If you’re thinking of getting away to Slovenia for a few days, read on for a few must-dos to pack into your schedule. This article focuses on Western Slovenia.
Day 1 – The coastal towns of Portrož, Piran, and Koper
The best way to access Slovenia is via Treviso airport. If you are renting a car, you can visit a few of the coastal towns on your way to Ljubljana. Considering that Slovenia’s coastline is only 46kms long, you have no excuse for not taking some time to experience it. Start with Portrož (Port of Roses), owing its name to one of the oldest churches – S. Maria delle Rose (early 13th century).
This town, frequented all year round by conference goers, is most vibrant during the summer season, which kicks off with the international boat show, Internautica, held every May.
Starting to feel hungry? I suggest you wait until you reach the nearby town of Piran. I found this to be much more picturesque, with its narrow streets and medieval character that is reflective of the considerable number of years of Venetian rule. Walk around and admire the architecture.
Now hunger has really set in. So cross the wide oval Piazza Tartini, named after the violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, and head to Gostišče – Trattoria Verdi*. I thoroughly recommend the mixed fish platter or ‘ribja plošča’.
Your last stop before heading to the Slovene capital should be Koper, also known as Capodistria, most notable for its well preserved medieval centre. Simply soak up the atmosphere in one of the bars situated along the sea.
Day 2 – Ljubljana and its castle (Central Slovenia)
I was drawn to the cobbled centre, divided by the Ljubljanica river, and particularly the street below the Ljubljana castle that houses the Town Hall. In this old part of the city, you will come across a good number of Antikvariats – stores selling old and second-hand books. These shops add to the arty and tea-shoppy feel of these cobbled streets that are reminiscent of Salzburg and Paris.
You can choose to either walk up to the castle or take the funicular. On a clear day you will get a panoramic view of the city, more so if you climb the tower. The castle has a long history, which according to archaeological surveys dates back to 1200 BC. It now houses temporary art displays and a permanent exhibition on the history of Slovenia.
Day 3 – Lakes Bohinj and Bled (The Gorenjska region)
On visiting these two lakes, I was able to confirm that Slovenia is indeed the Switzerland of Southeast Europe. Lake Bohinj, the country’s largest glacial lake, is only a few kilometres from Bled. It is the more secluded and peaceful of the two, with a silence so intense that you can hear it. Bled on the other hand is picture-book pretty with its famous church-crowned island and towering medieval castle – the oldest in Slovenia.
It is no wonder that Slovenes have a deep affinity for their countryside – the country is abundant with natural beauty. While walking around Lake Bled, I could not help but run ‘The Sound of Music’ in my head.
Day 4 – Postojna Cave (Notranjska-Karst region)
This is the second longest cave in Slovenia being 20km, but don’t worry, you won’t be walking all that long. Most areas of the cave are not really equipped to accept visitors as much of it is submersed under water. A cave train will take you through the first part of the cave.
We had an entertaining guide who walked us through some spectacular parts – the spaghetti cave that takes its name from the white baby stalactites that hang town like strings of pasta, the most beautiful stalagmite in the cave, which is the ‘Brilliant’ due to its shiny white colour, and the concert hall that’s got superb acoustics.
You will get to see the curious ‘human fish’ that inhabit the depths of the cave, a few of which are visible in an aquarium that simulates the creatures’ natural habitat. These bear no resemblance to humans and can live up to an amazing 100 years or so!
* * *
Eating and drinking in Piran
*Restaurant: Gostišče – Trattoria Verdi, No. 20 Verdi Street – http://www.gurmancek.si/ponudba/gostisce-trattoria-verdi/
Recommended dish: Mixed fish platter or ‘ribja plošča’ in Slovene.
Drink: Any of the two locally made wines – Refošk (Refosco from Istria) or Teran, a refošk variety that is darker and more intense, and that is typical of the more northern Karst region
December – Visit the Christmas market alongside Ljubljanica river.
Don’t miss out on: Mulled wine (‘kuhano vino’) and warm honey schnapps (‘medica’) from the stalls.
Bar: Pr’Skelet or Skeleton Bar, tucked away in a narrow lane just off the Ljubljanica river. Here you get two cocktails for the price of one. The bar features a number of skeletal forms performing all kinds of acts, even copulating. Good luck in finding your way into the restrooms! Address: No. 5 Ključavničarska Street http://www.prskelet.com/main.php?lang=en
There are a large number of ‘gostilnas’ in Slovenia. The ‘gostilna’ (literally meaning ‘inn’ or ‘tavern’) is the country’s most typical and oldest type of eating establishment.
In Lake Bled
Try the Gostilna Pri Planincu – http://www.pri-planincu.com/ENG/indexENG.html
Make sure you get your hands on the cream slice or ‘kremšnita’. You can find this in any confectionary around Bled.
How to get to Ljubljana:
Ryanair flies to Venice Treviso.
Rent a car from Treviso, but prearrange from Malta as it is cheaper – http://www.hertz.com.mt/
Or arrange a transfer from Treviso to Ljubljana – http://www.goopti.com/