Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Into Slovenia

It was a quick hop back onto the autobahn and heading south towards Slovenia. There were numerous tunnels along this stretch of highway, some of them quite short and others over 6 kms in length. The longest one was just over 7 kms, entering it in Austria and coming out in Slovenia. Border crossings are so much easier between countries under the Shengen agreement, no more stopping and having to show your passports. Having said that, it is much easier for Pete travelling on his British passport - they just wave him aside. As for me, they go through every page of my Australian passport, pausing at the page with the black cross indicating refusal into the UK, then give me the appropriate stamp. This is just the way it is going to be until it expires in 2023 😩😩😩!!! 
With driving, we just have to remember to purchase the vignette for the particular country before you enter - apparently the authorities are ready at hand to catch and fine anyone caught travelling without one and the penalties are steep.

Our destination for the next 2 nights was Lake Bled - in the NW corner of Slovenia. Anywhere on a lake is pretty, and Bled was no exception.  With its emerald-green lake, a picture-postcard church on an islet in the middle, a medieval castle clinging to a rocky cliff and all nestled amongst the Julian Alps, Bled has it all. Our small B and B was only a 5 mins walk from the lake, yet we were right in the middle of orchards and huge cherry trees laden with ripe fruit. As the sun was shining, and the afternoon still ahead of us, we decided to walk our first 6 km circuit of the lake, everywhere with views back onto the islet and many spots where you could hire a row boat and make your own way over. That was definitely on the agenda for tomorrow. After 2 weeks of not hearing much English spoken around us, we were suddenly amidst Australian accents everywhere. When ever we sat down for a meal, either side of us were either English, American and often Aussie.


        Cherry tree at our accomodation at Lake Bled - laden with ripe fruit. Every garden grows one.

Next morning after breakfast, we thought we would tackle the hike up to Bled Castle, perched high on the cliff. It was a steep slog up the steps and path but well worth the views from the top. We wandered in and out of alcoves, courtyards, the wine cellar and the forge all offering spectacular views across the lake to the surrounding area. An hour later, we made our way back down and into a row boat for the short trip across to the small church on the islet. Calm water, no breeze and a blue skies made for a lovely trip around and over the island. After lunch we headed up to Vintgar Gorge - quite different from the rugged rocky gorge in Germany, more lush with large shady trees and vegetation but just as stunning. The thunder and power of the surging water just breathtaking, definitely worth the visit. In the afternoon, we took a drive up through the forestry roads and down to Lake Bohinj - a very pretty part of the country.


                                           The church on the island in Lake Bled - Slovenia

    Pete outside the wine cellar - Bled Castle.         View from the top with the island in the background                            


                                             Vintgar Gorge near Lake Bled, Slovenia 

                                     Pete at stunning Lake Bohinj - a short drive from Bled.

From Bled we had a short trip across to the capital of Slovenia - Ljubljana. We checked in to our hotel/sports centre - very new and modern, the hotel section being only a small part of the complex.With the weather tending to drizzle, we jumped on a local bus and made our way into the city, though in reality it is more like a large town. Like most of the places we have visited, the town centres around a square and usually has a castle perched high on a hill - this particular one being protected by a might dragon. The river runs right through the centre of town, with cobbled streets of pavers shining in the sun and worn smooth with centuries of tred. Small store holders sellers their wares adorn either side of the river along with great fresh fruit, vegetable and flower markets and endless restaurants and cafes everywhere. After our obligatory climb to the top and back down, we sat for a cool beer and to watch the world go by for a while. Right next to us was a statue of a kangaroo - a water fountain forged by a local artist ....... not sure what the significance was, if any.


                                             The dragon that guards Ljubijana Castle 

                  Our kangaroo water fountain                         Ljubijana street with castle up above

We changed our plans to visit the Soca Valley as the weather was still inclement, deciding to head directly down into Croatia where the sun was shining. Having read about some caves on the way, we planned a stop at Postojna. On arrival we could see the main caves had a car park the size of a soccer ground and already packed with tourist buses wall to wall. So we opted for some smaller, yet worthwhile caves built under a castle -  Predjama castle. Donning helmets with headlamps, we joined a group for a guided tour of the caves (bit underwhelming) and then followed with a self audio tour of the castle - excellent. It was a really great stop and glad we didn't miss it. 

                                                In front of Predjama Castle and caves.

Apart from the inclement weather, we have had fun in Slovenia - loved the places we have visited, enjoyed the mountains and lakes, spectacular gorges and lush forestry countryside but are now ready for a seaside change, beaches and sun. Istria here we come!

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