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The monastery at Lake Bled
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Finding lakes, caves and dragons in Slovenia

Last updated 18 July 2021

Before arriving in Slovenia, all I knew about the country was that there were lakes there, and that I couldn’t pronounce the name of its capital. We’d also read something about caves, I’d seen some pretty pictures, and Slovenia was on our way to Croatia so seemed like a good place to spend some time.

We arrive in Ljubljana on a Saturday evening and find ourselves in the midst of a wine festival, which is always a promising way to start a week in a new city. Our first interactions with Slovenians involve finding out more about local wines and what to do in Slovenia. We come away with three main points: Slovenia is small, people are friendly, and we need to visit the Skocjan Caves and Lake Bled.

Looking down at Ljubljana from the castle

We spend the first few days exploring Ljubljana, which turns out to be a lovely little city. There’s a fun old town, lots of cocktails, pretty bridges and interesting street art. We even spot the occasional Roman artefact to keep my classical side amused, and a castle up on the hill. Ljubljana’s symbol is the dragon, and they are everywhere.

Eventually, we head out of town to the Skocjan Caves. The caves are beautiful with enchanting caverns and underground rivers and really deserve a post of their own (unfortunately we aren’t allowed to take any photos inside). We also walk along the underground river at the end, which is stunning. We stroll through the forest starting at the black water rushing far below us. The countryside is quiet and pastoral and we feel at peace.

Cavern in the Škocjan Caves by Ramón from Llanera, España

Cavern in the Škocjan Caves by Ramón from Llanera, España Ramón from Llanera, España, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Next, we head to Lake Bled, with the church on the island in the middle. We like the area, however we find it a little unremarkable when we compare it to many of New Zealand’s lake district. And unfortunately, the weather’s turned cold (after the heatwave which seemed to last for weeks) so swimming isn’t an option and boating doesn’t seem very appealing. We also heard wonderful things about the Soča Valley and hope to explore it next time we visit Slovenia.

While public transport wasn’t up to the same standard as Italy, Czech or Austria, Slovenia is easy to navigate, especially as the country is quite small. English is also common and little chores like haircuts are easy – I end up having a long talk with my hairdresser about the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, his experience of the war, and what it’s like living in Sarajevo vs Ljubljana. We’ll be sad to leave this wonderful little country and we definitely now have a soft spot for Slovenia and Ljubljana in particular.

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