Settling in a City of Dragons

Underneath the Castle in the city center of Ljubljana

“When are you going to stop eating meat?” she asks.

I laugh, we have just arrived in the pastoral lands of Slovenia, the country fittingly shaped like a chicken. Here there are fowl, honeys, cattle, and wines. Pizza and hamburgers are universal, but local fast food favorites are meat-centric burek and doner kebab, though they claim they’re not a Balkan country and the Turks, like all of Europe, are the perennial Other.

Well, to be clear we aren’t in the countryside. I’ve made my home in Ljubjana, Slovenia’s charmingly small and boutique capital, a city with a castle looming above and a bridge guarded by dragons. The bridge is over the river Ljubljanica, which is sometimes noted as the arbitrary point where the Balkans end and Europe begins.

Flat white from Cafe Cokl, in the cold, vibrant Ljubljana sun.

Here are I study, write, and drink too much coffee. I catalog the cafes that I spend most of my time at. There is Stow, Cafe Cokl, Tozd, Kavarna Moderna, and the numerous small bars where  people drink kava z mlekom or one of the two countries local swills, Union and Laško. Beyond old classics, the craft beer scene has boomed in recent years. New brewers popped up everywhere, awaiting my arrival.

Afraid of embarrassment, Slovenian’s boisterous selves come out when drinking with friends at bars and cafes. They are often quiet, reserved, serious, but fun. The Slovene language, though very interesting, is difficult for me to learn. It sounds like a mix between Italian and their cousin Slavic languages, it is beautiful yet stern. Just the way I like it.

Being myself, I  haven’t stayed in one place. I have many more travels to document, I have kept working and traveling. As I leave for Bosnia, the Soča Valley, and the United Kingdom, missing Ljubljana solidifies the city as my new home.

The only missing piece is music. I hope to begin playing here soon. The arts here are open-minded, the people appear genuinely interested in the obscure. This will open the door to new friends and experiences. It is difficult to meet people as an outsider, but when I do they are kind, beautiful people with good taste. It just goes to show that you have to put in a little work to see the returns of good friends and a great city.

Yugoslav political art, including an anti-Stalin piece.




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