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Published: September 23rd 2007
A dragon on, yes you guessed it, the dragon bridge.
The first half of this year was a bit slow on the travelling front but then true to form, all my holidays seem to have come along together like the 155 down to beautiful Balham. I’ve always been a fan of Eastern European countries (or is it the food) but I didn’t know much about Slovenia, so I thought it was worth a little exploring.
We got the SqueezyJet over to Ljubljana and we drove in to town to check in for our first night in Hostel Celica, a converted prison where you stay in the cells. I’m glad to say it’s the first night I’ve ever spent in a cell and I didn’t even have to break any laws to do so.
I’d picked a cell which looked most prison like and they all come complete with iron bars on the doors, but I’m sure real prisons can’t be as nice, I think they had the comfiest mattresses that side of the Adriatic.
Time to check out the town, to be honest, I’d not expected much of Ljubljana and hadn’t really thought what it was going to be like. We walked to the river and headed towards
Well, you haven't lived if you've not spent an night in jail.
the castle to Prešeren Square. Boy, I was surprised. Even though it had the similar sort of Austrian style architecture as Budapest or parts of Sarajevo, the combination of the smaller river, castle on a hill and back drop of mountains in the distance combined to make it one of the prettiest cities I’ve been to in Europe.
So don’t go there, it’s mine, all mine!
To the east of Slovenia there is quite a large wine producing region so where better to sample the local brew than sitting on the banks of the river Ljubljanica watching the sun go down.
Day two and a quick trip up to the castle to check out the views over the town and a morning coffee by the river we said goodbye to the fair city. Armed with a selection of the finest James Bond themes (perfect for mountain driving) we took the road upto the Julian Alps and Lake Bled. Usually my trips to the mountains involve flinging myself down them as fast as I can manage on planks of wood so it was a pleasant change to visit some Alpine scenery during the summer months.
When I’d booked
Ah, how pretty
One of many, many pictures I took of the city
our Pension, they said they only had a small apartment left, would we mind it? So I agreed and thought it wouldn’t matter as we wouldn’t be spending much time in anyway. But the holiday luck was holding and on check in we were lead to our very own Heidi style cottage in the grounds. I was slightly over excited and started with the Heidi impressions immediately. ‘Grandpa! Goat Peter!’
Lake Bled is chocolate box pretty complete with castle on a rocky outcrop and church on an island in the middle of the lake. Only the odd 1970s Communist hotel spoiling the town, but then no-one’s perfect. They do have Crazy Golf though, so that more than made up for it. A quick (6k) walk around the lake and time for more of the local wine and food. That mountain air really builds up your appetite.
The next morning and we decided to tackle a longer stroll around the nearby Lake Bohinj. This glacial lake also hosts a ski resort and waterfall one end, no problem, 12K all in, should be fine. The first half of the walk was lovely; the views over the lake were stunning, inducing
a lot of dawdling on the way. We got to the midpoint and thought it was time to turn off to find the waterfall. A quick check on a fellow walker’s map seemed to confirm the waterfall was just up the road. Hmm, an hour later we find the waterfall, and then have to pay to go in and then walk up another 500 steps to get to it. A little miscalculation on our part it seems. Our walk ended up being more like 18k than 12k. And to think, we could have driven up to it!
Day four and time to head south to Croatia for the rest of the holiday, but first a little stop off at the Postojana caves in the Karst region south of the country. I’m a big fan of caves and salt mines and the like, so a visit underground is always a must. And these caves have an underground train! Choo! Choo! Imagine my delight. You get a train 2k into the caves and then wonder about for an hour or so and then get the train back again. All I can say is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! Shame
I didn’t find Harrison in there, but they were pretty spectacular if you like that sort of thing.
Right, that was Slovenia done, time to hop over the border to Croatia for a bit of sun and beach time. Last year I visited Split in the middle of the country, this year we were in the north of the country staying in the town of Opatija, the pearl of the Adriatic, apparently. I think the best way to describe Opatija is ‘faded glory’. Popular at the end of the 19th century amongst the movers and shakers of Europe, it’s now frequented by a large amount of overweight Italians who’ve nipped over the border for a bit of gambling action in the many casinos. But first impressions soon changed and I grew rather fond of Opatija, it had some beautiful old building perched on the hillside.
Opatija is in prime position to explore some of the Islands off the coast and we took a day trip to the island of Krk and the pretty town of Baska at its tip. The beach even had some sand on it which is quite unusual for those parts. The following day we
You find some gems of bad architecture on your travels in Eastern Europe sometimes
tried a beach up the road from Opatija called Mošćenička Draga for another day of lazing around.
All in all everything had turned out right nice again, well, almost everything. I think the holiday luck ran out on the last day. Our flight was out from Trieste and after nearly running the border back in to Slovenia, we drove in to Trieste looking for the airport. Hmm, no airport, where could it be? Then the petrol light came on in the car, so we were in downtown Trieste with no airport or petrol. Scanning the map we had to assume the closest airport, Ronchi, was the one we wanted However this was 33k outside the city and I don’t think the Italians go in for road signs much. Still, we found a petrol station. Good news, until it suddenly looked like I’d put in leaded not unleaded petrol. Big Doh! But the Gods were smiling on me and the nice attendant assured me it was senza piombo afterall, phew.
Anyway, hold on tight for the next instalment travel fans, I’m off to San Diego in a couple of weeks, it’s a tough life.
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