Slovenia (part 3 of 3): Cities and Villages

On our way to and from Bled, Dora planned out a couple of nice stops in some of the cities and villages along the way.  It was a nice way to break up the drive for the kids and also to see some different parts of the country.  Our first stop was in the small city of Maribor on the northeastern side of Slovenia.  Maribor is actually the second largest city in the country, with just under 100,000 inhabitants.  We stopped for a lunch of some traditional Balkan cuisine: Pljeskavica and Ćevapčići (very filling and very delicious) and then walked through the center of town a bit. It has a nice town square, lots of old walking streets winding through the city, and a nice riverfront.

 

 

 

 

 

One the return trip, we planned two stops, one in the village of Skofja Loka and another in the capitol city, Ljubljana.  The forecast was for rain, and rain it did for much of the day.  Miraculously, the clouds parted briefly for each of our stops and we were able to enjoy both places.  In fact, it was pouring as we first drove through Skofja Loka.  We thought we would just do a driving tour and continue on our way, but just after we turned around in the village the rains came to a sudden halt.  We found some parking and then walked through the old part of the village, though we don’t have much to show for it, as our camera battery finally chose to give up midway through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We continued from Skofja Loka to Ljubljana, and Dora managed to get the camera battery changed. Ljubljana also has a lovely old riverfront with lots of walking streets.  Rising on the hill just above the city stands a castle; we rode an incline to have a look at the castle and a view of the city. The city is fairly large (~400,000 people, which is large when you consider the mountinous country only has a population of 2 million), but seemed very nice and livable.

 

 

 

 

 

We also were in the city at lunchtime, and Daniel and I identified our target restaurant –Surf and Fries — in a free brochure at our hotel in Bled.  Just as we reached the restaurant, another heavy rain began; fortunately they had a dry pavilion long with their 40 different flavors of fries to choose from. Even more amazingly Dora agreed to go let us go there for lunch — so a huge bowl of fries it was (with a few chicken nuggets on the side).  And on the side, a small order of the chocolate fries (which I’m holding in the first picture).  We for the most part agreed that the two should not mix, though Matthew was a big fan.

 

Slovenia (part 2 of 3): Natural Wonders

While Bled and Lake Bled are beautiful, there are many other nice places just a short drive from Bled.  In fact, our first trip on our first day was a hike in the Vintgar Gorge.  The weather forecast was promising, so we made the short drive through several small villages with even smaller roads to the Gorge.  Some of the people at the hotel and Bled tourism office seemed nervous about the Gorge when they saw our small children, so we were sure to bring the backback carrier to keep Matthew out of trouble.

The gorge was beautiful.  Fortunately, the autumn colors held out just long enough for us to enjoy spectacular scenery.  The stream wanders initially between the 2 hills with a nice trail and lots of trees.  Later on, the gorge becomes quite narrow, with a narrow wooden path pinned into the rocks serving as your trail.

The trail proceeds for about 1 mile, before the gorge opens up with the Alps in the distance and two large waterfalls. The woman at the entrance said the whole hike should take us about 1 hour, but I don’t think she factored in how many pictures Dora would take, as we returned 2 hours later.

 

Our final full day was accurately projected to be rainy, but nonetheless we went out for another drive to Lake Bohinj.  Lake Bohinj is larger and less well known than Lake Bled, but still charming. We took the “scenic” driving route on the way there, twisting our way up some of the larger foothills of the Alps. Predictably, Daniel’s stomach didn’t agree with the route (though Panka and Matthew happily napped), forcing a short stop along a small, snow-covered road.  Daniel was happy after we descended back into the valley.

It was a wet, overcast day, as you can see in some of the pictures, though the Alps, as always, loomed in the mist.  There was also a charming little church (if you’ve been reading along, you know that I love those village churches).  The style is slightly different in Slovenia, often incorporating different colors.  The running joke was that they’ve also build a small chapel on the top of every hill, which seemed to be true.

The main attraction at Lake Bohinj, however, was the Savica Waterfall.  The Savica is Slovenia’s most famous waterfall, falling first 50 m, followed by a second 25 m drop.  To access the falls requires a bit of a hike — not long but lots of stairs.  Fortunately, Dora brought boots for all of us, as it was muddy and raining. As you can imagine, the kids didn’t think it was such a great idea, so the final stages of the climb involved lots of coaxing and carrying kids (with the exception of Daniel, who did really great).  Finally we reached the top, rested, took more than enough pictures, and then enjoyed a much easier descent back to the car.  Daniel was pleased that we took the road through the valley on the return trip to Bled.

Slovenia (part 1 of 3): Bled

Lake Bled and surroundings as viewed from Castle Bled

Well, we’ve returned from Slovenia, where we had a great time in a gorgeous country.  Slovenia has a rugged landscape and only about 2 million people, but has really great infrastructure (we passed through about 10 tunnels on our way there), everyone is friendly and speaks fluent English, and all the drivers stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. l’ll try to describe our trip over a series of 3 posts: The first will describe the village of Bled and Lake Bled (where we stayed); the second will show some of the nearby natural wonders; and the final one will cover 3 of the cities (Maribor, Skofja Loka, and Ljubljana) that we visited while traveling to/from Bled.

Village of Bled from across the lake

First up is Bled, one of the most frequented sites in Slovenia, due to its location at the foot of the Alps and the adjoining lake.  The village has only about 5000 residents. The lake is relatively small (about 6 km around), small enough that we both biked and walked around it during our stay.

Island, Castle, and Alps by Lake Bled

In the middle of the lake is a small island with a chapel on it.  There are boats (pletna)  that take you there.  We were fortunate to hitch a ride on a boat along with another American

family; they were living in Brussels for 3 years and had 2 girls (3 and 5 years old) that really hit it off with our kids. Fortunately, we ran into them again at a restaurant the next day and the kids had some more fun.

Castle Bled as viewed from our hotel window

Bled is also well known for its castle, which sit high atop a hill just outside the village.  We hiked to the top on our second day and toured around.  The panorama photo at the beginning of the post was taken from the castle.  The first picture of the castle that you see to the left was actually taken from our hotel window, which provided great views each morning (Good work on finding the hotel, Dora!).