Fewer meals come as affordable and delectable as the Carniolan sausage plates offered at Klobasarna. These are made in a small Slovene takeaway that can barely fit a handful of waiting customers, but still somehow managed to attract long lines of both locals and tourists alike.
Klobasarna has an uncomplicated menu: whole sausage or half, soup with or without sausage, and Struklji (rolled pastry sweet/savoury). They are very much a specialist institution.
Their sausage plate is comprised of a few essential elements: freshly baked bread, done in batches just behind the counter for the customers to see. One loaf was about the size of your fist with a fissure almost completely down the middle to allow for easy tearing.
You break bread as you imagine people did at the Last Supper, with both hands like Rafiki does the fruit in Lion King, and watch the steam spiral out from within. The sausage is then taken from its steel container where it gently bathes and is then chopped into precise segments on a wooden chopping board, and placed neatly beside the bread on a small paper plate. Wholegrain and Dijon mustard is mixed in a bowl, and a dollop is gently plopped beside the meat. To complete the ensemble is a spoonful of shredded sauerkraut which is punchy and acidic.
Carniolan sausage or Kranjska Klobasa is what Klobasarna do better than anyone in Ljubljana. It is primarily composed of good quality pork, with some fractions of beef and bacon, garlic, salt and pepper. According to our server, no other ingredients are permitted, or the sausage becomes a variety of Kranjska without the Klobasa.
Once the meat is piped into their casings, the sausages are then smoked and cured somewhere warm. The finished product is a reddish-brown colour on the outside and a pale pink on the inside, with patches of white where the bacon fat has not completely rendered. The light springiness of the sweet juicy meat, coupled with the crunch of crisp skin, not to forget the chirpiness of its seasoning, completes a superbly textured, delightful sausage.
What will always stick fast to our memory of the place, is our last meal in the capital, the night before we left. Our bus from Skocjan Caves had returned us late in the evening, slightly hungry since all we’d eaten that day was a ham and salad sandwich for lunch. Most restaurants were already closed for the night, even the kebab shops.
Hand in hand, Maddy and I meandered around the city one last time, under the warm night lamps and the glow of the moon, paying homage to the city that showed us such a good time. It was a weekday and so the streets were uncharacteristically sparse, with only a few people around doing the same as us. Some shared ice-cream, gorgeous ice-cream from this place called Vigo, and others shared a glass of wine from their own bottles on benches or bridge rails. An accordion played a slow and reverberating melody, someplace nearby.
The bridges are especially beautiful at twilight. Lit with warm spotlights and the shine of lamplight, these marvels of poignant architecture that offered a basic function but gave a unique and recognisable identity to the small city, were paid homage to in the evening. The crepuscular mood made for deeper conversation, thoughts of the future and the meaning of things. But we were hungry and getting hungrier, and stopped ourselves somewhere in the Old Town to consider our options. Inevitably, even though we did not think Klobasarna would be open, but we decided to go anyway on the off-chance, if only to say goodbye.
As we drew closer, we saw there were a few people sitting grouped around a table outside. The lights in the restaurant were on, but no one seemed to be working. It was a private dinner by the looks of things, a raucous and joyful family get-together with the owner and his son spotted drinking gleefully from their large wine glasses.
Before we thought to turn around so as not to disturb them, the owner recognised us and beckoned us to follow him. We waved apologetically and gestured towards taking off, but he rubbished our propriety with a wink and a shake of his shaggy white head, hopping into Klobasarna and quickly behind the counter before we could stop him.
By the time we reached the counter, a plate of Kranjska Klobasa was already waiting for us, bread steaming, arranged for us quickly by the rather tipsy restauranteur. We paid what we owed gratefully and wished the gathering outside a pleasant night with a smile and the raising of our plates. This was mirrored by those at the table, raising glasses and forks of sausage, all wishing us well with drunken Slovenian cheers.
Despite our hunger, we ate slowly and ponderously by the water’s edge. The slight chill of the breeze made the warmth of our meal all the more satisfying. It was one of those marvellous nights that we felt just happy to be, simply eating to the ambient sounds of the cities audio project and the hush of flowing water.