Less than two hours from the capital Ljubljana, winding roads immerse themselves in magnificent nature and villages. Selection.
Its rich and troubled history has rarely put this young country on the front of the stage. Slovenia, born on June 25, 1991, still bears the scars of its history, even in its seaside resorts and villages located in the Alps. Between its Austro-Hungarian heritage and its Venetian influences, the tiny Central European republic is a compendium of Europe enameled with 60% forests. And almost 40% of its territory represents protected natural areas where it is good to stroll. A fabulous playground for hiking and walking, close to the capital Ljubljana.
Velika Planina, one of the most beautiful mountain pastures in Europe
About thirty kilometers northeast of Ljubljana, the high peaks of the Kamnic Alps do not take long before they appear lightly dusted with snow. The region is popular with Slovenians who do not hesitate to climb the Grintovec massif at 2558 meters in a single day (9 hours round trip) before taking a break in the medieval village Kamnik. Atop the chapel of Mali Grad Castle, Romanesque in appearance and Baroque in style with its bulbous bell tower, the view embraces the hills of Polhov Gradecthe valley of Tuhinju to the mountain peaks of the Julian Alps. In the distance looms Velika Planina our next tourist stop: an alpine plateau dotted with triangular huts. After walking along the river north of town for ten kilometers, a string of vintage cottages looms on the horizon. It’s time to climb to the pasture. At an altitude of 1,600 meters, cows graze under the watchful eye of shepherds dressed in leather trousers, straw capes and wearing large hats that have nothing folkloric about them. In the middle of meadows surrounded by paths, sixty shepherd’s huts. They were all destroyed by the German army during World War II and rebuilt identically. One of the oval cabins, covered with spruce shingles, functions as a museum during the priestly era. This is an opportunity to taste local cheeses made from fermented milk. The 2h30 long walk follows a path dotted with 10 huts and a chapel: Notre Dame des neiges. Some, converted into refuges, others into restaurants, are open between May and September, when the shepherds go up to the mountain meadows.
Traveling by bus or train is not very convenient as you have to go through Kamnik and then take a taxi to Velika Planina. It is best to go there by car, and although the distance is short, 54 km, it takes 1h15 to access the funicular car park. Be careful, the road is narrow and winding.
Piran, the old Venetian city
At the edge of the Adriatic Sea, Piran appears framed by its famous vermilion red lighthouse, symbol of the fire that gave the city its name. It remained for five centuries under Venetian authority, taking on the air of a popular seaside resort. The oval square paved with marble and lined with patrician houses in pastel tones recalls the flourishing era of the salt trade. In the center, the statue of the violinist Tartini born in Piran elegantly emphasizes the connection between Slovenia and music.
By taking the direction of the beach and aiming towards Svetilnik point, the chapel of the Madonna of the Snow of the Gothic period is shown. To his right on the hill side a path leads to Saint George’s Cathedral in Piran. The ascent is steep, but the surprise is there. Against the backdrop of the azure Adriatic Sea, the city’s roofs rise up to the central square. Climbing the 147 steps of the campanile, a replica of the one in Venice, the view over Piran’s harbor is breathtaking. One last look at the city walls before descending through cobbled streets in search of hidden churches. Open behind bars, they are the soul of this city. To the right of St. Francis of Assisi, the monastery with its charming cloister is a bubble of freshness far from the crowds of the sea. St. Peter’s Church. Conversely, Tartini’s birthplace was turned into a museum.
An hour and a half’s drive from Ljubljana, Piran is easily accessible by car. By bus (3 per day) it will take 3 hours. The parking spaces are outside because the city is pedestrian. The tourist office is located in the town hall, on the left when looking at the palace www.portoroz.si
Bled, back to Slovenian roots
Lake Bled with its sacred island is simply a corner of paradise 50 kilometers from Ljubljana. Its relatively warm water in the summer -22 degrees – also makes its reputation. At the end of the 19th century, a Swiss doctor took advantage of this windfall to open a spa complex, which had some success. Since then, the hotels have taken a step back and have retained a bit of the Yugoslav soul. Back then, the spa guests strolled along the six kilometers of marked paths that bordered the lake and tasted whipped cream, the traditional cake of Bled in kavarna Park patisserie, always open. The six beaches bordering the lake are newer. That off Kapalisce at the foot of the castle is the nicest. The water is intensely blue, the swimming is supervised and the deckchairs installed on the lawn. From there we admire a frame frozen in time. Even Tito’s old house, converted into a luxury hotel, doesn’t seem to have changed, much less its Belvedere Pavilion. Built by the architect who shaped Ljubljana, this is where the former Yugoslav president welcomed kings and presidents to taste a cognac. At Lake Bled, the gondolas called “pletno” have this kitsch side specific to tourist resorts. However, they are made according to a model from 1590 and run by only 23 families. A bit like in Venice… A tradition that is good because motors are prohibited on the lake. It is best to rent a beautiful wooden boat to visit in peace the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and its famous wishing bell, cast in 1543. .
Instead of taking the train – the train station is 4 km from the center of Bled – prefer the bus, which is much more convenient. It takes 1h40 to reach Ljubljana from Bled. There are several connections per day. By car, it is a 50-minute drive. The tourist office is in a small office located behind the casino www.bled.si