way across Europe, but that wouldn't be exactly accurate. More correctly, I have been SNACKING my way across Europe! And oh how delicious it has been.....

This is my culinary journey so far:

Local Foods

In France, I filled up on crepes -- both chocolate and sugar and lemon. So yummy! Plus I loved having a breakfast of chocolate croissants and cafe-au-lait! My perfect idea of breakfast! The bakeries in Paris were amazing. I had a great sandwich on the best baguette bread for lunch one day. I enjoyed eating it in a small neighborhood garden in the Marais, watching children kick around the "football."

In Normandy, I tasted a distinctive cookie of the region. It is basically two pieces of meringue filled with cream and rolled in cookie crumbs. Mmm, mmm, good.

In Spain, I had a lot of fun going on a tapas crawl. The green olives were delicious - as well as the small plates of grilled shrimp. In Barcelona, there is a distinctive tapas roughly translated as tomato bread. It is bread spread very thinly with a tomato paste. So yummy! I loved the sangria in Madrid as well. A distinctive Spanish dessert is churros con chocolate. I have eaten churros before in the states, so I knew I liked those, but I wasn't prepared for how good this dessert was! The chocolate is basically a thick chocolate pudding (it tastes exactly like the chocolate pudding cake my mom used to make) and you dip the churros into the chocolate. Delicious!

In southern France, I snacked on Calissons de Provence -- small almond paste cookies with frosting that were delicious. At the market in Nice, I tried a local specialty -- glazed fruit candies. I also really liked all the dried fruits -- especially the kiwi and pear.

The food in Italy was beyond delicious! While in the Cinque Terre, I loved the Genovese pesto -- a special recipe of pesto known in that region. I also shared a great dinner with Jamie, a girl a met who is from Chicago. We had the best dinner -- tomato bruschetta, pesto foccacia, and a pastry stuffed with spinach and cheese. The foccacia in this area was amazing -- thick and oily, topped with cheese or other toppings and served warm. This was also the first place I tasted limoncello -- tasty but strong! I also had an amazing lemon gelato -- complete with a few lemon seeds!

The first night I arrived in Naples, of course we had to have Neapolitan pizza! Delicious margherita pizza. On the Amalfi coast, we were spoiled with a traditional breakfast, complete with special Easter cake, thanks to our hostess Tina at the B & B. We also had a great dinner at one of Mel & Jamy's favorite places -- Mariella's. We didn't even make it to a main course -- the appetizers and pasta were so good!

In Rome, Tuscany, Lake Como and Venice -- Wendy, Steven and I enjoyed lots of great pasta, pizza, gnocchi, and of course gelato. We had fun sampling lots of different wines -- including the wine made by the farm house we stayed at outside Montepulciano. The prosecco (sparkling wine -- or prosecuto as Steven called it) was delicious. We also sampled Lambrusco straight from the region most famous for making this wine. This is a sweet red wine, often looked down upon by true wine lovers. But Wendy and I have always loved it, so it was fun to try it (even if the waiter did kind of look at us funny). In Venice, we had a great time at Harry's Bar -- the birthplace of the Bellini (a combo of prosecco and peach nectar). Very yummy Bellinis, and very expensive too, but totally worth it for the experience. We also had fun sampling different cookies from a Venetian bakery. I really liked the pistachio cookies. We also found out that Italian potato chips are delicious!

In Slovenia, I really didn't know what was considered local cuisine. And the majority of restaurants in Ljubljana are ethnic restaurants from all over the world. This was the first place I didn't eat locally, but instead followed my craving for chinese food and a big salad.

The food in Vienna surprised me. I wasn't looking forward to meat-and-potatoes cuisine, but it was really delicious! My first night in Vienna I walked past a Doner Kebab stand and the smell made my mouth water. The Kebab sandwich was the best I ever had! I also loved the bratwurst with a side of mustard. And weinerschnitzel was so good! Although I do have to admit that I cheated a little and had chicken weinerschnitzel, rather than the traditional veal. I had lunch at a famous Vienna restaurant -- Buffet Trzesniewski -- which serves one euro finger sandwiches. There were so good. I had egg salad, cucumber and egg, tomato -- such a good idea, why doesn't someone do this in America? In Vienna, I also went to the Cafe Sacher, the cafe that created Sacher Torte -- delicious, dense chocolate cake. Yum! DSC_0043.jpgAnd of course I had to sample the Apple Streudel and the Topfenstreudel (basically a cream cheese version). In the naschmarket, I loved the cheese stuffed peppers and olives, and the turkish delight was the best I had ever tasted!

In Prague, I was surprised by how much I loved the Czech cuisine. The beef goulash was amazing, as were the dumplings and potato pancakes served with it. I had a great little pastry called Trdl from a stand on the street. It was basically a round hollow vanilla-flavored cookie rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Delicious! The traditional honey cake was also really good. Layers of cake and honey cream, with a fine crumb on cookies on the outside. And of course the Czech beer was awesome -- Budvar, Krusovice, Pilsner Urquel.

In Salzburg, I ate at a traditional sausage stand and it was great. This stand actually wrapped the sausage in a very thin, almost crust-like bread, added onions, parsley and mustard, and topped it all off with curry powder. Different, but very, very good. I also had a version of Austrian goulash -- tasty, but not as good as the Czeck version. And of course, more beer! At the Augustiner beer hall, I loved the local brew and sampled the weinerschnitzel. And of course the bread in Salzburg was amazing! Beer and Bavarian pretzels -- need I say more?DSC_0318.jpgDSC_0317.jpg

All thoughout Europe, I have really enjoyed the different incarnations of bakeries. Pastries in each place have been a little different, but all of them have been delicious! I have tried all different versions of sweets and breads and will keep sampling on my travels! I have also really loved the coffee here. Again, each place it is a little different, but it puts our American coffee to shame! I can't imagine why anyone would go to a Starbucks here -- all of the bakeries have espresso machines and quickly (and cheaply) make a delicious cup of coffee. In some places, I have seen American coffee on the menu -- which Europeans consider a weak, watered down version of coffee.

Markets

One of my favorite things about Europe are the markets. I have been to several open-air produce markets in different cities. There is something so great about shopping for produce and other groceries on a daily basis at a local market. The produce available is only what is seasonal, and it may not look perfect but it tastes better than what we get in a supermarket. So here are my favorite markets to far:

Barcelona -- In Barcelona on the Ramblas, the Mercato was amazing. It is a huge semi-open air market (with a roof covering but no walls). There were rows after rows of produce, breads, fish, cheese, etc. It was great to just wander around and see all the offerings. A lot of the produce stands sell fresh squeezed juice. I had a tasty kiwi juice and a mixed fruit salad. DSC_0374.jpg

Nice -- In Nice, the Cours Saleya holds the local market. This was a great market -- much smaller than the one in Barcelona, but it felt more local. Lots of produce and olive vendors, as well as dried fruit, sweets, and flowers. There was even a honey vendor. Other vendors were selling lavender or herbs de provence. I ate here both days I was in Nice. DSC_0512.jpg

Slovenia -- In Ljubljana, the main town square holds a huge market. This is a place where locals buy not only their produce, but also clothes and daily supplies. There was an indoor section containing meats and cheeses, and a bakery section. I had some delicious bread and apples from this market.DSC_0028.jpg

Austria -- My favorite market so far was probably the naschmarkt in Vienna. This market had everything -- produce, spices, bread, fish, etc. It was so much fun to walk around and piece together lunch from the various vendors. And the flower market section was beautiful.DSC_0112.jpgDSC_0113.jpgDSC_0114.jpgDSC_0110.jpg

Posted by jenniesue 00:52 Comments (0)

Slovenia

Ljubljana

Slovenia is so beautiful! I really had no idea what to expect when I got here, and I wasn't planning on coming here until Mel convinced me I should. It was a 5 hour train ride from Venice and a little off the beaten path, so I decided to stop over for two nights. This is the first time that I have gone somewhere that I didn't plan to go -- just hopped on the train and went. I didn't even have any information about it in my guidebook. And it has been wonderful! Ljubljana (pronounced Loo-blah-nah) is an incredibly beautiful city, so easy to stroll around. After the madness and tourist crowds of Venice, Slovenia has been a welcome breath of fresh air.
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Slovenia is a fairly new country, only gaining independence in 1991. It used to be part of the former Yugoslavia, and I guess I was expecting more of an industrial, eastern european feel. But Ljubljana is anything but that. It is a beautiful city with well planned public squares, pedestrian streets, bike lanes, numerous parks and green spaces, and an amazing amount of architectual jewels.DSC_0030.jpg The majority of the architecture is baroque or art nouveau, but everything seems to flow together naturally. It is a very cohesive city. Ljubljana was the home of several famous architects, and their buildings are all grouped together around the riverbanks and the old part of the city.DSC_0034.jpg DSC_0020.jpgIt really is a beautiful place to just wander around. It has also long been a center of music and education, and the commitment to culture is evident throughout the city.

4DSC_0011.jpgThe crown of Ljubljana is the castle on top of the hill in the middle of town. It is quite old, and the majority of it is not open to the public.DSC_0013.jpg The castle is surrounded by a huge public park with lots of walking trails. The best part of castle hill is the view from the top. You can see all of the city and out to the surrounding mountains. The city feels very vibrant and alive. This is the largest city in Slovenia, but only has a population of 275,000. It is the seat of the national government, as well as the largest university. Over 1/5th of the population are university students, which explains why the city feels so young. Slovenia is also one of the most stable countries in eastern europe. It is really the hub for business in the rest of the region and you can tell that the economy is still booming here. The government seems to have done a good job managing it though. And despite the global financial crisis, Slovenia is one of the few countries in the EU that still has a positive economic growth. The other thing that amazed me is that there seems to be a very cohesive national identity in Slovenia. In most of the former Yugoslav and Czechoslovak countries, there is still a lot of infighting among different ethnic groups. Slovenians seem very happy to be Slovenian. Partly I think this is because of the economic growth and stability the country has seen. A large part is also probably due to the face that the majority of Slovenians are ethnically related.

I really enjoyed Ljubljana. This is the kind of city I could see myself living in. I wish I could find a similar place in the states -- a historical old center with lots of parks, walking trails, mountains, not too big, but big enough. I could definitely see myself returning to Slovenia, especially to do some hiking in the surrounding mountains.DSC_0028.jpgDSC_0032.jpg

Posted by jenniesue 00:29 Comments (0)

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