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Ljubljana – festive excitement in the capital

Text: Mankica Kranjec Photos: Jure Eržen (Delo), Mankica Kranjec, Luka Esenko

(25 km from Ljubljana Airport)

Back in the golden days of Slovene popular song, singer Stane Mancini famously sang about "beautiful white Ljubljana". And there is nothing unusual about that, given that Slovenia's capital is undoubtedly at its most beautiful in winter, when its roofs and streets are covered with a white blanket of snow. Wandering through the city, enjoying the New Year's decorations and atmosphere over a hot cup of tea, stopping at one of the picturesque stalls of the Christmas market to choose a hand-made creation by a local artisan: all activities guaranteed to conjure up a festive mood. The buzzing atmosphere of the city at the end of the year is always enlivened by numerous outdoor entertainments.

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And because no party is complete without tasty food, the city's restaurateurs offer the best in regional food from their stalls in the city centre. The menu includes numerous dishes from the Tastes of Ljubljana project, developed by Ljubljana Tourism in collaboration with the well-known ethnologist Janez Bogataj. These are popular dishes made with local ingredients, which the chefs of selected restaurants have adapted to new methods of preparation.

It looks as though this year's winter in the city centre is going to be full of variety. Zvezda Park will be transformed into an ice-covered wonderland for a month. The Ice Fantasy project offers skating enthusiasts more than 2,000 square metres of ice rinks and "skate ways" in the heart of Ljubljana. It is aimed at all generations and all ability levels, from experienced skaters to those who will be putting on a pair of ice skates for the first time this year.

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The festive spirit really comes alive in Ljubljana when the Christmas lights are switched on at the start of December. Some of the most imaginative Christmas decorations have been created by the artist Zmago Modic, for whom this year's concept of a capital city decorated with thousands of lights offers an opportunity to examine the differences between past and future. For an even more special view of Ljubljana, its famous bridges and the illuminated façades of its buildings, climb aboard a river boat such as the wooden Ljubljanica or one of the other boats operating from the landing stages along the banks of the Ljubljanica and see the sights of the city from the river.

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Ljubljana bubbles with festive fun throughout the winter but events reach their climax with the outdoor New Year's Eve celebration, when fireworks from Ljubljana Castle light up the sky at midnight and mark the arrival of the new year.

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