We are at the tail-end of our time in Slovenia and I will begin by saying how beautiful this country is. We started our adventure by arriving in Ljubljana which is the capital city. We were greeted by quiet streets, and people milling about as if time didn’t matter. Instantly we knew we were going to enjoy our time here. We made it to the hostel and had showers, a quick lay down, and then headed out to find an ATM and go to supper. Sounds easy enough, right? Generally the simpler the task, the more likely it is going to a nightmare to complete. We had a rather difficult time orienting ourselves to the city as there are numerous rivers that on the map, are all noted as the same size, but are not at all. Then, for some reason, my debit card wouldn’t work in any of the (numerous) machines we tried. This only ever happened in one other country in all of our travels so it was very frustrating. Back to the hostel to grab Chris’s, and off we went again. 2.5 hours later we were sitting down for supper. We laughed and assured ourselves it would be our only comical mishap in Slovenia. Perhaps that was foreshadowing the days to come.
The next day we headed to the town square to join the free walking tour. As with all the other walking tours it did not dissapoint, we learned a lot about the history of the city and the country. After the tour we stopped by the open air market to grab a quick bite to eat. We noticed a massive que of locals infront of one booth so we figured that was probably the best place. They were whipping up pizzas in a brick oven stove with all homemade ingredients. The dough was whole wheat, and didn’t have the regular consistency of what we would consider pizza dough. They called it “cake,” and it was somewhat a hybrid between a traditional dough consistency and that of a cake-like consistency. Either way, it was fantastic. We split a meat piece and a vegetarian piece, and both were equally delicious. We then headed up the hill above the city to walk around the castle and get some beautiful views of the city and surrounding grounds. We headed back to the hostel to get warm again, have a coffee and then head out for groceries, which turned into comical mishap number two. It turns out on Saturdays (some) supermarkets close at 1:00 pm, while others (within the same chain) stay open later. Unfortunately, the one directly across the street from our hostel was in the first category. The receptionist for the hostel had gone home for the day, so we had to rely on google to find us a supermarket that was open late on a Saturday and how to get to it. We each found two options, with one being much closer than the other. We walked to the first one which was about a kilometer away, only to find it closed. Defeated, we decided to hike the 2.6 kilometers to the other option. Much like Halifax, streets turn into other streets without any reflection on a map. (Think Coburg turning into Spring Garden). We had to keep faith that based on landmarks on the map we were going the right way, even though the street names were not matching. We eventually ended up finding the supermarket and getting our groceries, and then walking the entire 2.6 km groceries in hand back to the hostel. You may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t they just say forget it, and go eat at a restaurant? Get the groceries in the morning?” Quite simply, we are too poor to eat at the restaurants here. (Too tight of a budget, too poor, same difference). I think that is a defining moment for us as budget travelers, needing to go that far for groceries simply because we had no other option. Supper was wonderful, and we were able to go to sleep with full stomachs.
Moving right along to comical mishap number three, also known as day three in Slovenia, I will share with you our trials and tribulations of getting to the The Škocjan Caves, which are a UNESCO world heritage site. We had asked the receptionist a few days prior about buses to this area and she said they leave hourly. There was a tour at one o’clock, so we planned on getting up early, making a nice breakfast and sandwhiches to bring with us, then catching an 11:00 o’clock bus to ensure we had lots of time to make the tour. Chris woke up before I did and went to the receptionist to verify this information was accurate, and upon re-checking the bus schedules it was realized that in low-season only 2 buses go each day, and they don’t go the entire way to the caves, and one bus was leaving in 50 minutes from the time he enquired, or at 3 o’clock which would be too late to join any tours that day. This meant we had to go into high gear to get ourselves to make the bus, as it is a 25 minute walk from the hostel to the terminal. Chris quickly whipped up sandwhiches, put them in a bag, and just as we were leaving to head out the door the bag broke and 1 sandwhich was completely ruined, while the other was somewhat survived (it definitely spent more than 5 seconds on the ground) but we decided to go with it. As we didn’t have time to get another bag we decided to eat that for breakfast on the way, and save our giant yogurts we had with us for lunch. We drew quite a bit of attention speed walking through town while trying to wolf down a half falling apart sandwhich. Not to mention, it is really tough to try and stuff your face and keep a quick pace. Anyway, we arrived 7 minutes early. Perfect timing you may say. 30 minutes later, the bus finally pulled up (so much for speed walking and eating) and we happily boarded. We thought the bus would be just a few euro as it was only an hour and a half drive, so we nearly fell over when we realized it was 9.4 euro each!!! We were committed by this point, so we settled in for the drive. Approximately 10 minutes into the drive the bus slowed to a crawl, pulled over into a side lane, and proceeded at the slowest rate I have ever experienced. Chris leaned over and pointed to the engine temperature gage, which was well into the red zone. Wonderful. Just wonderful. And so the ride went; 10 minutes at average speed, 25 at a turtles pace. We arrived to our destination well over an hour and a half late, meaning we had to book it to the caves if we had any hope of making that 1 o’clock tour. We ran into the bus station to ask directions as we knew we had to walk about half an hour to get there. The nice elderly man happily pulled out a handdrawn map, and said the words “go straight” and “easy” over and over.
Again, this may seem simple enough, but for anyone who has experienced a hand drawn map you know how innaccurate and misleading they are. Off we went at a blistening pace, hopeful of making that tour. An hour later, we were ready to just go back and get on a bus straight back to Ljubljana. We finally figured out where to go to connect to the walking trail, and it was actually “go straight until this road ends, then turn left, then turn right.” I guess he did mean well.
45 minutes later we reached the caves. We bought a ticket for the 3 o’clock tour and then killed time by enjoying a coffee in a small restaurant. We joked about chatting up a nice family on the tour from Ljubljana that would drive us back for free to save us walking on the trail in the dark, then hopefully getting a bus back. Little did Chris know I was only half joking, I was quite determined to make it happen. Before the tour started we were standing around when I noticed a young couple speaking spanish. I innocently approached them asking if they were waiting for the tour, where they were from, where they were staying etc. They reciprocated the questions, and I (dramatically) described our efforts to get there. They happily offered us a ride back in their car as they were heading back to Ljubljana as well! Score! (Chris had a good laugh).
Unfortunately, you were not able to take pictures in the caves, but I highly suggest you google image search them. They were really impressive, and I am sure Patrick would appreciate their geological importance. The “great hall” as they call it was bigger than a football field and over 90 meters underground. The first part of the caves were very similar to other caves, but the second part is really what made these caves unique. There is a river flowing through the cave, and at the point where you reach the river you are 120 meters below the surface of the ground. There is a waterfall, and you even cross a bridge over the river that was 45 meters high. It was really incredible, and slightly dizzing. The tour guide at one point turned off all of the lights lighting the walkways to give us an idea of what it is like as a “real cave.” Again, google image search pictures as it was spectacular and very hard to describe with words. When we exited the cave we saw why it had taken so long to be discovered, the mouth of the cave is in a massive gorge.
We then had a very relaxing (and free) drive back to Ljubljana with the lovely couple from Spain. I was able to snap a picture of the beautiful sunset through the back window.
It felt like our luck had turned, and it was the end of the (brutally) comical mishaps in Slovenia. We planned to wake up early and head to Bled the next day.
Things went much smoother on our journey to Bled, and we were blessed with the most spectacularly sunny day, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We had been anticipating visiting this town for some time as Svjetlana Alisic (who is one of Chris’s best friends mother) highly recommended we visit it. were warmly welcomed by the hostel, and given an excellent overview on the town and walking the lake. The town is set on one side of the lake with the mountains behind it, the island with the church on it in the middle, and a few hills on the other side. We set out to walk around the lake and instantly were rewarded with incredible views of the little island in the middle with the church on it. It is quite an iconic image, I believe I have seen it pop up on several websites such as pinterest, buzzfeed etc. The further we got around the lake, the better the view became as we were able to see the island, the town of Bled, and the snow-capped mountains in the background. The receptionist at the hostel suggested hiking up a hill to get the best view, and we were rewarded majorily for our efforts. We sat on a little bench soaking in every minute of this beautiful place. It was probably our favorite moment of the trip thus far.
Half way around the lake
The view from the top of the hill
We then set out to try a traditional desert in the town of Bled called cream cake. Chris enjoyed it very much, while I thought it was okay. It was nice to try, but it was a bit sweet for my liking.
We relaxed for most of the evening both reading books then grabbing a quick beer with some other hostel guests.
Finally, today, we took another walk around the beautiful lake before eating at a local pizzeria (delicious) then heading back to Ljubljana. We have been getting our things in order this evening before heading to Pula, Croatia early tomorrow morning. We will spend 3 nights in Pula before heading some where very exciting for a very big yearly celebration … I won’t ruin the surprise just yet, I will let you all wait excitedly for the big reveal. Any guesses where it may be? (People we have already told are not allowed to guess!!!)