Christmas in Ljubljana, Slovenia:
Guest Feature by Anna Van Leemputten
When you don’t have much time to ‘shop’ and still take in cultural and sporting elements of a country, a Christmas market, which brings together very different arts and crafts, has an obvious attraction. Do not be mistaken when Ljubljana describes its market more as a festival than a market. There’s a real party atmosphere here at the Christmas Market surrounded by twinkling lights along the banks of the river.
Music, eating and drinking may be the obvious attractions, rather than the gift stalls, lined up along the river bank, in neat wooden cabins or under the main meat and fish market canopy. Here you will be able to find different gift ideas, with everything from semi-precious stones and ghee made from Slovenian cows milk, plus the ubiquitous vast array of locally produced spirits, through to sheep and goats skins and blown glass. It seems the typical small gift given by a Slovenian is a fridge magnet, which were on nearly every stall, but handmade wooden objects were apparent – anybody for a wooden bow tie? – as were handmade soaps, herbal tea, local ceramics (including the bowls we had previously eaten our soup out of) and brightly coloured sweets. There were also stalls selling a variety of woolly hats, just in case you’d forgotten yours, and plenty with wares included beautiful hand knit children’s jumpers.
The fair caters really well for children; you’ll find many dancing to the music played in every street and and surrounded particular stalls. From observation it seems Slovenians love cats – Ljubljana has its own cat café – and there is a cat character in a beautifully illustrated children’s book Decek in Hisa/ The Little Boy and The House, by Maja Kastelic. The cat was the centre piece of one stall and also a local bookshop window, and had children thronging to it. The book itself has no words, being a picture story book, and makes an ideal present for a child, as a memory of Llubljana.
The market also introduced us to the Slovenian equivalent of a bag of chips. Here a potato is peeled and then skewered. The skewer is placed on a vice and a sharp knife gouges it as a handle is turned, creating a spiral through the potato which is then pulled along the length of the skewer. It is then dropped into hot oil, much as chips are and when ready the skewer is eaten like a lollipop, a napkin protecting your hand. They were in great demand!
There are many sights we were not able to visit because of time restraints, for example one I would particularly have liked to have visited is the Moonolith art installation. An interactive Christmas display it shows the constellations as you move around it. It is part of the Dark Star project, which would have been apt given it was the opening week of the new Star Wars movie.
Sadly, we were also not introduced to The Good Fairy, who resides in front of the City Hall, granting wishes, as she only appears during the larger part of the Festival between Boxing Day and New Year. During this period she is joined by Grandpa Frost, with processions and multiple free open air concerts and street theatre.
It’s a good excuse to book a quick flight for that sad period after Christmas Day before we all go back to work – or put it in your diary for next year – Christmas is truly an experience in Ljubljana.
Our tour of the Christmas Market, Ljubljana was part of a trip as guests of the Slovenian Tourist Board to learn more about Slovenia, European Green Capital 2016. More information is available here