DISCOVER SLOVENIA

“After forays into Venice, Florence, Rome, Madrid and Leiden, I ended up in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. And that is where I fell in love,” A Guardian writer recently confessed. Noah Charney was so mesmerised with the small underrated neighbour of Italy that he even called it the world’s best country in his book. With Ljubljana awarded as the Green Capital of Europe in 2016 and the country receiving National Geographic’s 2017 World Legacy Award, many more travellers are tempted to discover why so many praise its landscapes, sustainability and the ease of travelling. Let us look at Eve‘s own Slovenia guide – and perhaps get some inspiration for the next trip.

Admire Ljubljana

To visit the iconic castle, whose predecessors date back to 1200 BC, either walk or take the funicular. On a clear day you will get a panoramic view of the city, more so if you climb the tower. It now houses temporary art displays and a permanent exhibition on the history of Slovenia. The centre is a pedestrian area, with a bike sharing system available.

Some writers are also singing praises to street art, which Ljubljana has plenty of in its art hubs and simply in the streets. Other street decorations include patterned umbrellas hanging over street lights, pairs of shoes draped over the powerlines, and a neon pink park bench.

The cobbled centre, divided by the Ljubljanica river, is home to a good number of Antikvariats – stores selling old and second-hand books. Winter is a perfect time to enjoy the Christmas market alongside Ljubljanica river, to taste mulled wine (‘kuhano vino’) and warm honey schnapps (‘medica’) from the stalls.

Find serenity near lakes

Photo credit: Denise Azzopardi

While lake Bled is world-famous, it is not the only one. 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. Rowing boats can be rented in nearby towns.

Savour the food

Photo credit: Denise Azzopardi

When the renowned Slovenian chef Jozef Oseli, former personal chef and butler to Yugoslav statesman Tito, visited Malta, he presented Carniolan sausage (a typical Slovenian sausage of protected geographical indication, locally known as Kranjska klobasa) with grated radish, pasta with truffles (fuži), and finally, marinated lamb with honey and garlic, served with the very popular cottage cheese rolls (štruklji). For dessert, the superstar chef recommended Prekmurska gibanica, with poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins and ricotta.

And while at it, try it at a traditional inn. While near lake Bled, try cream slice or ‘kremšnita’.

Wander off the beaten path

Photo credit: Denise Azzopardi

If you flew to Treviso airport, you can visit a few of the coastal towns on your way to Ljubljana. Start with Portrož (Port of Roses), owing its name to one of the oldest churches – S. Maria delle Rose (early 13th century). Drop by the nearby town of Piran, with its narrow streets and medieval character that is reflective of the considerable number of years of Venetian rule. Finally, stop at Koper, also known as Capodistria, most notable for its well preserved medieval centre.

In the Notranjska-Karst region, visit the Postojna Cave. A cave train will take you through the first part, and then you can explore the spaghetti cave that takes its name from the white baby stalactites hanging like strings of pasta, along with 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.

Photo credit: Denise Azzopardi