I’ve heard all the chatter, I’ve read all the blogs, now it was time for me to discover for myself. Well, for me and a merry band of explorers. sLOVEnia, the only country with love in it’s name! This land of green in every shade, the warmth of its people and their amazing history will forever be etched in my heart. Just south of Austria, not far from Germany and definitely a must-see, I wasn’t expecting the mystique, wonder and sheer- gorgeous nature of this heart-warming land and its people.
Getting there and around
Our journey began in Germany and included a stop over in Berchtesgaden for an overnight. Just four hours from Stuttgart we were able to pop-in to Eagles Nest and the famous Salt Mines tour. I’ll write more about that visit soon. On our second day this left a little over three hours to continue onto Lake Bled.
- Vignettes – You will need vignettes for Austria and Slovenia, in total they were €48 (you can purchase these ahead of time or at the border – very little price break)
- Tunnel fees – there are two large tunnels you must go through to get to Slovenia (these fees are separate from your vignette) €11.50 each way for the 7,843m tunnel and €7.50 for the smaller tunnel
- For bigger cars or vans parking in Slovenia is easy as long as you look for above ground parking lots/bus parking (which there are plenty)
We decided to make Lake Bled our “home away from home” because it is so easy to get around. Lake Bled is famous for their fairy island, it’s angelic setting and castle overlook. If you are a hiker and biker enthusiast there is plenty for you here as well. With trails that loop the lake and hidden caves to explore it’s a wonderland of discovery.
Our location and accommodations were perfect – the Old Parish House was the rectory for the pastors and monks of St. Martin. Named a top choice for Lonely Planet, you’ll see why when you arrive. Private parking, perfect spot for walking everywhere we could not want more! The breakfasts were great and had vegan options too! Wow!
Our rooms were simple but elegant and quiet hours were in affect at night, which was o.k. since the church bells wake you up early every morning. This little feature might bug some people but I loved being a part of this fairytale town and the bells made me feel like they were waking me up to start the day with everyone else.
Where to eat in Bled
Famished by the time we arrived in Bled, we asked Ives our hotelier where to grab a bite and within walking distance she recommended Gostilna-Murka. We visited twice and made friends with our very nice waiter, Goran. With fresh seafood and local dishes you can see why again Lonely Planet also recommends it for cheap eats and a special find! We had lunch for seven and wine and I think it wasn’t quite €60.
Another favorite is Pizza Rustica, don’t be misled this is no average pizza joint. You will need to make reservations as they are booked EVERY night. We made reservations for our last night in Bled and I’m so glad we did ~ The service was impeccable and food phenomenal.
VinoThek – one place quickly became a must stop because the owner was generous and kind and welcoming. Torsche who owns VinoThek which is just opposite the ferry to island serves wonderful wines from the region and coffees. The setting of his “tasting store” is quaint and perfect for grabbing an after dinner cordial or espresso night cap. He was more than generous and the prices were spot-on.
What to see
Bled Castle – one of the main attractions and museums of Bled is its castle – this is where you can take the panoramic pictures of the lake and it’s enchanted island. It was €10 per person for the entry fee and it included the historical museum, a printshop, the bee keepers museum, the knights hall and our favorite the wine cellar.
In the wine cellar, we met Lodje, the monk who taught us how to pour a proper bottle of wine. Yes, I am a certified medieval wine pourer now, it’s o.k. to be jealous. This spunky monk who was sweet and kind spoke perfect English also invited us to enjoy a bottle of wine in the monk’s cave. This special room is not always open but for the cost of the wine and lots of pictures we enjoyed a “Wi-fi” free zone and lots of laughter while I read the “fairy” tale book of the lake. It brought me back to my library volunteer days, except it was a little stronger drink than the juice we had in the sippy cups.
Ferry to Island – we tried twice to catch the ferry over to the island, there are a few different transportation options but we had no luck. It was €14/person and they needed a minimum of 10 people for a journey, so unfortunately we just couldn’t make this happen. Maybe next time.
Shopping – lots of tourist shopping around the lake, it’s o.k. keep walking, the views are stunning
Our next stop was the beautiful capital city of Ljubljana. This stunning, historical town had so much to see we just couldn’t fit it all in, in one day. This college town is filled with historical buildings and a Bohemian vibe – the college of our first lady – Melania, locals are quick to point out their famous citizen.
Our sweet tour guide, Tina from FREE TOURS Ljubljana helped us discover what we could on our full day in Ljubljana. If you are unfamiliar with the FREE TOURS companies of major cities around Europe, you are missing out! Let me tell you, yes, you can sign up for their FREE TOUR, (please tip them, they are usually college kids) These tours have one going everyday around 10 or 11 and you will travel in a big group like a swarm. I typically like to book a private group tour in English when I go, as it works out to be about €10-12/person and to me, it’s worth it. They usually include where to eat, local legend-story telling and off-the-beaten paths tips and treats. Look for these options on their websites.
Friday is a OPEN KITCHEN food markets in the city and this is where vendors set up kiosks for you to try local foods. My group was especially excited about this since it was complementing the already craft and artisan market in the main square that is held daily. However, do to a bad weather forecast the Open Kitchen was postponed, so no tasting for us. Here are a few highlights of our tour.
Rich in history
Slovenia became an independent country in 1991! Yes, you read that right, it’s just a baby. Occupied for over a thousand years by Romans, the Ottoman Empire, Germans, Austrians and then becoming Yugoslavia. The most impressive and grateful aspect I learned was they KEPT THEIR LANGUAGE. Tina shared with us during the years of occupation it was punishable by law to speak Slovenian and somehow they secretly kept it! This kind of pride makes my heart swell and my eyes tear up. The language is beautiful, generous and kind, just like the people.
You will see this when you visit Slovenia, because you must!
PARK HERE in Ljubljana for bigger vehicles, inexpensive, €7/whole day and GREAT location from downtown center.
This quick blog on my recent exploration of sLOVEnia is just a teaser, I know I will have so much more to share – but if you have specific questions, leave them in the comments below ~ I’ll try to help!
It’s always an adventure when you ©Travel with Wendy!