May 8, 2013

Slovenia: Little Wonder of Europe

One random day:

Umair: Let's go to Ljubljana.
Me: Lbuj...jnan...what??
Umair: Ljubljana, it's the capital of Slovenia.
Me: Oh...Slovenia.

Slovenia. You know the small country that was once a part of Yugoslavia? Yes, no one really talks about Slovenia. And if you're visiting Europe, Slovenia will most likely not be in your itinerary. It never crossed our minds either. We've done Czech Republic within Eastern European countries. And we wanted to visit Hungary and Croatia. But Slovenia? 

You know when you walk into something not expecting much but then stumble upon something amazing? That is how I feel about Slovenia. The countryside is beautiful with lush greens, blue lakes and the Julian Alps. The capital, Ljubljana, is a perfect palette of pastels and charm. 

Our trip was a short weekend trip - 1.5 days. We took the night train and arrived to Ljubljana at 6AM. After checking in, instead of catching up on our sleep, we decided to take the 8AM bus to Lake Bled. We wanted to see as much as we could in the little time that we had.

Lake Bled is a small lake, bordered by Julian Alps with a castle perched high on a mountain, and a tiny island with a church. It is about 60km from Ljubljana.

Castle perched on top, and Julian alps behind.

We got there at 9.30, so it was not crowded. It was a warm and nice day, and as soon as I stepped out of our bus, I could almost feel fresh, alpine-ish air all around me. It's so lovely and serene, just strolling around the lake. 

To get to the small island with a church, you take a pletna, gondola like boats, because motor boats and ferries are not allowed on this lovely lake. 

It takes about 20 minutes to get to the island. The island is tiny, it has a set of staircases leading up to the church. 

After spending about 30 minutes on the island, we took our pletna back to the main land. Next up was Vintgar gorge, which was really my number one thing to do in Slovenia. We had limited time, and the buses running to Vintgar gorge had not-very-helpful schedules. To add, no bus actually went to the gorge, you had to walk 20 minutes in the countryside to get to the gorge. Which was fine.  

Until we got there, and realized we were in countryside. All alone. With cows. And no directions or signs leading to Vintgar. Which made me wonder....

Me: How come it's just the two of us going to see the gorge? Surely people want to see the gorge??
Umair: Hmm, maybe it's too early in the morning?
*Two cars pass by us*
Both of us: Oh right, we are in the countryside, WHO walks around countryside? You drive. Duh! 

But there is something so peaceful and lovely about walking in the countryside, lost, asking for directions from any living soul we can find. If we weren't so short on time, I would've loved to explore more Slovenian countryside on foot.

Julian Alps, so pretty.

Alps peaking through the lush greens.

Walking in crazy heat, completely lost, uphill, downhill, short on time....I mumbled to myself that the gorge better be worth all this effort.

And then we were there. And yes, the parking lot of the gorge had ton and ton of cars. Was it worth all the effort and running around? Well, the pictures speak for themselves. 

It's a 1.6km gorge, with wooden bridges and walkways built around the rocks to walk on. It was heavenly. 

Because we were there early during the day, it wasn't so crowded. Or else, I imagine it to be pretty difficult walking around. It gets really narrow in some parts so traffic coming from both sides cannot walk at the same time. And for tall people like me, I had to constantly be aware of the rocks above me so not to bang my head on them. It was very hard to be aware though, I couldn't take my eyes off the water. The gorge ends with a waterfall.

So out of this world, the feeling when walking through the gorge. All you heard was the sound of rushing water, birds chirping, and footsteps on the wood. I had just started envisioning me living on the gorge...

....when I was brought back to the world by Umair's hurried voice stating we had to get back to our bus. Oh right. Get back to the real world. 

So off we went walking through the up and down hills of the beautiful Slovenian countryside to catch our bus. 

Back in Ljubljana, we set off to explore the tiny city. You know what I said about having no expectations and stumbling upon something amazing? Slovenia can make you feel that way not once but many times.

Ljubljana is a very small city, we covered it all by foot. Apparently tourists can't even take public transport easily because payments are made through cell phones. Strange. 

I love the feeling of starting to explore a new city, not knowing what it has to offer (okay I have a fairly good idea because I do my research before going, but still). So we were walking to the city centre, when we encountered the first of the many bridges - the Dragon bridge. 

The street led us to Ljubljana's main square, Presernov Trg, where sits an adorable pink Baroque church, adjacent to the Triple Bridge.

The church

Triple Bridge taken from the steps of the church. It's not as clear, but there's three bridges connecting the streets.

My favourite part of Ljubljana was the cafe culture. Rivers flow in many European cities; Paris, Florence, Prague, Salzburg and many many more....but what I loved about Ljubljana's river and bridges was that on both sides of all the bridges were cobblestone streets lined with cafes after cafes. It was a pedestrian only zone. It gave the city such a charming vibe.

Another thing I loved was the pastel palette of the city. The pink church, the buildings in old town, Ljubljana is all pastels. They even had little pink benches around.

Absolute love! I am so grateful that I got a chance to live in Europe, because it just opens doors to so many beautiful places, which I would otherwise have not been able to visit. Slovenia is an absolute gem. And after recently being to Italy, Slovenia was such a contrast in terms of tourist population. I actually liked it - less people around, a more relaxed feel, and of course, cheaper prices! Slovenians all speak such fluent and perfect English, something that really isn't as common in Germany, or at least in Munich. 

Clear reflection of the church and triple bridge at night, beautiful .

PS - it's pronounced Lyublyana. 

1 comment:

  1. Slovenia sounds amazing. Your pics are so nice!!!