The Dragon Bridge

If you come to Ljubljana, you must visit The Dragon Bridge. It is beautiful, very old, memorable, and has a legend attached to it. Many people want to visit it and some think it is a must-see if you are in Ljubljana.

The Dragon Bridge was named the Jubilee Bridge of Emperor Franz Joseph I and opened in 1901. But the bridge has 4 large dragons and many more small ones to see as you walk across. Because of the 20 dragons, it was renamed after them only ten years later. It does have another name, too. Some people call it “mother-in-law” because of the dragons. Some people find that quite funny!

This bridge replaced a wooden one and it was the first paved bridge in all of Slovenia. It was also one of the first concrete bridges in all of Europe. The bridge was renovated from 1983-1984 to make the concrete lighter and safer since vehicles drive over it and that was not something the architect had planned for a century ago!

One of the legends about the bridge is that the Greek Hero known as Jason – the leader of the Argonauts – is the founder of Ljubljana. When their boat was too big to travel in the shallow waters of the Ljubljana River, he decided it would be best for his crew to dismantle the ship and carry it, piece by piece, to a larger body of water. But it was winter and Jason decided he and the Argonauts should stay where they were and wait for warmer temperatures. While here, they built an village and Jason slayed a dragon living in a marsh near the Ljubljana River. Since then it has become the trademark of my home city. The dragon graces everything from stories and songs to our license plates, and government things like the city flag and emblem. Since the dragon Jason killed was fearsome, our dragons on the bridge look the same.

Another story is more of a silly one than a real epic tale. This legend claims that if a virgin walks across the bridge, the dragons wag their tails! While I cannot say that I have ever seen this happen, I do think it is a fun story and many people walk across the bridge and make it a point to laugh about the tails and look to see if they can make the tails move.

When you come visit me and see dragons everywhere, remember the story of Jason and you’ll know why we are so proud of this part of our history. Also take a walk across The Dragon Bridge and experience the legend for yourself. Be sure to take a picture with one of our famous dragons!

Big Day for my Sister

I still live in the area in which I was born and raised here in Slovenia. If you are not familiar with this country that declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, I am here to explain who we are in central Europe. Given that I haven’t left home, my sister is still nearby. She has been attending nursing school at the University of Maribor and I wanted to get her something special for graduating. It is a big milestone in her life, as it would be for anyone who completes a career program. It isn’t good enough to go out and celebrate over a bottle of wine and a meal.

I wanted something appropriate and symbolic of her destiny. I tried to picture her in her nurses’ garb attending patients in a hospital. I saw it! There was a stethoscope around her neck. I could get a special one so she would remember me whenever she wore it. We are close and depending upon where she lands, we may not see each other as often. While in school, she wasn’t that available either. Her studies required considerable timer and attention. I was thrilled that she would be getting a job even though it might be in another city of Slovenia. We are a small enough country that I could take the train and visit. Meanwhile she would have my gift.

For a novice, choosing a stethoscope for a doctor or nurse isn’t an easy task. There are many kinds, including a pediatric model. I wanted a basic type and one with every bell and whistle. So, what is the difference between a top-tier model and a journeyman’s device? I certainly didn’t know, so I went and found a web site called Ward Heroes to help me. Sure, you can go by price, but you still might not get what is right for a general nurse. There are classic stethoscopes and those best for cardiac care. I wanted the cutting-edge design with the appropriate length of tubing and absolute accuracy when it comes to acoustic performance. After all, these things are used for patient assessment and diagnosis. Interestingly enough, the chestpiece comes in several shapes. The tunable diaphragms on either side are there to capture a wide range of frequencies, thus enabling the nurse to listen to adults and children alike. Low frequency is accessed with light pressure while the higher frequency with a firmer touch.  The tubing clarifies the sound and they have come along when in recent years without rubber latex or plastic. Now they must be resistant to skin oil and alcohol.

I now know a lot more than I did and am sure to make the best selection. I got a dual head, stainless steel chestpiece, an aluminum headset, soft eartips and a stethoscope that converts to pediatric use. It is a real gem as far as I can tell from reviews. I checked it out with the experts and am sure it will perform as expected.

Things I Find on my Phone

I had so much junk on my phone, that I took an hour to delete old contacts, texts and emails. It had gotten to the point where I could barely find anything. Since I use my phone constantly, this was not a good place to be. During the cleanup process, I stopped dead in my tracks. I found some old vacation photos from a trip to Piran Beach and the adjacent town. The air is crystal sky and the sky the deepest blue. No wonder I remember it so fondly; there I was reading in a beach chair from justbeachthings and swimming among the white foamy waves. We had fun just relaxing at the shore and dining on a hotel patio at night, where we could watch the setting sun. If we gazed in the distance we could glimpse small strips of sand.

What is on your phone? No doubt photos of special people and great times with friends. We all ctake photos by the hundreds. I just had a few from the day at Piran, however, and I am going to make sure they stay in storage and never get lost. I remember the warmth of the day and the kiss of sun on our browning faces. They don’t call it the Slovenian Riviera for nothing. There are 46 kilometers to explore. The coast is dotted with resorts and inns for the droves of tourists who come by to have coffee in the shade of a pine tree and sit on the sand. In the interest of clarity, the beach I frequent is in the gulf of Trieste by the Adriatic Sea. I hope the geographical reference helps you envision my vacation spot. Photos online will reveal the magic of the place and the long sandy beaches that stretch for miles beyond. Sand is not characteristic of this particular spot.

Sovenia is called the pearl of Europe for good reason given the scenic vistas of our fabulous walking tours throughout the country. While there are many fine beaches like Mestna and Izola, they are not well known as the getaways they are. I am here to tell you why I find them extraordinary with Piran at top choice. It is a romantic coastal town for one thing with wonderful Venetian and Austrian-inspired architecture. The beach is one of the best places to swim. The sand is modest given the plethora of concrete paving, but it helps you get to the water fast by stairwell.  There is a nice strolling promenade from which to view the water. You can put your beach chair nearby and people watch in all directions. It helps that you are on the edge of a small peninsula.

I got a beach chair a few years ago so I could sit and rest my legs. It folds up nicely and fits in the back of the car. My friends have gotten them as well and we are a group of seated bathers with bright smiling faces. I can’t wait to go again.

Ugh!

When I used to tell people I was from Slovenia, they thought I meant Lower Slobovia from the Lil’ Abner cartoon. I was not amused. It is a derogatory term for an undeveloped place that is socially backward and my home country is anything but. I probably shouldn’t have even brought it up but the comparison is inevitable for people who remember the rural character. My Slovenia is not Slovakia either. Oh my gosh. I guess it is good that I have a blog to set you straight. Here we go. We are a member of NATO and the European Union but were previously a republic of Yugoslavia. We achieved independence in 1991. We are a modern democracy in South Central Europe bordered by Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. While this makes for a rich mix of regional cultures, we have our own identity. As an alpine country, the scenery is simply gorgeous and attracts visitors far and wide. Come one day and explore the beauty of our distant vistas. Closer at hand our towns and villages offer a wonderful tourist experience.

I do what I can to make foreigners welcome, as they have made me feel when I travel. In fact, I have been known to lead groups to enjoy the sights and sounds of my area. I get revved up when I meet new people and recently I was so sad to have to cancel a tour. I got a terrible cold and was too sick to get out of bed. I am sure you all know the feeling. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often. I am pretty healthy but I was really laid up with this cold. I had to call the doctor who made an immediate house call. They do that in my town. We have our distinct traditions.

After his visit, I followed his recommendations to get plenty of rest and avoid the public as I could spread the cold at this stage. I had to eat hot soup and not load up on heavy foods that could upset my system. It wasn’t functioning at its best. He also said to keep warm and grab a blanket if necessary. I have a nice quilt so that was simple advice to follow. His most interesting request was to use a cool mist humidifier from Humidity Helper so I could breathe easier.

I didn’t have one lurking in my closet so I called a friend who did me the great service of buying one. It took a while to find it as I didn’t want to order it online and wait for delivery. It did me a world of good I have to say. It is lightweight and portable and I plugged it into my bedroom so I could feel the effects while resting. The mist felt so good and helped to unplug my closed up nasal passages. It is an ingenious device that anyone can use. By all means, get one today.

Bad Date Last Night

Do you have a bad date night story? I think it is something everyone has to go through so that we appreciate the good dates that we have. You can write about yours in the comments so that I feel better, how’s that sound?

Back to my date last night. It was arranged by a friend with someone I did not know. A blind date. We had talked on the phone once or twice and texted a few times in order to get to know each other and to see if a date in person would be worth it. We both decided that it was a good idea although now I am not entirely sure why we thought this.

When we were talking on the phone about where we should go, it took us a while. He really did not seem like he wanted to make a decision. I should have taken that as a bad sign! I finally offered the idea to go to ŽMAUC. It seemed that we both like going there – the food, the cartoon decorations, and the music – so that seemed like an obvious choice for a fun night. I chose a night that there would be a DJ party and asked if we could go there a little early to get something to eat.

An early dinner meant that we could sit and talk for a while to see if we were compatible. But also gave us less pressure. If we did not have a good time while eating our food, we would not have to worry about talking over the music once the DJ started his set. We could also use the DJ as an excuse to leave – if the date was going well, we could always go somewhere quieter if we wanted to talk, and if we were struggling, I could pretend I didn’t like the music and wanted to go home.

We met up just outside ŽMAUC and the night started out bad. My date did not look much like what he said he did. To be fair, I don’t think he was impressed with me, either. He did not smile when he greeted me. I am not sure what ideas he had in his head but it certainly didn’t seem like I measured up!

We went inside and managed to find somewhere to sit. We ordered our food and I asked him a few questions about himself. I already knew about his job and where he lived from when we talked on the phone, so I asked him about other things – favorite holiday, places he would like to visit, things like that. He never once asked me a question. It did not seem like he wanted to know anything about me. That annoyed me and so I stopped asking questions in the hope that he would get the hint. He did not! We ate the rest of our meal in silence, and we didn’t bother staying long enough to hear the DJ.

I had some choice words for my friend who picked him for me afterward!

Winter is the Best Season

I love a lot of things about my home of Slovenia, but winter is probably my favorite thing about living here. I could never live somewhere that did not have a real winter, I would miss the snow too much and what it represents to me. It is my favorite time of year for one thing; I love the holidays and the way snow makes everything so beautiful. For another, there is so much to do.

We are blessed to live in such beautiful country any time of year, but the snow makes it look incredible. Straight out of a postcard or a storybook. If you don’t believe me, visit Lake Bled after a snowfall. Between the glass-like lake, the snowy mountains, and the church on its little island, you will think you are in a perfect painting. I have never seen anything to top that amazing sight.

Ljubljana in winter is lovely. There are so many holiday lights visible and they add an air of magic to the colder weather. Winter markets are the best for finding just about anything! These holiday markets make shopping for loved ones easy. It is also a great place to get mulled wine, one of my seasonal favorite drinks. It can really take the sting out of a cold day! I love to get some mulled wine and just sit near the river to people-watch.

We also love nativity scenes, and you can see those in a multitude of places. Even in the Postojna caves!

If you love to ski, as I do, Slovenia is a paradise full of slopes. There are many ski resorts and there are many options when it comes to trails. You can find everything from bunny slopes to kid-appropriate to advanced trails as well as everything in between. And we make it easy by offering a SkiPass ticket, which opens up your access to all the resorts! I recommend Cerkno or Kranjska Gora. Some of our mountains maintain snow cover until June!

If you find yourself at a ski resort but don’t much feel like strapping in and heading down a slope, you are still very fortunate. Lucky for you, most of the resorts are near towns—nothing out in the middle of nowhere here—so if you don’t like to ski but want to enjoy the beautiful scenery while you stroll through town as your friends are enjoying the slopes, that is also an option. There is also a lot of winter hiking, snowboarding, sledding, skating, and snowshoeing options if skiing is not your thing. Spa resorts are another great place to stay in the winter months! They are less crowded and so you can get better rates, always a good benefit in my book.

So if you like to be surrounded by beautiful scenery, love to shop, or are physically active in the summer, plan a visit to Slovenia. Maybe we can sit down with some mulled wine together!

A Visit to Ljubljana Castle

There are many castles in Slovenia but the most popular is the City castle in Ljubljana. It is a beautiful place to visit for tourists and those of us who live here. It is worth the visit just to see the view, since it is located at the heart of the city. You can walk there if you want to or you can take the funicular up to the top. While the outside of the castle shows a bit of its age, the inside of the castle has been renovated. Inside you find many things to look at. There are modern galleries, exhibits, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a café. It is also a cultural arts venue!

It is not a far walk if you are in the city but there is also a funicular that will take you up. They think the castle was originally built in the 1160s. But it was mostly torn down and rebuilt in the 15th century with towers and a wall – it needed more protection against enemies like the Ottomans. At several points, it was a military barracks and sometimes a prison. Oddly, the mayor had the city buy the castle in 1905 and wanted it turned into a city museum. Instead, it ended up becoming a home for the poor for over 50 years before renovations transformed the castle into a beautiful location for cultural events and as a tourist destination.

There are beautiful gardens. There is a nature trail starting over by the University Botanic Gardens that leads you to the castle, and you can walk it as part of a guided tour. Speaking of tours, they have them every day. This makes it easy for people to plan a visit. You can also do an audio guide. There is even an app. One tour is known as the Time Machine and you can experience life as it would have been during different times at the castle, including period costumes on characters to help you understand.  I liked it very much, especially the actors who played the king and queen.

There was a history of Slovenia exhibit and I did skip that one. There was also a puppet museum. We did not stay to see it but there was a performance later in the day for those who are interested. You can also watch a movie about the castle’s history, but we liked the tour better. It had a lot of the same information. We checked out the jail and the National Geographic exhibit, which was also very good. The signs were a little hard to find and follow but my friend and I managed OK. Sometimes there is music, too. There is a castle jazz club. We got to hear them perform and thought they sounded wonderful. The best place to go is the tower, though. You get a beautiful view of the area – even the Alps in the distance. It is very romantic to watch the sunset there.

Some people might find it a little too modern and not enough like a “real” castle, but we have several other castles in the city to visit!

Perfect Day at the Marketplace

We had lovely weather today and my friends and I did not know what to do with ourselves. It was too nice to be indoors but we didn’t have a lot of motivation to do anything productive like a hike or something like that.

Then we realized we were all looking to buy little things, a hat, some vegetables for a meal to impress a date (that one was not me, hahaha), a pair of pants, and some flowers. I was quite hungry, so all I wanted to get was something to eat. I did not care where we went!

As I said earlier, the weather was really nice so there were a lot of people at the market. Everyone seemed to have the same idea we did but that was Ok with us. It was still easy enough to walk around so the crowds were not a bother. We wandered around for a bit and looked for the things we needed. I became more and more hungry the longer we were out and the amount of walking we did certainly increased my appetite!

My friend looking for food was able to purchase the vegetables she needed for her salad and also got some fresh bread and pastry for dessert. She was very pleased and I am sure that her date is going to love it all. She is a nice person so I really hope the dinner date goes well, it is a big step that she is cooking for him!

We located the hat and the pants after some looking, but I think that is just because they were being picky. There was plenty of stuff that I thought was great, and I was very tempted to buy something for myself. I refrained only because it is still two days until payday and I wanted to be sure I had enough to get food.

By that time one of my friends was complaining her feet hurt so we finally decided to get something to eat. We got something to eat and then sat down for a bit. We talked, ate, and watched the crowds go by. Once we finished our meal, we headed back to buy the flowers. It was a gift for a friend’s mother, he said that she has not been feeling well and wanted some flowers to cheer her up. That made me happy to hear.

It was so nice to spend time with friends today even if they were all essentially running errands. I am glad that we went to the market to get all of that done so that we could be together for a bit. Everyone felt very accomplished (even me, because I felt very full) and as if we had used this nice day to our advantage quite nicely.

Now it is time for me to sit back and relax and put my feet up for a bit. I am tired from all that food and walking, but I just had to stop in and let everyone know about my lovely day!