Our journey from Budapest to
For the first time in the history of Flixbus, we arrived 1.5 hours early. A brief 15-minute walk through downtown and we arrived at our hostel. In the process, we managed to see a lot of the main strip and accidentally walked through the finish line of a marathon. Oops.
In the midst of adjusting to our new room in the dark, it became clear that we had a roommate that was going to snore like a freight train. The polite, non-snoring roommates, AKA Zala, Hend, and Lan, invited us to dinner and we were happy to oblige. Mmmm, midnight pancakes!
A DAY TRIP TO BLED
Fast forward to the morning, sleep eluded many of us. We shared breakfast and learned that Lan is the owner of hundreds of miniature rubber duckies- just because. Afterwards, Zala and Hend ended up inviting us to join them touring Slovenia for the day. In the midst of quickly getting ready and grabbing our swimsuits I managed to drop my phone straight in to the toilet. This was a first for me.
Spoiler alert: my phone survived unscathed. The travel gods wanted to keep me sane at least for now.
Fast forward a few hours and we were exploring Lake Bled, Lake Bohinj, and Vintgar Gorge. To date I would consider this to be the most relaxed, spontaneous, and adventurous day of our journey.
Everyone says to go to Lake Bled. It’s a unique and beautiful place nestled into the Alps. The scenery is complete with a church adorned island in the center and a castle on the cliffs. If you’ve been to Nashville, Indiana and can picture the old time commodity shops that line the streets, Lake Bled shares a lot of this character. There are families walking the lakefront with ice cream cones, strollers, and DSLR cameras. The photos are gorgeous, and so is the cream cake. It’s a must when in Bled.
Bohinj takes the gold for most breath taking scenery, hands down. Just another 30 minutes down the road you’ll find more authenticity, less commodity, and five percent of the people. We took so many photos here, and nothing seemed to do it justice. There were a number of families swimming, a group of oldsters learning to sail, and naked babies stand-up paddle boarding with their parents. We took a dip into the chilly waters and swam until we watched the storm quickly roll in over the Alps and the skies gray.
Travel Tip: If you’re blind like I am, take your contacts swimming. Swimming in glasses with the risk of losing them is never fun.
We started our final destination of the day with a treat from Zala, local blueberry schnapps. Mmm, it was so sweet and tasty. We tried to find something like it when we returned to Ljublijana, but we ended up with a bottom shelf version. Womp womp womp.
While the hike through Vintgar Gorge isn’t strenuous or long, it’s beautiful. The trails in Slovenia are so well maintained and clean that you’re really focused on the scenery around you. At one point Zala sent Hend, Stephan, and I on to check out the waterfall ahead. We missed the path to the waterfall and somehow ended up at the top of the hill in an open pasture staring at the Alps. I’d recommend missing the waterfall again. It was special.
BACK TO LJUBLIJANA
After a delicious dinner and sleepy car ride back to Ljublijana, we had to say our goodbyes to our new friends. We made a joke about the improbability of another snoring giant that night only to find out at midnight that we had spoken too soon. This guy was even louder and came with a case of severe sleep apnea. When reflecting on this, Steve said it best. “If someone is snoring that loud in your hostel just do everyone else a favor and kill them.”
We booked a private Airbnb the next morning.
We really grew to love this city in our final three days. Having an apartment allowed us to cook our own meals, sleep in, and accomplish a bit of writing during the day. Ljublijana also gave us wheels through the bike share program. One Euro for the whole week.
Travel tip: Time your accommodations. If you know your schedule ahead of time and have your heart set on ideal amenities, book your Airbnb or alternative accommodations in advance. In addition to being overbooked, some locations and hosts will not take last minute guests so the pickings are slim. Alternatively, you can score some pretty great deals through third-party booking sites like booking.com if you wait until the last minute. But you have to be ready to pull the trigger as soon as you see something you like.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE
SPAR was new to me as a first-time visitor to Europe. Steve, however, swears by them. There’s a large SPAR along the canal and just around the corner from our Airbnb that had all of the fixings for any breakfast or dinner. While more expensive than the alternative, Hofer, it’s worth it for most things. Early in the morning chocolate croissants straight out of the oven at their bakery. They easily compete with many of the croissants that we had in Italy.
Travel tip: You can save one hundred + dollars a week making your own meals or selecting goods from the grocery.
Dragon Garden Cafe
We’ve found ourselves patronizing a number of brand new spots throughout our travels. Dragon Garden was one of them. Located at the northeast corner of the city’s famous Dragon Bridge, the garden-level cafe had only been open for a few weeks when we visited. With a few snacks available, you should mostly expect to go for drinks. We spent three afternoons drinking coffee and working on our blog here. The baristas were incredibly
Zala took us here for breakfast early on a Sunday afternoon. Definitely not a place for the sweatpants brunch we’re used to seeing in Bloomington. Steve got the Eggs Benedict and I got the goat cheese omelet. I’d highly recommend the short morning walk along the canal to eat here.
Every week day until about 3 PM there is a local market in the center of town just off of the canal. Filled with merchants and food vendors, there is a bounty of fresh produce. We spent a bit of time walking through and purchasing small amounts of different fruits and vegetables to try. It was a great spot for buying ingredients for dinner or trying new things. Our favorites were the dried figs and baby pears.
Nom nom nom nom. That’s really all we would have to say about
Ah, so good. Raffaello is essentially a coconut and white chocolate version of a Ferrero Rocher. The same company also makes Raffaello. Go figure. The white chocolate truffle is covered in coconut and filled with a white chocolate cream and an entire hazelnut. Raffaello flavored tortes and ice creams are everywhere when wandering around Ljublijana.
This was a total bonus to the Central Market. On the perimeter of the fruit stands there is a fresh milk machine. Bring a
Travel tip: Always travel with a reusable water bottle. They’re great for airport security because you can refill them on the other side, and they always come in handy in unexpected situations.
Besenicar Camera Shop
These fellas saved us from a trip of horrible pictures. You’ll start to notice that our photos improve a bit after Ljublijana. Our camera took a tumble in Chicago and we realized in Iceland that the lens couldn’t focus for half of its settings. After much consultation, we left with a Tamron lens. Something new to both of us, but more budget-friendly and comparable to some of the Nikon lenses we were looking at. They actually ended up buying our old, broken lens for parts. We couldn’t recommend them more.
When we were looking for pizza in
Complete with traditional Napoli style oven, the table wine was great and our server was charming and efficient. You must try the Napoli, even if you don’t like anchovies. Mmmm.
Situated on the top of the hill in the center of the city, the journey to the castle is a brief but steep uphill trek and offers a beautiful view looking down at the city. The castle itself can be toured and offers great information on the preservation underway. Be sure to wear shoes with traction as the trail is known to cause a few slip and slides.
We ended up at the Botanical Gardens by accident. We intended to go to Tivoli
Tržnica Food Trucks
Mmm, pickerel. Situated on the perimeter of the entrance market, these food trucks are a must. After walking by them four days in a row, we finally decided to try fried fish on our last morning. They were out of most dishes by the time we visited. However, we were happy to try our first fried pickerel. Add tartar sauce and a lemon to these little fish and it’s a tasty treat.
Last, but not least. Metelkova is a unique neighborhood that I might suggest visiting at night or when they are hosting an event. During the event-free days, there aren’t many members out and about to interact with, so as a visitor you assume the role of tourist and interloper while wandering through this unique little compound completely off-the-grid from traditional social constructs. Every surface is covered with artwork. Symbols and themes are integrated into every unit, some easily missed. And most defining and integral to the authenticity of Metelkova, they’re completely autonomous and exist as a successfully prominent subculture for squatters.
Not only is Ljublijana warm and inviting, but Slovenia as a whole is a must visit. We would have loved more time in the countryside, but we appreciated the time we were able to spend in the city itself. The locals are warm and inviting, and being nestled in the Alps is a bonus.
While we failed to visit Tivoli Park, we’re taking it as a sign that we have to return. It’s a place to make friends, see new things, walk through marathons, or sit in the middle of a “life fair” for the elderly while they sing traditional carols off-key and talk to different service providers. It’s a beautiful, charming, and welcoming city. We very much look forward to our next visit.
What’s next? The disaster that was Trieste, Italy. But until then, some bloopers:
Having rice on hand for any toilet to phone disasters is never a bad thing.
Earplugs are your friend. Hostel snore-ers are not.
Always carry coins for European toilets. Otherwise, you might have to make the awful trip back out to get the coins, and your partner, and end up in the castle admission-free.
Check the translation for “sweetened” cream when buying dairy for a savory sauce.
It’s never a bad idea to verify your Airbnb phone number domestically. Said phone could fall in the toilet and inhibit the ability to find alternative sleeping arrangements that do not include snoring assholes.
Bike shares are not just for taxpayers. But subscribe online before there is no Wifi. And then prepare to wait 15 minutes at any given station for two bikes to appear at once, because everyone in Ljublijana uses the bike share.
Knock on wood before making a joke about the likelihood of being devoured by mosquitos inside of a restaurant. Because it will happen. And it will ruin everything.
Until next time!