Cover Image for Slovenia
Shaun Michael Stone
Shaun Michael Stone

Situated in Central Europe is the small country of Slovenia, the land of the forest - with 60% of its territory wooded and green. We travelled here for a long weekend in May, just before the peak season started and hired a car. After adapting to driving on the right and beelining our way through the winding country lanes, we were constantly jaw-dropping at the titanic snow-capped mountains, deep forested hills and emerald-coloured lakes that passed our way. Well, I didn't do as much... considering I was driving.

After collecting our hire car from the airport, we drove straight to the town of Bled, where we claimed a great balcony view of the infamous Lake Bled. This lake traces its origins back to the Ice Age, and its warmth is fed by mild thermal springs. Emperor Henry II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, loved it so much that he built Bled castle, which is perched above the lake on top of a steep cliff. Planning permission was more lenient in those days.

Lake Bled view of Castle

Hotel view of Lake Bled

Our long weekend was all about the walks and the food, so we started with a 6 km walk around the lake, which takes roughly an hour and a half, with a few vantage points for some great pictures. It's too busy for my liking, and I usually avoid a tourist trap, but this is undoubtedly an exception.

Bled Architecture

After the walk, we sat down for some bled cream cake, which I'm not ashamed to say I had 'daily' from then on. Most of the cafes along the lake offer this cake known as Kremna Rezina, and it all started inside Hotel Park—where we stayed—but now the cake is well known to be served at Kavarna Park opposite the hotel.

Bled Cream Cake

The route circling Lake Bled was one of many planned trails for our long weekend break. I personally use the All Trails app (albeit a paid service) to identify the most popular routes, ranging from easy to hard. Our next hike was situated in the national park of Triglav, where we trekked the Mostnica Gorge and the Voje Waterfall.

Parked car at Triglav National Park

Even in a now more digital world, I've always lived by the evident mantra to carry a bit of local cash with you, as you never know when you'll need it. That always seems to apply to fish and chips shops, now that I think about it... Anyway, I digress. You will need euros on this journey, as you will come across local diners that serve popular coffee and blueberry strudel. They don't accept British pounds... As expected.

Strudel Cake with Ice cream

This 12 km hike took us along some stunning valley views and picturesque coloured pointy houses on the grassy plains. At times, when I looked up at the steep foresty hills, it felt like I'd been swallowed up by a volcano and was looking out from the inside, with patchy clouds forming like smoke.

The trail ended with an incline up to the Slap Savica 'double' waterfall, which is 78 meters high. When I heard it was called Slap, I kept vigilant to ensure no nasty surprises for me as we climbed to the top, and the waterfall roar intensified. I was reasonably dry at the bottom of the hill. After standing by the waterfall for pictures at the top, I was absolutely drenched, and I had a squidgy walk of shame back to the bottom.

Slap Savica waterfall

When we were back in the car, we wanted to find somewhere the locals like to go for a late lunch. We found an absolute gem called Gostilna Ema that played Slovenian music and was tucked away in a desolate village near a tractor and make-do straw barns. We had some fantastic fresh mushroom soup, and I had the schnitzel with onion mash, salad, and dessert. It's always nice to experience the traditional food wherever we go, and this ticked all the boxes.

Postojna Cave entrance

The next day, we took a break from the outdoors. We pivoted ourselves indoors, well, to be more specific, inside the mouth of the famous Postojna Cave, where we descended into a cave system of countless halls, rock/limestone formations, stalagmites and stalactites. A low-rise train network took us deep into the maze of this underworld that inhabits 150+ animals and 150+ eager tourists who think they're on a rollercoaster at Alton Towers. My only criticism of the experience is the feeling of being on a touristic conveyor belt where we're rushed and squeezed through the narrow passages without a moment to pause; besides that, it was great.

Postojna Cave train

After exiting the cave and squinting through the crowds back to our car, we drove a few kilometres away to a sight I'd never witnessed before. A Castle... embedded inside of a cave. The Predjama Castle is a medieval marvel perched in the middle of a 123-metre-high cliff for more than 800 years.

Predjama Castle

It has the Guinness World record as the world's largest cave castle. It was featured in a Jackie Chan movie and the Witcher series on Netflix. We got some great views from the top!

Predjama Castle attic

Our last few days involved more walks in stunning destinations. After driving up and down a huge mountain, we took a long car trip to the Soca Gorge. Walking beside the emerald-coloured gorge that spanned miles, I felt like I was in the video game Tomb Raider or Uncharted, hopping boulders and shimmying up to a higher platform beside a very sharp 15-metre drop.

Soca Gorge 1

Soca Gorge 2

A similar spectacle was the Vintgar Gorge, although this is a lot shorter in length and required a 10 euro entry fee, a very unflattering head net and a bright orange helmet. I asked why we needed it, and a worker who put it on my head took one look at me and said, 'Tall man, you'll need it. ' I see what he meant, as the wooden walkways are sometimes narrow and low. Around each corner was either a raging rapid or a peaceful pool, and I had to keep reminding myself I was still in Europe; some of the views of the waterfalls and rock formations make you think you're somewhere like the Philippines.

Vintgar Gorge

We decided on the final day to stay in the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. It's known for its greenery, the canal that cuts through the old and new towns, and the many traditional cafes and restaurants. During our sunny day there, we took a walk in the park, took an hour boat tour, visited the famous food market, which served insane soups and cakes, and then ended the day with a two-hour tour with the 'Ljubljana Free Tour' group (highly recommended) to really understand our surroundings and the history behind the city.

Ljubljana Free Tour

Slovenia is a beautiful country, home to friendly people, delicious food with a rich history and culture and some unique, eye-catching sights such as Lake Bled, the Postojna Cave, the Alps and, for me, the Predjama Castle. I'd highly recommend it, especially as a long bank holiday weekend during May, when we missed the peak season. It will go down as one of my favourite destinations in Europe.

View on the boat tour

Vegan Burger and Potato Pie in Bled

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