I didn’t know much about Slovenia when I decided I would go there for a summer break, it started off as a country to tick off my list, travel options to get there weren’t easy and this former Yugoslavian country wasn’t high on the tourist route, perhaps part of the attraction.
I booked return flights to Klagenfurt in southern Austria, a hire car, bought a road map off ebay and booked a couple of nights accommodation in Bled and a few nights in Ljubljana beyond that I would wing it and plan my time as I went along from the few pages I had as reference in my Europe on a Shoestring Lonely Planet guide.
Arriving in Klagenfurt I picked up my hire car, which was a brand new Hyundai with zero kilometres on the clock and headed for the Alps which was the border between Austria and Slovenia. Wow, what an impressive way to enter a country driving through the Alps in the middle was a soulless border crossing which had an empty building and a sign welcoming me to Slovenia. In no time I reached Bled and parked the car at my guest house which consisted of a small room with a single bed and bed side table and not much more. I headed straight down to see what I had come here for the Lake, wow! It was late afternoon by the time I arrived, standing by the side of the lake watching swans and their young swim by, to the right was an impressive cliff at the lakes edge perched at the top was a castle and to the left in the middle of the lake was an island with a church on it, around the lakes edges were small wooden row boats all tied up for the afternoon, tomorrow I would get up early and walk the 6kms around the lake.
I can honestly say I have never been on a better early morning walk from the freshness of the early morning, water so clear you can see fish swimming in the lake, people with smiles on their faces cycling past or rowing in the lake, walking under arches of trees or board walks around the lakes edge. After my walk I drove up to the castle to take some photos of the lake and afterwards I decided to keep driving on the road to see where it would take me, it came to a dead end in a parking lot filled with cars, I decided to get out and see why everyone was here and unbeknown to me I had driven to Vintgar Gorge. I walked along in awe at the scene ahead of me. A wooden walkway had been constructed through the gorge which allowed visitors to walk through just above the waters height witnessing beautiful waterfalls, rapids, lush greenery and glimpses of the Alps. Wow!
Next up on my trip of Slovenia was the drive down to the capital, Ljubljana, which is a very easy task, there is a big motorway built from the top to the bottom of Slovenia which makes it easy to cruise the 290 kilometres it takes to drive the length of the country. I read in my guide book the night before about a castle built into a cliff face and decided it was a stop I had to make on the way so made an exit on the motorway and headed to Predjamski Grad, following the road signs out of town on a small country road I found the castle which wasn’t hard to miss, it was a shame it was all locked up and I was the only one there, nonetheless it was another wow moment on my trip.
I drove into Ljubljana and found my hostel with no problems, parked my car and walked into the old town. Wow! Ljubljana is one of the most beautiful old town’s I have seen the cobbled streets, the beautifully painted old buildings, the bridges criss-crossing the river, the castle on top of the hill looking over the town, the cafes lining the streets, the flowers and trees making the place look bright and lovely, fountains and statues everywhere and not a speck of rubbish on the streets anywhere. I read in my guidebook that there is a horse burger shop in Ljubljana and did stop in at the Red ‘n’ Hot Horse and had a horse burger for lunch. As my legs grew tired from walking in the late afternoon I sat at a café near the famous three bridges and sipped a few pivos and people watched for a few hours, it makes me wonder visiting towns which aren’t filled by mass tourism how different the vibe of a place would be if it was full of tour groups being bussed in and out shouting over each other to be heard, full of western shops and making a mess of the place. It was just perfect the way it was.
The next day I decided I would drive down to the bottom of the country to see the 35km of coastline Slovenia has but firstly I was going to make an exit on the motorway and visit Postojna cave, who wouldn’t be excited about visiting a cave and not only that but being taken in via an underground train to the heart of the cave, wow!
Zooming down the motorway I was in the coastal town of Piran before I knew it and staring out at the Adriatic Sea, the marina was filled with expensive yachts and also old fishing boats. The old town square was just beautiful full of brightly coloured buildings and a floor so shining you could glide across it, little alley ways ran off in every direction filled with small cafes which were full of locals whiling away in the heat of the day. I found my way through the streets back to the water’s edge bought an ice cream and sat in the sun for a bit watching life go by. Yes, wow what a spot.
My final day in Slovenia had come around too quickly but I wasn’t going to let it go to waste, I was up at the crack of dawn and on the road at sunrise, I was going to take a detour through the Julian Alps and the scenic Vrsic Pass across the top of the Alps before heading back to the airport. Wow, wow, wow coming from Australia we don’t get scenery like this, huge rugged snow-capped rocky mountains jutting for miles above me, beautiful aqua blue rivers flowing past and greener than green trees and bush land holding it all together. I drove as slow as I could through this pass stopping to take many photographs and just staring at the rocks. At the top of the pass was a restaurant and a parking inspector charging everyone for the privilege to park their cars here, but I didn’t mind I stood there for ages looking in every direction at the awesomeness of this place.
My drive over the pass took me into Italy and before I knew it I was back in Austria, how cool I had just driven in three countries in the space of half an hour and sadly before I knew it I was back in Klagenfurt dropping the car off and back in the air on my way home.
After having the privilege of visiting every country in Europe, lots of people ask me, what has been your favourite, my answer every time is Slovenia. A country so small in size has so much diverse beauty. Each day there was something different to see. One thing I’ve learnt from travelling is that nothing is as good the second time around, nothing beats seeing something with fresh eyes taking it all in the first time. I don’t think I could travel back to Slovenia again I want my memories to remain as they are
Travelled to Slovenia: 31 May 2008 to 4 June 2008