Exploring Ljubljana, skiing in Bled

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I would never have imagined myself visiting Slovenia for a second time. Truthfully, I visited the country on a very dubious Europe trip when I was 18 and it’s safe to say that we seldom saw any true culture on the month long train ride. When friends of mine suggested we go there for a weekend away from London, I was rather disappointed by the choice but typing this up at the end of a fantastic weekend, I would whole-heartedly recommend the place a visit.

Slovenia is possibly one of the most beautiful countries I have visited in a very long time. The countryside, at times stark, conjures up scenes from romantic fairytales.

Only an hour and a half flight from the UK, the sweeping countryside is only a 40 minute ride to the capital, Ljubljana. The outer parts of the city are lined with utilitarian looking apartment blocks in garish colours and plenty of gyms but fortunately we had organised to stay in the old town, in Krizanke, which meant that we were a five minute walk from the centre of town.

Day one began with gathering our bearings through the baroque architecture by exploring the city by foot through the extremely clean streets. Along the river, Ljuljanica, are several beautiful buildings, with squares leading off to churches and prominent town halls. The small city centre meant that it was very easy to navigate around. At night the streets are wonderfully lit in yellows and whites, contrasting to the rather menacing, almost ‘Frankenstine’ green lights of the castle, which stands above the town.

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Leading away from the river are several cobble-stoned backstreets filled with quaint bars, galleries, shops and restaurants. We stopped off at a great little place for lunch where we had our first taster of Slovenian food. Slovenian food is heavily influenced by its neighbours, Italian pasta and gnocchi, Austrian and Hungarian meats and goulashes, sausages, pork medallions, dumplings…need I say more. Additionally, following the suggestion from our waiter, we also stuck to local red wine, which was also fantastic.

After a rather heavy lunch, we walked up the trail to the castle which is wrapped by the old town on one side and the newer, more student-heavy area on the other. The castle is well worth a visit, rather a steep climb but with a lovely little cafe and needless to say, great views at the top. Our overall conclusion was that it paid off visiting Slovenia out of season in January. We encompassed very few tourists, which made all the difference when seeing the sights without a crowd to tamper the experience. The -12 temperature helps see to that.

After this we spent the late afternoon walking up and down the river, crossing the famous bridges with love locks and dragon statues and pointing out church spires.

On our second day, after a rather civilised 8.30 start, we rented a car and drove the 40 minute journey to Bled – or Lake Bled – for some more sight seeing. Upon hearing that one of the slopes had opened, we picked up some ski passes and ski gear and headed to the slope for an afternoon of fun. Incredibly reasonable, 4 hours cost us in total 17 euros.

Later, we drove round the lake, to the admire the views and take in the fantastic alpine scenery. Bled is renowned for it’s fantastic setting, the picturesque church that sits in the middle of the lake is dream-like. Following another suggestion, we drove up to Bled Castle for a late supper. Fantastic food, fantastic wine, beautiful views and of course, great company. All in all, a picture perfect day.

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Recommendations:

Marley & Me – fab food, great atmosphere and friendly staff.

Julija – lovely setting for dinner

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