Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ljubljana, Slovenia

The past few days we've spent our time in Ljubljana.  I'll say upfront, it's cold.  I am not an outdoor winter person.  I like cooler weather but if it's cold, give me a blanket, a fireplace, hot chocolate and a book and I'll see you when it warms up again.  It's usually about 23F when we get out in the morning, warming into the mid-30s.  We brought gloves, hats, scarves, coats and boots but after hours outside, it's a bit cold.  This has been one of our greatest struggles.  Traveling in the winter is a lot more complex than warm weather travel, at least with the kids.  It's a bit harder to pop into a store and "browse" to get warm with 5 kids in tow.  Thankfully the sun has been shining and it really helps warm us up.

Friday, our first stop was the Tourist information center to find good things to do indoors with the kids.  We walked through Christmas Market stalls and normal market stalls.  We popped into a church and admired the "Dragon Bridge", and found ourselves at the House of Experiments.  It has a lot of hands on scientific experiments for kids and adults to learn from and enjoy.  One of the best things was they had boards posted on the walls next to each experiment with information about what you should do and then went on to explain it.  Generally these were in Slovenian so, after getting our tickets and hanging our coats we got two booklets with English translations to help us through.  It was really well done.  We spent several hours there and had a great time.

Our next stop was up the funicular to the Ljubljana Castle.  As far as castles go, this was kind of the least castle like place we've been to.  It was probably more of a fortress when used as a castle but now it is a wedding location, recently it was a penitentiary,  From inside, it was hard to feel like we were in a castle for a lot of the building.  They have a puppetry museum that was a lot of fun.  They had a lot of hands on displays.  At the front door, there were giant heads in giant glass bottles.  They were a bit creepy but the kids jumped right in and started moving the mouths with the controls at the sides.   Weird, but engaging.  The first floor was a bit about the history of puppetry in Slovenia and then the second level was all hand on puppetry.  We used marionettes and hand puppets.  We also tried our hand at shadow puppetry.  It was a lot of fun.

We saw some other rooms in the castle and climbed a couple of towers, one to the ramparts and then another much higher.  We had great view of the city and the mountains in the distance.

After the castle we walked down the hill and wandered the town for a bit.  Hyrum wanted to kill time until the Organ Grinders came out.  We didn't miss them.  We watched for a few minutes before heading back to the car.  We did some grocery shopping and then back to the apartment for dinner and a good rest.

Saturday we slept in a bit which was really nice.  (Unfortunately, it was probably a sign of the fever Ben is suffering from as I write this Sunday morning.)  We got ready for our day and headed into the city.  Our first stop was the Museum of Illusions.  It was really great.  I wish we could have stayed longer but once you're done there isn't much else to stay for.  It was a great place to go.  Everyone loved it.


Hyrum and I on opposite side of mirrored slats.

What?  An Ames Room.

What's for dinner?!

How do they do that?

We enjoyed lunch in the sun at the park next to the Museum and then we decided to head to the Natural History Museum.  Well, it was closed, so we walked back into the city center.  We detoured into a really fancy department store for some warmth and after walking around for a minute decided we couldn't even decently fake that.  We went to the Tourist information office to see what else we could do indoors to get warm since we wanted to participate in the Grandpa Frost celebration that afternoon.  They pointed us to the City Museum.  We walked along and finally found it, only to discover that it too was closed.  We weren't impressed with the information we'd been given for the day.

I just really liked the festive and practical lights in the parking garage
that told you where there was an empty spot based on whether they were green or red.

In efforts to quell the murmurs of mutiny, we brought some hot chocolate.  It was delicious. It was thick, creamy, and smooth, oh and hot.  I wish we had taken a picture of the mustaches the kids had.  After a dramatic bathroom break--cold potable toilets--we walked back to the city center to see what else there was to see.  We ducked unto a store like Rite Aid and spent 15 minutes wandering around the store.  We went back up to the park where we'd eaten lunch and the crowds were gathering.  After about 15 minutes, the program started.  Of course, it was all in Slovenian, but we caught bits and pieces.  We sang and danced as best we could with the families gathered.

Grandpa Frost arrived.

After about 45 minutes there, I couldn't feel my feet anymore and kids were complaining of the cold so I took the little boys back to the car to wait for the rest of the family.  Charlotte really wanted to see Grandpa Frost.  It didn't take them long and in the meantime, we bought a few extra groceries at a store near the parking garage.

There were Christmas lights and decorations everywhere.

We got back to the apartment, took bathes and made dinner.  Everyone warmed up and no one lost any toes so we're grateful for that.  At dinner time, Ben climbed into my lap and just wanted to cuddle.  He seemed so sleepy.  We hurried and put him to bed, and then got the other kids down.  We spent the rest of the evening talking, and writing and listening to the booms of fireworks.  The fireworks started at 7 and I have no idea when they ended.  We didn't make it until midnight.

The Castle.

 We had a good couple of days in Ljubljana and who knows, we may have more.  It's been fun to have the Christmas season extended a bit.  There were still Christmas Markets and Christmas Music playing everywhere.  We've also seen a few nativities over the past couple of days.  It really such a fun time of year.  I'm glad we've been in Europe and in cities.  There has been such a different feeling and celebration.

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