Sunday, 25 October 2015

Stunning Slovenia

Slovenia.  A country to be visited, explored and savoured.  With flights next Easter starting at just £60 return, this is a destination worth some consideration.  It is a hidden gem.


We visited Slovenia during Easter and the climate was perfect.  In the capital city of Ljubljana, the sun was shining and an al fresco ice-cream alongside the river was devoured by the kids.  This capital city is home to just over a quarter of a million inhabitants and its medieval history can be explored around every corner.  Ljubljana Castle, reached by a funky funicular railway, presides over the 18th century houses and piazzas and, when you've seen the Slovenian panorama, you can enjoy a helter-skelter walk back down the hill.

An hour's drive from Ljubljana, through the glacial scenery, introduces you to the alpine beauty of snow-capped mountains and mist-covered lakes.  Here, we found 'proper' snow.  Snow which made the most perfect snowballs and helped us to create a very dodgy-looking snowman! 

Just outside the touristy town of Bled, Vintgar Gorge was a personal favourite of mine.  The gorge is a 2 kilometre long ravine with the Radovna river flowing at a furious pace below the rickety wooden pathways.  In spring, the water torrents through the gorge and the chill in the air electrifies the body, reminding your lungs that fresh air is good for them!  When we visited, we found a sign that telling us that the walkway was closed but, ignnoring my husband's protests, we limboed under the chain railing and were rewarded with a stunning hour's walk through the thawing snow trickling down to the rapids.

Another real find was Postojna Caves (Postojnska jama).  This cave system, boasting a mind-boggling 20km of chambers and tunnels, is one of the most popular natural European tourist destinations.  Sinuous paths are lit by torchlight and a cute little train runs through the heart of the mountain.  To stand in the evocative Concert Hall (an open space deep inside the mystery of the mountain where subterraean orchestras perform) is a chilling experience, both physically and emotionally!   I must admit, being 2 kilometres inside a mountain is a scary concept but the beauty of the rocks and natural pools take your mind away from the potential clautrophobia!  It is a veritable grotto of stalactites and stalagmites. 

When in Slovenia, we stayed just outside Lake Bled in an apartment owned by a retired couple from the UK.  Clean and spacious, our apartment was perfect for our needs.  Situated in a little village with a bakery and a bar, this home-from-home was a great find.  Our hosts' apartment was below ours and, if we needed any advice, they were there to offer wisdom about the area.  Many an early morning was spent on our balcony, looking across to the hills, over which was Austria and the city of Klagenfurt, gorging on fresh pastries from the bakery.

The most striking thing about Slovenia is just how quiet it is.  With only 2 million citizens, there is an air of calm and a sense of space in this country.

This sparsely-populated country borders Hungary, Austria, Croatia and Italy, making it a great starting point for a European roadtrip. 

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