19 June 2019

Eating Cream Cake in Slovenia

Towards the middle of 2018, I wasn't sure where was next on my travel list. That year I promised I would save money and spend it on my house, but then I got a shiny new job, which meant lots more shiny pennies and I thought, fuck the house, I want a holiday. My friend inspired me by backpacking around Bosnia, and I thought that I hadn't really got back to my backpacking routes since I came back from my 3 year backpacking stint around the world. So I thought, where can I go? Croatia had always been on my list but I felt the need to combine it with another country that I hadn't visited. So I looked around and thought Slovenia was appropriate. Little did I know just how cute Slovenia was, how much there was to do there, and how I probably should have done some research before I arrived.

The trip overall was quick as I didn't have many days annual leave from work. So I had around 11 days to explore both Slovenia and Croatia in one go. It made sense to work south, so I hit up Slovenia first and then travelled down and eventually flew back from Dubrovnik in Croatia. This then questioned, how would I get to Slovenia? Direct flights from Manchester are pretty non-existent and any stopover flights were expensive and took too long. So, I opted to fly to Zagreb and get the bus/train over the border. This was a longer task than I first imaged but easier and cheaper than trying to fly to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. So I flew to Zagreb, got an airport bus to the main bus terminal, then I had already booked a bus with GetByBus to Ljubljana. Simple.

Upon arriving in the Slovenian capital, even though fairly late at night, it was quickly apparent how adorable this city was. Stunning buildings, quaint fountains and an overall cute charm, which hadn't appeared in my brief visit to Zagreb. There was something extremely romantic about Ljubljana, from its cobbled squares, dimly lit streets and the typical man playing a guitar by a smooth flowing river. I instantly fell in love with this city.

But what did I get up to?

I only had a day and a half planned in Ljubljana before I got the bus to Lake Bled, which was my second and final stop in this wonderful country. Again, something I later regretted, having found out how much Slovenia has to offer. However, a lot can be covered in such a small amount of time, especially in this compact capital.

I stayed in an Air BnB right in the centre, among more cobbled streets lined with quaint restaurants, therefore I was in the perfect location to explore. On the first day I went for breakfast at a cute cafe near my accommodation and got the funicular railway to Ljubljana Castle. You can walk up, but with a ridiculous amount of steps up, the €2 ticket was worth it. The castle was small enough to look around in just a few hours and the cost was minimal so it's worth exploring the grounds and seeing the city views. You can pay extra for certain parts such as the Puppet Museum (weird and creepy...) and the viewing towers.

After the castle I donned the streets for bars, bars and more bars. Not the cheapest of capital cities in Europe but definitely not the most expensive by any means! After a stop off at a few riverside jaunts, I walked over to the great Tivoli Park, which essentially is just a park, and then stopped off for dinner at one of the restaurants which kept cropping up during my research, Ć pajza Restaurant. The restaurant felt like I was in the middle of a Slovenia home, with the friendliest of hosts. The menu treats were mainly pretty meaty, but trout is really popular here as well so I opted for that.

There is of course so much more to enjoy in the Slovenian capital such as the botanical gardens, which are a bit out of the centre, Metelkovo Mesto which is an autonomous culture zone and plenty of museums to sink your highbrow teeth into.

What up Bled

Day two involved getting a short bus to Lake Bled, which was easy enough to catch via Ljubljana's main bus station, at the cost of around €10. Only a two hour bus ride to the prettiest of towns, Lake Bled should definitely be on your Slovenian to-do list. Again, I had booked a fairly central Air BnB, which allowed me a good day and a half to see what this lake town and top Slovenia tourist spot had to offer.

Lake Bled is clearly a popular place among locals and visitors, and even though I travelled out of season in October, the town was still booming. So this may be worth noting if you actually visit during the busier times of the year.

There is plenty to keep you busy over two or three days, especially if you love a walk and a bit of nature. I recommend starting your walk half way round the lake then taking one of the guided walks at either Osojnica or Kuhovnica. You'll be able to find where these start from tourist maps around the lake, and the openings are pretty obvious. These two walks aren't for the faint hearted but the view is worth the sweat. You can see all over Lake Bled and take a few pics worthy for the gram.

After getting in your steps for the day, you might as well continue by walking up and seeing Bled Castle. At only €10 for the entrance, it is worth the visit and again the views. Watch out for the tourist buses though as it was pretty packed when I went.

I didn't actually make the gondola over to Lake Bled, as I spent most of my money on beer and the Bled delicacy of cream cakes (basically a fancy vanilla slice), but the small boat trip looked cute and there is apparently a really nice restaurant in the middle of the lake, as well as a quaint church. But if like me, you would rather spend more on beer than gondola trips to churches, then I'd recommend getting a few beers from the shops around Lake Bled and just chilling on the lake itself.

Heading out of the centre

If you have time, head a bit out of Bled centre to Vintgar Gorge, which is easy enough to get a bus to, and then I walked back. The gorge is impressive and has some mammoth walks around if you can be bothered, but again it was pretty rammed. You only have a small path to walk the actual gorge and you can be often held up in the path if people are cramming for pics. I'd suggest heading early in the day to get the place to yourself.

But what else?

Well there you have it. My short but sweet filled (cream cake filled) trip to Slovenia. I really didn't know what this country had to offer until I got there and it really is such a cute and scenic place. From my Air BnB hosts I was recommended to visit other popular parts of the country such as Piran a cute coastal town, Postojna Cave and Bovec for more thrilling adventures. Next time I'll hopefully have more time and I'm sure all these places do cream cake too, so I'll be set.

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