Before I went to Slovenia I thought of it as the gateway to Eastern Europe, but in reality it is so much more than that. This small country has been in the EU since 2004, so is not that different to it’s surounding countries of Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary.
What this small country does have though is amazing landscapes and forests, mountains and gorges.
Lljubliana is the nearest airport to my paragliding training location, just across the border in Austria, so I dropped off and picked up from here a few times, thankfully there is no height barrier. One thing to note though is that the easyjet flights here are often delayed as they are scheduled late at night and are vulnerable to knock on issues from earlier in the day.
When I first came here in 2016, we spent a day wandering around Llubliana city. It is a beautiful place, with cobbled wide streets and pedestrianised areas, revolving around the river and the castle on top of the hill.
I learnt a while ago how to make Saltimbocca, but here was the first time I had seen it on a menu and had it with fried gnocchi. What a revelation! Fried Gnocchi is amazing defiantely try it!
That summer we also went for a day trip to Piran, which was a beautiful little fishing town with eatieries all along the front. It was a swelteringly hot day so everyone was taking the opportunity to swim, it would have been rude not to get involved!
This year, we spent about 12 hours in Bled as the last place before I dropped Adam back at the airport at the end of our 2 weeks through the Alps. We stayed at the Campsite on the shores of lake Bled, at the opposite end of the lake from the town. It was pretty busy, and despite being a big site it was almost full. There were at least 4 scout troops there.
Bled is a a great jumping off point for various adventure sport tours and is very close to the beautiful Triglev National Park. As we were there for such a short time, but were so close to the lake, we got the paddelboard out and paddled ourselves to the island in the middle that houses a monastary. It is also possible to get there by taxi boat but that is way less fun. We were slightly concerned that we would get told off for pulling up there, but noone said anything and the board was still where we left it when we returned from our little wander around the island. It was still early so we continued on to the other end of the lake.
The lake was quite curious, there were bouys at a regular intervals throughout the lake so we concluded that it was probably for rowing, but were not entirely convinced that it was long enough, so counted them the whole way back. On our return we also realised that the structures on the banks constituted a podium, media viewpoint and stands, its amazing what a different perspective can reveal! I also think I have one of the slowest Strava times for my return leg despite trying to push hard! On the castle side there was also a marked off swimming area with a slide and we think there was a kayak slide too.
The next morning we headed up to the adventure centre, which had a toboggan around the bottom chair lift. It was a really fun and silly way to kill a few hours, with lovely views over the lake and a tasta of the famous Bled Cream Cake. Filo pastry on top of custard doesn’t sound that appealing but it is tasty AF so give this a go, in particular, go the restaurant associated with the Park Hotel, where the chef who invented it was working at the time.
Unfortunately the timing didn’t quite work out to pick up my friend the same day as dropping Adam off, so I spent a few days pottering around Venice and Trieste, but on the way I went to see a couple of Caves and a Castle.
The first thing I went to was Predjama Castle. This caste was built into the cave and has great views out over the valley below, which helped to protect it in case of attack. It also meant there were loads of secret tunnels to escape when under seige. I also did the cave tour here, which is a total darkeness, hard hat and cave light situation. There are a number of bats here so it is not open all year round, but the guide was good at English and very informative.
The castle itself is not designed to be a visitor attraction, so the stairs are very narrow and steep, this is definately not able to provided disabled access. I really liked the ingenuity that they had to use. There were water collection panels in the roof of the cave behind the castle, that then channeled the water down through the caste so they never ran out of water, even when under seige for a lengthy period of time. It sounded like the owner of the castle was actually a very fair leader, so the local people used to bring supplies via the cave entrances to keep them alive while under attack.
In a combined ticket, I then went to the Postojnska Cave. I had seen billboards for this on my previous trip, so had a preconception that it was going to be a bit lame, pootling through a cave on a little train. However, it outperformed all expections and is the best cave I have ever been to. It has ruined all caves for me since!
Firstly, you’re carralled into groups of about 40 divided by language and your group takes up a whole train. The train then goes really quite fast through 2.5km of tunnels to get your to the inner sanctum. On the way you pass through ballroom sized caverns with chandeliers in the roof! The cave had been open to the public for centuries, and originally, the train ride section was all that you could see, however, one day when they were preparing for a visit from the King, a lighting technician crossed over a little river to install some more lights. While he was there, he found a small hole and squeezed himself through is, discovering the section that is now the highlight of the trip. In other caves I have disliked how much human intervention has been done to make it suitable for visits, but here, despite them having put a lot of work in, I am OK with it as it is such a small intervention in the scale of the enormous cave system and incredible decorations.
It is literally breathtaking and a must see for anyone in the are, although near impossible to get any good photos of so you are just going to have to go and see it for yourself!
They have blasted a tunnel entrance so the public can walk through safely, and all the walkways are smooth and without steps so I think it would be achievable in a wheelchair, provided you can manage getting on and off the train, and have someone strong to push you up the hills.
This is all I have had time to see so far, but I am looking forward to going back and seeing more of the beautiful places in this country, in particular I hear good things about the Soca valley, both as a cross country paragliding site and a adventure outdoors location.