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Trip Report The Journey Continues - from Italy to Slovenia

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Background - my husband, Stephen, and I are in our early 50's and were to do this trip twelve months ago. However, due to unforeseen circumstances we had to cancel at the last minute - we have finally made it!

To date we have spent a week travelling through northern Italy and I have written a trip report on the run. Here's a link to it.

http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/were-finally-on-our-way-on-the-road-again.cfm

Monday 9/9

So far we have been blessed with glorious weather and, as storm clouds were on the horizon we thought it prudent to get to the train station sooner rather than later. For this reason we left our hotel at 6:30am and walked the half an hour to the station at Nova Gorica for our early morning departure.

We had bought our train tickets yesterday afternoon but it turned out if would have been okay to have left the purchase of them to this morning as, at 7:10am, there was someone manning the ticket office. The train was scheduled to arrive at the platform at 7:27am and depart some eight minutes later. My vision of what the train would be like and the reality were at odds - I was thinking something like an Italian FrecciaBianca winding its way through tunnels and alongside rivers; perhaps four, if not more carriages. When a two carriage train completely covered in graffiti, albeit colourful and decorative graffiti pulled into the station at 7:27am we wondered if this was it and it was only the fact that there was a group of around fifteen Slovenian teenagers with their rolling suitcases hopping onboard that convinced us we should too. We also checked with the guard just to make sure. Inside, the train was clean, the seats comfortable and there was plenty of room to store our packs overhead.

When planning our trip we had debated long and hard about the best way, for us, to get from Italy to Lake Bled. Eventually we decided on spending the night in Gorizia and then going from Nova Gorica to Bled Jezero the following morning. While the majority of guide books recommended travelling to Lesce-Bled and taking the bus into town from there again, for us, the best option was to alight at Bled Jezero and walk the half an hour it would take around the lake to Milno and our accommodation at the B&B Pletna.

As we've found in our European travels when a train is scheduled to depart at a particular time in the majority of cases it leaves on the dot and, true to form, at 7:35am we were pulling out of the station. Somewhere in all my planning I had read that the best side to sit on the train was the left and from this vantage point we had superb views as the train sped along the tracks.

Not quite two hours later we reached our destination and easily found the path that would take us round the lake to our accommodation. By the time we reached Lake Bled clouds were gathering although there were brief glimpses of sun and we were hopeful that the weather would clear for our stay. It took a tad longer than the half an hour to get to the B&B because we kept stopping to take photos - making the most of the fine weather.

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    While waiting for our room to be ready we headed to Bled town a short walk away where we had a much needed cuppa from a local cafe before finding some tourist information. On returning to Milno we found our room now ready - while it is located on the main road there is a private balcony with a view across to Otok island, which, with clear skies would be stunning.

    The weather gradually deteriorated as the day wore on so we found ourselves donning rain jackets and carrying umbrellas as we headed for the castle. I don't think we could have timed it any better: our visit coincided with the heaviest downpour and the greyest skies. We admired what view there was and visited the museum and although found it interesting we both felt it was outdone by the castle museum in Gorizia,

    By the time we'd descended the staircase and returned to the lakeside path the rain had abated to a light drizzle so we continued our walk round the lake seeing few other people in our travels. We returned to our room by 5:30pm with very sore feet and in need of a rest.

    As we had no desire to venture further than we had to we decided to eat at the restaurant a couple of doors down from the Pletna - tasty food, helpful and friendly service and reasonable prices.

    Tomorrow we are hoping for finer weather and plan on doing the round trip walk to Vintgar Gorge.

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    Thursday 12/9
    We have recently returned from a day trip organised by Roundabout Tours but booked online through the Ljubljana Tourist Information Centre before we left home. This is how the last few days have panned out.

    Tuesday 10/9
    Another grey and miserable looking day did not deter our plans to walk to Vintgar Gorge so, with map in hand and instructions from a couple of sources that differed slightly we set out from Milno at 9am.

    We took the path around the lake to Prešernova cesta and followed the road till we were met with two options to reach the village of Podham: the first was the route suggested by the tourist information office following the road and taking a walking track further along while the second was marked as a walking path which I had instructions for. After a short discussion I agreed to Stephen's plan to walk via the road however, it became increasingly obvious that this wasn't the safest option - a narrow windy road, apparently heavily trafficked and with no shoulder to walk on. After a heated debate we turned around, retraced our steps, and took the designated walking route to Podham and then onto the gorge. The route to Vintgar was well signposted.

    On reaching Vintgar we paid our admission fee and off we set taking about an hour to complete the 1.6km walk - plenty of stops to take photos and marvel at the volume of water rushing through the gorge. At the end of the trail we ventured further, past the kiosk and down the stair to a second waterfall - only a five minute walk and well worth the detour. Rather than retracing our steps we took the path to the Church of Saint Catherine, which was again well signposted. For the first ten minutes the path goes up steeply before flattening out for another ten minutes then finally another steep climb of five minutes to reach the church. While the views were pretty they were nothing spectacular: perhaps because of the murky day. From here it was downhill all the way to the charming village of Zasip with its attractive buildings and flower adorned balconies. A pleasant walk back to Bled saw us arriving at 2pm in need of sustenance.

    We enjoyed a late lunch at Gostina Pri Panincu before confirming with the tourist information office that there was nowhere in town to purchase bus tickets to Ljubljana. You paid the driver and although there was a designated stop just down the road from us at Milno the bus may or may not stop: jump out and wave your arms were the instructions we were given.

    We decided to take a Pletna boat at 3:30pm to the island and, as yesterday, timed it so that the heavens opened not long after arriving. Undeterred we spent our allotted time strolling around and spotting fish in the incredibly clear, turquoise coloured water we could see by the shore. By 5pm we had returned and headed to the Hotel Park for a cuppa and some of their delicious cake - all enjoyed on the outside balcony with a clear view of the castle and St Martin's Church.

    By 6:30pm we returned to our room after another busy day.

    Tomorrow we will try and catch the attention of the 9:20am bus driver as he sails round the bend into Milno. If for some reason he doesn't stop then we'll don our packs and walk into town to get the 10:30am bus.

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    Saturday 14/9
    It is 8:15am and the train has just pulled out of the station: we are making our way to Croatia with our first stop being Zagreb for two nights.

    Continuing the recap of our stay in Ljubljana.

    Wednesday 11/9
    There were no issues in hailing the bus in Milno as it sailed around the corner and before we knew it we were arriving at the bus station in Ljubljana. By the time we arrived the rain had well and truly set in but fortunately it was only a short walk to the Slamič B&B, which was to be our home for the next three nights. Thank you Maitaitom for your review of this place - it lived up to our expectations.

    There are some places we have found that when you first walk around them you know you are going to enjoy and Ljubljana is one of those places. It just had a great vibe to it: warm, friendly and welcoming locals and an attractive central area.

    Due to the inclement weather we decided to visit the City Museum and spent just over two hours enjoying its exhibitions. Its many interesting displays are arranged creatively with plenty of information provided on the history of the city. However, the information is not overwhelming but presented in a fashion easy to understand. There were two temporary exhibitions that also caught our eye: the first on photography taken with mobile phones and the second on the wheel. In Ljubljana they have unearthed the oldest wheel in the world (5,200 years old) and just about every local we spoke with mentioned the fact that it was found in the city and that the exhibition was on! Everything about this museum is exceptional.

    We wandered around in the drizzle enjoying some jazz being performed in Congress Square as part of the celebration for EuroBasket before popping in for a quick visit to the Franciscan church - very somber and dark inside.

    Earlier in the day we decided to purchase tickets for the basketball match at 9pm against France and Lithuania so, after an early dinner, headed to the stadium taking advantage of the free public transport included in the price of the ticket. We were surprised to find that everyone had to cloak their water bottles and umbrellas before gaining access to the stadium. While there were not many spectators there was a strong contingent of Lithuanian fans who were incredibly enthusiastic in their support of their team. It was a good evening and we had a great time.

    Thursday 12/9
    Prior to leaving home we had pre-booked a tour through the Tourist Information Office that was run by a company called Roundabout. The tours name was Kaarst and Coast Mystery Tour and, seeing we didn't have a car, provided us with an opportunity to see parts of Slovenia that we would otherwise miss.

    There were eight in the group all up and we were collected at 8:40am with Predjama Castle our first destination. From past reviews of this trip we were only expecting to view it from the outside but were pleasantly surprised to have forty minutes to explore its interior. We were a bit rushed and had we have been by ourselves would have spent longer inside but we made the most of the opportunity given us.

    Next on the agenda were the Sčojkan caves and we timed it so we were able to take the 11am classic tour. Our group was a mixed one of English and Italian speakers and it was huge: about sixty people in total. Imagine a conga line of people snaking through the cave! While I thought it would be frustrating with this many people it turned out to be alright - there were only a couple of places where the group were mustered together for an explanation and the rest of the time we followed the walking path through the cave - being at the back of the group there was no feeling that we were being rushed and we were free to linger and take our time. As we had a schedule to keep we didn't have time to return to the starting point via the walking path, instead we took a shorter path and then a funicular back to the start.

    By 1pm we were sitting at a table in the nearby village enjoying the local wine, a selection of prosciutto and cheeses under a vine covered pergola: very relaxing.

    By now we were seeing blue skies and it looked like we were heading for fine weather. On the way to the coastal town of Piran we stopped at Lipica where we drove around the stud searching for some of their well known horses grazing. We spotted a few, popped out of the minivan for a photo then were on our way again.

    We arrived in Piran just before 4pm and had two hours to ourselves. We spent the time wandering the streets and climbing the campanile and fortress for commanding views over the town and to the Italian coastline. By now the sun was shining and it was a glorious day.

    At 7:30pm we were dropped off at our accommodation after a full day.

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    Friday 13/9
    Our last day in Ljubljana saw us setting a much more relaxed pace enjoying some much welcomed sunshine.

    Shortly after nine we set off for the castle via the path from the Church of Saint Florian which passes a row of medieval houses. If there is a steep path and a steeper path we have a tendency to choose the latter and today was no exception: straight up we went to the top in a very short time.

    With plenty of photo stops on the way we arrived around 10:15am in time to do the guided tour at 10:30am, which cost an additional two euro each on top of the general admission charge. We were the only two so, for an hour, enjoyed an informative talk by Dolores, currently undertaking a Masters in art history. It is indeed a small world as we discovered she had lived for six months in Melbourne studying its street art as part of her degree. At the end of the tour we visited the museum that was quite small but had plenty of information on the history of the country. It was like a cut down version of the City Museum and the majority of exhibits were from its collection.

    From here we made our way down to the Dragon Bridge and then returned the short distance to Krekov Trg in time to see the puppets of the Puppet Clock pop out on the hour with a musical accompaniment - quaint.

    We wandered the streets and found something to eat before meeting the guide from Free Ljubljana Walking Tours at the steps of the Franciscan Church. For the next two and a half hours Tine entertained us as he made the history of Slovenia and Ljubljana come to life in an informative and fun manner.

    That pretty much ended the day for us apart from dinner, listening to the band in Congress Square and some night photography.

    We had a wonderful time during our short stay in Slovenia.

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