So it's finally arrived, 'the Slovenian post' you've all been waiting for (hopefully), and it comes shaped as The Top 5 Things to do in Slovenia (according to Wandering Threads). WARNING: this is going to be a long one so I've split it into 2 parts. Now before we go any further let me warn those of you who prefer to 'people watch' from quaint little cafes and sunbathe your holidays away (I.do.not.blame.you), Slovenia is not a country where you can't say "No. No thanks, not for me." Uh-uh.
I experienced this first hand whilst being made to climb the sheer face of a mountain side (sans harness), jump 7 metres off a rock into a 13°C river and force fed globules of fat in the form of meat in cream sauce with dumplings (x1000). No, Slovenia is not a place where you can 'just sit that one out', because if you do you will miss out on, well, everything. I learnt this the hard way from my seemingly superhuman Slovenian tour guides, Matevž and Sarah who regularly climb mountains for kicks. So, like it or lump it, in true traveller spirit (but maybe not so much 'wanderer' spirit...) you've got to dig out those hiking boots, train up those calves, wave goodbye to any notion of putting your feet up, and get ready to activate (!), if you want to experience the real wonders of Slovenia.
1. Wander the streets of Ljubljana
What better way to ease yourself into your Slovenian sojourn than to flex those legs on a stroll around one of Europe's most picturesque, pint-sized cities. Yes it's the capital, but you won't find traffic jams and honking horns here. In fact, Ljubljana is so laid back that the only thing you have to listen for is the chiming of bicycle bells from behind you as you stop to take your 100th photo of the day. If you're feeling fit, take a walk up the hill to Ljubljana Castle and watch the sun set over the terracotta rooftops of the Old Town. And if you're visiting in summertime you can even watch a movie, al fresco, under the stars, in the scenic setting of the castle courtyard (Click here for details)!
Ahh Lake Bled. A tranquil alpine oasis of emerald-green, bordered by pine covered mountains, towered over by Bled Castle and home to the infamous Bled Island church. This is the definition of picture-postcard beauty, if it's not raining that is. Time to get active (whilst still easing into things...), strip down, and dive into that crystal clear pool. Don't worry its not totally freezing, best if you just let you boyfriend push you in, in an almost voluntarily manner. I wasn't so lucky, and I wasn't so warm either. If you're not into swimming (but like I said, you shouldn't be saying NO!), take a boat out onto the lake, give those arm muscles a work out, and row over to the island for a better view of those beautiful surroundings. NB: yes you will be visiting those peaks in the background later, and I don't just mean by car...
3. Capture Piran in 'The Golden Hour'
Whether its with a camera, a pencil, a box of paints or simply your mind's eye, you must visit Piran and capture its enchanting atmosphere. Not only am I absolutely insisting you visit this wondrous little gem of Venetian Gothic architecture, cobbled streets and scenic vistas, I am urging you to visit on a late summer's afternoon (aka The Golden Hour for those photographers out there). So get yourself a homemade ice cream (only 1 € from the chirpy Italian fellow by the harbour!), a cool glass of Union beer (not to be mistakenly pronounced 'onion' like one repeated offender I know) and while away those afternoon hours before picking up your weapon of choice and heading off through the narrow passages to create a masterpiece.
4. Climb a mountain
Yes, you saw it coming, the mother of all exertions, the polar opposite of 'desirable holiday activities' (well, for me anyway): it's the mountain trek. I literally could not think of something I want to do less on a two week holiday in the sun, but nevertheless I always seem to find myself on top of one. No joke. Last year, before you could say 'tallest mountain range in the world' I was 3200m up in the Himalayas on a three day trek, three months later I was trekking up a mountain in Laos and now, once again I find myself on top of another bloody mountain. Why this keeps happening to me I'm not sure, I don't even like trekking!
Needless to say, my superhuman Slovenian friends do this regularly for fun. Apparently Peca (2125m), as pictured here, is 'like a walk in the park' to most Slovenians, and so, it seems, is climbing the sheer face of said mountain without a safety harness (cue a lifetime of British safety standards). Matt (red t-shirt above), who climbed Triglav (2864m), Slovenia's tallest mountain when he was just 7 years old, somewhat under exaggerated our climb, referring to it as a 'half day trek'. Yeh, right. Anyway, enough of the moaning, just go and climb a mountain. If I can do it, so can you. I have to say the views were pretty awesome and the the exercise definitely burned off some of the 60,000 calories Matt's grandmother forced upon us the night before. Which brings me to no.5...
5. Gobble authentic Slovenian grub
Whether it's at a traditional restaurant like Rupa in Bohinju (pictured above) or some good ol' home cooking, you can't complete your trip to Slovenia without hunkering down on some good, hearty Slovenian cuisine. Expect to pile on the calories, this ain't no Sainsbury's 'Be Good To Yourself' range, and if you're a vegetarian, well, you may as well just get back on a plane home. Expect a whole lot of meat, gallons of cream, more butter than your arteries can handle and enough carbs to make a super model cry - no wonder Slovenians climb mountains! Needless to say I couldn't get enough of it (and I'm still paying for it now). I had great home cooked food thrust upon me daily in an endless menu of delights. To name but a few: ražnjiči (grilled, skewered cubes of meat), čevapčiči (minced beef or pork seasoned, rolled and grilled) filana paprika with pire krompir (stuffed pepper with mashed potatoes), potica (nut roll) and last but certainly not least, the mouthwatering srnji golaž (deer goulash).
So, thinking of taking a trip to Slovenia, or do you need more convincing? Stay tuned for Part 2!