I had been to Slovenia once many years ago when I was in Venice for a couple of days. We had spent an hour in Trieste before driving to the Slovenian border. The border was long gone but the thrill of crossing over into the former Yugoslavia was amazing. Slovenia was incorporated into the EU in 2004 and adopted the Euro in 2007. I remember that we drove to the Postojna Caves but they were closed. We spent a bit of time there and then returned to Venice. The most thrilling part of the day was crossing the border.
Honestly, I never thought much more about Slovenia. A few people I know had visited Ljubljana and loved it, but I had never returned. That is, until my son met a wonderful woman from Slovenia and they decided to get married. So, off I went again with new purpose and renewed interest! A return across the border and a chance to see a little more of this tiny country.
First of all, Slovenia is easy to get to. The capital, Ljubljana, has its own airport with frequent services to and from most European airports. There is a decent train hook up and if you rent a car, it is a short drive from either Trieste or from Venice. The journey time to Ljubljana is about 2 and half hours from Venice. The border is invisible, but you do need to buy a vinjeta. The vinjeta is a 15 Euro toll sticker that substitutes the awkward toll booths in Italy. It is easy to find – all motorway auto stops have them – and you simply stick it on your windshield. Without this little thing, a hefty fine awaits you!
The roads are great, even better than Italy in fact, and most people on the border speak perfect Italian as well as English. All roads lead through Postojna (where the famous caves are) and Nova Gorica on the border. Everything is well sign posted and the countryside is incredibly beautiful.
Slovenia has a wide compendium of landscape. From the vineyards in the Tuscan-looking rolling hills of the Friuli area, to the mountains that peer over Lake Bled in the north. It’s really a perfect country for a short break or an adventure break. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking and sightseeing. Famous chefs abound as well. The world’s top female chef is Ana Ros, chef of restaurant Hisa Franko. The food has all of the great influences of Italy – as does the white wine with a strong background of Austrian and Slovenian tastes. It’s a gourmand’s delight. There are probably more top-quality restaurants in Slovenia per square mile than any country in the world.
In addition to meeting the in-laws, we had in mind to see a variety of places with only three days at our disposal. The “must-see” things you must see are Lake Bled and its 1,000-year-old castle, the Postojna Caves, the second largest limestone cave formations in the world, and of course, the capital Ljubljana. In between, there is a tiny piece of coastline with beautiful Piran as its centerpiece and the fascinating border town of Goricia and Nova Gorica. The only walled city that divided East and West after the second World War. In the Friuli area that borders Italy, beautiful towns like Šmartno are tucked into the rolling hills.
The city of Ljubljana is so picture perfect that you have to keep pinching yourself. It’s a charming Austro-Hungarian town with the famous Ljubljana Castle overlooking the city. The river that runs through the town hosts mini boat cruises and the bars and restaurants that line the banks are full of action and fun. Bicyclists are everywhere and there is a new pedestrian zone that has just been opened and adjoins the old town. If you can spend three days here, you will know it well. A few more days to taste the cuisine and drink the wine and you will be overjoyed. It is a fairytale town tucked into beautiful countryside; clean and picturesque with great food and lots of things to do outside the capital.
We didn’t stay long enough. A short drive back to Trieste for an overnight before heading home. However, new connections mean more visits. You never know, we may even get the hang of Slovenian!