If you missed Croatia Part 1 and Plitvice Lakes, you gotta start there! It was a stellar part of our trip leading in to the time in Slovenia, which makes for a perfect combo if you love nature and exploring.
A few years ago, while huffing our way up a volcano in Iceland, a fellow hiker said she was from Slovenia. I thought it sounded exotic, but beyond that had no real thoughts on the country at all.
Then she continued,”you’d love it. There’s tons of hiking. Mountains. Water. It’s truly just beautiful.”
I was sold and since then have had my eye on it for a trip and pairing it with time in Croatia and Austria was absolutely perfect!
This is where the train dropped us for our Slovenian adventure and again we were so pleasantly surprised with what we encountered!
Knowing very little, we set off on foot to explore and were immediately met with the sight of a castle upon a hill. WE MUST GO THERE!And so off we went in search of the unknown castle.
It didn’t take long to come across a funicular (a cable car running up a mountain side that is counterbalanced by a weight) that ran up to the aptly named Ljubljana Castle. A short ride later, we found ourselves inside a castle which had been partially restored and partially modernized. It has an interesting history, but for us was mostly about the views.
Ok the funicular ride was pretty neat too because it’s an all glass enclosure, which means you get fun views going up! While it’s not a large town, you can see mountains, the beautiful churches, the beautiful terra cotta rooftops and the river flowing through the middle of the town.From there we opted to walk down the nearby paths back in to town, which is situated around the river. You’ll find streets filled with outdoor seating for cafes, stores, beautiful buildings and the famous dragon bridge.
While the castle is technically the main attraction for the city, I admit we’ve seen more interesting castles. For us the time spent exploring along the water was wonderful, lively and once again I found a great little vegan spot to fulfill my desire for some veggies! Luckily I grabbed a great beet juice there to fuel our next day’s adventure to Lake Bled.If you happen to be there on a Friday night, take advantage of the Street Food Fair! It’s a huge fair next to the water with music and so many incredible food options. Unfortunately, we’d just enjoyed a meal when we came across it, so we simply wandered through the upbeat crowd drooling.
In the morning, the path that runs along the water for miles and miles makes for an excellent run! Because of the location, it was so foggy I could barely see the next block which actually made it all the more enjoyable.There happens to be a marathon in October and I’d absolutely go back to enjoy running there!!
There are plenty of bike rentals as well, but I couldn’t imagine riding in this particular city as there are so many people in the city center. Instead, I’d recommend enjoying one of the river boat rides!
This is the spot most often associated with a visit to Slovenia and it’s only 40 minutes by car or you can take one of the cheaper bus options that takes around an hour or a little more. As noted, we opted more for private cars this time because we wanted to run on our own schedule.
Once you arrive at Lake Bled, you have a few options:
A. Enjoy the paved path around the lake. It offers beautiful views and it’s easy.
B. Be ridiculous like us and number of others who ventured off on the surrounding trails for superior views.
If you are like us, then a few tips I’d love to impart because I sure wish we’d had them:
- Trail shoes or something with grip
- If it’s rained at all expect it to be very muddy and the rocks very slick. What we did would be listed as a black diamond trail in Colorado.
- Trails are steep, like really, really steep. So trekking poles are a winner.
- Don’t go to the view point listed at the top (Velika Osojnica), it’s all surrounded by trees so you’ll hike an extra 45 minutes to find you can’t see anything
I feel like now is where I should tell you about our little adventure in hiking. You see I’m super strong going uphill, but basically terrified of dying when I go down steep hills…which was effectively going to be everything since it was roughly 14-20% incline.
As we kept going up, slipping and sliding through the mud I started to grow concerned I’d need to be choppered out…or slide down on my ass over the very large rocks. Instead, step one was to find myself a walking stick! This was my ultimate lifesaver for the next hour of hiking up and then the hour coming down!
We opted for a different path down, which is where we encountered the stairs as steep as a ladder and the cables bolted in to the rocks to sort of hold and skip over portions of the trail which had fallen away.
This isn’t to dissuade you, as we certainly saw families with small kids and plenty of people in plain old Keds attempting the path. More just to say, don’t expect as we did that it would be a nice leisurely hike.
But for your efforts, you’re rewarded with a view over the lake of the Assumption of Mary Church on the island and the 12th Century Bled Castle in the distance.
Since you’ve already made your way to Lake Bled, continue the fun by heading on to Vintgar Gorge. You can catch a bus, a 15 Euro taxi, walk or rent a bike to go visit. It’s only a few miles away and worth the trip.Without knowing the roads and our time frame, we ended up taking a taxi there and walking back. I wish we’d rented bikes because it would have been a beautiful ride. Walking back we opted to take the route through the small village of Zasip and it was one of those truly postcard moments.
The I really feel like I’m in Europe moments. Houses with window boxes overflowing with flowers. Beautiful green fields with mountains in the distance and quiet, empty roads. Walking through Vintgar Gorge is a unique experience. It’s pretty, but more than that you’re often on wooden walkways over the water, which can kinda play with your mind if that sort of thing bothers you. It took us about 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other while taking photos and then about 75 minutes to walk back to Bled.
After all that hiking, it’s basically a requirement to enjoy a slice of Bled Cream Cake. We kept hearing tour guides tell their groups it was a must eat and we rarely say no to dessert, so we cozied up to a slice while looking out over the water.
And…well it was, ya know, not the best dessert we had in Europe by any stretch. It’s actually a layer of vanilla cream over custard with a light flakey topping which apparently dates back to the 18th century, but this particular Slovenian version is ONLY available at Lake Bled.Side Note: While this slice was 4 euros, that was a bit more than most prices on things in Slovenia. Lake Bled is a tourist spot and we happened upon another street fair which likely increased the price as well.
At this point we were half way through our vacation and had done over 60 miles between walking, hiking and running. I decided to have a little fun and in theory enjoy a restorative treatment…the fish spa.Yup, it’s what is sounds like! After cleaning your feet, you stick them in a box filled with tiny little fish which come and eat away dead skin. In theory, it creates soft skin and increases blood flow to the feet to make them feel revitalized.
In reality, it was fun, the cool water felt amazing after 10 hours on our feet…and maybe my feet were softer. It doesn’t tickle like haha that’s so funny, but you do feel the fish.
Have you ever considered Slovenia for a vacation?
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