We. Are. Loving. Slovenia. Despite being one of Europe’s smallest nations at less than 21000 square kilometres it sure is diverse. Oh so green. Oh so clean. Oh so pretty. Oh so hilly. The Slovenians have it sussed. We love it. And that is despite the weather being grim for the first week we were here. It’s on the list for a future visit to spend more time here.
We came in from the Hungarian border in the east skirting around the motorway keeping to the non toll roads. After the relatively flat lands of the Czech Republic and Hungary it’s been wonderful to go up and down a bit. It felt like being in rural Devon or Dorset with all the chocolate box hamlets but without the single track lanes and high hedges.
Stopping at an excellent aire attached to a Bioterme thermal water park in the little village of Mala Nedelja I had a quick blast out on the bike whilst Tim washed the van. Oh how I wished I’d taken the camera. Vineyards, forest, haybarns, fields of corn, pumpkins, artful wood stacks, wild flowers, beautiful houses both new and old, vegetable patches. I have a thing about vegetable patches at the moment. That and allotments. I love seeing them, particularly ones which are filled with flowers. It started back in Germany. The Germans have the klein garten. They are everywhere. They aren’t just scraps of land where old men go to plant a few seeds and sit in a dilapidated shed chewing the bratwurst with the neighbour. Oh no it’s more serious than that. Aside from vegetables and flowers many have lawns, garden furniture, running water, a hut (some the size of a small bungalow) and outdoor kitchen. More a weekend retreat then than allotment. I think they are fab and I really like the concept. But, I digress. Suffice to say Slovenia is, I think, my favourite country so far. Or maybe this season as Portugal is still up there. And parts of Spain.
Staying on the aire next to the Bioterme gave us a discount on the admission fee. After 7pm we were able to luxuriate in the several 38 degree thermal mineral water pools complete with bubbles for just €3.10. Absolute bargain. Two hours of wallowing and we’d cleaned up a treat.
Moving on in murky weather we stopped in at Ptuj, the oldest and continuously settled site in Slovenia. Not finding anywhere to park we pitched up in the Aldi (or Hofer as it is called in Slovenia) carpark, did some shopping and then walked the mile into the town from there.
After a mooch round in greyness we set off up to the ski resort at Rogla hoping for the cloud to miraculously clear to reveal a stunning view of the mountains and a bit of alpine walking. Alas it wasn’t to be with freezing fog and visibility at a few metres it was pointless venturing out. After a night of rain we were still optimistic that it might clear. By 4pm it was clear it wasn’t going to clear.
We called it quits the next morning after another night of rain and reluctantly drove back down the mountain where the weather was no better either. Ho hum, never mind. We at least had a couple of free nights at an aire behind a hostel in Slovenj Gradec complete with electric hook up and super fast free wifi. We managed to get out in between showers for a couple of short walks, frequented the hostel cafe and did a bit of shopping. Basically we were waiting for the weather to improve.
With the weather no better it was time for a city break. Ljubljana, the capital city, was just a short distance away. Everything is just a short distance away in Slovenia. Ljubljana was awarded European Green City in 2016. I think it deserved that award.
A huge chunk of the city, either side of the river, is completely pedestrianised. Absolutely flipping marvellous it is too. It’s such a refreshing change to visit a city but feel as if you aren’t in a city.
Green spaces abound from the walk up the hill to the castle and its surroundings to a stroll across town to Tivoli park.
It’s not a city to go shopping, more a place to amble about, admire the architecture and enjoy the relaxed cafe atmosphere all in a calm traffic free setting.
A big tick for Ljubljana from us.
Also a huge boost after our week of iffy weather was the discovery of Slovenian craft beers. The very knowledgeable owner of a little shop dedicated to selling beer talked to us about his countries own beer and recommended a pub to go and try some.
We found the pub after a couple of laps around the town (just as well it is nice and compact) and spent a happy couple of hours finishing our day off sampling the Slovenian beers.
What a revelation.
Fourteen beers on tap mostly from Slovenia. They were all excellent bar one, Reservoir Dogs – Cum Grano Salis. I’m not sure if we offended the barman when we queried whether it was off. We were reliably informed that it was a sour beer which are apparently very popular in Slovenia. It tasted more like a cider. A vinegary cider.
With the weather now restored to sunny, cloudless days we moved on to the Lake Bled area in the eastern Julian Alps. We’ve based ourselves at a campsite at Bohinjska Bistrica in between Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj to explore by bike and foot. Also we were in dire need of getting some washing done. I was down to my Bridget Jones Big Pants which only get worn in emergencies as just one pair will take up the whole drum of a washing machine.
It is a truly beautiful area with crystal clear waters and snowy capped mountain peaks. A superb cycleway took us through pretty hamlets and farms to Lake Bohinj yesterday.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to walk around the whole of the lake but it is on the agenda for later in the week.
Today, a bus trip to Lake Bled. Much more touristy than Bohinj but still very attractive with the castle, gondolas, island, rowing boats and people. Lots of people.
After a walk around the lake we were ready to get the bus back to the campsite for a bit of peace and quiet.
Tomorrow we have a very exciting day coming up. Cinderella is going to the ball. The 60th Cow’s Ball in Bohinj that is. It’s a festival celebrating the bringing back of the bovines to the valley of Bohinj from their summer mountain pastures. The best looking cattle will be presented with a bouquet followed by local dancing, food and drink. Super.