Slovenia is probably one of the most underrated countries when it comes to holiday and travel in the whole of Europe. It’s a small country that packs in a lot of delights – from a lively, picture-perfect capital city to castles and magnificent nature at every turn. Thanks to the mountains, lakes, wine valleys, Slovenia was a perfect destination for rejuvenation. It is a country where the locals’ joke that in May you could spend the morning skiing on the snowy peaks and the afternoon swimming in the sea. I started my journey in Slovenia from Ljubljana.
Ljubljana means ‘beloved,’ and it did not take me long to fall under its charm. The gorgeous cobbled part of the city is sandwiched between the imposing hill-top castle and the Ljubljanica River. It’s like someone decided it’d look nice as a backdrop to the city when they built it. I set off to reach the Dragon bridge. Ljubljana’s dragon is comfortably the city’s most recognisable resident. Not only does it perch with teeth bared and wings spread on all four corners of the bridge, but it’s image also appears on the town’s coat of arms, flag, manhole covers and even on the crest of the local football team.
If stories are to be believed, then Mythological Greek hero Jason and his Argonaut comrades stole a Golden Fleece from the King of Colchis on the Black Sea. The Argonauts fled their pursuers and found themselves at the mouth of the River Danube instead of going back to their Greek homeland. There was no way back, so they went on, up the Danube and then along the river Ljubljanica. They stopped at the source of the river and overwintered here. They came across a large lake with a marsh dragon that Jason killed after a heroic struggle. This monster is believed to be the Ljubljana dragon.
The weather was stunning the next morning and the plan was to drive to Tolmin, located in the southern part of Triglav National Park. The drive through the winding roads of the national park was quiet and breathtaking.
The gorge is enchanting with a boardwalk running along the clear blue water and little waterfalls. The moss-covered rocks and narrow passages gave it a mysterious vibe. A little fun fact, the two turquoise rivers namely Soča and Tolminka meet along the gorge.
I was a little heartbroken to leave Tolmin. Fortunately, the next stop was Bled — a picturesque town at the foothills of the Julian Alps. As I crossed the lake in a Pletna towards the island, which is also home to a church, I was captivated by the story of the bell that lies below the emerald green waters.
It is believed that once upon a time, there lived a young widow in the castle of Bled. Robbers killed her husband and dumped his body into the lake. She was sad and visited the chapel on the island every day to offer her prayers. One day, she gathered all her gold to commission a bell for the chapel. During the transport of the bell, there was a storm, which sank the boat. On clear nights, people say we could hear the bell ringing from the deep waters of the lake. Years later, the Pope blessed the chapel with another bell. It is to this blessing that a wish will be granted to anyone who rings the bell.
A little research about the place, got me to do the Ojstrica hike. If it is the best “value” hike you’re looking for (best reward per amount of physical turmoil), then this one is your best bet. I have to admit, spotting where to begin the hike was tricky. But once I found it, I began climbing the steep uphill (611m). I walked on a dirt path surrounded by trees until I reached the signpost.
For my last leg of the trip, I did something very unique. My drive to Bohinj was a bit longer. However, I cut it short by taking a train from Bohinjska Bistrica. I put the car onto the train, sat back and soaked in the stunning views while the train cut through the mountains. Saving a good 3 hours, I made my way to Bohinj Lake. Lake Bohinj is uncomplicated and raw. She’s the girl next door that doesn’t have to dress up or put on makeup to look beautiful. A lot of people pass over Lake Bohinj to see the more popular sister, Lake Bled. While Lake Bled is gorgeous, the appeal is enhanced by man-made embellishments — the lone church and bell tower. Lake Bled has accessories while Bohinj is a natural beauty, existing exactly as created.
You might have noticed that Slovenia has the word ‘Love’ in its name. This makes up for some interesting souvenirs and gifts. One such unique takeaway is that of a romantic road that forms the shape of a heart. I drove through the hilly vineyard laden countryside along the Austrian border. The landscape is truly amazing and every few metres I stopped to see and capture these sights. The drive up led to a homestead with the most beautiful heart view.
First Published: Jan 07, 2019 14:31 IST