Ljubljana - This Is My City
A sunrise in Ljubljana seemed like it must be a truly beautiful thing
I lay in bed one night recently, unable to fall asleep, and watched the light peek through the cracks of the Venetian blinds that adorn my apartment window. The light was weak, but it was there. I checked the time and saw that it was 4:30am. I was not the least bit sleepy. Only a few days before I had returned to Ljubljana after a trip to the US, and my transition back to European time was taking its toll. Jetlag had gotten hold of me, and it was not keen on letting go.
Climbing out of bed, I went to the window to see if I could watch the sunrise from there. I could not remember the last time I had seen one, and a sunrise in Ljubljana seemed like it must be a truly beautiful thing. The light was merely the trickery of dawn, however. The sun remained behind the Earth, and only its fingertips had emerged to tickle the sky and announce its arrival. I turned toward my bed again, but a thought had struck me and pulled me back to the window. Suddenly, I wanted to see the sunrise, and I wanted to do it from the castle that overlooks the city.
Did I have time to make it to Ljubljana Castle? So many of my Slovene friends had told me how lovely it is to watch the sunrise from there, and I had always doubted that I would ever get up early enough to see it. That day I happened to have gone to bed late enough that there was a chance I could catch it, but I would have to hurry. After a moment of contemplation I donned my shiny new running shoes for only the third time. They even still squeaked a bit. With a last look out the window at the growing light, I was off like a shot to race the sun.
It's not a particularly short run to the castle hill from my apartment, at least not if you're trying to beat the sunrise. My heart sank as I passed the church and heard the bells chime 5am. I had no idea how much time I had, but I pushed myself on toward the castle. I crossed the Ljubljanica river by the city’s famous Dragon Bridge, the quartet of wise-looking, winged beasts looking on as if they could sense my hurry. I read neither interest nor spite on their indifferent faces, and I doubled my speed toward the hill, knowing full well that I was on my own for better or for worse.
When I reached the base of the hill, I looked back to see the eastern sky growing brighter. The sun would be up soon and I still had to make it to the top. I took the nearest path and continued to run, but the grade was much steeper leading up the hill, and I soon slacked into a jog that quickly devolved into an eager walk. Finally, I became disheartened. Too much time had passed, and there seemed to be no hope that I could reach the castle at the top of the hill before the sun crossed over the horizon. I pressed on nevertheless, excited for the view of Old Town Ljubljana that is always so beautiful from the castle grounds.
I trudged up the windy path, skirted alongside the castle walls and past the funicular railway, and finally I came to a clearing on the hill that looked out over the city toward the rising sun. It was far too cloudy from where I was standing to be certain, but it appeared as though that radiant creature was still behind the eastern hills. I had not counted on those hills buying me a few extra minutes, and I walked around briskly for a while seeking the perfect vantage point from which to watch it rise.
It did not take me long to realize that the best view was the one I had found first, and yet there was no break in the clouds. I had arrived at my destination, even with time to spare, and yet I would not be rewarded with the sunrise. I let go a heavy sigh of disenchantment, but even as I turned my gaze away from the hills and the sun that must surely have been climbing their backs at that very moment, I caught sight again of the city below, and I knew that I had not made the journey in vain.
I stood there for a moment, still of body and mind, and I breathed in the morning air that surrounded me. It was time. The sun, whose light shone even through the clouds, was streaming out its rays and fulfilling the promise of a new day. Eyes closed, I took another breath, this time picturing the sun in a clear sky that opened in all directions. In my mind I watched it float above the hills to kiss the red roofs and the steeples of the old town below, and just when I could imagine it no more beautiful, I opened my eyes and looked out at everything.
The red roofs still stretched out beneath me and the churches held their spires tall. The streets glimmered in the growing daylight, and the Ljubljanica cut its majestic path through it all. No cloud could cover up the beauty that I drank in from that perch, and the sun, now arrived, was already finding holes to shine through. I looked out on the gorgeous scene below, took one more deep breath, spread my arms wide and said, ‘This is my city!’