Do you ever feel like something that is in your mind keeps coming up in random ways? Well, that has happened to me since Slovenia became one of the areas we travel to. Slovenia, Slovenia, and more Slovenia.
Slovenia is a small country that gained its independence fairly recently. In a matter of a few days they were able to secure the borders and proclaim themselves an independent country.
Things started moving toward independence after a referendum held on December 23rd, 1990 when the vast majority of voters asked for independence. Six months later, the Slovenian Territorial Defense counter-attacked Yugoslavian troops, preventing them from entering the soon-to-be country of Slovenia in an attempt to stop the secession process. This conflict went sort of unnoticed and it is known as the Ten Day War.
In total about 2 million people live in Slovenia, of which about 300,000 are in Ljubljana, the capital.
I wrote about Slovenia briefly in my article on Friuli titled Destination Highlight: Friuli and why it’s cycling heaven.
I am now setting out to list what to do in Slovenia from my personal experience.
It is one of the most charming and livable capitals in Europe. It was The European Green Capital for 2016, thanks in part to its decision to ban car traffic from most of the city center; everything can be seen on foot or by bike.
The main crossroad is the characteristic triple bridge across the Ljubljanica River, while coffee bars, galleries and boutiques line the waterside as it winds through town.
The city owes its present appearance partly to Italian baroque and partly to Art Nouveau, which is the style of the numerous buildings erected immediately after the earthquake of 1895. In the first half of the 20th century, modern Ljubljana was shaped by the strong personal style of Jože Plečnik, a great European architect and a local of Ljubljana. What I like about Ljubljana is how harmonious it all feels.
Lake Bled is as picturesque as you can imagine. The island in the middle is the highlight. You can reach the island to visit its small church by rowboat. It is magical and romantic especially if you decide to make it there at dawn with the mist rising from the lake.
The island has several buildings, the main one being church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, built in its current form near the end of the 17th century, and decorated with remains of Gothic frescos from around 1470 in the presbyterium and rich Baroque equipment. The church is frequently visited by lovers, and weddings are held there regularly. As locals will tell you, it is considered good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the steps on the day of their wedding before ringing the bell and making a wish inside the church.
Triglav National Park
Bled is located at the fringe of the Triglav National Park, a key attraction of which is the Tolmin Gorges, home to beautiful springs, trails and caves.
Some of their names are disconcerting, not least the Devil's Bridge, crossing a deep, narrow gorge. Or Dante's Cave, so named because the 14th-century Italian poet was said to have been inspired by it when creating the hell of his "Divine Comedy."
The aquamarine waters and rapids running through the limestone gorges are breathtaking, while the marble trout seem to enjoy life in their own private sanctuary, safe from anglers.
Plenty of WWI history was written around this river. Isonzo, its Italian name, recalls the most harsh wartime defeat ever to Italians because the Austro-Hungarian army bombarded with tremendous power - and nearly destroyed -the town of Kobarid, pushing back enemy lines many miles.
It is a pristine river that allows for great hikes and river rafting. River rafting is just one of the adrenaline sports that are practiced there and that made the village of Bovec an outdoor mecca. River rafting is a great, fun activity that we include in our Magnifica program there.
The river runs down from the Julian Alps through Bovec, Kobarid, Tolmin, Kanal ob Soči, Nova Gorica (where it is crossed by the Solkan Bridge), and Gorizia, entering the Adriatic Sea.
Around an hour’s walk from Lake Bled is the stunning natural wonder, Vintgar Gorge. Make sure to visit this natural wonder when you visit Slovenia. Vintgar Gorge’s varying shades of blue water slice through rock formations. It’s a splendid view which you can see perfectly from the wooden footbridge trail which goes along a mile long stretch of the gorge. Go all the way to the end to witness the water drop from a 16m high waterfall.
Foto credit http://www.bled.si
Collio on the Friulian side (Italy) and Brda on the Slovenian side, this area is covered by rolling hills dotted with orchards, vineyards and olive groves. Here the border seems to vanish. It's no surprise that Italian is spoken almost as much as Slovenian.
Visitors cross the border to pick up local cold cuts, follow some of the wine trails or visit the castles. This is one of the new and upcoming wine production areas of the old continent. Fairly small wineries, such as our friends at Zanut, are challenging French and Italian wines with an approach that is very much about the territory and not so much about the market. And we like that.
Divaska Jama Cave
I have to give credit to Sasha, our Slovenian guide, for telling me about the beauty of Divaska jama cave. He insisted that the better-known Škocjan Caves are more touristy and therefore the visit is less intimate and exclusive.
Foto credit http://www.divaska-jama.info/
Almost the entire cave is richly decorated with calcite formations that have developed through its geological history. The cave shelters numerous species of cave animals and other forms of life. In the past, the cave was visited by many prominent personalities such as the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
Slovenia is considered the European capital of "green tourism." We hope you get the chance to visit it. Tourissimo can organize your own private vacation there.