Balkans Day 16 – Ljubljana
26th September 2018
Today, another country, we are going to Ljubljana in Slovenia. Things I know about Ljubljana; it’s the capital of Slovenia. First, I go for a run along the service road from the village to Plitvice National Park. It’s very pretty running through the forest as the sun rises behind the mountains, but it’s minus 1 degrees and I didn’t pack a hat or gloves. Once I’ve showered/defrosted, we can set off for Ljubljana.
When we reach the Slovenian border, we have to queue for 20 minutes. This is a surprise, as both countries are in the EU and a disappointment, as it was my last chance to exercise my freedom of movement as a EU citizen. At least I’m not a lorry driver; the lorry queue snakes for miles down the motorway, and approaching the border requires zigzagging round the collection of drivers standing in the road chatting and smoking cigarettes.
In Slovenia, you need a to display a vignette to drive on the motorway, which we plan to purchase at the first petrol station. This plan causes the old man significant distress, as not having a vignette carries a fine of up to €800 and in his mind, the whole of the Slovenian police force is lying in wait in the few hundred metres between the border and the petrol station. Luckily, there are vignettes for sale at the border, so the old man can relax. Finally, we are in Slovenia. It has taken us half an hour and cost €16 in exit and entry tolls. So much for freedom of movement.
We drive the final 50 miles to Ljubljana, park up and take a walk around the city. It’s not a very big city, so it doesn’t take long. We walk along the river, across various bridges; Triple (in three sections), Roman (fine selection of padlocks) and Dragon (dragon statues).
On through several squares (Congress, Presernov and Republic).
Next, we take the funicular up to the castle, which provides a great view of the city.
We descend and check in to our hostel; Penzion Pod Lipo. There are plates of cookies and sweets in reception. The old man abandons me to work his way through the food on offer. The receptionist proceeds to offer apple and pear brandy, so when the old man finally reappears, he’s somewhat the worse for wear.
If the evening, we go to Druga Violina for dinner. Three good things about Druga Violina; (1) the food, (2) it’s a social enterprise providing employment for people with disabilities, so you can bask in the warm, fuzzy glow that your custom is going to a good cause and (3) allergens are marked on the menu.
We return to our hostel. We’ve enjoyed our day in Ljubljana, it’s an intimate little capital. Tomorrow we move on to see Slovenia’s top tourist attraction – Lake Bled.
Balkans Day 17 – Bled
27th September 2018
Today we are going to Lake Bled. I have been looking forward to this because I’ve heard it’s really beautiful, although my daughters have counselled against swimming, due to the enormous fish. In any case, t’s 4 degrees, so swimming isn’t featuring in our plans. It’s not until we leave the hostel in Ljubljana that we realise how foggy it is. However, as we head north towards the Julian Alps, the fog lifts and the sun appears.
First stop this morning is Vintgar Gorge; a gorge with a river running through it. You can walk along a 1600m boardwalk which follows the gorge, crossing the river several times for great views of the rapids and waterfalls.
Then we continue to Bled. It’s warmed up somewhat by now, so I stop moaning about not having packed gloves and even shed one of my jumpers.
We opt to walk a full circumnavigation of the lake along the 6 km of paths that skirts the water’s edge. It’s really beautiful, the water is blue-green and the lake is surrounded by trees with a backdrop of mountains. Perched on top of the cliffs is Bled Castle.
In the middle of the lake is Bled Island (Slovenia’s only Island); a forested islet with a church on top. You can reach the island by pletna, a sort of gondola with oars which docks at a jetty beneath a staircase.
From here you can climb the 99 steps to the church. The oarsmen says that traditionally, the man should carry his wife up the stairs. The old man looks a little concerned that this tradition is going to be enforced.
We have 30 minutes on the island while our exhausted oarsman takes a well earned nap. After realising that the church costs €6, we follow the little path round the island, where we spot some enormous fish, then wait for our boat back to the mainland.
Our return journey to the shore is shorter, as we are dropped in a different location. We complete our (now prolonged) circuit of the lake. By the time we have retraced our steps to our guesthouse, we have walked around 8 miles and are exhausted. We check in and the old man announces he is not moving again. So I buy myself a gourmet lunch of sausage and salad from the supermarket and we have an early night.