LJUBLJANA CASTLE, STRELEC RESTAURANT: WOW-FACTOR GARANTEED! By Philip Sinsheimer

No proper visit of Ljubljana can be complete without a visit to the fortified castle way on top of the hill dominating the city. Easily accessible by tram, it rewards any visitor with breathtaking views of the city as well as a cultural journey into Slovenia’s history.
Don’t expect lavish ballrooms, the castle served mainly a military role, but various sections of the high perched citadel have small museum like spaces to visit, from Slovenia’s tormented history to a more anecdotal marionette collection.

 

 

Let’s face it, the view is the main draw for many visitors, but for the happy few, a meal at the revered Strelec Restaurant with tables both indoors or outdoors is the perfect way to admire at length the city below and enjoy one of the best culinary experience they will get to experience in whole Slovenia. It is pretty rare actually that a touristic hub is granted with a fine dining experience thanks to the talent of chef Igor Jagodic who is seen as a true reference in Slovenian fine dining. To top it all, this comes at a very reasonable price with tasting menus going from 44€ for 4 courses to 77 euros for the top of the hill 9 course experience. This is quite incredible for a chef already saluted chef of the year, winner of Regional Restaurants official selection.
Those who want to be free to chose can also pick à la carte from various Slovenian specialties, as humble as a Kranjka sausage served in the pot with freshly grated horseradish and sautéed potatoes.

But there are also chef’s creations with elegant plate compositions :
crispy octopus with young peas and strawberries anyone or would you rather experience the matured beef with goose liver, poached egg yolk and vegetable bouquet?

 

 

The service is truly first class.
As we asked if we could change tables to enjoy fully the experience without the sound of loud neighbors, our question was met with a smiling “of course” and an impressive efficiency to make it happen seamlessly.I also noted not only the incredible wine list which will enable you to sample some of the country’s best bottles, but the quality of our server’s knowledge on the wines and his capacity to describe them to match both food and personal preferences. His help was so important, because, especially among the native grape varieties. Quite frankly without his guidance, I never would have tasted (let alone pronounce it!) this beautiful white wine, Vitovska Grganja 2017 by Boris and Alen Lisjak (have a picture of bottle held, very dark label though), coming from the Slovenian region facing the Italian’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia.The perfectly cooked high-quality beef sirloin slices accompanied by a medley of both raw and cooked vegetables found a perfect match once again with a couple of Slovenian red wines. Having so far mainly tasted whites, this came as a beautiful surprise. If you re not dazzled by the view, you may well become dizzy by these exciting pours. See it as an educational experience, the last tram is there to get down the hill sound and safe!
For more info Strelec Restaurant, Ljubljana Castle 

 

 

 

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The beauty of Ljubljana and the enchantment of Bled, Slovenia.

Ljubljana is the delicious, small, neat, clean, surprisingly lively and cheerful capital of Slovenia. The tiny, pedestrianized center, under the hill where the Fortress dominates the city, follows the curve of the Ljubjanica river and the walks on both sides are home to an impressive number of bars, restaurants and trendy clubs that are the heart of the nightlife.

To go from one side of the river to the other there are the three old bridges, Cevlarski most, the Triple bridge and basically the one of the Dragons.Turning around you will meet green electric cards with the words Ljubliana The Friendly City. They are free, for tourists and locals, and you can go up for a tour of the city or simply to move comfortably from one side to the other.

 

 

The best way to explore the city?  Rent a Bicike(LJ). bicycle.

 

Really convenient and practically free. The symbolic price (€ 1 for one week, € 3 for the whole year) covers the enrollment in the system. The first hour is free, if you want to cycle more, it goes from € 1 to a maximum of € 4.

 

For the lazy ones or simply for those who prefer a more sedentary transport, there is Urban, electric train ups and downs that runs throughout the city. € 8, ticket valid all day. Turning around you will meet green electric cars with the words Ljubliana The Friendly City. They are free, for tourists and locals, and you can go up for a tour of the city or simply to move comfortably from one side to the other.

 

 

 

You can also take a Boat Tour, a suggestive excursion in a boat open in summer and heated in winter, to discover the city from the river Ljubljanica.

An applause to Joze Plecnik, the greatest Slovenian architect and one of the most important pioneers of modern architecture in many European capitals including Vienna and Prague. It is a must to take a walk in the heart of Ljubljana and cross its famous Three Bridges. A riverside-night full of restaurants, bars, clubs, music at night. Maybe you did not know that Chef Ana Ros, winner of the 2017 World’s Best Chef Award, is from Slovenia! Ljubljana is a food heaven and offers the delicious Food Tour, a guided tour dedicated to anyone love good food and like to know the culinary history of this city.

 

Through shops, markets and typical restaurants, you will discovery (and taste!) a lots of local specialties. From the honey of Dobrote-Dolenjske, to the sausages of Klobasarna, to delicious cakes. Four green Dragons. The symbol of the city, will welcome you at the beginning and the end of the bridge.

 

 

 

People say that it brings good luck to stroke it and take home a dragon magnet, or a tshirt or one in pelouche  that you will find in the adorable Dragon Shop in the central Ciril-Metodov Street.

I suggest to visit these beautiful churches: the Franciscan and the Saints Cyril and Methodius, the streets Mestni Trg (which becomes Stari Trg) and then Gornji Trg, the Kongresni Trg on which stands the beautiful University and the near the Parliament.
A must see is the Ljubljanski Grad , the mighty fortress that dominates the city offering breathtaking views of the City.. Today totally renovated and ntegrated with modern elements. used for a different events, including exhibits, cultural meetings, shows and concerts. Don’t expect lavish ballrooms, the castle served mainly a military role, but various sections of the high perched citadel have small museum like spaces to visit, from Slovenia’s tormented history to a beautiful puppets collection.   On the terrace the excellent Strelec Restaurant offers traditional Slovenian recipes revisited by the famous Chef Igor Jagodic who is seen as a true reference in Slovenian fine dining. To top it all, this comes at a very reasonable price with tasting menus going from 44€ for 4 courses to 77 euros for the top of the hill 9 course experience. Those who want to be free to choose can also pick à la carte from various Slovenian specialties, as humble as a Kranjska sausage served in the pot with freshly grated horseradish and sautéed potatoes. But there are also chef’s creations with elegant plate compositions: I had an amazing crispy octopus with young peas and strawberries anyone or would you rather experience the matured beef with goose liver, poached egg yolk and vegetable bouquet.

Every Sunday the Flea Market is a collector’s paradise. There you can find vintage stuff, original items, paintings, ceramics and jewels, while the Central Market offers fruit, vegetables, spices, Slovenian specialties such as ham and the traditional prekmurska gibanica (my favorite is at Gujzina)) Ljubljana is a great city for shopping. Many in the Ciril-Metodov.

 

 

 

Among my favorites, there is the Catbriyur workshop-laboratory that supplies the cups even to Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth. Ladies and girls, here you will find unique ceramic jewelry, such as necklaces, brooches and earrings that will be envied by your friends.

For a special dinner, I suggest the new and innovative Bistro Monstera,, created by Bine Volvic, the judge of Master Chef Slovenia. It is a tiny restaurant with a traditional-alternative menu, where the law of ‘no waste’ prevails starting with the cutlery that is never changed.

Top night in Metelkova Mesto, former slums, became the most alternative area of ​​the city. After sunset, it hosts music and underground performances. A riot of graffiti, street-art and locals that are the point of reference for the young crowd.If you are in the mood for an out of town excursion, I suggest a…paradise.
Lake Bled. It is only an hour North of the capital Ljubljana to the North-West and can be reached by car or with a convenient bus (perfect wifi on board)
                                            
It is a charming alpine lake, in the center of which stands a small island with its Gothic church from the legendary bell whose toll is customary to express 3 wishes.Bled is also offering hot spring source and thermal waters.

Be prepare to find a postcard like dreamy locationa, and breathtaking sunsets. You can come and go in the day, or enjoy an unforgettable night in the historic facilities of the elegant Grand Hotel Toplice, famous since 1930’s with grand salons adorned with memorabilia pictures and bring all the comfort of modernity, including a lido, a superb spa with swimming pool and free boats to row with to the island,

A remarkable venue for its class, for the fantastic views you can enjoy from your room or from the terrace and for the excellent Julijana Restaurant, signed by the starred Chef Simon Bertoncelj.

 

Having dinner at Julijana, especially if the weather allows to eat outdoor, facing the lake is a moment of bliss: the quality of service, attention to detail and classic décor evoke a certain respect of classical elegance. This doesn’t constrain the cuisine to old classics, and the chef’s creativity and modern techniques seem to find their place very naturally in this elegant environment. Sweet final: the famous sweet Cream of Bled, an iconic cake, a heavenly millefeuille which recipe goes back to 1953 and and is still secretly kept by the Hotel. The result was up to the legend: two layers of perfectly crisp puffed pastry holding a firm custard covered by a layer of lighter whipped cream is to die for..Last bit not the least: The precious Ljubljana Card that gives free admission to more than 20 attractions, free travel on city buses, guided tour of the city, 24 hour internet access.valid 24, 36 or 72 hours will be a great friend that will guide you to discover the beauty of the City.

 

For more info on Ljubljana and Bled
http://www.visitljubljana.com/en/visitors/

 

 

 

 

 

 

LJUBLJANA SLOVENIA, VINOTEKA MOVIA. IS ORANGE THE NEW WHITE? By Philip Sinsheimer

Let’s be honest, before I set foot at the beautiful Movia wine bar in Slovenia’s capital, I had never heard of “orange wines”. Have you? If not, the best thing is to do is go right now over there and ask for an orange wine tasting. For 18€, you will get a flight of 4 of them, beautifully presented and explained by the great staff, possibly Leonard, the charming and oh so enthusiastic young sommelier in the making.
I received a royal treatment from Borut, the manager of the wine bar, located on one of the most passing streets of Ljubljana’s center. It was 10 pm and all the tables outside were taken, so we started our tasting inside, historic looking bar with wood panels and huge counter. But, wherever we were, I know you’re burning to know what in the world are orange wines?
The short and simple answer is that they are NOT of course wines made out of fermented oranges! No, they are white wines with a dark and deep yellow hue, some leaning towards a true orange color. Why this color? Because of the way they are made. In short, white grapes are crushed and left to macerate and ferment leaving the juices in contact with the skins and pits. For how long? It depends, up to a year. The process is very natural in a way, often no yeast or other additives need to be added. Since when has this technique been done? Only 5000 years ago, approximately, especially in the Caucasus region and what now is Georgia (the country). But, it’s only 20 years or so ago that the process made a big come back. Here we are, Slovenia having been with Italy one of the wine countries at the forefront of this revival. So, if in doubt, you are in the right place and in good hands to discover the world of orange wines.
Ok, how do they taste like? Imagine a light, pale, crisp, light pinot grigio from Veneto… well, it’s about the perfect opposite of that: mature, deep, with tannins reminding red wines (because of the skin contact) and complex. These are serious, bold, sipping white wines demanding to be served cold, but not chilled, definitely not the type of wine you serve in an ice bucket by the pool. To go with them, Vinoteka Movia also offers various plates of delicacies to round things up, including some gorgeous and perfectly sliced “pata negra”, the king of Spanish cured hams, but also local charcuterie, cheese and Italian mortadella, for example. Now, orange wines are not for everyone. Some may actually be turned off by their semi-oxidized aromas: instead of appreciating expressions of honey, tropical nut, cooked apple and hazelnut, they may think this wine has passed its age or has been left opened on the counter for too long, thus this wood varnish and linseed oil smell and flavor.                      It’s alright, no panic… You are entitled to your taste, Borut won’t hate you or eat you up! He is prepared with about every type of wine you may like in the house. And yes, all of them Slovenian wines. Go for a flight of white wines, red wines or a mix of both with a tasting of various Movia wines, Movia being a very large producer located in Ceglo, on the western side of Slovenia, close to the order with Italy. Trust me, Slovenia is THE “under-discovered” wine country. The diversity of the terroirs and wine styles may be actually their obstacle to global recognition, because it is quite difficult to any non-Slovenian to decipher what’s written on a bottle: what refers to the area, what to the grape varietal, what to the producer?         With its fantastic staff, so attentive and knowledgeable, the quality of the pours (and of the gorgeous glasses used), I can tell you Vinoteka Movia is THE place to go for both newcomers to the world of orange wines and Slovenian wines in general, and aficionados who already know a thing or two on the matter, ready to be wowed and ask for more!

For more info Vinoteka Movia

 

 

LJUBLJANA FOOD TOUR: A MUST TASTE! by Philip Sinsheimer

You just don’t realize how lucky you were when your join the guided 3,30-hour food tour organized by VisitLLjubljana.com managed by the Tourism Office of Ljubljana until you experience it.          

They offer numerous guided city tours  including the Historical City Centre and Ljubljana Castle revolving around history, art and landmarks, whether on foot, bicycle or on a boat cruising the river.

There is no other way to sample the incredible diversity of Slovenian food in so little time and in such a fun and well-paced way.
Slovenia is a small country yes, but it counts no less than 24 gastronomic regions.

Ljubljana, reminding me of Paris in a way, is pretty much in the center of the country and, as a capital, has attracted many food vendors and restaurateurs to benefit from the largest concentration of population (and tourists) of the country. But, right off the bat, let me tell you that, at no point, do you feel shepherded to a pasture of touristic traps you would have found on your own. The choice is balanced between food shops and restaurants, clearly very carefully picked.

Also, it isn’t a gorging party:
at the end of the tour, you feel satiated, without ever feeling over full!. As all good cooking requests, things started with the sourcing of ingredients: the market!
And Ljubljana is blessed, right in its center with a human sized, yet substantial farmer’s market, with one section dedicated to only certified organic vendors. I had noticed on my way to the tour some beautiful chanterelle mushrooms, as well as yellow broad beans that I had never encountered before. Lucky enough, I was able to find them again and was met with the most charming smile the seller could have shared.

Then, we got to visit the permanent covered market, a beautiful building along the riverbank. That was like entering a world of its own. Gorgeous charcuterie, cheeses, breads (got a loaf of this dark and dense bread, yet moist and oh! so tasty). A separate section is dedicated to fish, perhaps for temperature and odor control. Whatever the reason might be, I was really impressed by the display of fish available and the absence actually of any strong fishy smell. Slovenia is known mainly as an inland country, but it does have a little bit of coast on the Adriatic Sea and they sure know how to source the best of what can come out of it. Everything looked so fresh, a real temptation for any cook.
But carrying fish on ice for the rest of the tour was NOT going to happen!

 

 

We met our lovely guide Simona in Ciril-Metodov, the cobblestoned main street. She took us at Klòbasarna, where we had the first tasting: a warm smoked sausage form the Carniola region just South of Austria, in other words at the Northern end of Slovenia. Made of the finest pieces of pork, this sausage neither greasy nor too dry, just hit the spot accompanied by a light red wine, a little horseradish and mustard which I loved.

 

 

Simona took us in more that 7 venues, specialized in different specialties, from the syrups and the honeys of Dobrote-Dolenjske,  to the traditional cake prekmurska gibanica homemade at
Gujzina

I won’t be going in the detail of all the things tasted, either in gastronomic shops or in restaurants… I want you to go and experience it for yourself. Besides beef tongue, fried chicken, honey (Slovenia is Europe’s largest producer per capita), my heart will go for this humble dish of mashed potatoes with sautéed onions and bits of bacon that we tasted at a very special restaurant, Druga Violina, where all the members of the staff suffer from some form of disability or another. It felt really good to contribute to this effort to support the community and, let’s be frank, it also tasted soooo good, just by itself. With influences coming from all neighboring countries (Italy, Austria, Hungry and Croatia), tucked between sea, plains, forests and mountains, the small country of Slovenia is rich of diversity and, if this three-hour tour cannot cover everything, it sure serves as the best introduction one can hope to taste in this timeframe!
Tours priced at 52€ everything included,
To make a reservation
For more info www.visitLjubljana.com