When I was first looking at the 28 countries of the EU, I knew there were some that I would enjoy visiting and some which, quite frankly, I wanted to limit my time in. I’ve always loved Scotland, Ireland is as beautiful and friendly as you could wish for and who doesn’t want to spend some extra time in Italy given half the chance? In all of these discussions though, I am afraid to say that Slovenia didn’t even feature. Even as we drove up the length of Croatia we were in two minds as to whether or not we should even cross the border. Is it worth it? Could we really be bothered? Well, we’ll go because we have to but we probably won’t like it. Yeah, probably.
Shame. Shame on us.
LOOK AT THAT PICTURE! JUST LOOK AT IT! Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not going to win any awards in any taking pretty pictures of amazing places competition, so take it from me when I say that you have to actually go to Lake Bohinj to actually believe it.
Slovenia – a (slightly) smaller Canada
But I get ahead of myself. You may remember from my last post, as the Family P drove up the length of Croatia and we crossed over to Slovenia after the slight anti-climax that was Zagreb. We then drove on to Ljubljana and spent some considerable time trying to decide how to pronounce the city. Despite Mrs P’s significant efforts to dissuade me, I decided it should be ‘Lub-jar-na’. Following this ill-fated decision and in an attempt to spare you from my subsequent fate of amused members of the public taking pity on you as you refer to their home town like a four year old child, the correct pronunciation is apparently ‘Leo-be-arna’. Top travel tip for you all there, you’re welcome.
As we drove across the country (Slovenia is tiny – you could drive from North to South in the best part of five hours), we noticed the countryside changing ever so subtly. Slovenia is sandwiched on the top of Croatia with the Austrian border, Italy is on the left and Hungary on the right. We were leaving behind the drier, arid landscapes of Croatia and seeing more grass, trees and an altogether further alpine freshness which was so very welcome after we had suffered through the blistering heat of Dubrovnik. Slovenia isn’t quite landlocked but it also hasn’t exactly got world renowned beaches either and it reminded us far more of the time we spent traveling across the mountains and forests of Canada. Just on a smaller scale!
This time, we had decided not to go for an AirBnB and instead checked into the Austria Trend Hotel. At, £80 for the night it was a great price, even though we booked at the last minute and while it was just outside the city centre, it’s just a very short shuttle bus ride away from the middle of the capital (which is put on complimentary of the hotel). The hotel itself was perfect for our brief layover and the room was a good size in comparison to the flats we had been staying in for the previous week. The list of dignitaries on the wall of the lobby boasted of multiple football teams, film stars and celebrities that I hadn’t heard of but still, it’s nice to know you’re in good company isn’t it?!
The capital proved to be yet another hit and clear sign that we had hugely under-estimated this country; the picture perfect meandering streets, the boutique shopping boulevards and the beautiful river Ljubljanica running through it all. After wandering along the banks of the Ljubljanica and losing a red umbrella that I had bought mere minutes before, we found ourselves stopping by a bar for a quick social beverage after one of the best gelato cones we’ve had outside of Italy, only to emerge four hours and several beers later which is pretty much the best recommendation you can get in my book.
Unfortunately because we hadn’t planned on spending much time in Slovenia, Ljubljana Castle didn’t make the cut but from what we saw of it, it would have been a fantastic way to spend an afternoon but we’ll just have to save that for our return visit. The next day, we had made a hit list of the best of Slovenia and top of that list outside of the Capital, was Lake Bled situated about an hour away; an azure blue expanse of water as clear and clean as you could ever wish for. We could have dived in then and there but on closer inspection, the water was as glacially cold as Mrs P’s attitude towards me on that particular morning (although I still maintain that it almost definitely wasn’t me who spilt the orange juice into the suitcase), however, the water temperature didn’t appear to worry the German fella who stepped out of his camper van proudly sporting his pair of budgie smugglers before refreshing his brass monkeys with a disturbing amount of masochistic enthusiasm.
As undeniably stunning as Bled is though in our opinion, it simply pales in comparison to it’s lesser known neighbour Lake Bohinj which sits just another 25mins further along the road. This is where the locals go, leaving Bled to the tourists but if you are in the neighbourhood I implore you not to let the opportunity pass you by for the sake of another half an hour. One word of warning though, be careful not to drink too much coffee before arriving because unless you are happy to spring for more drinks in the hotel/café, they don’t like you trying to get in at 7am just to use the loo. Trust me on that one.
Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle
When sitting by the side of two of the worlds most beautiful lakes starts to bore you, which of course will never happen but just in case it does, you can move from there over to the Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle. They are only about an hour away and boast an utterly unbelievable cave complex and a castle built into the cliff face itself. Unfortunately for us, we never did manage to find our way into Postojna Caves due to the 2 hour long queue for foreign fools like us who hadn’t pre-booked their tickets, so if you do fancy some awesome underground cave-train action do what we didn’t and book ahead.
If you do learn from our mistake and manage to get yourself organised, you’ll be able to include entry to Predjama Castle in one booking. If you love castles (and let’s face it who doesn’t?) you will be in for one heck of a turreted treat my friends, this place is straight out of Harry Potter and has more brilliant caves under the castle that you can climb through*.
Check out all the deets here:
Let’s talk Brexit
If When you do manage to get over to Slovenia, unless you are a die hard Ibiza pumping party beast by night and a sunburn loving ‘pass me the vegetable oil’ beach fiend by day, you won’t be able to stop yourself from loving this place but before we leave Slovenia, I’ve got to introduce you to a few of our new friends and talk Brexit. First we met Andy and as the more eagle eyed of you can probably tell, he works for the Slovenian tourist board and was the very man who sold me the red umbrella that I was to lose literally 5 minutes later. An amazingly interesting, educated and well travelled guy, we spent a few minutes talking about what it was like to travel through Iran and why British tourists like us probably shouldn’t go there right now, regardless of how enthusiastic they are. His view of Brexit was fairly simple; it will all go horribly, horribly wrong. Not in a Dad’s Army ‘We’re all doomed!’, kind of a way but more like a ‘isn’t it a shame that no-one truly thought through the economy destroying implications of this decision’, kind of a way. We parted company with the type of ‘Goodbye and good luck!’ that’s usually reserved for soldiers getting ready for the last big push into no-mans-land, which was very reassuring.
Finally, I would like to mention that we also met Damijan, Milan and Dean while they were on holiday in Croatia but all from Slovenia and also all with a very strong opinion on Brexit. Similarly as educated as Andy and really interesting chaps, these guys had an equally uncompromising view that Brexit was the best thing that could have happened to the EU. We discussed the view that the EU has effectively over-taken the Slovenian National Identity and the imposition of the French and German controlled Euro have driven up prices across the board. They are seeing many things in their life costing more but wages struggling to keep up and spoke fondly of the former Yugoslavian Republic. I can’t attest as to how accurate a representation that is but it certainly seems a reflection of many of the perceptions and concerns that we’ve seen here at home. As our first positive discussion on Brexit, I’m fascinated to know if this continues as we move through Europe.
*Although Mrs P and I both agreed that with the Slovenian utter disregard to any form of Health and Safety on the site, as soon as a some poor bugger slips and falls down one of the many precipices under the castle, the caves won’t be open for much longer so visit while you can.
See our other amazing EU Brexit adventures here: