A country that should be on your bucket list, stat.
Slovenia. A tiny little European country that you may have seen on a map and most likely don’t know much about. A country with great wine and majestic scenery.
The capital: Ljubljana
The city is tiny!!
It’s a blip on the map in comparison to the big European powerhouses of Berlin and Paris. But that’s what makes it so special. The vibe of the main city is inherently European, with its tall buildings seeped in history. Some of it, not so PC- but I don’t want to spoil any of the stories that you’ll inevitably hear when you visit the city and go on walking tours.
Unfortunately, due to rain, we were unable to explore the Friday markets, which I’ve been told are an absolute must. We were however, lucky enough to be able to sample some local food. The local speciality is a dumpling- but not even remotely close to the type you get at a Chinese BYO restaurant. This dumpling is essentially a piece of pastry, rolled and filled with various mixtures, almost all of which involve cottage cheese. If someone is able to find out why cottage cheese is such a big part of the Slovenian diet, I’ll be forever grateful because I’m confused.
I'd highly recommend doing a walking tour of the city- it's the best and easiest way to orient yourself and to learn all about the crazy architecture that's around the city - like why are there multiple different types of columns on a bridge, and why is there a bridge called Dragon Bridge.
While we didn't go inside, the view from Ljubljana Castle is amazing. It always makes me feel like such an insignificant spec of a human when you're able to see a city from the top. And while it's humbling, it also just makes me marvel at the majesty of history and how people have built up cities to be what they are.
I’d highly recommend this little restaurant called My Dumplings of Slovenia (Moji Struklji), which is just off the main square. Their menu is reminiscent of the Cheesecake Factory’s menu- pages and pages of variations of their core product.
Not super keen on something too authentic? Check out Robba, just opposite the main town hall. Robba is the type of restaurant that wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne, London or New York. With its chic decor and mouth-watering menu, it’s a must try. It’s incredibly budget friendly and the wines will make you want to figure out how to ship it home.
It truly looked like a page from a fairy tale
While you can most definitely hire a car and drive to Bled, for those of us not keen on driving on the wrong side of the road, there’s a simple and easy solution: A bus from the main bus station direct to Bled. You can do Bled in one day, or you could easily spend a week there.
Arriving in Bled when it was 4 degrees, rainy and grey was definitely not the welcome that I’d hoped for, but hey- Europe in May is always a bit of a gamble. In a way, Bled like this almost gave it an ethereal type complex. It was even more hauntingly beautiful, the sheer size of the lake overpowering.
If you’re staying in Bled overnight and have the time, Vintgar Gorge is a must do. You can take a shuttle bus or private taxi service that will drop you off, and pick you up about 2-3hrs later. The gorge is incredible. A truly breathtaking piece of Mother Nature that I genuinely gasped out loud when we walked in. I wouldn’t call it a hike at all, but definitely recommend wearing proper footwear as it gets a bit slippery.
After an authentic food experience? You can't go past Gostilna Murka. Their menu is delicious and strikes the balance of having authentic dishes that will push your pizza loving palate, to having dishes that anyone would eat. I'd highly recommend their poppyseed cake. Another slightly less traditional restaurant that was brilliant is Ostarija Babji zob. Their pasta is almost as good as Italy. But still begs the question- what's with the love of cottage cheese?
At the same location, there is also Wine Tasting Bled. I don't want to give too much away because it's an experience and a half, but Slovenian wine, is unbelievable. Seriously incredible. It's a shame that they don't export it- but I guess that's also half the fun of going somewhere new, is discovering new things.
I could not recommend a trip to Slovenia enough. It's truly an incredibly beautiful place and has that added bonus of not yet being as busy as other typical tourist spots.
10/10 would recommend.