10 Things you’ll learn on a trip to Ljubljana that are different in the U.S.

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“So tell me, where are you moving to?” Joe asked.

“Slovenia”, I answered.

He nodded with understanding. “Oh, my sister’s husband’s brother went to Slovakia once. He really liked it”.

For what seemed like the 100th time, I explained, “No, Slovenia. We’re going to SLOVEnia. It’s like, a whole ‘nother country”.

Joe looked puzzled. “Wait,” he said, as his faced wrinkled with deep concern. “Isn’t that by Ukraine?”.

Many people don’t know where Slovenia is (and I didn’t before either), so here ya go.

10 things you'll learn on a trip to ljubljana-map of slovenia www.tasteofdivine.com
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Slovenia isn’t Slovakia. It isn’t in a danger zone close to Ukraine. We are right by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, and Croatia to the south.

 

Now let’s zoom in…

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana-www.tasteofdivine.com
Courtesty of greenwichmeantime.com

See that red star? That’s where we are living now. It’s called Ljubljana (Lyoo-blyee-on-uh).

Ljubljana is like a secret paradise on earth. And I’m living here for a whole year!! I keep pinching myself–it’s still so hard for me to believe! You can check out some photos of our first few days in this great place here: First Impressions: Ljubljana. In the meantime, I’ve been learning a few things along the way…

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana www.tasteofdivine.com

Things you’ll learn on a trip to Ljubljana

1. It’s a capital city, but it’s really really small. I see the same people over and over and over again. And I see people I know all the time, but usually don’t even go up to them or say hi, because it is just so normal to see them everywhere. And everyone knows everyone. You know that 6 degrees of separation thing? Well it’s really like 2 degrees here.

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana www.tasteofdivine.com

2. Most people do speak English, but learning a few common phrases and words in Slovenian seems to get you a long way.

3. People enjoy life here. It isn’t always go-go-go like in the U.S. A lot of people get off work around 4:00, then they take a stroll or go to the park or meet up with friends.

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4. There are lots of cafes and bars with free wi-fi, but not many people are on it. You don’t really see coffee shops full of MacBooks and people on their cell phones. People here generally enjoy each other’s company and make conversation instead of living online.

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana www.tasteofdivine.com

5. On that same note, there isn’t much coffee-to-go. Many people sit down around here and enjoy themselves. There also isn’t much fast food. We did eat “fast food” one night, and the guy made it right there in front of us and it took about 15 minutes. A much more relaxed culture that I just love.

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6. Tips at restaurants are not expected. Sometimes if the service is great people will round up the bill, but tipping is definitely optional.

7. Tax is included in the bill, so you know exactly what you are going to pay. If something costs 3 euros, that is how much you’ll be charged.

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana www.tasteofdivine.com

8. Alcohol is is everywhere, and it seems like it’s acceptable to drink at any time. Walk down the river in the morning and you’ll see people drinking wine! Smoking is also everywhere (except for inside).

9. The wine is cheaper than the beer. Hell, it’s even cheaper than the water!

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana www.tasteofdivine.com

10. There is graffiti everywhere. While this would normally be associated with a bad area of town in the U.S, there isn’t really a “bad” area in Ljubljana. The city is very safe. There isn’t much crime here, minus common (aka constant) bike theft.

10 things you'll learn on a trip to Ljubljana www.tasteofdivine.com

I still don’t know how to order tap water, and I don’t know if it is even common or acceptable to do so. Whenever I’ve tried, I get mineral water or bottled water, which is really great, I’m just so used to getting a glass of free, tap water with a meal. It seems that if you order coffee, it will come with a little glass of tap water too. But not always. So if you have any insight, please let me know!

Update: Thanks to the tips in the comments from all you lovely readers, I now know how to order tap water. Thanks so much for reading and for commenting!

 

Comments

  1. Marilyn Eliason

    Christine, my darling girl, what a great blog!!! It’s customary throughout Europe to receive mineral or sparkling water at the table. You do have to purchase the bottle though. They are not accustomed to serving water from the tap. I can’t wait to find out the other interesting things you learn as time goes on. Wine is the constant social companion of most Europeans. They start drinking it as kids. I learned that when I lived in Sicily. I think you’ll love Europe as much as I do. Since you are now living in a small town, you’ll find out things that are not necessary common to larger cities, like the Wi-Fi thing.

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      Christine Devlin

      Thank you so much Mimi! I’m glad you’re liking the blog. I’ll have to get used to the water thing. Right now I’m a sponge, just learning everything I can about this beautiful city. And I’m totally loving the wine! It is probably both the best and the cheapest I’ve ever had 🙂

  2. Mimi

    By the way, bike theft is also rife in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Most of the Dutch have two bikes, one homemade with mismatched parts for city transportation, and the second for countryside rides. This bike is usually the very best and kept inside for good measure.

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  3. Iva

    So nice to read this about my hometown. 🙂 We do drink tap water at restaurants all the time, just that 1) you have to order a glass of water (kozarec vode) or just say “vodo iz pipe, prosim”, 2) you probably mostly eat along the river where they take foreigners seriously, and 3) serving bottled water seems more fancy and obviously pricier. 🙂 Next time, then, just ask for a glass with it. As for the shoes, noone knows exactly but it certainly ain’t a gang thing 🙂 I think it’s mostly student fun (especially for the foreign – Erasmus ones).

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      Christine Devlin

      Thanks for the tip Iva! I ordered “vodo iz pipe” from a restaurant today and got tap water no problem 🙂 Several people have asked about the shoe thing on Facebook too, so thanks for the insight!

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  4. Alicia

    Oh how you are making me miss Europe with this blog post! It is normal to receive mineral or sparkling water. In Germany (and don’t quote me on this, it’s been almost 10 years), but I think to order ice or tap water we asked for wasser krystal specifically. So you’ll have to ask around or find a way to translate it. They do serve it even if they look at you like your crazy! It’s a palate thing. The water/drink should compliment the meal. We aren’t soda drinkers, but they served it warm there. Beer was luke warm as well. Is this common in Ljubljana?

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      Christine Devlin

      Oh thank you for letting me know Alicia! I’ll have to keep that in mind when we go to Germany. I’m not a soda drinker either, so I’m not sure about that, but the beer is cold here. I got red wine a couple times and it came chilled-that was different!

  5. Andrew

    The first photo you have of the small side street with green doors and a bicycle is where we filmed House Hunters Int’l show back in June. We shot the ‘decision scene’ outside the Ljubljana castle.

    As an American, I’m trying hard to stop tipping. It just seems to confuse people. There’s a good coffee-to-go cart in the railway station underpass and they are talking about having one in the old town as well, once the students are back from summer break.

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      Christine Devlin

      Oh wow that’s so cool!! I had no idea. I love that show. Has that episode aired yet?

      It does feel so weird not to tip. And I have to admit I do miss being able to just grab a quick coffee on the go.

      1. Andrew

        It should air in Jan or Feb. I should have an air date later in the autumn. It was more work than my tours! But a rewarding and unique experience. Plus I now have a great real estate agent and friend from the show.

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      2. Maja

        Hey Christine!
        It shouldn’t be a problem to get coffee to go in Ljubljana. Just go to any coffee bar you see and say you want to have it to go. Most of them (not all) have the “to go” cups but you have to ask and order at the bar. 🙂 enjoy Ljubljana. I miss it every day and love to read about it 🙂

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  6. Camie

    First, I want to say how jealous I am of your recent move to Ljubljana. My husband and I visited Ljubljana two weeks ago for the first time and absolutely loved it.

    Second, I want to note that European restaurant water etiquette has changed a lot in recent years. Three years ago when my husband and I started traveling around Europe, we rarely saw diners drinking tap water. Now, it’s widely accepted in many countries. Sure, there are countries where ordering tap water is still highly frowned upon (e.g. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Russia) but there are many countries where it is not frowned upon (e.g. Poland, UK, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany, Hungary). As for ice cubes, forget about them because you’ll rarely see them in Europe!

    Good luck on your new adventure!

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      Christine Devlin

      Ljubljana is just perfect, isn’t it? I’m definitely very lucky to be living here 🙂
      I’ve noticed people drinking tap water around here too, and thanks to Iva (comment above), I ordered tap water for the first time without any problem. I’ll have to remember not to ask for it when we go to France/Italy though. The ice doesn’t bother me one bit, I normally drink my water room temp anyway.

      Thanks so much for the good wishes 🙂

    2. Iva

      Haha, just like Americans crave coffee to go (which actually is pretty bad coffee and produces high amount of waste … ), we Europeans crave the real espresso deal while over the Ocean 😀 To each its own, I’d say. It’s a different culture, each with their pros and cons. And about tap water, sure, Europe is as diverse as there is nations in it. For us in Ljubljana, drinking tap water has been standard ever since, it just gotten a bit fancy lately to order bottled water. Our spring water / water sources here is among one of the finest in the world. (Hint: our craftbeer :D) And about ice: becoming more and more common! Though far from the high occurrence you get in US.

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        Christine Devlin

        I can’t say I’ve ever craved espresso, haha! I love learning about your culture and how it’s different than what I’m used to! Yes, we Americans are really wasteful…something I’m definitely not proud of. The tap water here tastes good (and so does the beer!). It reminds me of the mountains in Colorado…we have good water there too 🙂

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    3. Muddy

      I’ve been living in France for 11 years. We don’t eat out a lot, but when we do, we order “une carafe d’eau” (a pitcher of tap water). We’ve rarely had a problem with that, though of course the proprietors and servers would prefer that customers spend more money. If you order “de l’eau” (some water), of course they’ll bring Evian or Perrier or some such bottled brand.

      We visited Brussels, Belgium, last summer, and there it wasn’t possible to get a carafe of water. We bought the bottled or we drank something else.

      When we’ve been in England visiting my mother-in-law, it’s been no problem to have tap water.

      Ljubljana looks and sounds magical. Enjoy!

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  7. Čevljar

    Article about the shoes: http://www.spottedbylocals.com/ljubljana/cevlji-na-zici/ .

    I always leave a tip, when service is good. Mostly by simply rounding the amount (e.g. when the bill is 29,20, I pay 30).

    Regarding the bikes, you can use the Bicikelj citywide bike system. For 3 EUR per year, you can pick a bike, ride to your destination and leave it there (60 minutes are free, after 60 minutes you pay extra, but the distances are so small, that this almost never occurs). http://en.bicikelj.si

    Have a nice time in Ljubljana.

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      Christine Devlin

      Thanks for the link…it’s interesting that no one seems to truly know how it started. I’ve been rounding up the bill too. I just feel so weird not leaving anything.

      The bike system is pretty cool! We got Urbana cards and have used them a couple times for the bikes and the bus. I wish there were more programs like that in the US-it makes it much easier to get around without a car.

  8. Mojca

    Hey there,
    This has been such a pleasant read :-), great start to a day.
    As for the water with your meal it is perfectly acceptable and extremely common to ask for a glass of tap water (kozarec vode, navadna voda or voda iz pipe if you are looking for the term).
    Keep enjoying your stay in Ljubljana this way, it makes the rest of us appreciate it even more.
    Regards
    Mojca

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  9. Miha

    After you order, say: “Pa še kozarec vode iz pipe, prosim.” That should get you a glass of tap water. BTW, nice blog. 🙂

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  10. Nina

    I worked in a restaurant when I was a student and we had this secret rule to bring a foreigner bottled water if he/she ordered water. This is because most tourists are used to being charged for water and/or the prices in Slovenia are already much lower than the prices in their countries of origin. The best way to avoid that and get tap water for free is to order a *glass* of water (kozarec vode [ko’za:rets ‘vode]) along with your meal or coffee or pretty much anything really. For example, if you’re having coffee and you’ve already finished your glass of water, you can easily ask for another one (še en kozarec vode = another glass of water) or if you’re ordering something else for after you’ve had your coffee, you can ask for that specific drink and add “in še en kozarec vode”. When I have coffee with my friends, the social event usually lasts for about 2 to 3 hours and I normally go through 2 or more “kozarci vode” 🙂 Hope this helps.

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  11. Amanda Kuhn

    My husband and I lived in ljubljana for two years!!!!!! We loved it there. Please email me if you have any questions. I have a few favorite restuArnts and trips you can take.

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      Christine Devlin

      Hey Amanda! It’s such a nice life here, isn’t it? I’d love to hear your recommendations about where to eat and where to go! Right now, we’ve mainly stayed in the city but we hope to venture out a little bit soon.

  12. Teja

    Hello, fellow travel blogger and welcome to Slovenia, everything you’ve written down is pretty true, except from the being constantly online thing – I do think that the Slovenes spend way too much time on their cell phones – but from your point of view that’s probably nothing:)

    By the way, if you want to order tap water, just say ”kozarec vode iz pipe, prosim.”

    You can check out my blog on:
    http://www.soulfishingblog.blogspot.com

    Enjoy your stay in Ljubljana!

    Teja

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  14. Maja

    Hi Christine 🙂
    I’m Slovenian living in Ljubljana. It’s absutely common to order tap water in ljubljana, but the waiters love to understand you wrong a lot of times and bring you a bottle instead because it’s payable 😉 but if you just say a glass of tap water please or maybe vodo iz pipe prosim, they’ll know exactly what you want. Many ppl speak english, that is true. But i also think that not many know what tap water means haha. Because we don’t have that expression in slovenian. We say water from the pipe. 😉

    Hope this helps

    Have fun in LJ

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      Christine Devlin

      Hi Maja!
      I’m glad you stopped by! And thank you for the tips on ordering water here. That helps a ton! I’m loving Ljubljana so much already, and I can’t wait to explore more of your beautiful country 🙂

  15. Naomi

    I’m in Slovakia, and I’m sure snail mail has gotten lost being sent to Slovenia instead of Slovakia! I have to admit, I didn’t know the difference between them before. I’ve been meaning to make it to Slovenia but haven’t gotten that far south yet. Love to hear your impressions – 7,8,9,10 yes! I love not having to guess what the final price will be (and I’m from Canada, try adding 14%).

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      Christine Devlin

      Hey Naomi! You should make the trip if you ever get a chance-it’s amazing here! I’d love to visit Slovakia sometime. My mom tells me I have Czechoslovakian roots.
      14%? Wow. We have it easier in the US, I normally just assume about 10% extra (which is easier to calculate too).

  16. Urška

    Hi. I have lived near Ljubljana for my whole life. The thing with shoes is quite fun. It started with skaters who bought new shoes in the store near the river Ljubljanica. They immediately started wearing new shoes and didn’t need the old one’s any more. But they didn’t want to throw them in a trash bin and so it started the tradition on throwing them up there. Soon other people brought their old shoes and threw them up there.
    At least that is what I heard about it. 🙂

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