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April 2nd 2007
Published: April 2nd 2007
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Bled IslandBled IslandBled Island

The only island in Slovenia.
October 31 - November 9, 2006

We did not know what to expect when we started our trip east through the Balkans to Turkey. We had originally planned on going to Turkey and then decided not to because of some possible security issues but then we changed our minds again. In the process we decided rather than taking one long train journey it might be fun to see a different part of Europe and break up the overland journey to Istanbul. So this part of our trip occurred with little planning, little knowledge, and no guidebook. We had no idea what to expect from this part of the world and we had barely heard of Slovenia - Slovenia? Slovakia? Are they different?

Slovenia was a part of the former Yugoslavia who gained its independence in 1991. Unlike the rest of the states that made up Yugoslavia it is a relatively homogeneous country. More than eighty percent of the population is ethnically Slovenian, most of them are Christian (and most of those are Roman Catholics), and the country has among the lowest population densities in Europe. Slovenia’s road to independence was much smoother than that of Croatia, Bosnia or Serbia and involved “only” about 10 days of fighting.

We enjoyed our time in Slovenia and spent about a week in Ljubljana and a couple of days in Bled. The scenery is pretty and the people are friendly but, unfortunately, the prices are similar to Western Europe. We arrived in Ljubljana (pronounced Loo - blee - yawna not loo - loo - bajana as we originally pronounced it when discussing it among ourselves) on the evening of Halloween and celebrated at the Mexican restaurant near our hotel with servers in costume.

Although there were not a lot of things to see in Ljubljana it is just a very nice city to hang out in. It is very clean and pretty and reminds us a little of the town in Groundhog Day. Except for on All Saints Day (the day after our arrival), there were always lots of people strolling around or hanging out at cafes and bars. There are a lot of busy outdoor cafes too even though it is cold. It is a very easy city to get around in because almost everyone speaks English even though we found that the menus are often only in Slovenian. Oddly the many bookstores in Ljubljana contained some of the largest English and travel book sections we have seen.

We were able to find a few ways to entertain ourselves in Ljubljana. There is a very cute castle overlooking the town that has been modernized inside and used for exhibitions. We saw an art exhibition, including one on the Chinese city of Chengdu. The pictures we saw from Chengdu were so good that if we had actually seen any of those sights on our visit to Chengdu we might have actually liked it there. We wonder if those sights actually exist or if Mao and the boys are up to their old tricks. We went to the top of the tower at the castle and admired the view of Ljubljana. It was pretty and bigger than we imagined it would be.

One day we walked through the wooded and sprawling Tivoli Park, which was really nice because there were fall leaves everywhere, before visiting the National Museum of Contemporary History. Most of the museum was closed and we weren’t overly impressed with what we saw. Most of the labels were in English but the propaganda itself was not and so we had no idea what a lot of it said. Going there we realized how little history we remembered from the fall of Yugoslavia.

We went to see a professional basketball game between Geoplin Slovan and Buducnost (Montenegro), both teams in the Balkan league. We were told the wrong start time so we arrived at halftime. We walked to Slovan Hall where the game was held. The Hall was about the size of a high school gym but there were a lot less people than there would have been at a high school gym. One of the Montenegro players was someone that Roger had seen the night before at McDonald’s and suspected was a basketball player. It’s hard to miss a guy who is 7’5”. Not only was he a basketball player but he was practically famous. It was Slavko Vranish from the Knicks (to be accurate, he was drafted by the Knicks and played one game for the Trailblazers before leaving the NBA to return to the Balkans). He was in foul trouble by the time we arrived so we didn’t get to see much of him but the little that we saw led us to believe we didn’t miss much. According to a draft report we found online, he didn’t know much about basketball before he was drafted and we’re not sure how much of an improvement there has been. The best player on the court was actually a guy named Chaz Carr who had played at Boston University. It was a fun evening but unfortunately the home team did not win.

The store hours are similar to the rest of Europe which meant that everything closed by 1 on Saturday and did not reopen until Monday so we spent a lot of time just walking around town and hanging out in cafes. We also wandered a couple of times through the market which we had read a lot about on a fellow world traveler’s blog. This couple was really impressed with the market but we thought it was just ok. We also found time to see Borat, which we loved. It was a very odd experience though to watch a movie making fun of Americans not surrounded by other Americans.

We stayed at Hotel Emonec ( which was highly recommended by our guidebook. The first room we stayed in was less than impressive to us owing to its location near the laundry room which insured a certain smell and dampness to the room. We put up with it though for the decent internet. When we returned to Ljubljana from Bled we stayed again at Hotel Emonec and had a much nicer room but internet that did not work at all. Overall we weren’t dazzled by the hotel but hotels in Ljubljana are very expensive and not a great value for the money.

There were a couple of things that we didn’t like about Slovenia. The first was the food (which you should know by now is extremely important to us). We always had a lot of difficulty finding places to eat both in Ljubljana and Bled. Although there are more cafes than you could count, there appeared to be few places to get a meal. We know where the Slovenians drink but where do they eat? We never really got the chance to try Slovenian food because there weren’t many places to try it and the places that did exist were very expensive. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to have local food. We had sushi and noodles at Sushimama, which was not very good but at least it was very expensive. We also had Mexican food four times (Roger was in heaven) and it was actually pretty good. We ate at Joe Pena’s Cantina and Cantina Mexican Restaurant ( and the only real miss was the guacamole served with Doritos (we are split on whether this was, in fact, a “miss.”). We also had McDonald’s more times than we would have liked. The food highlight was our dinner at a Bosnian restaurant called Okrepcevapnica Harambasa (Vrtna Ulica 8). It was quite an experience because the menu was not in English (not that we would have known what to order anyway). After asking for a recommendation the friendly waitress brought us cevapici and sausage and we loved it.

The other disappointment in Slovenia had more to do with our bank and less to do with Slovenia. We spent a lot of time trying to obtain money from an ATM but none of them would work for us. When we finally contacted our bank we found out that they restrict cash withdrawals from Slovenia and Romania because of fraud.


(Nov. 5 - 8)

Bled is a charming and beautiful place. We loved it so much that we were torn between Bled and London for Christmas. It’s a beautiful little town with a lake, mountains and a castle on a cliff. We arrived on the cusp of the slow season and so the day that we arrived many of the attractions in town and nearby, including the national park and it’s massive gorge, closed down. It was pretty quiet but we really enjoyed our time here.

We walked up to the castle one day. There was a nice view from the castle but the sun made pictures difficult. We were up there while a small wedding was finishing up. We also did a walk around the lake and took a boat for the small island in the middle (the only island in Slovenia) which has a church dating from the 12th century on it. There wasn’t too much to see so we spent most of our time on the tiny island drinking coffee. Along with the view, the best part of our boat trip was our conversation with the man who rowed us to the island.

One day we took the bus to Bohinj. It was really quiet in Bohing so we spent our time there sitting by the water. The lake in Bohinj is much clearer than the deep, dark lake in Bled (although the hanging castle the picturesque island in Bled add a lot). Most of the businesses in Bohinj were closed so we had lunch at a hotel. We tried cevapici, which was described on the menu as the Serbian national dish. When it was delivered to us it was not appealing, looking like cottage cheese melting over ground meat, but it was delicious.
We stayed at Mayer Penzion ( which was very nice. Our room was large and pretty with a nice big bathtub and comfortable beds. It was a much better value for the money than Hotel Emonec. The man that ran the hotel wasn’t overly friendly but the rooms more than made up for him.

We met a retired Canadian couple at our hotel who were on vacation for a month. We had dinner with them at the hotel once and also at a pizza place which was very good. They were very nice and also gave us part of their Rick Steve’s guidebook which covered Croatia.

We had a very pleasant and relaxing visit to Slovenia. The people and the atmosphere made for a very nice change of pace from France and Italy. The country was preparing to join the EU at the first of the year and we shudder to think of what may happen to the quaint, pastoral lifestyle that was so welcoming to us. As far as unplanned stops go Slovenia was a terrific surprise and a desti

Additional photos below
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Our First Potato Burek, LjubljanaOur First Potato Burek, Ljubljana
Our First Potato Burek, Ljubljana

We would later learn this was a poor representation of burek.
Bled OlympiansBled Olympians
Bled Olympians

With a population of only 4 million people Slovenia has had tremendous success in Olympic rowing.

30th April 2007

Just to correct a little mistacke - Slovenias population is about 2 million.
10th September 2007

In that time Slovenia was preparing to be accepted in EMU and to change Tolar With Euro. It's part of EU from 2004.

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