Driving through Slovenia

April 17, 2010

BLED, SLOVENIA, Apr. 17, 2010/ Bon Voyage / — Driving Slovenia makes for a great vacation but do you even know where the Republic of Slovenia is? It’s different from Slovakia, you know. While Slovenia is also in Central Europe, this Slavic state was part of Yugoslavia until independence in 1991.

It is nestled between Austria and Croatia. The capital is Ljubljana, pronounced “lyoob-lyee-AH-nah” according to travel guru Rick Steves.

An easy day drive to Bled

While you can reach the country by plane – flights arrive from several European capitals – and there is also the train, we thought driving Slovenia would be great fun.

We started our trip in Munich and drove through Austria. The first little town we can to after you enter Slovenia near Salzburg is the mountain resort town of Bled. If you drive straight through from Munich, this is an easy day drive, and you will arrive in the afternoon. You will be tempted to stop along the way by the many towns and castles as well as the beautiful mountains and valleys: it’s your trip, so take as much or as little time as you want.

The setting around Bled will make you feel you are taking part in a fairy tale. The town sits on Lake Bled, which is where the Alps start to tumble down to the Adriatic. There is a little tree covered island topped with a cute, romantic looking church. If you wish to visit the island you can either row yourself on a “pletna” boat or hire a boatman to take you over.

There isn’t a lot to see in Bled Castle, which hangs from a cliff above Bled, but you can get a great view of town. There is a little wine cellar where you can taste some Slovenian wine, and you could grab a bite in a little restaurant or you could take a picnic and enjoy the view of that romantic island.

As Bled is a resort town there are plenty of hotel rooms. It’s definitely worth at least an overnight stop.

Once you leave Bled you can drive on to the capital, which is situated in the middle of the country. Ljubljana is an easy city to drive into and its historic center has a very small town feel.

Head straight for the leafy riverside promenade in the middle of Old Town. The Ljubljanica River is lined with cafes and restaurants and filled with fun loving locals. There are several distinctive bridges that let you wander back and forth across the river to explore boutiques and the riverside market. Don’t miss the Triple Bridge (Tromostovje). This city also has a castle on a hill. While the city is short on big museums, it’s definitely worth a stop for the ambience.

At this point, you can either drive on south to Croatia, as we did, or you could retrace your steps back north.

Slovenia’s Venice

But there are two other possibilities: You could drive north-east to Maribor, which is Slovenia’s second largest city and near the wine making region before circling back to Munich, or you can head south-west to the little Adriatic town of Piran, which some say is Slovenia’s answer to Venice. I don’t know about that, but it is cute. That circle would take you through Trieste and some of Italy before heading back to Munich.

Take note, however, that you will require a freeway stickler, called a vignette, to drive along Austria’s highways. You can purchase these at gas stations at the border.

There is so much to see that we’re sure, if you choose driving Slovenia for part of your trip, you won’t be disappointed.

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Channels: The Calgary Beacon, April 19, 2010

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