Much like Bled Castle, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, Ljubljana Castle is another fortress on a hill with fantastic views. Although Ljubljana isn’t quite as picturesque as Lake Bled, the castle is easily accessible by funicular, which I think we can all agree is better than trudging up an insanely steep hill under the broiling sun. The website for Ljubljana Castle only has prices listed for the funicular ride + all the exhibits, which is 8 euros. However, we opted for the return funicular trip with access to the free exhibits at the castle, which I believe was only 4 euros.
Obviously, the funicular was pretty awesome. It was a chilly, drizzly evening when we visited, so we were the only people going up the hill (which meant the grizzled operator was forced to emerge from his warm booth to escort us up, which he seemed none too pleased about), thus our views were uninterrupted by other people crowding the glass front. I had just been lamenting the fact that we didn’t have time to take the funicular in Bridgnorth a couple months ago, but honestly, this one was steeper, and probably more fun.
Upon reaching the top, we stepped into a weird stone tunnel/mazelike structure, finally locating some steps and emerging into the courtyard of the castle complex, which included a restaurant, a bar/club, a gift shop, and various museum galleries. We began with the viewing platform, as sunset was fast approaching.
Ljubljana is a quaint little city to look out over, as the buildings are all around the same height, and of a similar architectural style, with distinctive red roofs. Unfortunately, I have a short attention span where the outdoors in concerned, so I was anxious to check out some of the other attractions the castle had to offer.
I was drawn to the penitentiary, so we went in there first. It was small, but rather neat. They had a few cells set up with information about the history of the prison, including the POWs held there during the First World War. They even had a holographic prisoner in the last cell complete with authentic howls of despair. There was also a computer screen where you could take pictures of yourself with a cell-looking background, and email them to family and friends.
Above the prison, there was a small chapel known as the Chapel of St. George. It was a nice little chapel, but there’s not really much to be said about it. Now, because you had to pay extra to visit the Slovenian History exhibit, and the “Virtual Castle,” I didn’t learn much about the history of the castle, which I kind of regret. The internet informs me that there was a settlement on the castle hill as far back as the Bronze Age, but the oldest bits of the current castle date back to the 15th century, which includes St. George’s Chapel. So I guess it has age going for it if nothing else.
There were some signs directing us to an art gallery, which turned out to be underground, with a rock wall on one side. Some of the pictures seemed fairly random, but there was also pieces of preserved murals that had been found in the castle, which I enjoyed. The tunnels eventually led us out to a temporary exhibition, and here’s where things got a bit weird…
It turned out to be an exhibit about Camel cigarettes. At first, we were wandering through and saw mentions of “Camel,” but we thought perhaps it was some Slovenian thing. It wasn’t until we saw the pictures of Joe Camel that it kicked in. Now, I’m no prude about smoking, having briefly been a smoker myself in my youth, but it was clearly being paid for by Camel, as all the signage indicated how great Camels were – a promotional tobacco exhibit just seemed like a really odd choice for an art gallery. There were a few disinterested girls sitting by a photo booth, who were apparently working there, but they gave off a vibe of being too cool to speak to us, so I don’t know if we were meant to use the photo booth or not. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised no one offered us a free pack of cigarettes or something, as it seemed like the obvious conclusion to walking through a three-dimensional advertisement. Bizarre stuff.
As we were visiting quite late, the gift shop was already shut, but the club had yet to get going (not that clubs are really my thing anyway), so there wasn’t much else for us to do up there. Also, the ice cream was only Carte D’or, which I have already established I’m not a huge fan of, so it was getting to be time to seek out a more delicious ice cream in town (and there are delicious ice creams in abundance in the Old Town). We had to wait for a good few minutes for the funicular (the website claims it runs every 10 minutes, I don’t know how true that is), since it just sits at the bottom of the hill, I guess until someone notices you’re standing at the top. At least the waiting area is enclosed, and has good views and a few signs about geology on the wall to amuse you whilst you wait. The ride down was just as fun as the ride up, though funiculars never go quite as fast as I would like, though I suppose a sedate pace is more desirable than a snapped cable.
I’ll give Ljubljana Castle 2/5, which is perhaps an unfair assessment, since I didn’t pay to see all the exhibits. Therefore, this whole review is probably rather pointless, unless you are a cheapskate like me who doesn’t want to pay for the full experience. Perhaps you enjoyed reading it anyhow. They do offer guided tours of the castle during the day, which may be worth doing if you want to see everything, as there appeared to be quite a few areas that were otherwise closed to the public. I would have liked to learn more about the history of the castle whilst I was there, but I guess it’s my own fault for not shelling out the big bucks (euros?). The view and funicular were probably worth the 4 euros though.