Festive and Green
Fun times with friends (thanks for the photo, Clare) and a festive Slovenia made for a very special time when we visited recently. As you can see Bled was both festive and green, and being a garden blogger it's natural that I should celebrate both with this post about my travels there.
Let's see what I found...
We loved the Christmas lights in Ljubljana, with each street having its own theme. One had musical notes to accompany the classical music being played there; another had planets, comets and galaxies which made the crowd go 'Oooh!' when they were switched on in the early evening.
The pictured street was more intriguing, with it's double DNA helix, a sperm, a nucleus, and a female egg. Too bad we found out just a few hours before we were to leave that there's a guided walk around the lights, which reveals the artist Zmago Modic's intentions. I'm speculating that as a Catholic country, this represents the immaculate conception.
There are lots of different walking tours around Ljubljana - more than one a day for the length of your stay, no matter what time of the year you visit.
Ljubljana also has lots of free festive events, from the lights switch on at the end of November to the fireworks from the castle which see in the New Year. We were there for the St Nicholas parade - like many European countries, St Nicholas is a key figure in the festive season, who brings presents on the eve of December 5th to children who've been good, and objects such as coal to those who've been bad. I used to work with a Dutch lady who insisted we leave a shoe out on December 5th, for us to find it stuffed with sweets and a small gift when we went into work on the 6th.
Ljubljana's St Nicholas parade is very dramatic with explosive fire at first followed by red devils rattling their chains at you and screaming in your face - a good way of keeping a pathway clear for the man of the moment! After St Nicholas's float are the angels who distribute sweets, biscuits and fruit to the crowds. The Slovenian language is unlike any other I know, but there was no mistaking St Nicholas asking the children if they've been good and the 'Daaaaaaa!' they yelled in response.
There are Christmas markets to explore in the traffic-free city centre (not as vast as those of e.g. Bath or Bristol, but more charming) with plenty of mulled wine and hot gin for winter warmth. The plentiful street bars often have heaters or fires to huddle around too, plus blankets and rugs to keep everyone toasty. It means everyone spills out onto the streets to have fun no matter how cold it is, and there's a most convivial atmosphere. The street stalls are decorated too and I particularly liked the pictured gourds.
There's also plenty of stylish greenery adorning windows and doors...
... and lots of mistletoe.
There are also traditional wreaths like those we know and love for sale on the market, but I liked these more unusual variations, especially those being made on the spot using strawflowers.
The market had other surprises, such as this vending machine for raw milk. On our fab guided walk we were told the milk is supplied by local farmers. A friend told me this week a similar local scheme may become available in Dorset soon, subject to it passing food hygiene standards.
We can learn a lot from the Slovenians about recycling, where it's enshrined in law and residents can be fined for not doing so. I liked this arrangement I saw in Bled, where the food clearance and recycling areas have been made to look attractive with a simple green wall of planters.
I can't wait to go back and explore the green spaces and gardens when they're at their finest, especially Ljubljana's botanic garden which contains examples of most of the 1,500 species that are endemic to this small country. That's a mind boggling number when you consider that's close to the total number of species which make up the native flora of the UK. The total Slovenian flora is around 3 times greater than our own.
In the meantime I'll leave you with some more of the festive lights and decorations to celebrate the season.
Have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
You may also like:
- My original postcard post which shows wonderful Lake Bled
- A Friday Bench or two - also from Lake Bled
- A Rhea roaming the streets of Ljubljana - a common sight on Fridays apparently