Long run readers of this weblog know that ever since we give up our jobs to journey the world in 2015, we’ve been enjoying this recreation we wish to name “Schengen Bingo”.
For those who don’t know, Schengen is the realm in Europe consisting of 26 nations with out inside border controls. Travellers can freely transfer via this space with out border checks between the nations. With our Canadian passport, we are able to solely keep within the Schengen zone for optimum 90 days.
Throughout our 9 to five days, we solely had 3 weeks’ trip so 90 days was an eternity however if you’re retired and nomadic, 90 days goes by fairly rapidly. So, we made up a recreation to go to each nation within the European Schengen zone and acquire stamps on our passport like a bingo card:
After we obtained a working vacation visa from Germany again in 2018, we simply went to 70% of the 26 Schengen nations in only one yr. However there was all the time one nation that alluded us, one nation that was our “white whale”
I’m completely satisfied to report that this time, since our final cease, Croatia, was solely 3 hours away, we lastly made it there! Which means we now solely have Luxembourg and Liechtenstein left, and after that we’ll be capable to yell “Schengen Bingo!”
Let me let you know about Slovenia, the underrated European nation that blew me away probably the most.
Earlier than coming to Slovenia, we realized all about Yugoslavia and its controversial chief, Josep Tito, from the “Croatia Homeland Conflict tour” in Zagreb and the way eerily related that scenario is to the present scenario in Ukraine. Our training continued in Ljubljana, the capital metropolis of Slovenia. We realized that this small nation of solely 2 million individuals, by some means managed to supply ¾ of the financial output in Yugoslavia, regardless of consisting of solely 9% of the inhabitants.
Coming from the laid-back Dalmatian coast of Croatia, this felt fairly bizarre. I finished counting on bus schedules in Croatia as a result of delays have been par for the course, however in Slovenia, all the pieces was effectively run and executed with precision, which jogged my memory numerous Switzerland. The character was one other side that gave me Swiss déjà vu, however we’ll get to that in a second.
We additionally realized that there as a particular cake known as “kremna rezina”, invented only for Tito to impress his dignitaries whereas displaying off Lake Bled. Lake Bled js some of the in style sights in Slovenia, with a church in the midst of an alpine lake and a medieval citadel on the highest of a cliff, so we needed to attempt it. Our tour information waxed poetic about this pastry, and the way it was solely out there from the cafes in Lake Bled, so I had excessive expectations.
I sat down, discovered a desk with a view, and ordered the delicacy. Then adorably it was dropped at me through a robotic waiter made to appear like cat:
The view out the window was mesmerizing, however the cake itself was underwhelming. Made up of three layers: phyllo dough and icing sugar on high, whipping cream within the center, and egg custard on the underside.
Possibly the information set my expectations too excessive or perhaps I’m into extra intense flavours however to me, it was consuming a tasteless brick of cream. I simply don’t get all of the hype.
Clearly, I used to be the exception for the reason that “Park Restaurant and Café” beside lake Bled sells 2000 of those desserts a day.
The Nature, oh, the Nature
There’s a lake 1.5 hours from Ljubljana known as Lake Bohinj, which implies “God’s place,” and as quickly as I obtained there I might see why.
There have been a number of occasions the place I needed to cease and gape on the surroundings as a result of my eyes simply couldn’t imagine it wasn’t a screensaver.
The one different time I had this sense was in Switzerland. Even their alpine cabins seemed lots like Swiss chalets.
The most important distinction, nonetheless, is that Slovenia is surprisingly reasonably priced and one of many least costly locations we’ve been to in Europe. Because it didn’t have Recreation of Throne driving up the costs, it was less expensive, much less crowded, and much better worth than Croatia.
So Slovenia is actually Switzerland with out the eye-watering price ticket.
Most individuals consider Lake Bled once they consider Slovenia, however I loved Bohinj way more as there have been much less crowds and the character was extra stunning.
That being mentioned, it’s nonetheless price it to go to Lake Bled. There are lots of buses that go there from Ljubljana (excess of buses that go to Bohinj) and a ticket will value you solely €2/individual every manner.
Plus, there’s a fairly a couple of sights there, like this citadel on high of a hill with unbelievable views:
A ship journey to the uninhabited tiny island within the heart of the lake with a church and occasional store on it (it’ll solely take you 5 minutes stroll across the complete island—I timed it):
And this superb hike that provides you a chook’s eye view of the whole lake:
Simply search for the “Mala Osojnica Trailhead” on Google Maps. Bear in mind that when you’re afraid heights, this steep, practically utterly vertical ladder could be an excessive amount of for you:
One other factor that stands out in Slovenia are the underground caves. And never simply any underground caves, caves the dimensions of complete soccer stadiums and a few are even used to host live shows as a result of their wonderful acoustics.
We went to Postojna cave, which is probably the most touristy one. There are lots of different, higher, off the crushed path caves just like the Skocjan Caves or the Predjama Cave however we determined to avoid wasting them for subsequent time.
Regardless of it being touristy and feeling like a Disney attraction (you sit in somewhat prepare that takes you to the middle of the cave, a lot the identical manner you’ll a Disney journey), I nonetheless loved the audio information. In case you go to Postojna, select the audio information as an alternative of the human information (each are included in your ticket) as a result of it’s troublesome to listen to if you’re strolling round in a giant group.
We realized that it takes a whole 1,000 years to develop simply 1 inch of stalactite or stalagmite! And since many of those formations reached the ceiling of the skyscraper excessive cave, we might see that they have been thousands and thousands of years previous.
We have been additionally informed about one thing known as a “child dragon” or “human fish” which dwells deep within the waters of the underground caves.
I believed, perhaps the Slovenians have been making an attempt to make just like the Croatians and money out on the candy candy Recreation of Thrones mania, however seems this “child dragon” was merely a salamander that may swim and feeds on small crabs, worms, and snails. The loopy factor is that it might probably survive years with out meals! Think about how briskly we’d be capable to get to FI if we had that capability.
In historical occasions, individuals believed they have been the younger offspring of dragons and so gave them that identify.
Apart from the breathtaking nature, the second factor that stood out to me about Slovenia was the extremely good individuals. Our AirBnb host was variety sufficient to exit of his strategy to choose us up from the bus station (the one different time that occurred was in Chiang Mai). Not solely that, after we went to alter our bus ticket time to go away Slovenia and didn’t have sufficient change on us for the 81 cents change payment (they wouldn’t take bank card and there have been no ATMs close by), a pleasant girl in line behind us simply paid the payment for us. Slovenians, you rock!
For the most effective views in Ljubljana, be sure to go to the Nebotičnik Skyscraper, which has a pleasant café the place you possibly can order scrumptious treats like “Gibanica”, which is a Slovenia apple strudel, for only some euros.
In case you simply order a espresso or dessert, the restaurant enables you to sit there and benefit from the view for so long as you need.
You too can climb as much as the Ljubljana citadel which is free to enter.
One in all our favorite eating places in Ljubljana is “Druga Violina” (or “Second Violin”) which not solely had nice meals at an unbelievable worth, but additionally employs individuals with particular wants. It’s not typically I discover companies that mix worth, high quality, pragmatism, and empathy, so I used to be very impressed with this place and we ate right here many occasions.
We obtained a set meal for lunch of soup, primary, and appetizer for less than €6.50 per individual. All the pieces was filled with flavour and made my stomach completely satisfied.
We additionally ate štruklji within the “My Dumplings Of Slovenia” restaurant which is a cheese dumpling with completely different fillings that seemed like a log cake. It sort of jogged my memory of the štrukli in Croatia however much less creamy and fewer like a casserole.
To go along with this Slovenia specialty, we ordered Jota, which is Slovenia sauerkraut and bean soup, which ended up being one in every of my favorite consolation meals.
We additionally went to the Open Kitchen Market, positioned in Pogcarjev Trg, which was open on Fridays between 10:00 AM and 9:00 PM, with a big number of conventional Slovenia meals in addition to worldwide cuisines.
Whereas strolling across the market, I observed that, apparently, Slovenia can also be wealthy in bears as a result of we noticed a couple of indicators for bear salami throughout the city.
I didn’t attempt any, however to anybody who’s adventurous sufficient to attempt it, please let me know the way it tastes.
Right here’s how a lot we spent in Slovenia:
|Class||Value in USD/couple per day||Value in CAD/couple per day||Notes|
|Lodging||$43||$58||We discovered an AirBnb 30 minutes stroll from downtown that was clear, snug and got here with en-suite dishwasher and laundry. The host was superb and went out of his strategy to drive us. The value of AirBnbs in Slovenia varies relying on the time of yr you go. Attempt to keep away from the busy July and August summer season months.|
|Meals||$30 ($20 consuming out, $10 groceries)||$41 ($27 consuming out, $14 groceries)||Consuming out was cheap and hearty Slovenia meals have been on common round €6-8/individual. We principally ate out for lunch and cooked for dinner. Groceries have been additionally fairly cheap.|
|Transportation||$13||$18||Our host was good sufficient to present us some preloaded transit playing cards, so we solely wanted to high it up twice. Every journey on the bus was €2 or much less.|
Getting out to locations like Lake Bled, Bohinj, and Postojna was straightforward and low-cost through the bus for less than €2-4/individual spherical journey. Loopy proper? I really feel like as a result of they’re vacationer locations, the fee should be sponsored to be that low.
We additionally spent €12 and €16 per individual to take boats to the center of the lake in Bled and Bohinj and getting from Zagreb to Ljubljana value solely €9/individual.
|Leisure||$19||$26||The most costly leisure value was the doorway to the Postojna cave which was €28 every and included an audio-guide and prepare journey. We additionally went to a day spa which value €24/individual for the entire day.|
There have been sufficient free sights just like the hike above Lake Bled, strolling excursions, Bohinj, and the Ljubljana citadel that you simply don’t should spend a lot cash on leisure in Slovenia in any respect. Its attractive nature is the leisure.
|Whole||$105||$143||We splurged a bit extra on spas, boat rides, and meals out since we solely spent every week in Slovenia, so the fee is a bit on the upper aspect in comparison with how a lot it might be when you lived right here long run. In comparison with how a lot we spent in Switzerland ($154 USD, $210 CAD) with a crappier Airbnb, with out splurging on spas, or consuming out in any respect, Slovenia was a steal. The character in Slovenia is so breathtaking that I continually forgot that I wasn’t in Switzerland. So, you’re getting all of the pure magnificence at 1/2 and even 1/3 of the worth.|
Right here’s what our Airbnb seemed like:
In case you’ve by no means been to Slovenia, add that to your European bucket listing as a result of it turned out to be one in every of my favorite nations. Plus, it’s simply a straightforward and handy 3-hour prepare journey from Zagreb, Croatia, so when you’re visiting in any case, why not tack on a couple of additional days to see a spot that appears like Switzerland whereas saving tons of cash and avoiding crowds within the course of!
What do you assume? Have you ever ever been to Slovenia?
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