Slovenia! Where has it been hiding all this time? This tiny (it’s only half the size of Switzerland), overlooked country is one of the most amazing places we’ve ever been, and we just couldn’t get enough of it. Like so many other places we’ve visited lately, Slovenia used to be a part of Yugoslavia, but it feels remarkably (and, frankly, delightfully) different from the likes of Bosnia and Serbia. Perhaps due in part to its powerhouse economy (the healthiest in Eastern Europe), the people in Slovenia seem much friendlier, the landscapes are prettier and–hooray!–we hardly noticed any communist bloc housing at all.
In Piran, Slovenia has its own version of Croatia’s Adriatic gems, but Piran is blessedly free of tour groups and cruise ships (as well as the high prices that always seem to accompany those things). Lake Bled is astounding, and Ljubljana oozes charm. And then there are the Julian Alps. Ahh, the Alps. The scenery in the Slovenian mountains was some of the best we’ve seen on this trip–heck, the best we’ve seen in our LIVES. All of this leads us to a simple conclusion: Americans would do well to come to Slovenia now, before the rest of the world figures out that Slovenia is one of the best vacation destinations in the world.
Blog Entries We Wrote
To see all the blog entries we wrote about this country, please click HERE.
Pictures We Took
To see some of the pictures we took in this country, please click HERE.
Cities/Areas We Visited
- Ljubljana (August 14-17, 2008)
- Karst Region (August 15, 2008)
- Piran (August 15, 2008)
- Lake Bled (August 17, 2008)
- Julian Alps/Bovec (August 17-20, 2008)
Places We Stayed
- Austria Trend Hotel (August 14-17, 2008): A shortage of affordable places to stay in Llubljana’s Old Town meant that we ended up at this upscale, business-oriented hotel (about $130 a night) a few miles outside of the city. It had all of the amenities you would expect from a hotel like this (cable, free internet, room service, etc.), and, as you would also expect, it didn’t have a whole lot of character. The hotel offered a free shuttle into Old Town, which we made sure to take advantage of. Oh, and it was close to the highway, which is great for anyone who doesn’t want to brave too much traffic.
- Dobra Vila Bovec (August 17-20, 2008): This is a lovely, upscale, modern place run by a young-ish couple. It’s in central Bovec, so it’s walking distance from plenty of restaurants, but its own restaurant is such a great value that we were tempted to eat there every night. They have a library with lots of good books, free internet and cable TV. They also have a huge porch, a fantastic dog named Missy and a backyard full of shady trees and wooden lawn chairs that sucked us in for hours. At about $140 a night, it’s not cheap, but it was delightful.
Places We Ate
- Room Service at Austria Trend Hotel: Given that this hotel was a few miles outside of Llubljana’s Old Town, there were a number of times where we lacked the motivation to make the pilgrimage into town for dinner and thus, embarrassingly enough, ended up ordering room service. It turned out to be pretty good, and there were a surprising number of healthy options.
- Ribca: This casual seafood restaurant was located in Old Town Llubljana’s fish market, which explains why the fish we ordered was so deliciously fresh. We sampled a plate of tiny, fried fish whose name now escapes us, as well as grilled squid and smoked trout, and we enjoyed every bite.
- Restaurant Neptun: There are only six tables in this family-run Italian place, and each one of them was full. After eating here, we can’t believe we were even able to get a seat; the food was amazing. Derek’s gnocchi was the best he ever had, Shanna loved her shrimp pasta, and the mussels we got to start were so good that we couldn’t stop ourselves from sopping up every last bit of sauce with the contents of the bread basket. This place was a great value, too. We definitely recommend stopping in for a meal if you’re ever in Piran.
- Hotel Park Restaurant: The Lake Bled area is known for its desserts, and now we can see why. The salad and pasta that we had at this lakeside restaurant were just ok (like something you’d throw together quickly at home), but the cream cake, which is a local specialty, was absolutely incredible. Think gobs of custardy cream inside thin layers of filo dough-type pastry. Mmmmmm.
- Dobra Vila Bovec: We’d heard great things about the food here, and we certainly weren’t disappointed, especially with respect to the presentation of the food and the incredible value. (A meal including an amuse bouche, an appetizer, a sorbet (!?!) course, a main and a dessert was a remarkable 12 EUROS for guests of the hotel.) You probably want to avoid having dinner here if you’re a vegetarian. Pretty much everything but the sorbet and the dessert was meat-based, and it wasn’t just your typical chicken/fish/beef stuff, either. Ox tongue, venison, lamb and veal were all on the fixed menu. The chef (who’s one of the owners of the hotel) gave in to Shanna’s pleas for something not involving tongue or veal, but he merely replaced those meats with other varieties. While we thought that a lot of the food could’ve used some more flavor, it was still a great value considering everything we got.
- Gastisce Martinov Hram: We came to this Italian place in central Bovec on the one night that we didn’t eat dinner at our hotel. We really liked both the fettuccine with mushrooms and the spaghetti with meat sauce.
- Kebab Place: This wonderful bakery/kebab stand is run by one of the friendliest people we’ve met so far on our trip. He’s originally from Kosovo, and he has an incredible tale about what his life was like during the recent conflicts there. He’s now relocated with his family to peaceful Slovenia, and we’re so glad that we met him and had a chance to sample his delightful, inexpensive food. He serves up burek (a savory, cheese-filled pastry) and baklava that are the best we’ve ever tasted, and his lamb and chicken kebabs are so good that we had them for lunch two days in a row.
Things We Did
- Walked around the lively Saturday Market, lingering at the fruit stands and in the indoor fish warehouse
- Strolled the lovely streets of the Old Town, admiring the achievements of local architect Joze Plecnik
- Made an extraordinarily quick Visit to see the Lipica horses
- Visited the incredible Skocjanske Cave, crossed its dizzying bridge and marveled at its multi-colored stalagmites
- Saw the Predjama Castle, which is built into the side of a cave
- Walked around the harbor and Old Town of quaint Piran, a rather undiscovered but incredibly lovely town on the Adriatic Sea
- Walked around the stunning lake, enjoying views of its island cathedral and its resident family of swans
- Visited the site of the longest ski jump in the world
- Drove over steep mountain passes, enjoying great views of the Alps
- Hiked around the Soca Valley, with its wide vistas and turquoise river
- Went “canyoning,” sliding down waterfalls and jumping off rocks into small pools
- Visited the Kobariski Museum, which documents the battles in the Soca Valley during World War I
- Capital City: Ljubljana
- Currency: Euro
- Exchange Rate: 0.67 Euro to $1 ($1.48 to 1 Euro)