I Feel SLOVEnia

Well, though Mother Nature hasn't been cooperating these last couple of days, I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in beautiful Slovenia. For some reason, this country remains under the radar, regardless of the fact that it's so close to Austria and Croatia, two extremely popular destinations.

Ljubljana is a charming city. Think of a more compact version of Prague or Krakow minus the crowds. Although a euro country, everything is pretty much affordable. Where else can you get a good cup of coffee or tasty ice cream for a mere 1 euro? Forget about Union beer, but the Lasko brew is actually quite good. And pretty cheap to boot!

Slovenians are a chatty and curious bunch, most of them fluent in English. There is no tourist overkill in this country, so chances are locals, whether or not they work in the tourist or service industries, will be more than happy to strike up a conversation and help you get on your way to a nice bar or restaurant. Unlike places overrun by tourists, where you get the feeling that people don't give a flying fuck about you and are only interested in the money you're bringing in, Slovanians truly make tourists feel welcome.

Ljubljana is a relatively small city, and you can walk or bike your way absolutely anywhere. Hard to believe that it's the capital, as it feels more like a small vacation town. The outdoor bar/cafe scene is unreal! You must see it to believe it. They actually close down entire streets to set up outside terraces. Hence, you'll never have a hard time finding an outdoor seating area to have a drink or a meal. Unless perhaps for the 8:30pm World Cup game. . .

The Ljubljana castle is nothing to write home about, but the views from the watchtower are spectacular, especially on a bright and sunny day. You can basically see and do all the important sights of Ljubljana in a single day. But give yourself at least two days to take your time and soak up the cool atmosphere. The Triple Bridge and the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation form a nice backdrop, with the Preseren monument and the Plecnik Colonnade nearby adding to the scene. The Cathedral of St. Nicholas and the Dragon Bridge are also cool, yet just taking your time and strolling around the riverfront areas is the most enjoyable experience. Went to the National Gallery and the National Museum of Slovenia because of the bad weather, yet none are necessarily "must see" places.

Stayed at Hostel Celica, which is housed in a former prison. Booked onw of those cells, with the bars and everything. It's a pretty cool place to stay at, with a great staff and a very cool vibe. The only problem is that it's smack down in the middle of Metelkova Mesto, which means that you've got music blaring from like 5 bars and 2 clubs till about 3:00am. And ear plugs are useless, unfortunately. Add to that the fact that breakfast kicks in at 7:30am, with yet more music from the cafe downstairs, and it means that it's impossible to get more than about 4 hours of sleep per night. It adds up. . .

Caught a bus to Bled yesterday. It's a gorgeous town in the middle of the Julian Alps. Thunderstorms forced me to remain at the Traveller's Haven, a very cozy place to stay. When the sun peeked out from the clouds following dinner, I decided to take a chance to climb up to Castle Bled. Totally worthless, especially at 7 euro to get in. Even though the views of Bled and Lake Bled are something to see. Since the weather appeared to hold up, I walked around the length of the lake (6km) for splendid views of Bled Island and the Church of the Annunciation.

Watched the end of the soccer game between Uruguay and South Africa with my fellow travelers, had a fews glasses of wine (Slovenian wine is good and affordable), and then turned in for my first good night's sleep of this trip.

We were all aware that it would pour again today, but things didn't look too bad this morning. The hostel offers free bikes, so I took one and made my way to the stunning Vintgar Gorge (see picture). The mist created by the recent showers gave the whole scenery some kind of surreal feel.

Biked my way back to Bled for a quick lunch, and then walked around the lake to climb up to the Mala Osojnica viewpoint. Screwed up and ended up taking the more arduous path up. The footing was uncertain throughout, what with the surface being made of rotten leaves and slippery rocks. It was a pain in the ass, but I made it up there for a nice panorama. Started raining on my way down, but I did reach the lake (via the easier path which I found at the viewpoint) without breaking my neck. Made my way to Hotel Park for a piece of Bled's famous cream cake. And as soon as I sat down and got ready to order, it started pouring like a son of a bitch. So I ordered a cafe latte to go with my cake, and enjoyed watching people get soaked as I lounged under a nice and convenient roof over the outside terrace.

All in all, a very nice day. I now regret planning so little time in Slovenia. It's a mix of Austria, Switzerland, and Quebec's Laurentians, as charming but less expensive than all three. Had I known I would enjoy it as much, I would have planned more time to see more of the country. This is definitely a place I want to return to.

I now have dinner plans to make. . . And must then pack my shit, for tomorrow I must catch a bus back to Ljubljana, and then get on a train bound for Zagreb. No worries, photos are coming in the near future!

Croatia, here I come!;-)

1 commentaires:

Marc said...

Did you meet Thrinidir and Trin in Slovenia? They're the couple from Realms of Speculative Fiction, and are from that country. Then again, the last I read, they might have been moving to the UK. They've certainly dropped off the face of the web!