Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city, but that doesn’t mean it’s big, by any stretch of the imagination. Up until now, we’ve overlooked it, in favour of the capital, Ljubljana, whose appeal is immediate. It’s beautiful, full of well restored and well maintained historical buildings, with a winding river, fringed with weeping willows and a fairytale castle on top of the hill, looking down on the red roof tops of the old town. But, we decided to stop over in Maribor last weekend (Sunday evening) on our way back from Graz, in Austria. Although in two different countries, the two cities are only about half an hour from each other, so we arrived in good time in Maribor, hoping to get out and about and explore the city. Unfortunately, Sunday was grey and cold, unlike the previous day in Graz, which had been very spring-like – warm and sunny. The weather obviously didn’t help, but the outskirts of the city were a bit on the grim side. Very down trodden, and with definite reminders of the austerity of the not too distant past. We did wonder if we’d made the right decision, and whether we should just head home – but we’d made a booking and decided to give Maribor a go…

4 Flats, Slomškov trg 11, Maribor, Slovenia

4 Flats, Slomškov trg 11, Maribor, Slovenia

We booked an apartment online, and were delighted to find it was located in the above building (our apartment was the one on the bottom right, with the two big windows). 4 Flats is just what it says – four converted apartments, off a communal entranceway. However, before getting into the apartments, you have to go through the arched doorway, just to the left of the tree. The door is ancient – and could be described as delapidated, BUT it became immediately clear, once through the doorway, that this was a building with real history, and hence the doors…

Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor  Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor

Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor

Look at those walls! If these were in England, they’d probably be being preserved by English Heritage, but these are the communal entrance way, behind the great big delapidated wooden doors. There’s a cobbled accessway, and once the exterior doors are opened wide, residents drive their cars through here, to park in the internal courtyard. Amazing that a building like this, is just, well – there…

Our apartment was actually fab – quite minimalist, but all the right colours for me! Plus, lots of the original features had been retained, including the huge windows – which had an inner frame of double glazing, so absolutely no noise when they were closed.

Two of the other apartments were obviously not booked, and the doors were open, so I did have a bit of a nosey – and can confirm that the images on Booking.Com are completely accurate. All very lovely and well renovated.

It’s worth mentioning that there are parking bays all around the little park just outside the flats – and it’s free on a Sunday. (Payment – very inexpensive – begins at 8am Monday morning). Just across the park, with a view from our apartment windows, is the Slovene National Theatre, with performances of drama, opera, and ballet annually attracting the country’s largest theatrical audiences. We saw the audience leaving after the Sunday evening performance and it’s very clear that the Slovenes like to dress up for the theatre. Very grand, indeed!

The owner of the apartments met us and tried very helpfully to suggest where we could eat on a Sunday evening – although he did struggle, by his own admission, as many places, at this time of year, are closed on a Sunday evening. Nothing for it, then, but to get out and exploring Maribor. The historical centre is very small – and very, very, very old. You can really imagine what life must have been life in medieval times, as many of the buildings are literally teetering on the brink of collapse. We did spot one for sale, so if anyone fancies a bijou residence in Maribor, hit us up and we’ll get the details to you.

Narrow cobbled streets, like the one above, lead off one of the main sqaures – Glavni Trg – down to the Drava River, and the area of Lent. It did look as if the bars which line the river would be lovely in the summer, with plenty of evidence of outdoor seating, terraces and umbrellas already being put out, but it was a bit chilly – even with blankets – outside The Piranha Cocktail Bureau. The logo led us to this very stylish bar…

The interior is very striking, including backlit wall of bottles of spirits and liquers, and furnishings with lots of accents of black. I think I was most impressed by the toilets – scrupulously clean, and everything high gloss black. No photos unfortunately, as I still find it too weird to take photos of loos 😉 We were lucky too, to get a very pink sunset – much welcome after the gloomy afternoon.

Just next to Piranha Cocktail Bureau – and this has been verified by The Guiness Book of Records – is Stara Trta, the world’s oldest vine, growing outside an old medieval house called Hiša Stare Trte, also known as The Old Vine House.

We did eventually find somewhere to eat – Ancora, an Italian restaurant. Suffice it was a pretty surreal experience, but I’ll leave that there.

Monday morning was bright and sunny, so we took the opportunity before heading off, to scoot around the historical centre. One lap of about 30 minutes and you’re done, but there are some sights really worth seeing, especially if you look up, above the street level shop fronts, which are mostly fairly dreary. But look above street level, and this is what you’re greeted with…

Glavni Trg, Maribor’s second largest square

Also in Main Square is The Plague Column. Erected in 1743 to replace an older version, this monument commemorates the end of the plague, which killed over one third of the city’s inhabitants between 1680-81. The large monument, designed by Jožef Štraub, dominates Glavni Trg (the main square) and features a golden Virgin Mary on top of an eight metre column surrounded by six saints. It’s really very, very impressive!

So, what did we actually think of Maribor? To be honest, I’m still a bit undecided. There’s a definite palpable sense of history, and parts of the old historical centre are undoubtedly beautiful. It doesn’t have the sassiness of Ljubljana, or the coastal aspect of Koper. But, there’s something about it. It’s raw and a bit rough around the edges and feels like it’s not quite in 2019. It feels like a city that has a bit of catching up to do. However, when it does, I think that Maribor will be somewhere that should be on your destination wish-list. Until then, if you love history, you will like Maribor. And, if you need a new hat, you’ll definitely like it…