The best-laid plans… Ours failed even before we left home. On recent long trips we’ve managed with one case between us. This time it just did not work, possibly due to the variety of activities planned. We could not turn up at La Scala in our hiking boots! So Sandie had to repack everything, while Ian went online to book (and pay for) the extra case.
But on the day (Monday 5th June), all went smoothly. Taxi to the bus station, coach to Stansted. Our flight to Ljubljana was delayed, but not by too much. The minibus transfer to our accommodation was waiting when we landed.
We had Monday evening, all of Tuesday and Weds morning to explore Ljubljana. That was plenty of time, because the capital of Slovenia is a very small city. The Old Town has some attractive buildings, including churches with ornate spires, and lots of squares with statues and fountains. On one side of the town there is a castle perched on a hilltop, surrounded by woods; on the other side the Tivoli Gardens provide more green space for a wander. Further out there are unattractive concrete blocks of apartments, including the one where we stayed, although the flat itself was fine.
The river Ljubljanica flows through the city. Crossed by several elegant bridges, it is lined by weeping willows and pavement cafés – for such a small city, Ljubljana has an awful lot of bars and cafés! It is the ideal place for an evening stroll, and has a lively atmosphere, with lots of people doing their version of the ‘paseo’. We really enjoyed our first evening there, when we stopped at three places for drinks, dinner and cocktails. Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated rapidly on Tuesday, and there were heavy storms in the evening. We managed to escape the worst, but were quite glad to get back to our flat.
On Tuesday afternoon we travelled by bus to Kranjska Gora, the starting point for the week’s walking tour we’d booked. The mountains were impressive, but it was so cold (and wet) there! We regretted having taken only summer clothing. However, the next morning the sun was shining and everything looked completely different. A representative of the walking company came to give us our information pack, and off we went.
Our first two walks were circular, so we stayed three nights at Kranjska Gora. Walking in the mountains was delightful. During the day at least, it was warm and sunny, and the scenery was stunning. Our first walk was relatively short (13 km, though we did further because the directions were not always clear; we took the wrong path and had to retrace our route). The furthest point was a ‘hut’ where you could buy drinks; we had a late morning coffee, and it was so pleasant sitting in the midst of glorious mountain scenery that we followed it with a glass of wine.
The second day’s walk was longer (20km) and our goal this time was the ‘Three Borders’, where Slovenia, Italy and Austria meet. This involved a steep uphill climb through pine forests. When there were gaps in the trees, we had views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. We also walked through meadows, full of alpine spring flowers.
The next day a taxi took our luggage to Bled, and dropped us on the way there. We walked the rest of the way; the scenery was quite different from the past two days, as we passed through villages and farmland. The highlight of the walk was the Vintgar Gorge, about a mile long. After our peaceful walking in the mountains, it came as a shock to see crowds of tourists, and there was not much space to pass on the narrow paths.
… and lakes
Lake Bled is very scenic, and therefore a popular tourist destination in Slovenia. We stayed for two nights in a surprisingly smart hotel in Bled village. After our arrival we took a boat across to the island in the lake, where there is a church, a bell tower and a café. It happened that a wedding was taking place while we were there. We had drinks while waiting for the bridal party to emerge, and were able to take photos before going in the church ourselves.
The next day we were able to choose how to spend our time – there was a suggested hike, but also a number of things to do around the lake. We did a circuit, with two major detours. The first was up to the castle, perched on a rock: a very steep path and then 230 steps, quite a climb but great views from the castle courtyard. The second was further round the lake, up to the top of Osojnika. This was recommended in our walk directions as being a must for photographers, because of the wonderful views – but what they omitted to tell us was how strenuous the climb was. Still, we made it, and the views certainly were great. The lake, with its island, was so incredibly picturesque, we could not resist taking photo after photo. We were lucky that the weather was warm and sunny, great for walking and photography. We were amused to see the crowds of people sunbathing on the grass – definitely Brighton Beach on Lake Bled!
The final two days of our walking holiday followed a similar pattern. On Monday we had a transfer into the hills above Bled, and walked the rest of the way to Lake Bohinj. The first part of the walk was through alpine meadows, complete with flowers and cows with bells – the only thing missing was Julie Andrews singing ‘The hills are alive…’. Conveniently, we found a mountain hut at coffee time, and after that it was steeply downhill, mainly on stony forest tracks.
Lake Bohinj is bigger than Lake Bled, but wilder and much less touristy. We spent Tuesday doing a circuit of the lake, again with two major detours. At the western end we walked up to the Savica Waterfall. After paying an entry fee, we had to climb up 526 steps to a very small viewing platform. Unfortunately there were several large parties of teenagers and schoolchildren, all equipped with selfie sticks, which made it difficult for us to get a view of the falls. Further round the lake we took the cable car up to Vogel, a popular ski resort. Needless to say, there were great views from the top, although a ski resort in summer has a rather deserted feel. Back down at the lake, we took the ‘tourist boat’ back to the village where we were staying. After a lot of walking, it was a relaxing way to end the day.