May 17, 2019
The colourful and much-visited Trubarjeva Road in Ljubljana has been undergoing reconstruction since this February, and work will continue for another year. While small business owners, visitors and citizens are grappling with the new reality, many have almost forgotten how nice and lively this street used to be, with tourists and locals now walking on gravel and navigating an ever-changing system of diversion.
Living nearby and expecting this to happen, we snapped some photos at the end of last summer, when the construction works were announced, and are placing them side by side with some shots taken in the last few days. Work on the central section of the road has not yet commenced.
If you've ever walked by the umbrella repair store on Ljubljana's Trubarjeva cesta, and wondered what's inside - since it's rarely open - then this documentary from 2013, in Slovene with English subtitles and made by the anthopologist Miha Poredoš, will show you.
*Of the CBD variety.
Strains of marijuana that are high in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) remain illegal in Slovenia, if widely tolerated, and although medical marijuana is allowed it remains highly regulated. One part of the marijuana market does seem to be growing in the open here is that for low THC high CBD (cannabidiol) strains, which can be found in a growing number of products and outlets. Still, if you’re looking for some natural calm in downtown Ljubljana then things are not so easy. A few health food stores and pharmacies stock CBD products, but specialists are hard to find.
Blink, and you'll miss it. Between Reformator and Optika, opposite the umbrella store
It was thus with great interest that I came across a small store almost hidden on Trubarjeva cesta, a hole in the wall place that from the outside gave no clear indication of what it was selling. This is Sena Flora, a venture that was started late last year by two brothers with the aim of selling top quality CBD products online and in person. Always on the lookout for a story, I came away with the following…
What products do you sell, what are the ranges of CBD content, and how are each aimed at different users?
Currently we are selling CBD flowers (CBD <10%), CBD hash (CBD <20%), CBD crème, CBD chocolate, CBD oil 3% / 5% / 10%, CBD oil for pets, CBD paste 20% / 30%, and CBD crystals.
Our flowers and hash are aroma products. Their concentration of CBD is much higher than in regular strains, while the content of THC is in line with the legally allowed limit. People who buy it are amazed by the incredible smell. These products are all grown absolutely organic and without the use of pesticides.
CBD oil and paste is usually bought by people who are looking for a very effective supplement that supports the balance of their inner body. CBD has a multitude of positive effects according to a great number of medical studies.
Among customers who complain about skin related issues our CBD crème is definitely the top seller.
We also have a specific line of CBD oil for pets that ensures our doggies feel happy and peaceful.
Some of the products from the online store
Overall, what are the main benefits of CBD?
During research into the cannabinoids found in plants scientists discovered the human endocannabinoid system. This system is broadly spread throughout the human body and works in cooperation with a multitude of organs. So when cannabinoids are consumed they unfold effects in all those areas of the body. According to studies, this is also the reason why so many different health-related issues could be treated with CBD. Studies published in The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology noted CBD’s capability of relieving pain and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. The authors also point out a number of other highly interesting effects: alleviation of cancer-related symptoms, reduction of acne, neuroprotection and benefits for heart health.
It is important to know, though, that CBD is still seen as a supplementary product in the EU. Therefore, CBD is not a substitute for the medical treatment of health related issues.
Are there any articles or books you’d recommend if people want to learn more about CBD?
A book we recommend is CBD - A Patient's Guide to Medicinal Cannabis. Healing without the High by Leonard Leinow et al. It is the most comprehensive publication on the science and therapeutic use of cannabinoids yet produced. It extensively covers the science of cannabinoid chemistry and the endocannabinoid system, and is supported by more than four hundred peer-reviewed research articles.
He really is a doctor
Are you the first store like this in Ljubljana?
We opened in November 2018 and are the first store of this kind in the city. What makes us unique is that we have a doctor inside our store – myself – who has spent a huge amount of time on the study of CBD and cannabinoids in general. I haven’t heard of any other cannabis store where that’s the case. People love that they can get professional advice related to CBD and do not have to rely on untrustworthy brochures or promotional material. The depth of his knowledge leaves a strong impression.
You’re a doctor and your brother is an economist and jurist, this seems like the ideal combination for such a store. How have your backgrounds informed your work here, and what new skills have you had to learn?
We certainly have to learn new skills every day. Every customer is different and has specific needs that we try to meet. Therefore, our priority is that each customer gets the most professional advice and, in the end, knows what product suits him or her best.
The way the store with looks, with the buds and hash on display, do you get any trouble from the police? Or confused shoppers?
There are many shoppers who cannot believe what we are selling and are completely surprised. Funnily enough, those usually become the most content customers. We haven’t had any trouble regarding the police, since our products fulfill all the legal requirements. The customers range from students to doctors, and is completely mixed. One day a policeman even came into our store to buy something, telling us that his mother is a complete fan of our CBD drops and crème.
Do you use any of the products?
Yes, I am using CBD drops once in the morning and once in the evening. It has a positive effect on my metabolism and they let me get a perfect sleep.
If someone is new to the world of CBD, which item do you recommend?
CBD oil is certainly the most universal product, since it can be used by everyone. Besides I must recommend our CBD crème, too. Since it is completely organic you can be sure that the skin absorbs only natural substances, all coming from the fruitful earth in Slovenia.
You also have an online store – do you ship all over Slovenia?
Yes, our online store ships all over Slovenia, Croatia and Austria.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Our mission is to provide people with high-quality CBD Flowers and a wide variety of other products, all derived from Cannabis. Come visit us at Trubarjeva cesta 18, Ljubljana! We are looking forward to seeing you!
This week’s photo comes from Jaka Prijatelj, the man behind the door of Antika Carnolia on Trubarjeva cesta, who makes use of this prime location to engage in street photography, with more of his work to be found below and on Facebook.
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
© Jaka Prijatelj
A conversation with the woman behind the only restaurant with Lebanese food in Ljubljana
I’m a Trubarejva cesta partisan, decidedly on the side of this short street in downtown Ljubljana that still manages a mix of high and low, rich and poor. It starts in Prešeren Square with the fashion labels of Emporium, and ends with the graffiti-covered squat of Tovarana Rog. Most of the businesses are run by the owner / managers, and the diversity seen in its food offerings – European, African, Asian and Middle Eastern – is reflected in the people who live, work and play there.
Having moved here after two decades in Asia I love the colour and activity of this street, the grassroots entrepreneurialism and its multi-racial, multi-ethnic character. For me, it’s a model of what a more vibrant Slovenia could be if it looked to the future and took the opportunities that seem to be left on the table for a more interesting, brighter and open life.
The subject of this edition of Meet the People is someone who exemplifies all of the good qualities I see here, and who has turned them into a successful business. It’s Alja Hafner Taha, who runs Libanonske meze in drugi užitki (Lebanese meze and other delights), a very popular restaurant that’s slightly hidden away in a basement, between a building that houses a sex store and another that offers marijuana growing supplies. Walking through the door and down the few steps feels like you’re moving down into another world, an effect aided by the décor, music and – of course – the aromas of a Middle Eastern kitchen, which you’ll have to imagine as you look at the pictures and read my interview with Alja…
What’s your background?
My father is from Palestine, and he came here to study mechanical engineering in the 60s, then fell in love with a blonde, green-eyed Slovene, my mom, a Slovenian from Trieste.
A couple of years after I was born we left the country, and my dad was an engineer for various foreign companies in Arabic countries, and so for the next decade or so our lives revolved around his work. We started in Algeria, then Iraq, England, then Italy, then to Jordan, and then back here.
I went to eight schools in 11 years,. It’s hard to keep track of it all, but I went to English, French, Italian schools, although in an Arabic environment. I didn’t go to any Arabic school, but my father made sure his children had private lessons in the language.
What language did you use at home?
At home I used to speak Slovene with my mom, Arabic with my dad, but since both of them spoke Slovene I eventually switched to that with my father.
How did you end up back in Slovenia?
I studied in Venice, then in the States. When I finished there I got an offer of an internship in America. Now I liked the university system in America - in Italy it was ridiculous, you were left to your own devices, and if you lacked discipline then it just dragged on forever, like in Slovenia –, but I really wanted to come back here for the lifestyle and the culture, which in the States I really didn’t like, and I did that in ‘97
I spent the first couple of years in Koper, then I moved to Ljubljana and worked in marketing, specifically in advertising.
Did your international experience help with that?
I don’t know. The industry in Slovenia is as good as anywhere in Europe, so perhaps not, but certainly my background helped me be more flexible, adaptable, less surprised by things.
So how did you make the move to running a restaurant?
Well, I had a good career, but I wanted a change, and food – the hospitality part if it – was the thing I really felt a passion for. This is something from my upbringing, we always had a full house.
My mother was a great cook, so was my father. When we lived abroad our home was like a hub for dinner parties, garden parties, and I loved it, the whole thing, the preparation and so on, was very fulfilling, emotionally. It was also very eclectic, because we had my mother’s cooking, my father’s cooking, my mother cooking my father’s food, and vice versa, plus all the dishes we picked up on our travels.
What about your cooking?
I didn’t really start cooking and enjoying it until my mid-20s, but then I really got into it. I’d have, say, 50 people over at my place.
Is it easier to do that with Middle Eastern food?
No, Slovene food’s actually easier to cook for big groups. The food that I cooked then, like the food we cook here, takes a lot of preparation, which is true for most Middle Eastern food. For example, the restaurant opens at 11:30, but work in the kitchen starts at 07:00, because we make nearly everything fresh here, including the pitta bread, every day. We don’t have a lot of space, we don’t have huge refrigerators and freezers to make it all days in advance. We make everything fresh every day, apart from harissa (a chili paste) and makdous, which is small pickled eggplants with walnut, and those are Lebanese, which we get from Vienna.
Is sourcing ingredients difficult?
At first it was difficult, but now it’s easy because we have all our contacts. If you want to make it at home you can buy the same stuff in Ljubljana, but if you’re a restaurant you need to get it closer to the source, and get it cheaper. For our vegetables and meat we get those from the market. We have a small scale butcher so we know where it comes from. For things like tahini, makdous, beer and wine we have a Lebanese importer in Vienna.
Do you make many changes to suit local tastes, or is this authentic Lebanese food in Ljubljana?
Being authentic is important to us, but the name Lebanese Meze & Other Delights means we have some room for food that’s not from the Levant. That said, the only things we had to adapt were the level of sourness in some dishes and the amount of garlic, which are both a lot higher in Lebanon. But if we get Lebanese guests we make sure they have a plate of lemons, or if, say, we have Palestinians we put some olive oil on the table.
And has the menu changed much over the years?
The menu changes a little with the seasons, but in general it stays the same. Because I’d experimented with this food on friends for years beforehand, I was pretty confident about the dishes were going to have, so I had a strong vision, which is one we still follow.
Did your background in advertising come in useful?
One thing I learned in marketing was that the worst thing you can do is panic and make big changes in direction or the basic concept, plus my background in events management transferred pretty well to the restaurant business. That’s not say it was easy, because I had a lot to learn, but when there were problems or challenges I either had the skills needed to deal with them, or knew people who could help.
But the main problem in running a successful restaurant isn’t anything big, it’s consistency, its doing things extremely well day in day out. And that’s all in the details, not just the food but the way it’s served, the way the place looks, the music that’s played, the cleanliness, the energy that permeates the whole team.
What about the staff here?
We’ve been very lucky with our team. At first we looked at bringing in a cook from abroad, but that involves a lot of paperwork, and is quite risky, because maybe they come here, you help set up a new life, and then they don’t like it. So we got a local guy, a great chef, Matjaž , who’s been here since day one. He manages a staff of Middle Eastern cooks, and the rest of the staff have all been the same for the last year and a half, so they really know what they’re doing. I help out sometimes, when needed, but managing a restaurant and cooking there too is the way to madness, it’s impossible.
Do you have any changes to the menu planned for winter?
Yes, we always change it a little with the seasons, with some heartier food in the winter, but not too much, as there’s always a danger you end up disappointing regulars, which we have a lot of, because you’ve taken a favourite off the menu. Like I said before, quality is paramount, but consistency is the key to success here.
If you’d like to try some of the Lebanese food shown here, which is highly recommended, then you can find Libanonske meze in drugi užitki at 45 Trubarjeva cesta, Ljubljana 1000. The opening hours are Opening hours: Tuesday - Thursday: 11:30 - 22:00; Friday, Saturday: 11:30 - 23:00; Sunday, Monday: Closed. The website is here, while the Facebook is here.
There’s a store on Trubarjeva with great window displays, ones that change every few weeks. It’s Antika Carniola, and if you don’t pay attention to the opening hours then those displays could be all you’ll ever get to see of the place, and that would be a shame, because while they’re beautifully laid out, with fine art in the far-left window, and household items in the far-right, inside there’s so much more to enjoy.