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Europe

13 Aug 2018

Secret Slovenia

If this is a checklist that appeals to you:-

  • Exploring destinations outside of the hustle and bustle of the city
  • Enjoying warm hospitality
  • Meeting friendly people
  • Having stunning architecture and history all around you
  • Experiencing special local places in the most relaxed and unique way possible
  • An abundance of open outdoor spaces to be adventurous in
  • Gorgeous coast to chill by
  • Windy roads of picture postcard scenery to motor through
  • Food, wine and tasty local treats to keep the trip balance in check

... then Slovenia is certainly one for your traveling wish list.

Literally a breath of fresh air as the world’s first official ‘Green’ country. Focused on their environment and its sustainability, covered in forests, national parks, mountains, lakes, rivers, with a little coast thrown in. You can’t resist being outside amongst it, soaking it up and breathing it all in.

Mezica

Our first taste was Mezica in the North close to Austrian border, a sweet little local village... and one of the many ‘active travellers’ dream spots found in this country. Hiking, all types of biking, climbing, kayaking, caves, skiing and more.

Besides the abundance of biking trails, you have access to from your doorstep, this is where the locals are very proud to share the history of their closed lead and zinc mine. Taking you underground, over several different experiences, quickly makes this a true highlight! Whether you choose the original railway carriages on rickety tracks in complete darkness, cycling the abandoned tunnels though the centre of a mountain with head torches for guidance or kayaking across the flooded lower levels of this decommissioned mine it is something you’d rarely have the opportunity to do anywhere in the world and it’s a memory you will never forget.

Ljubljana

A couple of hours south winding through that postcard scenery, is the capital Ljubljana. A stunning city oozing with flair and style.

Touring with a local by foot or bike is a must, and if the day of the week permits, do a Moustache Tour, as it’s where you hear all about the history, the architect, the painter and the writer who shaped the character of this unique city. Amazing buildings and bridges, a river, the country's largest University, museums, galleries, markets, cobblestone streets, a funicular, every cuisine you can imagine (ice cream being the best) beautiful gardens ... and all of which you could walk around the outside of in twenty-five minutes. Oh, and then there’s the castle.

It was an uber cool place, full of friendly people, very relaxed, not overcrowded and possibly the nicest European city you’ll ever visit.

Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle

In the blink of an eye we had been in the country a week, reluctantly it was time to press on and see the water. About 50 kms into the stunning scenery, on fantastic roads, winding through huge mountains and county villages we find ourselves at Postojna Caves and the Predjama Castle.

Postojna is one of the many cave networks you will find in Slovenia, though far superior as its paired with a phenomenal Game of Thrones like Castle built into and around the cave. We did not time our visit to manage both so did miss out on the train ride to the caves, its bat colony and apparently their human fish that calls this place home. Our Castle adventure was brilliant and could not have been as amazing without the audio guide, I’d say its compulsory! It was fun, interesting, informative and ridiculously easy to follow. This was possibility the busiest place we visited over the two weeks, though you could still move around the castle at your own pace with your personal ‘Historian Siri’ to stop you getting lost.

This Medieval Fairy-tale castle is NOT to be driven past!

The Adriatic Coast

Sitting between Italy and Croatia is Slovenia’s slice of the Adriatic, a mere 43 kms of it. We chose Piran as our chill out base and had the best meal experiences of the entire trip, here.  This seaside, red roofed gem is tucked in front of rustic hills full of country homes, olive groves and grapevines to play in. Their old town wall surrounds Medieval and Venetian style buildings winding through cobblestone lanes, full of character, colour, a stunning sun filled town square and a marina supporting some tidy size yachts that would buy a small village.

.. and of course, those rocky European beaches.

There is just something special about being by the sea, on a boat, salt water, wind in your hair and was well worth sacrificing some days in the mountains for it.

Kobarid and Bovec

When it was time to head North towards the Julian Alps we drove through Kobarid, located in a valley of the north west. Close to the Italian border here and a part of one of their gourmet food and wine regions. This is where Hisa Franko, a family owned county house and restaurant with a story stands. Its owner is one of Slovenia’s best chefs, Ana Ros. Here she creates her masterpieces with local inspiration, produce and resources, leaving nothing to waste. and we were lucky enough to devour her eleven-course degustation menu. Hence being sent into a food coma and unable to proceed any further this night.

Our stunning weather of the past ten days was coming to a close and our visions of kayaking in the nearby town of Bovec, in perfect sunny conditions, flanked by those dramatic mountainous scenes, taking pictures of crystel clear aqua coloured flowing rivers became unrealistic.

We did however still travel to this action-packed home of Kayaking, rafting, canoeing, hiking, riding and managed to kayak in a storm.

Certainly, a very different experience to our initial vision. Never the less we suited up in all the neoprene we could layer, including a skirt, and drifted out so still and peaceful along the river. No one in sight bar our six kayaks on the rapids, mountain peaks towering over us cutting through the mist and low cloud. The occasional crack of lightning to light up the sky in the distance, followed by the rumble of thunder was just something else, you could not wipe the smiles off any of us.

Bled

Once we were dried off, had a belly full of frits and ice cream it was road tripping time again. Treated again to grand castles and churches in the nearby mountains as we zoomed around the back of the Julian Alps and Mt Triglav, again close to Austrian border, and we wound our way into Bled. Wow!

Bled is the place you may know of already when you think of Slovenia, and most likely have been following on your Instagram feed. If jaw dropping scenery, castles, old bridges, towering pine trees, rivers with crystal clear water, a lake with a church in the middle accessible only by row boat is pleasing to your eye and your soul.

It is located just outside the Triglav National Park, close to the Soča Valley that is yet another ‘active travellers’ dream destination with all of the above plus rafting, zip lining and rock climbing.

The rain had decided it was here to stay, and we again got the unorthodox visit here. It was still jaw dropping stunning, rain capes in tow for shelter and no regrets. How could you feel anything else while surrounded by nature, standing on top of a Castle, that fresh mountain air, smells of pine trees and laughing so hard as you can’t quite believe the torrential downpour.

… and for the moments about to tip you over the edge, there was always Jager and Uno if needed!

Hopefully the relaxed warm nature of the locals will always keep this place a little raw, and that special little somewhere you should absolutely spend time in and even revisit in different seasons.

I found Slovenia like the secret you want to share though keep to yourself at the same time.

You are welcome to share the Uno tip, though maybe keep the rest to yourself…