As you may have noticed, from the beginning, there has been somewhat of a delay in my blogging. Besides the normal process of adapting to a new situation, my first weeks in Ljubljana were sometimes a bit hard. The main reason was that I have not been feeling well, in particular because of a persisting hypertension. Luckily, my colleagues proved to be very helpful and concerned. When they noticed I wasn’t feeling well, they immediately referred me to the emergency department.
So, entirely unplanned, I got to see the Slovenian health care system from the patient’s perspective. It proved to be an interesting experience. The first thing I noticed, was the very efficient way I was treated. No waiting lists for appointments, I was quickly attended to and the approach was very constructive in working towards finding causes and solutions. The specialists spoke good English and were very helpful.
Next week, I hope to round up the last examinations and discuss the results with the internist, who gave me apart from medication some usefull advices to make my situation as comfortable as possible in the meanwhile. Those advices basically boiled down on trying to keep my stress level as low as possible by not doing extra work for school outside of working hours, to enjoy the good Slovenian life by going for hikes and outings, enjoying the amazing Slovenian foodculture, going for a good massage and even… getting a local boyfriend. Being a good patient, I have already started to work through this unexpected bucket list. So let me update you on the progress sofar...
Although I have little or no time to leave Ljubljana for outings, I have been out and about with friends, dining, having coffee, chatting, laughting and generally having a great time. Particularly colourful (and sunny!) was our visit to the Botanic Garden of Ljubljana University. A peak experience in the most literal sense of the word was having a coffee on the top floor of Nebotičnik, or in English, 'the Skyscraper'. When they finished building in 1933, it was the tallest structure in the then Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
A city within the city, that’s how one might consider the BTC area in Ljubljana. While the little streets in the city center host many small, creative shops, people do their general shopping at the BTC, where things are big, bigger, biggest. My search for a new charger for my laptop brought me there, and it is quite an experience (though not necessarily a pleasant one). The BTC has one large shopping mall, and over a dozen smaller ones. Besides, there’s a hotel, as well as bars, restaurants (including Slovenia’s only Burger King), a cinema and sporting clubs. One of the office buildings, the so called Crystal Palace, is the highest building in the country. On a whole, BTC City claims to be among the largest shopping and entertainment area’s in Europe – in a country as small as Slovenia…
On sunny days, one of Ljubljana’s attractions is the river Ljubljanica. Especially during the first days of spring, with the trees blossoming forth, its banks provide lovely opportunities to relax and enjoy the good city life. In earlier ages, the river was equally important to the people living in this region, but not necessarily for recreational purposes. Until half way into the nineteenth century, the Ljubljanica was the way to transport goods into, and from the city. Some centuries before, during the Middle Ages, the river also was a means of punishing people. Bakers who had been caught cheating with the weight of their bread, were publicly humiliated by being thrown into cold waters of the Ljubljanica from one of the bridges…
Nowadays, it is less easy to enter the river. In fact, since 2003, you need a permit to dive into it. This measure was to stop people from searching the river and its beds that are known for the archeological artefacts that can be found there. These often disappeared with their finders, much to the dismay of the official historians. Estimates are that up to 13.000 historical artefacts have been found over the years, from a Stone Age arrow head (35.000 – 45.000 years ago) up to stuff from the Renaissance. It is believed that the locals have long considered the river a sacred place, and perhaps offered artefacts to it a sign of mourning or thanksgiving.
The magic of Ljubljana lies in its capacity to transform the way we perceive life. Strolling along the city, you’ll suddenly find yourself feeding spring flowers to muskrats. Everything seems to look cuter here. Or is Ljubljana just triggering the birth of spring in you, the season that makes you more perceptive of life’s beauty?
The Ljubljana Castle stands proudly on Castle Hill, a site that has been occupied since 1200 BC. The present castle is not that old, however, most of it was built (or rebuilt) in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Over the millennia, ‘Ljubljana Grad’ was, amongst other things, a fortification, a prison and a home for the poor. Currently, it is it used for all kinds of cultural events and as a wedding venue.
Above all, it is lovely place to linger for both tourists and locals. I went there with some friends, and we were rewarded for the climb up Castle Hill with a great view of Ljubljana. Too bad there are no separate tickets for the castle’s Viewing Tower. You have to buy a ticket for all the castle’s features, which, student discount included, still costs around 5 Euros. It struck us as a bit too much just for an extra bit of view! For a moment, we were tempted to fish for the coins people throw into the castle’s wishing well and use them to buy the tickets. However, our good manners quickly overcame the temptation… or was it our lack of ingenuity? ;-)
Peace of mind does not only come from visiting relaxing places and enjoying good company. In fact, as Igor Gaber tries to teach his fellow inhabitants of Ljubljana: peace begins on your plate. I discovered the one and only Ljubljana Loving Hut, part of an international chain of vegan fast food restaurants. Based on the idea that all creatures, whether human or animal, can live in peace with each other and the earth, they serve a range of fine vegan dishes. As I can now say from my own experience, contributing to world peace has never been so enjoyable!
Just around the corner from my place is the Centralna Postaja, or Central Station in English. As the photograph on the upper right, they serve good lunches (with salads in jars!), but that's not the only thing they do. They have their very own radio station broadcasting from the building (which you can listen to here). A great place to hang out with a good ambiance, especially on warm spring evenings.
I even found the time to go for a propermassage at a wellness club the doctor had advised. Since I had no intention of ending up in some dubious place, I decided to stick to her advice, which turned out to be very good. It was in fact my first ever ‘official’ massage, but probably not my last. This 80 minute Thai massage really helped to reduce my stress level. Funny enough, I felt the effect even more the day after, when I noticed an increased energy level.
Leaving the place, I decided to prolong this little moment for myself, by having a Irish coffee at the dreamy riverside on a gentle night at the Solist Bar. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I am thoroughly enjoying flying solo.
4 Local boyfriend
As a student in the medical field I know that treatment fidelity is an import component in curing a patient. However, treatment fidelity of the medical staff (when it concerns their own health) is generally known to be low. I am not an exception in this respect. Sometimes, I’m too absorbed in my work, I easily forget to take my medication or I don’t allow myself a break. Lucky enough, I always have my colleagues around to remind me to take good care of myself. I have been a good patient where working on the doctor’s bucket list mentioned above is concerned. However, the ‘local boyfriend’ item was crossed out of the list, for some obvious reasons :-).
From a colourful Ljubljana, I wish you all a beautiful springtime! In my next blog, I will return to writing about my internship.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!