Tag: Slovenia

Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge

Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge

Our goal here was to do the gorge and the Lake Bled area in one day. This was one of the very few European vacations we’ve been on where we actually had a car. We left Ljubljana fairly early, getting to Lake Bled in just under an hour. From there to the gorge is only 15-20 minutes by car.

The weather was absolutely perfect while we were there, which was early May. Cool mornings, mild afternoons just right for walking.

The currency in this area is euros, and everyone we encountered spoke excellent English.

Lake Bled

For anyone who is unfamiliar with this area, it is probably one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit. We managed to be there while the weather was just absolutely perfect. And little to no wind made the lake itself look like a sheet of glass, as you see in the pictures. The castle, especially from down below on the lake, has the look of a fantasy novel or fairy tale. It is probably one of the most stunning castles I have ever seen. I mean seriously, if it looks this good in pictures, just try to imagine how it looks in real life. And then repeat the experience when you’re up in the castle looking down on the lake and island.


They have these really cool boats that will take you out to Bled Island. They’re called pletnas. They’re similar to the gondolas of Venice, but bigger and covered. A guy stands up on the stern of the boat and uses oars to row while remaining standing. They are around €15 per person, round trip.

We got there pretty early and were the first ones on the boat. Got us a good seat up front, but meant we would have to wait for more passengers to arrive. They try to fill up the boat before leaving. But we didn’t mind, it was such a gorgeous morning and there were some fish swimming around the boat that we enjoyed watching for a bit.

The boat ride to the island was surreal. The water was like glass, and the only sound was the oars gently dipping into the water as we glided silently along. Sitting up in the front provided the best photo ops of the castle, the island, and everything in the area. Do yourself a favor and get the person sitting across from you take a picture of you as the backdrop is just gorgeous.

The island itself is pretty small and only has a couple of buildings. One was a cafe where we sat and drank espresso while looking down at the lake. There is also a small 17th century church with a tower. Follow the walking trail around the island and keep an eye out for the rather large fish skulking around close to the shore.


All told it took us just under two hours. Once we got back on land, we had planned to have lunch up at the castle. You need reservations, which we had, but the island took longer than we thought so we had to cancel. Which in a way is bad because the restaurant is outdoor and overlooks the lake and island.

IMG_2344But it’s also good because we stumbled across another jewel. Apparently this area is famous for its cream cake. But the place we settled on was where it all started, so of course we had to see what the original was like. Sinful, that’s what! And we had a seat right up against the rail and overlooking the lake. The name of it was Restavracija Panorama. It’s on the pathway that leads around the lake toward the north heading to the castle. The rest of the food was ok, and good wine, but it’s the atmosphere you’re going to enjoy the most.

Once we finished our most excellent cream cake, plus meal, plus wine, we were feeling as though we needed a good hike. Well, you saw the castle, right? A helluva hike it was! It was pretty steep, with a combination of steep inclines and stairs in some places. Just take your time and enjoy the views and you’ll be there before you know it.


Inside the castle itself was not really all that spectacular, but it is definitely worth the hike to see the views. It’s like your up on a cloud looking down on paradise. Just magnificent. Makes you feel like a Greek god or something. And of course the walk down was much easier. 🙂



Vintgar Gorge

We came to the gorge from Lake Bled. Driving, It only took about 15 mins to get there. If you’re not worn out from climbing up to the castle, the gorge is well worth your time, but it is also a good bit of walking. If you just wanna go take a nap or whatever, you could always come back to the gorge the next day. But we were still taking revenge on that cream cake and so decided to conquer the gorge in the same day.

But one way or the other, hopefully you can manage a visit to the Vintgar Gorge. I want to say it is just gorge-us? Haha. Seriously, it is a sight to behold. You don’t tour it from the top looking down, oh no, you are down in it! Wooden and cement pathways were constructed along the bottom sides of the gorge in the 1890’s. So you are literally walking almost right over the very river that cut the gorge. The path is quite safe and sturdy. You can see signs everywhere of fresh maintenance updates on it.


It features beautiful green water with several waterfalls. The stone walls are over 100 meters (300ft) high in some places. The water is translucent, but green. Just amazing. All told I think it’s around 1.5 meters (about a mile), so double that for a round trip. There is a €5 fee per adult to enter, and there’s a concession cabin along the way.


And by the way, that’s called the Šum, and it’s the largest river waterfall in all of Slovenia. What looks like glare in the picture is actually heavy mist from the waterfall. Have fun!

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana, Slovenia (stats courtesy Wikipedia):
Pop City Proper: 279,756
Metro Pop: 537,712
Municipality: 163.8 km2 (63.2 sq mi)
Density: 1,708/km2 (4,420/sq mi)
Elevation: 295 m (968 ft)
Weather: Cold, short winters, mild summers
Warm: April – October
Summer: Low 80’s
Language: Slovene, English is very common

What’s so special?
This area has breathtaking landscapes, magnificent architecture, and unforgettable castles. Rolling green hills, shimmering lakes, even caves and a dramatic gorge to explore. Truly, a hidden gem you will want to come back to again and again. Be sure to scroll through all of my Slovenia journals as they are all close to Ljubljana.

Ljubljana – Lover’s Town

As you can see from the header at the top, it’s not a large city, especially by capital city standards. And, mind you, this is the largest city in Slovenia. But this is the truly classic, romantic European town. There are so many great things to see in this area that a lot people just use Ljubljana as a central base camp. But this works to your favor as it is not over run with tourists. We found it to be very laid back and easy.

The town has done a marvelous job of entwining itself around the Ljubijanica river. It is no hard task to grab a cozy table overlooking the river to enjoy a glass of wine or a cappuccino. While there was more than enough to see and do, it isn’t chocked so full of famous tourist attractions that you feel you have to rush around to take them all in. It’s an easy town. Pull your lover close and enjoy the richness of this old place as you explore the shops, bridges, and cafes at a slower pace. And by the way, the first part of Ljubljana, ‘Ljub’, means “to love” in Slavic. Just sayin’.



One place you definitely want to visit that will take you back in time is Klobasarna. You get a fresh cooked, sliced local sausage on a paper plate.  Oh yeah, simple man here just loves stuff like this! But I am glad I got the half, its a good bit of meat especially if you’re intending to have dinner later.

The whole town is full of places like this. And there 15 or so bridges crossing the river in the area, and almost all of them have ornate statues highlighting their entrance or medieval carvings all along their length. One such bridge was dedicated to the dragon, which is also the town symbol. I’ll let you learn that legend on your own, but here’s a hint, you may want to keep a wary eye to sky.


Ljubljana Castle

Towering over all these cozy cafes and shops is a castle. Look closely at the picture below. It’s actually two pictures. The one on the left is me looking up at the castle from the city. The one on the right is me looking down at the city from the castle. The big street in the center is the same one I was looking up from!


It’s a pretty decent hike up to the castle, and since we were so full from the sausage, we took the funicular up – wait, what? Ha, it’s basically a cable car and was kind of fun. But we did hike back down. And when we saw how steep it was, we were glad we didn’t walk up.

The castle gives the most spectacular views of the city, and will make anyone look like a professional photographer. The interior is remarkably modern. This castle has a very interesting story to tell. And you should know by now, my job isn’t to tell you those stories, but to let you discover them on your own. But suffice to say this castle does have a unique history and has at times been more than a castle. It’s been a fortress, a prison, a residence, and more!



We stayed at the Vander Urbani Resort. Primo location right off the main road that parallels the river, and centrally located for exploring the city on foot. The prices were competitive with other hotels in the area. We paid around €180 per night during what is considered prime season (early May).

As with most European hotels, the rooms were small. But the style of our room was particularly structured in such a way that there was no privacy for anything, I mean anything while in the room. So make sure you are really really intimate with who you are staying here with.

We only ate the free breakfast in their restaurant, but it was cozy and nicely laid out. The main guy that ran the area down there seemed always stressed out even when the place wasn’t crowded, so we didn’t feel inclined to party there. Besides, ten paces and we could be sitting outside right on the river.

The rest of the staff was polite and friendly, always eager to help. Everyone spoke good English.  I would stay here again.

Notable Restaraunts


Venue: I’m going to tell you straight up here, the food in this place is pretty fancy. Casual attire, although I would have felt a little better if I had worn my suit jacket. Very cozy setting. I understand it used to be a house and was converted. It does have a homey feel to it. Considering how fancy the food is, and how good the service was, the prices were very good. Everyone spoke good English, and they had English menus available

Menu: It’s the first place I ever went to that served horse (which I did NOT eat of course). Venison with blueberries. Octopus. Hmmm. Also some great fish selections. But they redeemed themselves by having several beef selections, including T-bone steak.

Drinks: Great selection of local wines. We just love the Slovene wines. We actually got the Malvasia which, believe it or not is actually an orange wine. I know, but we like it! Reasonably priced,  maybe a bit on the high side.

My recommendation: So the JC Simple Man rating is not so good, but I will give this place high marks on Trip Advisor because the overall value for most people is top notch. If I was out on my own looking for dinner, I would not come back here, but for my friends who I know like this type of venue, I would highly recommend this place to them.

Marley and Me

Venue: Definitely casual, laid back and relaxed. Somewhat small inside, lots of seating outside. Prices were very reasonable, between €10 and €20 for most main dishes.

Menu: Some pretty fancy pasta dishes, good salmon and sea bass selections, but a surprisingly good selection of beef, pork, and chicken.

Drinks: Good selection of local wines and a pretty good deal on the prices. We had a local cab and it was excellent.

My recommendation: I ordered the hamburger. As with most European restaurants, I asked for it med-well, and got rare. I can’t really fault them for this. Since I know this is what they do, I should not order a hamburger unless I’m willing to accept it, which I am. Overall though, I would recommend this place and I would come back here again.

Postojna Cave & Predjama Castle Slovenia


Postojna Cave

Our adventure actually began in Venice, Italy. We landed in Venice, picked up a car, then drove to Trieste, Italy and then onto Ljubljana, Slovenia. But all of that was way too much for a single story, so I broke it down into regional segments. This particular story covers the Postojna caves and the Predjama castle.

First off, about the driving. It was way easier than you might think. They drive on the right (and correct, haha) side of the road. Using google maps trip navigation works very well, not a single issue or missed turn.

As you cross into Slovenia, be sure to stop and get a vignette. This is their replacement for a tolling system. It’s required by law. If you aren’t able to get one when you cross into the country, stop at the first gas station you come to. They are €15 for 7 days. This means you sail through most of the toll areas.


It took us a little more than an hour to get to the caves from Trieste. We considered this an equal part of enjoyment for the vacation since it was so beautiful driving through the foothills and back country roads of Slovenia. There was hardly any traffic, so it was quite relaxing and enjoyable.

Note that the Postojna Caves are very popular, and most of the tours will sell out days in advance. How sad for you to drive all the way out there only to be turned away because all the tours are sold out. Sign up online and get your tickets in advance! This is the way of the future for most all tourist activities anyway.

There are countless caves in and around the Slovenia area. The trick is to find one that is safe and well run. Postojna caves are extremely well done. To start, if you arrive hungry, there are some really good touristy restaurants right there on the premises. Mostly hamburger and hot dog places, but they do serve wine, beer, and coffee. There is one place that is a slightly higher venue, but we didn’t try it.


One thing that was really interesting about this place is they have an area directly accessible that goes into a cave area where they have several exhibits set up. There were three or four displays that housed live proteus salamanders. These guys have lived in dark caves for so long that they no longer have eyes! And their skin is an albino-like pinkish white (essentially colorless). This is a “must see”. Sorry, couldn’t resist. There are other equally interesting exhibits in that area related to life in the caves.

For our tour, we rode the rail cars deep into the caves, then got out and walked through them with a tour guide. He stopped at various points and give us some history about the caves or pointed out some interesting facet. It was very enjoyable and informative.

I would recommend wearing a hat as there is a lot moisture in the caves and it sometimes drips down on your head. It’s also a little chilly, so a light jacket or sweater would be appropriate.

All told, we probably spent around three hours at the facility. Definitely time well spent.

Predjama Castle

I promise you this is not a professional endorsement for the Predjama castle, and they are paying me nothing to say this: I have literally been to more castles than I can even remember, and this is one of the most interesting castles I have ever toured!

I mean, first of all, just look at it:


It was originally constructed in the 11th century then rebuilt after an earthquake around 1570, and remains essentially untouched since. It is literally built into the side of the mountain and integrates into the caves within the mountain.

The castle was most famously inhabited by a knight, sir Lueger, who was also an infamous robber baron. Legends treat him as a Robin Hood, of sorts, and his father was the mayor of Trieste. Anyway, I’m not going to spoil the story for you or reiterate what dozens of existing sites can tell much more flamboyantly than I, but it is quite a tale.

The castle is fully open to the public (but not all of the caves) and the tours are self guided, so you basically go in and explore at your own pace. You can hire guides to take you through and get all the nitty gritty, but we didn’t do that. I don’t think you can get a guided tour at the castle proper but have to hire them elsewhere. As I have previously indicated, an excellent castle with a dramatic story to tell. Even without a guide, there is enough labeling and signage to give you the full story.

It’s about an hour drive to get to Ljubljana proper from the castle.

Oh yes, and they really didn’t like me hanging out the window waving to the peasants: