Slovenia was the first country from former Yugoslavia to declare independence after a short 10 day battle. Fortunately this beautiful nation did not have to endure the horrendous war that engulfed the rest of the Balkans. So in 1991 this small country was truly independent for the first time in its history, having previously been ruled by the Austrians and then a communist state. Slovenians were one of the 1st Eastern block countries to join the EU and have been a member since 2004. The Country is only 20,000 sq km’s and home to just 2 million people. So what does this small land offer the motorhome traveller?
This wondrous land really does have it all, majestic mountains that peer down on the valleys below, with lush green forests decorating the towering slopes, deep blue lakes that just call you in to their crystal clear waters, aqua rivers daring you to find your inner adrenalin junkie and ride the rapids in a raft or inner tube, Ski resorts to rival neighbouring Austria and Italy, a capital city which is the 1st and only “green city” in Europe after adopting schemes such as charging for non-recyclable waste and even a short stretch of coast sandwiched between Italy and Croatia (just 47kms of it). One things for sure though, Slovenia is embracing tourism and as you drive along the motorways ‘brown signs’ are everywhere directing you to the next must see place on route.
Our entry from Hungary was completely seamless, it was actually so seamless with no border crossing, no welcome to Slovenia sign we didn’t even know we’d crossed the border. We thought the petrol station selling the Slovenian vignettes was just before the border and so didn’t stop as we’d spent the last of our Hungarian Huf filling up our tank and needed to get some currency, so we drove the 1st stretch of motorway technically illegally . Having made a rather last minute decision that Slovenia was going to be our next stop we hadn’t even researched what currency we needed, so just before our 1st overnight sleepy spot we found a garage with ATM. When it spewed our Euros though we were a little confused and so embarrassingly went to double check with the guy behind the counter who informed us that “yes” they had actually had the Euro since 2007!! Luckily for us they actually sold the vignette too so we were able to get ourselves road legal for 30€ for a months usage.
Our 1st overnight stop at Ljutomer was one from our camperstops book, a free spot in the grounds of a restaurant , next to a lake (GPS46.55516 16.21929). Here we met with fellow Bailey owners Jan & Trevor who we’d recently seen in Hungary. Of course the four of us sampled our 1st taste of Slovenian food and shared stories over several bottles of wine, followed by local schnapps and a nightcap or 2 back in Boris.
Boris meeting his twin
Paul and I were keen to explore the area the following morning before moving on, so off came the bikes and we cycled our way around the local villages, getting a feel for rural Slovenia. One for the first things that struck us was how big and modern the properties were and how well looked after the villages and gardens seemed to be.
Around half way into our 15 km cycle ride Paul’s bike developed what we thought was a puncture, but with no bike pump or puncture repair kit with us the only solution was for him to walk the rest of the way back. Every days a school day and we now know what todays lesson was!!! On route we had to cross the river and did so by a boat which used both the current and a cable to get from one side of the river to the other. A first for us.
The start of a long walk back
Aboard the cable boat
Our afternoon took us to another camperstop at Breslovise (GPS 46.28915 15.05524) which charged just 7€ a night. The camping was really well laid out and surrounded by hills and vines and unbelievably we had the place to ourselves. Paul’s afternoon was mapped out with trying to fix his puncture, which turned out not to be a puncture after all (if only we’d had the bike pump), maybe a leaky valve, but with his tyres now looking somewhat stressed and cracked from the sun a visit to a cycle shop was on the agenda for sometime soon, for now though the tyre had re inflated and seemed to be holding up. We tested it out again the next day with exploring the local and lakes and for now it was behaving but we don’t know for how long.
The perfect countryside around our camperstop
Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana (pronouced Lub –lee-yana) is only home to 200,000 people making it feel more like a town than a city and definitely a place to include in your itinerary. We parked in a restaurant car park (GPS 46.035152 14.509759) who charge 10€ a night if you don’t eat in the restaurant. Bear in mind that you can get a huge pizza there enough to feed two for less than 10€ and you may as well enjoy some basic food for your money!
The city centre is compact and so can easily be explored on foot and we quickly realised it’s something special. It wasn’t one single thing that enthralled us but a combination of many.
- To go with their green credentials the city centre is pedestrianised so all you will share the pavements and roads with in the heart of the city is bicycles or the cities electric taxi’s (think over sized golf carts) that ferry people around for free. As I’ve already mentioned it’s a compact city so if you don’t have a bike its easy to explore on foot.
Another “green” initiative unpasteurised milk from local farms from a vending machine
- It’s extremely pretty, with the river running straight through the heart of it. Buskers strum guitars beside the triple bridges and cafe’s and restaurants line the pavements. This city embraces the arts with live music, museums and even a disused barracks displaying the locals artistic flair.
- Its vibrant and full of life. A daily fresh produce market fills Vodnikov trg square each day. We timed our visit to perfection as each Friday Ljubljana hosts an outdoor kitchen where stalls line the streets selling food from around the world. As foodies this event was a delight for us and although there was a busy arts and crafts market running along side it, it was the food stalls that got all of our attention.
- It is filled with beautiful baroque buildings and a castle which proudly looks down on the city below. Having been originally made of wood the rivers bridges were forever burning down or being destroyed in earthquakes. According to our guide Ljubljana has around 300 earthquakes a year (although most of them can’t be felt). The bridges have of course now all been reconstructed out of something more durable and all tell a story with their individuality.
Ljubljana in pictures
Tips: We took advantage of the free walking tour with http://www.ljubljanafreetour.com/, its a great way to get a feel for the city and its history. If you’re happy with the tour you can tip at the end.
After just a few hours in this beautiful land we were hooked, and after our first week we are positively in love (again) and can’t wait to see more.
Tales from the lakes coming soon.
Andi & Paul x