Ljubljana, City of Dragons

Dragon Bridge

Looking back at Ljubljana it’s a bit hard to explain why we loved it so much.  After our trip, people often asked, what was your favorite part? What was your favorite city?  Without pause, my answer is always Ljubljana… and then comes the question, why? Here is where things get a bit tough because it’s hard to put a finger on it.  The city just had an amazing, relaxed vibe to it.  A lot of travel is luck which may explain part of why this city was just so enjoyable, everything seemed to work out so well during our stay.

Ljubljana boat tour
Ljubljana boat tour

Truth be told, there’s not a lot of activities and sights for tourists in Ljubljana.  Wikitravel’s section on the city only lists a handful of things to see or do and most of those are museums – not usually my thing.  But the city is beautiful with a river running through the center and many great restaurants and cafes.  The city center is also very small, you can easily walk across it in 45 minutes.  We spent the first day just walking through the old town, seeing the picturesque bridges (it’s like a mini version of Paris where each bridge is unique) and walking up to the Ljubljana Castle.  There’s a funicular up from Old Town to the castle but since the walk only takes five minutes we skipped the line and just took the path up.  There are boat cruises leaving from many spots along the river for short 50 minute cruises.  We took one just before sunset which was perfect.

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Lake Bled & Vintgar Gorge – Reason enough to see Slovenia!

Vintgar Gorge
Vintgar Gorge
About 1/2 of the walk along Vintgar Gorge is on narrow walkways like this one

It was a single photo that drew me to Slovenia, the photo was of Bled Gorge and I was immediately drawn to the green water, steep canyon walls and most of all, the trail that followed along – and sometimes over – the water.  We love finding unique hikes to do such as Angel’s Landing in Zion and this one looked fun.  I wanted to make sure there was more to do in Slovenia (seems dumb to wonder in hindsight) so I googled ‘cool places in Slovenia’ and quickly got lost in the hundreds of options.  The next must-see destination I found was Lake Bled, actually right next to Vintgar Gorge, which is most famous for the beautiful church in the middle of a tiny island.  So we made plans to see these two areas after stopping by Predjama Castle and Škocjan Caves on the way.

Castle on the hill
Unfortunate to have the crane in the shot but Bled Castle is pretty awesome
Church & Castle
Lake Bled’s church and castle

Bled is an awesome little town. It looks like it could be in Austria except being Slovenian, everything is half the cost.  The town itself is situated on the Eastern edge of the small lake – you can easily walk around it and there is a nice path. The most obvious feature as you walk around the lake is tiny island with picturesque Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church rising sharply from it.  You can get to the island via rowboat, captains depart from several spots around the lake.  On the cliff overlooking the lake is Bled Castle.  You can walk up there to enjoy the views for free but you must pay to go inside (we skipped it.)  In the winter they have a small ski hill you can enjoy, in the summer there are many nearby areas to hike and it’s a great town to just relax in.  Also, we ate at the best restaurant of the entire trip here.  Penzion Berc, a ten minute walk SW from the town is incredible!  I ate the best octopus dish of my life here and everything is affordable (like everything else in Slovenia.) They only take cash though so come prepared so you can avoid the mid-dinner dash to find an ATM (and call to your bank in our case.)

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Slovenia Caves and a Castle (in a cave)

I’ve started to realize that I’ve been planning all my trips lately based on a single photo or comment from someone about a particular locale.  For Slovenia, it was a photo of Vintgar Gorge (I’ll share photos from this place soon) which was amazing but I had to find other things to do as well.  Turns out, Slovenia is amazing, especially if you like hiking.  It’s filled with awesome canyons, caves, castles on islands, delicious food and its inexpensive compared to Western Europe.  After just a few days it became one of my favorite countries in Europe.  It’s easy to find cool sites in Slovenia and we found two on the way to Lake Bled from Croatia.  Predjama Castle and Škocjan Caves, the latter of which is also a UNESCO site.

Predjama Castle
Predjama Castle

We visited Predjama castle first which is not just a castle but a castle in a cave (the best kind.)  There’s a long and interesting history to the castle but I’ll just share my favorite anecdote.  In the 15th century this robber baron named Erazem was holding down the castle.  The kingdom of Hungary was mad at him and sent an army to try and take it over.  For a year and a half, Erazem held off his enemy and by using a secret tunnel in the back of the castle could obtain fresh food to prevent being starved out.  They taunted their befuddled attackers by throwing fresh cherries at them from the castle – the attackers thought witchcraft was at work – how else could they get the fresh cherries?  Eventually, the besiegers bribed a servant to reveal when Erazem went to the toilet.  When he did, they fired a cannonball at that part of the castle (the weakest section also) and killed him while he sat on his (other) throne.  The tour inside the castle is 12 euros and worth it. Continue reading “Slovenia Caves and a Castle (in a cave)”