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Ljubljana - Slovenia

Dragon Statue, Ljubljana Preseren Statue, LjubljanaView from Ljubljana CastleTown Square, Ljubljana

Small and compact as most capital cities go, Ljubljana has a youthful vibrant feel, with many street cafes filling the old squares and lining the riverbanks.

The old part of town begins at the lovely square dedicated to Slovenia's national poet France Preseren. The statue makes a nice change from the usual 'king on a horse' variety and looks across the street at his poetic inspiration and unrequited love Julija Primic, peering down from a false window. The famous triple bridge leads from here deeper into the old quarter, with lovely old squares winding around the castle hill. Further along the river is the open-air market, full of lots of fresh fruit and vegetable stalls as well as a few gift stands. This follows the riverbank as far as the dragon bridge, a large stone bridge guarded with four huge green dragons, now the city's symbol.

Above the all this towers the city's castle, sat on the only hill for miles around. It's a steep climb to the top, then a further climb up the fantastic double spiral staircase of the tower, each step embossed with an art deco dragon motif. From the top the views are amazing. Ljubljana is set on a huge flat plain, surrounded by mountains and high hills. The city doesn't fill the valley, so there are large areas of green farmland before the giant snowy peaks of the Julian Alps rise above the level terrain. The castle also gives fantastic views of the city with its many elegantly spired churches and grand public buildings.

The rest of Ljubljana is relatively peaceful, unhurried and untouristed, with none of the tacky gift stalls that fill many other cities. The street cafes and early 20th century buildings, many with art deco influences give the city a fantastic feel. Ljubljana definitely warrants a visit for its pretty, peaceful streets and lovely squares.

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