70ish hours in charming Ljubljana

After a blogging sabbatical while I started life as a student, I’m desperate to write for pleasure again! I’ve squeezed in a few trips, so I’ve some catching up to do, and I’ll start with beautiful Slovenia.

Mr TBST and I headed to this tiny yet justifiably proud country in southeast Europe for an Easter break, flying into Ljubljana from Bristol on Easter Sunday. Home to around 2m people, the first thing we noticed was how friendly the locals are! Our taxi driver waited over 2 hours when our plane was delayed and still had a smile on his face when we reached Arrivals, and our air bnb host rocked up on her bicycle at midnight when the flight delay made us late.

Ljubljana is an easy city to explore and it really has got it all… Cafe culture, orange wine, a crazy pastiche of architecture, and of course the obligatory free walking tour! Ljubljana was named 2016 European Green Capital, and central Ljubljana is pedestrianised and relaxed – you can book a free electric golf buggy-style ride if you want to get across the Old Town quickly, or you can meander along the Willow-lined river at your own pace. Treat yourself to the free daily walking tour (https://ljubljanafreetour.com/). Expect the usual – humour, history, quirky tales… oh and a free shot of honey liqueur, yum! Ljubljana Castle is worth the steep uphill wander too (or save your thighs and jump in the furnicular!), and while you’re in the area grab lunch at Vodkinov Hram – a great spot for goulash, veggie croquettes and a shot of something local to finish off the meal.

And if you enjoy sampling the local cuisine and beverages as much as we do… Slovenian beer is great, grab a Lasko, or seek out a trendy micro-brewery. Wine-lover? Slovenia shares a border with Italy, so maybe it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Slovenia produces good wine. Sadly they only export about 10% of their wine production, so it’s unlikely to pop up in your local Sainsburys, but when in Ljubljana, you can go wine-tasting with the knowledgable Boris in a 300-year-old cellar (https://winetastingljubljana.com/). Boris will introduce you to seven wines, including orange! Slovenia is a hotspot for orange wine production. Technically a white wine, orange wine production uses a traditional process to produce a delicious amber liquid more often found in Michelin starred restaurants. More of a foodie? Slovenian cuisine is a beautiful fusion, influenced by their Italian and Hungarian neighbours, among others, and some gorgeous traditional delicacies of their own (try the Bled cake!). Ljubljana isn’t the most noticeably vegetarian-friendly city I’ve visited, but I had several fantastic omelettes, and Chefs were happy to adapt recipes to suit. Head to the top of the skyscraper for breakfast or a slice of the incredible layer cake, and as always if you head away from the tourist hotspots you can find some little gems of cafes.

Ljubljana is full of rustic charm and beauty, but outside of the city is where I really fell in love with Slovenia… mountains, vineyards, glacial lakes, ski resorts, it’s a very special place, and exploring it feels like you’re being let into a well-kept secret.

There is public transport from Ljubljana out to the famous Lake Bled (30ish minutes drive), or you can book a tour that’ll take you further afield without any faff. We booked a one-day small group tour through Viator and it was INCREDIBLE. We expected to be squashed into a stuffy coach and shepherded around at fixed stops, but honestly we couldn’t have been more wrong. Our guide picked us up from our apartment in a new and super-clean people-carrier, and we found there were just 6 of us on the tour. The itinerary was negotiable and our guide rearranged the day based on the weather forecast. Top Man.

We started with Lake Bled, taking a traditional pletna to Bled island. Pletna are wooden rowing boats with colourful awning, expertly steered by local boatsmen. The tiny island has a church, temple, gelato shop and cafe, and very little else, so you don’t need long there, and when you disembark you’ll helpfully be given a designated time for your return journey (this website is v helpful: http://www.bled.si/en/what-to-see/natural-sights/the-bled-island). While in Bled, enjoy a sparkling Slovenian wine overlooking the lake, or try the Bled cream cake. There’s a decent walk around the lake, and of course the castle overlooking it. Dotted around the lake are boathouses and pretty houses resembling Swiss chalets. There’s a relaxed vibe, and it’s easy to lose track of time pottering around the gift shops.

We then headed to the third most visited attraction in Slovenia: Savica waterfall. This is worth the short (approx 25 mins) uphill hike! It’s mostly stone steps, but when we visited we were battling remnants of snow and ice. It’s worth taking walking boots (I did it in converse daps and it was a bit hairy). This is close to Lake Bohinj and the Mount Vogel ski resort, so, still inappropriately dressed (it was sunny on the ground, honest!), we took the Mount Vogel cable car up 1.5km, where we found snow, and lots of it, as well as spectacular views of Lake Bohinj. Grab a beer in the ski lodge or hit the slopes, before heading back to the city.

I went to Ljubljana expecting a great city break, but what I got was so much more! And with short flight times from the UK, Slovenia is an easy and beautiful country to explore. Enjoy!

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