Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Slovenia Part I: Ljubljana & Lake Bled

A few days after coming back from Finland, we set our sights on a trip to Slovenia. Slovenia borders the northeast corner of Italy, about 90 miles from Venice. A lot is packed into this small country, which contains everything from snow-capped mountains suitable for skiing, beaches on the Mediterranean, and acres of hills and plains blanketed with grapevines. It has some of the cleanest water in the world due to its many lakes and springs, has half of its total area covered in forest, and is abundant with various types of wildlife. And lastly, the Slovenian people (two million strong) are some of the friendliest people we've encountered in all of our travels.

We flew into Venice, rented a car, and drove about two hours to the capital of Ljubljana. Ljubljana is a small city that has plenty of museums, universities (1/4 of the population are students), greenery, and a castle overlooking the city on its highest peak.

From our hotel we walked to the old town, which includes all of Ljubljana's most important sights and buildings, including Ljubljana Castle which can be seen overhead from every point. As we walked through Presernov Trg (Preseren Square), we noticed that this square seems to be where the life of the city is. There is a river running through it with quite a few small walking bridges crossing the water. Many restaurants and cafes line the riverbank and even though it was 25 degrees F there were a lot of people sitting outside and sipping their coffees with friends.


"Triple Bridge"

Peseren Monument


Cathedral of St. Nicholas
We took the funicular up and made our way to the castle grounds. From below, the castle looks extensive and is the city's focal point, but while we were up there it seemed surprisingly small. We went across the small courtyard to the watchtower and climbed the stairs in order to see wonderful views of the city.


The castle courtyard
The Castle above the city

Our ticket also included an entrance to the Slovenian History Exhibition, leading us through the country's past, exhibiting significant objects and video explanations. There are about six museums in Ljubljana so it was nice to see a collection of items in one place instead of trying to find them at the various museums.

Copy of the world's oldest flute. The original is held at the National Museum of Slovenia.

Reconstruction of the oldest wooden wheel with an axle from Ljubljana.
After taking the funicular down we walked through the central market area, which has an outdoor and indoor market selling everything from meats, cheeses, vegetables, and honey, to items like magnets, paintings, and wooden kitchen accessories. We walked through the market along the river and crossed Dragon Bridge, which is "guarded" by four sculptures of dragons which are now the city's mascots.

Some of the market


After our day in Ljubljana we drove 40 minutes to the town of Bled. Bled is situated right on the lake (Lake Bled), a picturesque emerald-green lake that has the scenery of a postcard. The lake has some of Slovenia's highest mountain peaks as a backdrop, a medieval castle on a small cliff, and a church sitting on a tiny island in the middle of it all. In the summer Bled gets incredibly busy, as there are many rowing, swimming, and boating competitions, while in the winter - though not empty - one can walk around the lake without the chaos and noise of tourists.

Soon after we arrived we walked the four miles around the lake, capturing pictures, petting dogs on walks, and admiring the natural beauty of this location. Seeing the snow covered Julian Alps in the distance was stunning and the entire landscape was just breathtaking.


The small island with the church. The castle is on the left.



Castle at night.
We loved our time in Ljubljana and Bled and found this trip to be a pleasant surprise. Next up, skiing in Kranjska Gora, the Postojna Caves, and a stop in Trieste, Italy on the drive back!

11 comments:

  1. Until I read this blog, I honestly can say, I knew absolutely nothing about Slovenia. I knew where it was located, but that was about it! But thanks to your blog, I have learned a lot about this very small country. It is very interesting and I found it to be extremely fascinating! What a wonderful place to have an opportunity to go skiing, go to the beach, and see acres and acres of grapevines! The architecture of the buildings are gorgeous (like they are in so many countries in Europe). I love the pic of the Preseren Monument. The stark white building in the background really shows off the bright green monument! And I loved when you talked about Dragon Bridge with the dragons guarding it! (Reminded me of gargoyles that are found on castles and cathedrals). OK, now for the town of BLED! (What a great name for a town!!) When you mentioned that a medieval castle was there, I actually wasn't surprised! I first thought of Count Dracula's castle, especially since the town is named BLED! It just has that kind of name! (I wonder if they celebrate Halloween there?!!) But seriously, Lake Bled is very beautiful, but also very mysterious, especially with the castle lit up at night! I really enjoyed this blog and learned a lot about this small country!

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