December in Ljubljana

This small city is buzzing at any time, but in December, it seems more alive than ever. Trees are covered in small blue lights; all the buildings along the river are outlined by strings of light. The castle looking down on us is tinted deep , vermillion or vanilla and lights twinkle from all the trees on the hillside below. Planets, stars and suns are strung between the buildings. Young children have their photos taken in front of the ten foot ice-queen.

On every corner are musicians. Not for them the traditional carols of Christmas (although I hear one couple presenting a spirited rendition of Jingle Bells). Some are playing jazz, some traditional Slovene folk-songs. But above all else, we hear the pan pipes. A band of South Americans have come to town and treat the crowds to displays of song and dance while trying to sell woollen goods and CDs.

There is a smell of spice on the wind. The place is littered with small stands selling mulled wine and warm mead. Bars spring up from nowhere, with patio heaters and blankets to keep the customers warm. Even in December, the streets are full of people eating and drinking al fresco .

The embankment is lined with stalls selling Christmas gifts. You can choose from jewellery, silks and woollens, candies, crystals, wooden goods or candles. Shoppers stroll, browse and buy – but always slowly. No-one is in a hurry here – and there are always friends to meet and chat with on the way.

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By Elizabeth Ducie

Elizabeth Ducie was a successful international manufacturing consultant, when she decided to give it all up and start telling lies for a living instead.

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