Slovenia: Bled, Portoroz and Ljubljana

Steve Finch on 06 September 2016

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My first time to the beautiful and ever so friendly, Slovenia. I flew to the capital's airport at Ljubljana and the airport is located between Bled and the capital itself.

I woke up to stunning views over Lake Bled. The town of Bled is located at the eastern end of Lake Bled, a very picturesque area. The leisurely 6.5 km walk around the lake takes a couple of hours and takes in views of the Church on the island upon the lake, to which you can take a rowing boat or a pletna (shared vessel). Overlooking the lake on the North side is the 11th century Bled Castle. A steep walk will take you up to the castle with a museum, restaurant and commanding views of the lake! The lake is fairly shallow and is used by the Slovenian rowing teams.

4km north of Bled is the 1.6 km long Vintgar gorge. A short bus ride from Bled, the gorge is a pleasant walk alongside the Radovna River crossing numerous wooden bridges along the way. We chose to walk back over the hills to Bled, all very scenic.

On our third day we drove to Lake Bohinj, a much larger lake in the Triglav national park. From the western end, Ukanc, we again set off on a long walk, this time to the Savica waterfall. This waterfall flows from the rock face above and cascades 78 metres into a rock pool. Lake Bohinj was nice for a paddle and swimmers enjoy it too. A small cruise boat can be taken from west to east and vice versa. The lake is just under 4.5km long.

Leaving Bled we set off south for a beach stay in Portoroz. We drove via stops at Predjama Castle and Postojna Caves. Both areas fascinating for different reasons. Predjama is the largest cave castle on earth. This 13th century castle is built into the 123 meter cliff face rock face. The castle interweaves into the rock face in many places so that walls are natural or manmade. We also visited the caves underneath the castle, a few steps to climb here and there and a colony of resident bats lurk within. When your miner's helmet light is switched off it is truly pitch black withno light whatsoever.

Then it was on to Postojna 9 km east of the castle. These caves are extraordinary with 20 km of passages within the Karst rock. You take an electric train into the inner caves, 3.5km in total by train and a 1.5km walk. Stalactites and stalagmites and underground halls abound. It has taken only two million years to create. Here you may also get the chance to see the cave dwelling blind salamander or olm as it is known.

Portoroz is a bustling holiday resort located on part of the 43km of Slovenian coastline with views across the bay to Croatia and also further away to mainland Italy.

We stayed in a hotel with sister properties sharing pool and spa facilities between them, very nice. Apart from a few villas and pensions most of the hotels here are of a superior category.

The town of Piran is 3 km away (yet another few walks taken over the week). Piran is very pretty. Tartini Square is the central point, overlooked by the St Georges church showing the town's Venetian heritage. There are some lovely restaurants here. The town is small and does shut itself off to local vehicular traffic to a great degree. Car parking in the main is outside of the town, with a free shuttle bus service into the port area next to Tartini Square. We swam in the sea at Portoroz and also cycled to the local working salt pans of Strunjan and Secovlje nearby. We took a local bus from Portoroz to Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, 116 km, a less than two hour journey for our last three nights in the country.

Ljubljana is just perfect - a compact gem of a city with its ever present castle dominating the skyline. Known as the city of dragons, it is pedestrianised, teeming with pretty thoroughfares and iconic bridges. Joze Plecnik designed many of the buildings and structures here in his Secessionist style.

Cafes, bars and restaurants pervade the streets in the summer evenings. It is the European Green Capital of 2016 and it certainly feels that way. They even provide free electrically-powered vehicles known as Cavaliers to help those with walking disabilities. No, I did not use one! To the west of the city centre is a huge parkland area, Tivoli. The capital is only 20 km from the airport and 50 km from the aforementioned Bled, a great two-centre trip!

I have been staggered by Slovenia. It is to many in the UK an unknown country and as yet an undiscovered jewel - the dragon of Ljubljana has certainly has slain this particular travel agent!

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