I have a favorite café in Ljubljana. OK, let’s be honest… my girlfriend has a favorite café in Ljubljana, has taken me there on both of my visits to Slovenia, and so by association, it’s now my favorite café in Ljubljana. It’s a French shop with a French motif, the coffee is fabulous and, well, what else do you need to know.
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After a morning of stuffing ourselves on breakfast at Prenočišče in Kamrica, we made our way into Ljubljana to visit the big indoor/outdoor market. Indoors are stalls selling mostly fresh meats, cheeses, olives, breads and nuts; outdoors is where you find the fresh fruit and veggies, souvenirs, baskets, and on this particular weekend, the weekend before Easter, many traditional and seasonal offerings.
Slovenia is a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, and being the weekend before Easter, there are several homemade specialty items for sale specific to this high holy day, including butarice (bundles of greenery to be brought to church on Palm Sunday for a blessing; also called presmeci, depending on the region in Slovenia), painted eggs, and various seasonal pastries and breads. The butarice sold here in the city have many man-made additions, such as the brightly painted wood curls you see below, making them more vibrant but also giving them a slightly artificial and manufactured feel. Out in the countryside the presmeci are more likely to be entirely natural, and mostly green.
These individually hand-painted hollow eggs, from the Bela Krajina region of Slovenia, have patterns drawn on them in wax before painting, keeping the tint from certain parts of the shell. Through this process, intricate patterns can be layered onto each shell, providing each with its own unique fingerprint. Choosing a favorite is like choosing an ice-cream flavor; you’ll always wonder if you picked the best one! But finally I selected two to bring home, unique souvenirs from an ancient land.
Salami and sausage are a Slovenian staple, and if you live in the country you probably make your own, in a process called koline (more on that later), or at a market like this one, you can choose to buy from any number of vendors—all of whom have crafted these pork offerings themselves and are now in the market to sell them. Many varieties are available, each salty and delicious in their own unique way, and if you look closely at the photos, you’ll notice the dedication of these farmers through the common sacrifice of a finger or two!
The indoor market is between two segments of outdoor plazas, so we ventured there next. The selections of pork, chicken, beef and more is fantastic. Gorgeous cuts of fresh meat, more salamis to choose from, and dried or cured hunks of ham as well. Massive selections of nuts and dried fruits, green and black olives, soft buttery cheeses and more make this market a true cornucopia of edible life.
Outdoors on the other side, overlooked by the Ljubljana Castle, are the vegetable and fruit stands. This April was unseasonably warm, undoubtedly contributing to the exceptionally gorgeous selections of lettuce, tomatoes, asparagus and more on display. Apples, oranges, strawberries and the like, much of it from local Slovenian farms but also wares from as far away as Spain.
If you plan a visit to Ljubljana, I highly recommend spending at least part of your time in an apartment with a kitchen instead of a full-service hotel, so you have an excuse to explore the market and make your selections for a fabulous lunch or dinner.