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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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, SLOVENIA, SVETI FLORIJAN: RESTAURANT AND MORE!

Welcome to one of the most recent addition to the up and coming Ljubljana dining scene! Sveti Florijan is one of a kind, as it as actually more than a restaurant. The creators have given a lot of thought into this multi-area venue where one can come to spend time at the wine bar featuring an eclectic selection of wines, 95% of them being “natural”, with basically no additives. Many of them are Slovenian, but shelves make place to some bottles from neighboring Italy, Austria and Croatia. If you feel in love with one of them, you can buy a bottle to take home along with a few goodies, the space serving as a wine shop as well as a delicatessen. Latecomers may bypass the bar area and head downstairs to what appears as a cozy jazz and cocktail nightclub, with a little scene for musicians to perform on given nights. Early and latecomers alike would really miss big if they were to bypass the restaurant which occupies the largest part of the ground floor, across from the wine bar. The atmosphere is warm and inviting.: small tables are an invitation to a romantic tête à tête, while larger ones welcome groups of friends wanting to spend an intimate, joyful moment. Cleverly, the choices are limited, so diners don’t spend hours picking, but are invited to jump in and have the party begin. The weekly wine list is composed of 6 references and the menu limited to 15 dishes, including desserts. It feels more like a homey private club than a restaurant per say.

The order was taken by a hip young man who appears more like a warm and friendly adviser than a waiter per say and the dishes are brought to your table by kitchen crew members, in our case the chef Matija Kostanjevac in command that night.
This absence of formal separations between front and back of the house gives a fluid sense of true hospitality.

We started off with the daily amuse-bouche made of a crisp chip, tender smoked trout and a touch of cool homemade sour cream. A perfect match with the 2016 Cattunar malvazija crisp white wine.

 

Another seafood appetizer came in the form of a tuna tartare mixed with a few diced strawberries, deftly seasoned with a hint of curry and the acidity of buddha’s hand citrus. Early on, you realize there is a lot of thinking going behind each creation, but one can also feel emotion and personality being involved here.

 

The rabbit pâté came to the table and revealed itself to be a homemade mousse of hare liver, sweetened by onion, butter and apricot. Lovely on great bread, no fuss, just great flavor. The slow cooked octopus with buckwheat, squid ink and tomato ragu was also a dish expressing heartfelt cooking, rather than any form of cerebral creativity.

The sweet touch came in the form of a sheep’s yogurt with white chocolate and raspberries, almonds and a dash of cardamom, a symphony of color, texture and flavor without unnecessary complication. Elegant, yet relaxed, thought through, yet soulful,Sveti Florijan has a truly unique offering in town. One feels that, from one evening to the other, it could be a totally different experience and it’s probably the case because, each patron here is left free to shape his evening as he sees fit.

                             A CHAT WITH THE CHEF

 

Matija, where have you previously working? 
Many different venues in different European cities, including a long period in Berlin.
How would you define your cuisine?
I would say contemporary European Slovenian, you will find different influences, from Austria to Italy, Croatia, Hungary. I like to mix the real fresh products that I found in the Ljubljana  market to European accents, creating a contemporary Slovenian menu.
You left the kitchen to chat with us, is that common?
Yes, I like to interact with the costumers, and, time permitting, seat at their table, perhaps have a glass of vine with them.
The most popular dishes here at Sveti Florijan? 
The octopus or the beef tartare.
If you were invited as chef guest at the TV Master, what would you prepare?
(smiling) I would snob the event, and serve a hot dog or fish and chips… 

What always in your refrigerator?
Some bottles of
Union beer and A bottle of Swedish Hernö gin!

For more info
Sveti Florijan

GRAND HOTEL TOPLICE, JULIJANA RESTAURANT IN BLED, SLOVENIA

Slovenia. Bled, about an hour North of the capital Ljubljana to the North-West of Slovenia. Rather than the town it is the beautiful lake that gives the name Bled, famous among the European elite as early as the 1930’s with the construction of a luxurious hotel providing  natural hot spring source knowned for health benefits.I am talking of the Grand Hotel Toplice, a venue that boasts a rich history, a magical location, gorgeous alpine and lake views and sumptuously comfortable, elegantly styled rooms.

 

Each of the rooms and suites at Grand Hotel Toplice has its own unique character and are traditionally styled with beautiful parquet floors, rich furniture and beautiful paintings with many of the rooms benefiting from breathtakingly beautiful lake views. The hotel has been recently renovated and restored to its former glory and is one of the best hotels in Slovenia as well as being a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection.

 

 

 

 

 

It has hosted many eminent guests and is frequented by celebrities such as  Vivian Leigh, Arthur Miller, Pablo Neruda, King Hussein of Jordan, Paul McCartney and…me, with my best friend-chef-writer Philip Sinsheimer, graciously hosted by Sava hotel and resort group that manage the venue.

Starting from the impeccable reception. the hotel boasts luxurious accommodation, few restaurant, a bar  and the enchantment of Lake Bled. All rooms and suites are individually decorated in an enchanting and traditional style, lavishly equipped with an excellent range of facilities, a relaxing thermal swimming pool and benefit from different saunas, wellness services and a solarium among a private lido, where Philip (expert swimmer) dived in the limpid lake water while me (lazy man…) was indulging in a relaxing sunbathing. We dedicated the morning ( when the light is best) to row to the island where the minuscule baroque chapel.I was anxious to hear the bells rings, because  I knew about the legend wich narrates that around the year 1500, the leaseholder of Lake Bled at the time, Hartman Kreigh, disappeared. People said he was killed. Sad for the events, the Lady of the Castle collected all of her precious golden jewellery to be melted down and casted into a bell for the chapel on the island of the Lake, so that the bell would toll in remembrance of  beloved companion. They say the bell has a magic power, when it rings, you should make 3 wishes and wait for them to become real.  We did 99 steps and finally we arrived at the church, where the view is really breathtaking and, yes, we waited for the bell… Not sure my wishes are becoming a reality, we ll see….

A true wish coming true was the  splendid dinner we were invited for dinner at Julijana Restaurant where Chef Bertoncelj prepared a great dinner.
I leave Philip the privilege of writing about it, since he is a chef and a food blogger.

                                  GRANDE CUISINE BY THE LAKE
This historic landmark now called the Grand Hotel Toplice, operated by the Sava hotel and resort group, has managed to preserve the relics of the past with grand salons adorned with memorabilia pictures and bring all the comfort of modernity at the same time.This delicate balance between past was brilliantly reflected in the cuisine of the executive chef Simon Bertoncelj and the whole crew under him. Having dinner at the gastronomic Julijana Restaurant, especially if the weather allows to eat al fresco facing the lake is a moment of bliss: the quality of service, attention to detail and classic decor 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.

The mise en bouche consisting of a delicately baked oyster and a buttery giant shrimp had all the signs of what you can expect in a palace restaurant: prime quality ingredients simply treated. This seafood opening was in synch with the view of the water even though it wasn’t the sea. As I were to learn later by the chef, unfortunately, as beautiful as it is, the lake doesn’t often yield the quantity of fish needed to take place on the menu.

 

The mushroom cappuccino with porcini had the depth of flavor one can only get in top notch restaurants, served piping hot but adorned with the freshness of a few micro greens scattered on top rather than the old habit of a dollop of cream and a few chives. Fresh too was the vitello tonnato inspired salad, bright and lively. Here, as in all the great restaurants experienced in Slovenia, the wine list paid homage to the country’s fine wines, such as the 2017Verus Chardonnay from Stajerska, the western part of the Podravje region in the North of the country. At last a chardonnay that can showcase both concentration of flavors and freshness in the palate with a mere 13° alcohol content.The shining fish course was a thick and moist turbot filet, perfectly cooked and adorned by a beautiful composition of vegetables and foamy grapefruit sauce. Here again: classic base and modern composition. Though generous, nothing was heavy, and the beautiful matured saddle of veal served pink with a herb crust was still welcome.

To finish, the iconic Bled Cream Cake, which recipe goes back to 1953 and is secretly kept by the Sava hotels group. The result was up to the legend. Even though I really do not have much of a sweet tooth, and I have had my share of mille-feuilles in France, this raised version of the classic with just two layers of perfectly crisp puffed pastry holding a firm custard covered by a layer of lighter whipped cream is to die for…

Chef Simon Bertoncelj, who has worked under the commands of Gordon Ramsey, seems rather poised and discreet, but if you really want to find out, he opens his kitchen to a guest table of 2 to 6 people for a 7-course menu cooked and served, right before their eyes…and ears!

For more info
Julijana Restaurant
Grand Hotel Toplice
Cesta svobode 12, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
+386 4 579 10 00

Contact

Cesta svobode 12, 4260 Bled, Slovenija

Reception

+386 4 579 10 00

Reservations

+386 4 579 16 00