Bohinj, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj is the largest natural permanent lake in Slovenia and is about 30 minutes from Bled (don’t ask what is the non-permanent largest lake is).  As you drive from Bled to Bohinj you are surrounded by Alps so you always have a nice view.  The road is a nice country road with a lot of curves.  I have yet to get a photo but because Slovenia is so wet (maybe even more than Portland) they hang their hay to dry.  They are cute wood covered drying racks. 
Bohinj seems like an outdoors person’s paradise.  I wish I was writing to tell you I went paragliding off of the mountain we went up but that just isn’t for me.  Instead I pay money to ride the gondola up the mountain and back down.  The gondola is used in the winter to transport the skiers up to their playground.  Stunning ski slopes and cross country trails.  They say that the ski season goes to early May but I didn’t see any snow so maybe this was a quiet year for them.

In the summer, you can pick from a number of hiking trails.  A lot of the hikes recommend mountaineering equipment, map and sometimes a mountain guide.  Since we didn’t have any of that, I guess a hike up in the Alps wasn’t for this trip.  Although I do have my eye on one hike up there.  The description sounds interesting: “Leading along the mountain ridges was the old Italian – Yugoslav border.  Therefore, the area abounds in remains of border stones and various military buildings.”  Anyone want to volunteer to do this hike with me?

Piran, Slovenia

Piran is on the Adriatic Sea and you can see Italy to the north and Croatia to the south.  We found a place to eat right on the water.  I really could have stayed at the table all day just staring at the sea.  People just climb down the ladders that are along the walkway and go swimming.  Pretty crazy to me since I saw plenty of jelly fish when I was walking by the fishing boats. 

The town is small,l and you can walk up the hill to get a good view of the city.  Pretty crazy to think that I was 170 meters below ground in the cave and then I end the day with a magnificent view of the Adriatic.  The stairs up the fortress were like climbing a ladder.  I was pretty sure that I would fall at some point.  Visiting Piran was well worth the 2 hour drive.  It is relaxing to drive by fields of olive tree farms and to walk around the Adriatic.  Can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds but I’m pretty sure that it can’t beat the day I had.

Skocjan, Slovenia

Slovenia has many caves and I was lucky enough to explore Skocjan today.  It is not the most popular cave in Slovenia but that is just by the standards of tourism.  The most popular cave seems more like a Disneyland ride.  Reading about the caves Slovenia has to offer, this cave seemed more authentic and less touristy.  Of course my ideal cave exploration would be with a headlamp and not 20 people but funny enough our tour included the same Japanese tour group that we saw in Triglav yesterday.  I guess we think alike (however we didn’t pay a couple thousand dollars to come up with the same plan).

I was pretty bummed that no photos are allowed in the cave.  The Reka River flows through the cave and has created a beautiful canyon underground.  The cave also is home to certain rare indigenous subterranean animals like the human fish.  Although we didn’t see any animals you should really look up what a human fish looks like.  They can live up to 100 years and they don’t need any food for several  years at a time.  The cave is also home to 2,000 bats and I am happy to report, we didn’t see one single bat.  The tour lasts an hour and half and includes 500 stairs and a 3 km walk .
The cave tour was great and the guide had extensive knowledge.  I’m pretty sure that one of the reasons you can’t take photos in there is the flash is not good for the cave walls.  (Well and that the tour would take forever if you waited for every person to get the photo they wanted.)  The lights that they use to line the trail turn the cave walls green.  So it is a little sad to see human influence is ruining the walls. 
You are allowed to take photos as you walk out of the cave.  You can’t tell how beautiful the cave was from my photos so I recommend you click on the following link to look at the professional photos (cave website).

Road Trip

What do you when it is raining out?  You head to a cave and then to the Adriatic.  Basically we drove the length of Slovenia in less than 2 hours.  This makes it a reasonable day trip.  Below is a map of where Piran is located.  You can see Croatia and Italy to the south and north.  Let’s just say this is well worth the drive even if gas is expensive. 

Alpine Botanical Garden

Yesterday along the drive through Triglav National Park, we just happened to come across an Alpine Botanical garden.  I was actually hesitant to hike up to it since it was raining pretty heavy but I love taking photos of flowers.  As we hiked up to the garden we heard a tour bus pull up.  It was the same tour group we followed on the hike earlier.  Here are some of my favorite photos at the botanical garden.

Triglav National Park

The mission today was to visit Triglav National Park, Slovenia’s only National Park.  The weather was a little rainy but that wouldn’t stop our little Polo from climbing up a mountain.  There were 24 hairpin turns on the way up and 26 on the way down.  (So I drove 100 hairpin turns today by the time we made our way back.)  The park was peaceful and not busy at all.  Maybe the rain had something to do with that but that doesn’t stop me from walking around.

The road was actually built by Russian prisoners of war during the first world war.  They built a chapel on the road up and there are a couple of burial sites there from a avalanche.  There were some fresh candles on the grave.

Half of the hairpin turns were cobblestone to help get a better grip on the road.  This is also why I pay extra to rent an automatic car. 🙂  The road actually wasn’t that bad and every turn was numbered and gave you the elevation.  When we reached the summit there was a little hut restaurant.  The temp got down to 6.5 celsius at the top of the mountain.  This is also a popular route for bicycles however due to the weather, I only saw 2.

We did one hike in the middle.  Well we thought it would be a nice hike but really we were just following another tour group thinking that there must be something down a trail.  Little did we know that there wasn’t really much to see that you couldn’t have seen from driving further down the road.  We climbed down for 40 minutes only to come to the road.  Naturally the tour group only hiked down as their bus picked them up at the bottom and that left us as the only suckers having to climb up.

(In the photo of just the face of the mountain see if you can find the image of Ajda.  Adja is a mythical village girl from local lore.)

Bled, Slovenia

Just a short drive northwest from Ljubljana is Bled.  Bled is close to the Austrian border and is a huge winter/summer tourist destination for its outdoor activities.   The glacial Lake Bled has a trail around the lake and you have views of the only island in Slovenia and a castle up on the mountain side.  The island contains a church where many locals like to get married.  The church has 99 steps up to the door and it is tradition that the man carries the bride up the stairs and the bride must remain silent.  Many people consider the island to bring good luck.  I will let you know if I have good luck after I visit.  You take a row boat to the lake so we are saving that for hopefully some better weather.

Bled is also famous for its vanilla-and-cream pastry called Blejska Kremna Rezina (Bled Cream Cake).  Naturally I had to try one after lunch, and I’m already trying to figure out how I can bake this at home. 
Bled will act as our base for the next 4 nights.  During this time the plan is to visit some caves, drive to the sea and do a little hiking.  This is just a short slideshow of a couple photos of Bled.  There were many fishing poles in the water around the shores but I honestly don’t get how people know when they have a fish since I didn’t see any people with the poles.  I did think it was interesting to watch one man cast off while another used a slingshot to put some food in the water where the man was fishing.

Leaving Ljubljana

Ljubljana was a lovely city that has some old world charm and modern technology.  All waiters/waitress can print you a receipt from their belt.  When people pay with credit card, people just put their phone on top of a machine at the table.  America is so far behind with credit card technology.  Even the hotel room was high tech.  I never could figure out how to turn the AC or heat on but for once the room cleaning people could tell if people were in the room and didn’t need to knock.  You wave your key in front of this screen outside the door to get in.  Then the screen let’s people know if there are people in the room and even more they can tell if somebody is in the bed.  The people were all very nice and you everyone spoke pretty perfect English.   Most menus were all listed in English, German, Italian and Slovene.  So don’t be afraid to visit Ljubljana if you don’t know Slovene.  You really won’t have any problems communicating or ordering.

This morning was our last morning in Ljubljana.  It was pretty rainy so we got soaked.  We walked to the outdoor market.  I think my favorite stand was the lady who sold dried herbs in large yellow bags.  Along the river, there is an indoor fish market.  We walked to the botanical garden because I love taking photos of flowers but there wasn’t much blooming right now.  Actually we got soaked walking there and it was difficult to get a camera out. 
Before checking out, we walked to Hertz and picked up our car.  I paid a little extra to get a luxury automatic car.  OK, it isn’t luxury but it is automatic.  It is a very small VW Polo.  So we are off to Bled, Slovenia now which is up in the Alps.  By the way the weather looks, I’m not sure we will actually see a mountain. 

Slovenian Food

For lunch today, we decided to try some Slovenian food from a restaurant located in the castle.  One was some sort of sausage and the other was a corn polenta.  Both dishes tasted good but neither of us could finish.  Food here is pretty reasonably priced, and you can try some very interesting things.  Horse is a Slovenian speciality although I haven’t tried it yet. 

Got Milk?

Ljubljana has some great outdoor markets but strangely one of my favorite items happens to come from a vending machine.  They have a milk vending machine that gives you fresh milk.  You can either get a plastic bottle from the right side of the machine and fill it up or you can bring your own container.  I was actually tempted to try the milk but I don’t know what I would do with so much milk