Trieste Centrale – Ljubljana

After my very late finish last night I had a bit of a lie in this morning, but only until 9:30am. I only had half a day to see Trieste in daylight before catching my train, so didn’t want to waste the opportunity.

I left my bags with the hotel and headed out. Something I’d hoped to do while planning my Interrail adventures at the start of the year had been to ride the famous Trieste–Opicina tramway. I’d read rumours that it might reopen in September, but there was no evidence of this that I could see. The tracks ran directly past my hotel front door, and the terminus was just around the corner, but there were vehicles parked up the hill on the line as far as I could see. The “terminus” was just nothing more than tracks running out in the middle of the main street.

I walked back to the central canal. As expected the buildings looked gorgeous in the morning sun but what the photos don’t show is the very strong winds. The stallholders in the little market were having a rotten time, struggling to hold their gazebos on the ground, whilst attempting (with limited success) to stop their stock from blowing away.

I went over to the port area, which I’d not explored the night before. As I arrived in Trieste yesterday I spotted what looked like a collection of old railway stock and was curious to see what it was. There wasn’t a museum as such but it was still interesting. Many of the dock buildings are dilapidated, but beautiful at the same time.

Walking along the waterfront I came upon a statue to Josef Ressel, who reputedly designed the first marine propeller. It’s a very pleasant waterfront with great views and a number of artworks along the waterfront. There are also several marinas and yacht clubs.

The main square was as impressive and imposing as the night before. I’d love to see it with an event of some sort.

While I’ve been travelling around Italy I’ve tried to seek out local food as much as I can, but I’m not sure that the slow boiled “pork head meat” sold in Pepi’s was for me! Instead I went to a fruit stall on the market and bought a huge and delicious fruit salad, and to a deli for some bread and ham which lasted me through the day.

Having collected my bags I headed for the station and for the Austrian ÖBB train that would take me over the border into Slovenia. Whilst only three carriages long this is the start of an epic daily journey to Vienna. More carriages would be added at later stations, but I would only be going as far as Ljubljana today.

The first part of the journey is a much longer version of the route of the closed tramway, to Opicina. The train can’t climb the steep hill so instead goes along the coast, climbing as it goes before turning inland and then back on itself, ending up just over 2 miles away from where it started, but a much higher altitude, having climbed almost continuously for over half an hour.

A point of interest on this part of the journey is that the line passes the now derelict station in the famous town of Prosecco. At Villa Opicina the locomotive on the front of the train was changed, presumably because the powerful beast that had brought us up from Trieste was no longer required.

The border into Slovenia is passed almost immediately as we leave Opicina. The scenery from here is all hilly, often woodland and immediately feels different to Italy. It opens out a little and becomes a wide plain as Ljubljana is reached, with towers on various hilltops at the edges of the plain.

In the town of Borovnica, the line takes a long loop around a valley which was previously crossed on a viaduct. Just a single pillar now remains of the viaduct, which was destroyed during World War II. It is visible from all directions, as is the old higher line of the railway.

The station in Ljubljana is primarily remarkable for being almost non-existent. There are lots of platforms but no station building at all, just an underpass, with a small ticket office at one end.

I’d booked a small apartment in this city, which was cheaper than the hotels in the centre. It was tiny as an apartment, but absolutely fine for a short stay.

I soon realised why the hotels were very full and expensive. The town was starting to fill with Northern Ireland fans, here for a football match a couple of nights later. They were a friendly bunch and keen to suggest places that I needed to see (though they were mostly bars!) Helpfully there were a number of Irish bars that met their needs.

The historic town centre is a lovely place. I was too late to see the market but the rest of the town was open. The castle is high above the town and visible from pretty much everywhere. It all seems well looked after and there are several indoor spaces open for visitors to wander in to. I bought an ice cream and enjoyed the warm late afternoon sun. As well as the lovely historic buildings, I particularly enjoyed the chandelier suspended over a junction in one back street, and the bridge with apartments on top, which looked very new.

The focus of much of the city is the river. There are cafes and public spaces all along it. The main square is right next to the river and has a very unusual triple bridge spanning the river. in the square there was an amusing artwork creating a small rainy area in the middle of a sunny city. It was nicely done and I imagine would have been very popular earlier in the day!

I’d spotted the trip boats running up and down the river and I decided to jump onto one of them to see the town from a different perspective. There were only two other passengers on my trip, which was the last of the day for this particular boat.

The commentary as we went along talked not only about what we were seeing, but about the history of the country (the 25th newest independent nation in the world, having become independent on 25th June 1991.) The people are among the most multilingual in the world, with the average Slovenian speaking 3 languages.

Back in the town it was now starting to get late and I wanted to explore the other bank of the river. Again this was lovely, and had a number of theatres and concert halls.

The castle looked rather stunning in the setting sun, as I walked back to the centre to find something to eat.

As in many places, a single traveller is not especially appealing to a restaurant that can fit two or more people onto the same table, and it was clear that tonight that was going to be my challenge with queues outside most places.

As I’d walked into town earlier I’d passed a tiny Indian cafe in a back street so decided to give that a try. It was a good call and I nabbed one of his three tables. Afterwards I took a final walk around the now floodlit town. A really super city, highly recommended.