sLOVEnia - yes, you will love it!

01st October 2016

There's a reason why Slovenia's official tourist board has adopted the phrase 'I feel sLOVEnia'! Having just returned from a fabulous week-long trip, I certainly fell in love with Ljubljana's old town, the 'Venetian' red-tiled rooftop coastal town of Piran and the beautiful landscape of the Julian Alps, of course including its famous idyllic Lake Bled.

As a landscape/travel photographer, Lake Bled has been on my radar for some time, but little did I know about the diversity of its home, Slovenia. The capital city, Ljubljana, is only a two-hour plane journey from London and there is a regular EasyJet flight from Stansted, making it a popular choice for Brits. We did hear many British voices throughout our visit, however Slovenia is still off the main tourist trail, but no doubt that will soon change!

On our first day, we joined a free two-hour walking tour of the city. Our guide, Daniel, had lived and been a student in Ljubljana and gave us a wealth of information as we wandered along the cobbled streets, passed Baroque churches, crossed various bridges over the river, heard the legendary story of Ljubljana's dragon and received many tips for the rest of our stay. As with many of these free tours that operate throughout Europe, it was suggested that we may wish to make a donation at the end of the tour, which of course we duly did. After that we had a day and a half left to our own devices - highlights included a boat trip along the river (on the wooden boat that leaves from the steps opposite the fountain), cocktails at the Skyscraper (Nebotičnik) whilst enjoying (and photographing) the sunset over the old town and, of course, the castle which is a must-do - again timed perfectly to arrive at the tower for another sunset!).

After breakfast the next morning, we collected a hire-car and set off to the coast. En route, there are another few sites to stop at, so it's best to leave most of the day to get there (we arrived after night-fall after a slight unexpected de-tour - read 'getting lost'). The first stop on our journey was the limestone caves at Postojna, which included a 2km train ride through the middle of the mountain (think Indiana Jones!). The caves were spectacular and the whole experience was very well done with good paths and atmospheric lighting of the stalactites and stalagmites. The second stop further down the road was a castle build into the cliff face at Predjama. Highly recommend using the audio guide to hear the history of the castle as it guides you through the various rooms. You can buy a combined ticket for both the caves and the castle.

Finally we arrived at our destination of Piran; a former port of the Venetians set along Slovenia's short Adriatic coastline. After a late dinner and quick wander through the narrow cobbled streets, we headed to bed ready to get up for sunrise the following morning.

Sunrise didn't really happen, but the early morning alarm paid off as I arrived at the harbour just in time to photograph the view looking back to Tartini Square and the church high above the town with its iconic bell tower still illuminated. The rest of the day took us to the city walls above the town looking down on the beautiful colours of the Adriatic and those lovely red-tiled rooftops.

At the end of the day, we headed to the mountains and the eagerly anticipated Lake Bled. Arriving after dark, we had some dinner and went to bed ready for an early start the next day. After a breakfast that reminded me of skiing in Austria (think crusty bread rolls and a selection of cheeses), we set off for Vintgar Gorge carved by the Radovna River. The walk down the gorge took us along wooden boardwalks and across bridges with the crystal clear water rushing below. Our walk back to the car took use along rolling hills with the company of cows and a donkey.

For our afternoon, we hired a rowing boat (thankfully I was in charge of keeping tight hold of my camera rather than having to row), to take us across Lake Bled to its island and the pretty Church of the Assumption standing proudly. By the time we had made it back to return the boat, dusk was setting in and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner - a clear blue sky so no point hanging around for a sunset.

The next day we drove half an hour to Lake Bohinj. Larger than Lake Bled and argued by some as being more beautiful, we parked at one end of the lake at Ribčev Laz near to the Church of John the Baptist. We then took the boat down to the other end at Ukanc (highly recommended) and then had a trip up the cable car (apparently Europe's steepest!) to the ski resort of Vogel at the top where we had lunch on the terrace in the warm sunshine - yummy apple strudel! After repeating the journey back down the mountain, across the lake and back to the car, we set off back to Lake Bled to capture the last of the sunshine on the island before a quick march up one of the nearby hills, Ojstrica, for a stunning view.

Sunrise the following morning was just what I had been waiting for the entire trip!!! The clouds gave some promising hope for some decent colour and I was rewarded with the header image across the top of this post. A beautiful sight. Finally for our last few hours before heading to the airport the next day, we visited the castle and enjoyed lunch with a view!