When I arrived in Klagenfurt, I had no expectations. As the guest, I simply left the week up to my family. One evening, as we all sat around the dinner table, they asked if there was anything specific that I wanted to do. They began rattling off various ideas of things to do, places to see, food to eat, etc. One of the suggestions was taking a day trip to Slovenia. As a Los Angeles native, it baffles me to ever-so-casually drive to another state for the day – let alone another country for the day.
I immediately questioned how feasible this was, but they just warmly smiled and said, “Not a problem at all – We’ll go Monday!” A few days later, I was waking up at the crack of dawn and piling in the car with nothing but the three-thousand layers on my body. Just as I would take a canyon through the mountains to get to the beach, we took a canyon through the alps to get to Slovenia. Sure enough, taking the canyon is easier than the Autobahn, because within a few short hours we were in Ljubljana. We pulled into an underground parking structure and walked up a flight of stairs into the center of town. The unexpectedly lively town felt like a mixture of Italy and Austria. A river flowing through the center of town had multiple bridges crossing it, reminiscent of Firenze.
Still in shock that I was in a new country, I blindly followed my family as they knowingly navigated the town. We went straight to the farmers market and grabbed fresh produce for dinner that evening before continuing through town. The crisp, bone-chilling air began to wear down at my seemingly excessive layers, so we stopped inside a cafe to warm up. We each ordered a coffee as well as a few pastries and cakes to share for the table. We then began our trek to Ljubljana Castle atop the hill. This mid 15th century castle overlooks the entire city with exceptional panoramic views. We made our way through the castle and back down the hill to an older part of the town. The cobblestone streets became more narrow and rough as we walked through this historic neighborhood.
After an afternoon of walking and window shopping, we stopped for a late lunch at the trendy restaurant, AS Aperitivo restaurant and bar by Nika Zupanc. A beautiful river cascaded from the interior of the restaurant out to the exterior with a gorgeous stone entry all built around a 150 year old tree. The interior design was just as unique and welcoming as the exterior. The five of us grabbed a table by the fireplace and Nora and I each ordered a spritz before indulging in yet another amazing meal. We continued to explore town before stopping one last time for a hot chocolate. Now, as an American, I know hot chocolate as a thin liquid drink, interchangeably referred to as hot cocoa. Unbeknownst to me, Europeans know hot chocolate as the literal creation of hot melted chocolate, apparently hot cocoa is a completely different drink. I looked down at my mug of thick, pure chocolate and didn’t know what to do. Do I pick it up and drink it? Do I use a spoon? My puzzled look made my cousins laugh, they didn’t understand how I didn’t know that hot chocolate would be hot chocolate… I took one sip and felt every tooth in my jaw quiver. I could sense my dentist shaking his head in disapproval. Needless to say, I had about 1/5th of the mug before raising my metaphorical white flag and having Cora conquer the rest.
Before heading home, we stood along the bridge just in time to watch the sun set. The town was just as lively as it was when we arrived. Even in the cold, people lined the streets and sat along the river at the various outdoor cafes as if it were summer. Incredibly vivid shades of pink and indigo grew in the sunset while live music played in the background as a large boat cruised down the river. I smiled and thought to myself how amazing it was to see so much within such a short period of time. We piled back in the car and whisked away back to Austria!
22 December 2014