By Juhi Bansal
If you’re planning a trip to Europe and you ask me where you should go, no matter the season, I will, without batting an eye-lid say Switzerland. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world and definitely THE most gorgeous in Europe. From mountains to greenery to gorgeous views, there is never a dull moment there- not even when you’re travelling between cities. Some of the most breathtaking train rides are Swiss. Now why am I hankering about Switzerland when the article is clearly on Slovenia. Well, because Slovenia comes a close second to Switzerland. I may go as far as to say it is an affordable Switzerland of sorts. The countryside is so beautiful I was like a dog in the car, looking out of the window the whole time. Clicking a picture didn’t even occur to me.
Slovenia is an erstwhile Yugoslavian region. The whole reason we made the trip. We’d heard about the country a lot and it didn’t disappoint. Slovenes are some of the most kind people in Europe (also extremely religious) whether it was our Airbnb host or serving staff in restaurants or just random people on roads. They’re also known to be carefree who live in the moment. Agree it was the holiday season but still to make merry outdoors in sub-zero temperature at 10.00 in the AM in something not a lot of us can do.
We took an overnight bus from Hungary to Ljubljana (Flixbus). While there is connectivity via train it is long, circuitous and tad uncomfortable (takes up most of the day). The bus was cheap and comfortable. Alternatively, one can fly into Ljubljana airport and then take a cab to the city centre.
Slovenia uses Euro and although it is much cheaper than its Western counterparts, we felt it was slightly expensive for Eastern Europe. Especially public transport etc. Good news- the city of Ljubljana is small and you can practically walk the length and breadth without feeling it much.
Where to stay
While city centre may be your best bet to stay close to where all the action is, the good news about Ljubljana as I already mentioned above is that even if you stayed slightly away, you can always walk it. We found this amazing Airbnb about 1.5 kms from the city centre and we walked this every day in sub zero temperature without feeling it. #notsponsored. The apartment was done up so thoughtfully not just for us but for Iy as well. Must stay if you’re ever in Ljubljana! https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/14094541?s=51
What to Eat
Desserts like cream cake and potica, local braided breads called Bosman and Slovenian wine liqueur.
Things to do in Ljubljana (pronounced Lub-lee-ana)
Take the funicular up to the Ljubljana castle for a panoramic view of the city.
Walk around Prešeren Square
Marvel at the local culture in Metelkova
Stroll the many bridges of Ljubljana – Dragon, double, triple, Cobbler’s, Butchers and many more
Go up the 13 storeys at Neboticnik for a drink with a view
Settle in one of the many cafes, overlooking the bridges on the river Ljubljanica for your meals.
Almost everything is in walking distance including the Cathedral, museums and the markets so you can discover the city centre in a couple of days even with a leisurely pace.
Lake Bled (Pronounced bleed) (Julian Alps)
While planning for Bled, make sure you plan to stay overnight. It is so gorgeous I have no words! We did a day trip and I have to admit the amount of time we spent there didn’t do it justice. Spend some time at the lake. Take a wooden pletna boat to the island and don’t forget to have coffee and cake at the café there.
When you go to Bled, you will hear enough about the cream cake. A local told us that they often say in Ljubljana, “I feel like cream cake” when they want to visit Bled! Not a lot of people know about another delectable festive cake called Potica which is a traditional nut roll pastry. Don’t forget to try it when you visit.
I don’t recommend the church at the island though. Climb up the castle in time to see the sun go down at Lake Bled. Other than that, the castle isn’t too impressive either.
Getting to Bled is pretty easy. You can take a bus from Ljubljana or use a tour company or if you’re driving- it’s less than an hour away.
Other Day trips
Piran (and Portoroz) (Istria Region)
I have mixed feelings about this one. While, Piran does have a little bit of history and beautiful views, if you’ve been to Italy or other parts of Adriatic coast, you can definitely give this one a miss. It’s small, crowded and expensive.
I feel the same for Portoroz. It gave me a “Nice” vibe but it has nothing on the French Riviera. I would have definitely liked extend my time in Bled than visit Piran.
Postojna Cave (Karst Region), Predjama Castle
Slovenia is known for its cave networks. At 24 kms, Postojna is one of the largest in Slovenia. Iy loved the cave train that drops you well inside the cave for you to witness stalagmites, stalactites, and formations called curtains or draperies that look like folded curtains. You can also check out some endemic “olms”, the largest troglodytic amphibian in the world.
You can also walk around the town and check out the views. About 10 mins drive from Postojna is the Predjama castle. While the castle by itself is not very impressive, it’s perched atop a hill, right at a cave mouth which makes it an interesting stopover.
Triglav National Park, Soca Valley, Stud farms are some of the other things you can plan to do in Slovenia.
You can plan to spend anywhere between 3-6 days in Slovenia depending on how fast or slow you would like to go. While Slovenia is fun in any season, the shoulder months of October to December and March/ April may be best if you want to beat the crowd.
Slovenia is full of wonders but there were two things which amazed us to no end.
Waste management system in Slovenia is taken extremely seriously with every household practising it to the T. Our host gave us 6 dustbins with clear color coded instructions as to what type of waste goes where. Not just segregation, disposal also forms an important part of their waste management and again we were given specific instructions to empty bins accordingly.
No cars in the city centre. Ljubljana was one of the first cities in Europe to enforce this. Nowhere have we felt more comfortable letting Iy run around in the middle of the city as we did here.
Also, did you know First Lady Melania Trump is Slovenian? The locals are not very proud about the fact though and only talk about it when pushed ;).