I know what you’re thinking: “Slovenia, where the hell is that?” Or possibly: “What, only 2 reasons, is that all you’ve got? Are you getting lazy Todd? I mean all the other Top [insert arbitrary number] Lists have WAY more than just 2.”
Truth be told, I never thought about visiting Slovenia until recently. My other little secret is that there are more than 2 reasons to visit this amazing country but you shouldn’t need any more than these two. Bam! How do you feel now? Feeling silly? Ready to trust me? Huh? Huh?
Also, this is not a post about everything Slovenia has to offer. Over one week I only went to two places. Turns out it was enough to get me itching to head back. I took a week off work and headed into the mountains to work on my Shikoku Pilgrimage book. I’m happy to report that I got three more chapters finished and still had time to hike the incredibly accessible Alps.
First things first, where is Slovenia
Somehow this little country does not receive the attention it deserves. It’s one of Europe’s smallest and shares borders with Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary. Sounds centrally located to me. Add a small coast, the stunning Julian Alps, and about 500 castles, manors and ruins, amazing wine, food and the infrastructure of any major European country and you start to wonder why more people aren’t talking about it. Oh, and did I mention it’s still relatively inexpensive? Well it is. So much so that I found it cheaper than my recent trip through Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast.
The thousand year old Bled Castle sits majestically on a rocky outcrop 139 meters above the lake of the same name. In the middle rests and island holding the Church of the Assumption, evoking further images of fairy tales and dragons that haunt the capital city of Ljubljana, a mere 45 minutes drive away. Imposing mountain peaks surround the lake valley to round out the incredible charm of this little town and making it a must for any serious Europe traveler. The only down side is its so beautiful that the crowds can get quite thick so it’s best to visit in the Spring and Autumn.
The best way to appreciate the natural and architectural beauty of Bled is to walk around the lake. A walking path circles the lake and at an easy pace takes about 90 minutes, longer if you get stuck taking one breath taking picture after another. Not even the ugly Yugoslav era concrete hotel monstrosities can take away from the magic of this special place.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Bled. But too many people can ruin a good thing. Luckily all you have to do is drive a pleasant 26 kilometers to the south to reach the glacial lake Bohinj. Resting in a near vertical mountainous embrace lake Bohinj is the perfect get away to commune with nature and experience amazing Slovenian hospitality. Hiking paths start from just about everywhere around the lake, leading both the casual and the extreme hiker into the heart of the Julian Alps.
I spent 7 days here and loved every minute of it. The lack large hotels is not a negative at all as there are plenty of apartments in traditional house for rent (called sobe). The peace and quite, as well as fresh mountain and lake air can rejuvenate any soul and get you itching to explore the paths that bring you along impossibly green rivers, through sight gorges, and to the top of rocky peaks.
So, did you like my 2 reasons. Of course I slipped a few more into the mix without you even knowing. You were probably too distracted by the pretty pictures
If you go
Whoa, if? I haven’t convinced you yet. Well here are couple more reasons.
Simple and easy. Just fly into Ljubljana airport, gather you bags and then walk across the street to the next building that houses the rental car agencies. There is about 8 of them so shop around to get the best deal. My first offer was 430 Euro for 7 days…at the “budget” car agency. I finally settled on 190 Euros. Coming form Kosovo where you pay 60 Euros per day, this was like heaven.
The drive to Bled only takes about 45 minutes on a nice highway. Drive another 40 minutes in to reach Bohinj. This is a perfect trip even if you only have a weekend.
Where to stay
This is a bit more tricky. I wanted to avoid large impersonal hotels so I just drove to the end of the lake and found a pension. There are lots of apartments and rooms available and you can learn more at the tourist information center. But be warned they are not so helpful other than giving you a book of the places available. Having a car to search them out helps.
I stayed at Pension Stare, at the end of the lake, and would recommend it to anyone. I usually don’t promote individual places (for free that is , but they treated me so well I can’t help it. The Pension boats a delicious dinner, simple but comfortable rooms, and incredible views of the surrounding mountains. It’s family run and has been in business for 25 years.
Have you been to Slovenia? Tell us what you loved about it, or what you are dying to see.