Slovenia – A little gem…blink and it’s gone

Slovenia was a sweet little surprise. Words to describe the capital of Ljubljana would be quaint, cute, bohemian and hip. Blink and you would miss this country, only half the size of Switzerland, bordered by four countries; Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary.

We arrived late in the afternoon leaving Plitvice National Park as late as we could (we couldn’t tear the kids away). We stayed at the beautiful Antiq Palace Hotel in a serviced apartment which had us in the most vibrant district of this little old city. We’d settled in and were ready to step out into the cobblestone streets when the rain started. This was to be a constant in our travels for the next week.

Heavy rain sets in - Ljubljana, Slovenia

Heavy rain sets in – Ljubljana, Slovenia

Our time in this little country was limited, a mere four days, so with umbrellas in hand we set out to explore the city. The old town is a blend of Baroque, Renaissance, and Art Nouveau buildings, watched over by a medieval castle. A river running alongside creates a serene outlook as you stroll along the stone path bordering the river. The city seemed alive with circus performers, folk bands, singing on street corners and the cafes and restaurants were in abundance.

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The river promenade - Ljubljana

The river promenade – Ljubljana

Street performers in Ljubljana - Slovenia

Street performers in Ljubljana – Slovenia

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The Plečnik Farmers’ market and Triple Bridge were just a few steps away from where we were staying so we spent the couple of days we had here strolling through the streets and ducking in to eat at the market or have a coffee to escape the rain.

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Triple Bridge

Art in the streets

Art in the streets

Butcher's Bridge - Ljubljana's love bridge

Butcher’s Bridge – Ljubljana’s love bridge

Enjoying fresh berries from the market- Ljubljana

Enjoying fresh berries from the market- Ljubljana

Selecting berries at the market - Ljubljana

Selecting berries at the market – Ljubljana

Our next destination in Slovenia was Lake Bled. We set off early from Ljubljana hoping to escape the rain but unfortunately the rain had other ideas. It continued and continued and by the time we reached Lake Bled it was torrential rain. I will not mention where we stayed here as we actually cut our time here short due to the very cold and uninviting host at the small hotel/B&B we had chosen.

We arrived just before midday, parking our car in front of the property and dashing inside from the rain. The first response we get is not a welcome but an abrupt ” You can’t check-in yet, don’t you know check-in is at 3pm” With a raised eyebrow we responded that we were well aware of the time but due to the rain thought it best to park our car and maybe get a recommendation for somewhere to eat. In a gruff voice we were told to walk down the street and we would find something.

We set off in the rain and found a little restaurant just above the lake. We were so taken aback by the attitude of the manager/owner we were a bit hesitant in turning up to check in, we felt like a group of naughty school children terrified to turn up to the school principals office.

Avoiding another meeting with our hotel owner we decided there was no better time than now to set off and explore Lake Bled. Row boats are for hire so we set off on the lake heading toward the island located in the centre of Lake Bled.

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This famous island (Otok) can only be reached by pletna, the flat-bottomed wooden boat hand steered by oarsman for centuries. Thomas was to be our man of the day. Steering with great difficulty, the current was quite strong,he rowed us all the way in misty rain to the island.

We climbed the 98 steps leading up to the church where for years Slovenian grooms carry their brides to assure a long and happy life together.

The 98 Steps leading to the church - Bled

The 98 Steps leading to the church – Bled

Legend has it that if you ring the bell inside the castle’s Church of the Assumption and make a wish, it’ll come true. So of course the kids scrambled and fought to be first to ring the bell.

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The weather was starting to set in and the rain had increased so after some bell ringing we hopped back into our boat and set off back to the shore.

We were lucky enough to stroll back to our accommodation with a slight drizzle and a new person at reception. A warmer friendly tone checked us in and gave us a little tour before we settled into our rooms to change out of our damp clothes and reassess what we were to do for the next 48 hours. We were limited in our walking expeditions in this small resort town and the dark clouds continued to hover the rain progressively got worse as the early evening set in. We couldn’t bear a whole day sitting inside in a small hotel/B&B with three children and an uninviting owner. We felt very uncomfortable shushing the children every few minutes so we wouldn’t get a complaint. Food would help us decide whether to stay put, grin and bear it or forfeit a paid night’s accommodation and move on.

We stumbled upon the restaurant “Okarina” merely by chance and later discovered it was one of the best in the area. A strange mix of Indian, italian and Slovenian game dishes. The kids chose pasta and we were content to try the Wild Boar cutlets and filets of Venison. We walked away full and satisfied and with decision made we trudged through the pouring rain and straight on to the internet to book something for the next day.

We woke the next morning with a determination to get out as fast as we could. The owner refused to give us a refund, not even for one of the rooms, but offered breakfast instead. We accepted, ate our breakfast in eerie silence as no one not even the breakfast staff spoke, heads down, no smile, getting on with their business. We were the only ones in the breakfast room, even the kids felt the vibe whispering whenever they had something to say. Very strange…

We carried our bags downstairs and were out before 09:00am. We’re off to Salzburg, Austria!

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