Slovenia is also another world below the ground – about more than 10,000 caves
LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA: There is always a first visit, and my first call to Slovenia turned out to be a four-day trip through parts of a surprisingly green and forested EU-country with spectacular caves and mountains, charming coast and seaside towns. Let me also include, a country more affordable and cheaper to visit than neighbouring Croatia, Austria and Italy – in fact, cheaper than any country in Europe.
Hidden gem. Only two million people live here and lack of people means it´s peace and quiet. Even Ljubljana has hardly any crowds. As a visitor I felt very welcomed and people I met was thrilled that I came to visit their country. So far, Slovenians are not fed-up by the industry and it seems to be a country for individual tourism. Slovenia often has been overlooked and now named as a hidden gem, and so green as the whole country was washed with a vibrating green paintbrush.
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In the name of Love. Ljubljana is a capital with young population, students and love. Even the four dragons at one of the six bridges over river Ljubjanica are all about love. Ljubljana means “The Beloved” or “The loved one”, at least it´s the only country with Love in its name.
Architect Joze Plecnik is the main man to be recognised as he designed the riverside walks, the old city centre embankments, built several bridges and put his mark of several buildings. Plecnik also had impact on the identity of Vienna and Prague.
Return from Hell. There is a second part of Slovenia, the one below the earth´s surface and more than10,000 caves. I visited two – Pekel caves is a relatively small near the town of Sempeter. In English Pekel means Hell Cave and after one hour walking beneath the ground I returned to daylight from Hell.
Far larger and posher is Postojna Cave where a train has been carrying tourists since 1818. Don´t miss this experience, great surprises is waiting, and even the yelling and chit-chatting Chinese tourists fell silent after entering this 24km long cave of passages and stunning halls.
Castles.Slovenia has plenty of historical sites and I made visit to three castles that will surprise you. In front of a high rock wall is Predjama Castle 9km from Postonja. This castle was built over the years from 1202 and looks simply unconquerable. Here the rebellious knight Erazem Predjamski stayed away from the army for one year and one day, until he was betrayed by one of his men and killed by a shot from a cannon while sitting on the toilet. Door to the toilet is now closed.
While in the city of Celje you should drive up to the Castle for a view to the whole city and mountains – and might visit an exhibition at the torture room.
Last but not least, a visit to Ljubljana Castle is a must, this is simply a symbol of the capital. Trip to the top is quickly and comfortably by funicular. The view is superb and I highly recommend the restaurant for lunch and dinner.
Celje. This is a mix of old and new and exploring the country´s third biggest city is pretty easy, with cosy city centre, river Savinja, activities for families and the restored Old Castle to visit. The surrounding area is a place for hikers in the summer and skiers in winter.
New favourite. If you love small towns, a road trip through the countryside is perfect. My new choice is Piran and staying at Hotel Piran you are just five meters walk to jump in the Adriatic Sea. This town has a lovely square, winding streets full of surprises, delightful sunset and restaurants made for lovers of fish and seafood, no wonder Piran is a favourite on the coast.
Love in the air. During my visit I learned that people of Slovenia say they cannot rely on relatives because it will not end well. However, I know that there are 90,000 beekeepers in a population of just two million – and all agree they love is in the air for bees and honey.
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Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Flight from London to the airport of Ljubljana, 20km from the city centre. You will find a train and bus network and connection with to Austria, Croatia and Italy (not train). The highway is quality road. Renting cars is relatively cheap and driving may be your best move for getting about.
Stay: Hotel Slon is a Best Western Hotel and the best in many aspects. Located in Ljubljana central street in Ljubljana with large guest rooms, bar with view to the life outside, excellent restaurant for dinner and serving the best breakfast in an European 4-star hotel. For lower room rates, try Hotel Park - the most urban and green hotel in the centre of Ljubljana.
Eat: Slovenian food reminds of Italian specialities, such as ham, dumplings, polenta and seafood. Many places serve delicious stews. Struklji is the most common dish made of pastry with different fillings. Kremsnita is a famous dessert, a cream cake filled with custard cream, also known as Bled Cake. Visit “Open Kitchen” in Ljubljana for taste of local food
Play: They like to party hard and late and nightlife is within walking distance of the central part of Ljubljana. Slovenska Cesta is the main street for shopping.
Mini Guide: Salt from Piran Salt Pans is light, rich in sea minerals and gives dishes a great aroma. The salt is harvested manually. Slovenia has 3 wine regions, 24 gastronomic regions, 3 wine regions and more than 80 craft breweries. Even Slovenia`s national song is a tribute to wine. Spa: Slovenia is a land of healthy water and you can visit several thermal spas for treatment. This country is a green paradise for hikers, head for hills such as Kranjska Gora, Bled and Bohinj.