If I knew Slovenia was as beautiful and friendly as it is, I would have visited it a long time ago.
The truth is, it’s been on our travel wishlist for a very long time, primarily because we were interested in visiting Lake Bled.
We had no expectations for the capital city, Ljubljana (pronounced “lube-lee-yawn-ah”).
The city is hugged by the Ljubljanica River as it snakes through the land. The river is lined with cafes, restaurants, and bars and divides the old town from its modern half.
Slovenia is very small, both by area and population. It’s snuggled by Italy, Croatia, Austria, and Hungary. Driving across the country can easily be accomplished in a single day, which is why it’s known as a “transit country.”
Europeans (mainly Italians and Austrians) transit through Slovenia to get to Croatia. I like Croatia but it’s a shame to skip right through Slovenia without taking in its beauty!
Slovenia’s got mountains, plains, lakes, rivers, vineyards, and a tiny bit of coastline (30 mi / 48 km). The country has a little bit of everything and the residents are extremely friendly.
We learned from our food tour guide that over 90 percent of native Slovenians speak one foreign language (usually English) and 50 percent speak three or more languages. My jaw dropped to the cobblestone.
It’s when I hear things like this that I’m embarrassed to be an English-only speaker hailing from a country where almost no emphasis is placed on learning a second language. I feel like the education system in the USA is failing its kids in this regard.
Zagreb-Ljubljana by train
Our visit to Slovenia was the second half of a two-country vacation. We spent the prior three nights in Zagreb and were booked for three nights in Ljubljana. The vacation absolutely flew by.
We arrived in Ljubljana by train from Zagreb, Croatia. It was the slowest moving train I have ever been on. I believe the London Underground (“The Tube”) travels at a higher speed.
Here’s a short clip of our train at “top speed.” The unfortunate thing about this video is that it appears that we were traveling faster than we actually were.
The train was what I consider to be an old school European train that had a hallway/corridor running the length of the carriage with “cabins” accessed from the hallway.
The train did not have air conditioning and it was considerably hot during our journey. I channeled my inner dog and stuck my head out of the window at various points, trying to cool down.
Our cabin was shared with three guys from England who were pleasant and didn’t smell like stale booze or cigarettes. I was very thankful.
As we approached the Croatia-Slovenia border, the train slowed further and ultimately came to a complete stop. Croatian immigration officers boarded the train and stamped our passports with an exit stamp.
Then Slovenian immigration officers boarded the train and stamped our passports with an entry stamp. The double round of stamping took a whopping 40 minutes!
We scurried to our Airbnb (no longer listed on the site) immediately after arriving at the Ljubljana train station. It was immediately clear that our Airbnb was too far outside of the city centre. It took us 20 solid minutes to walk to/from our Airbnb. This was about double what our preferred max journey time is.
We dropped off our luggage and then scurried to meet our food tour guide near Three Bridges in the city centre.
Three Bridges are just that – three bridges next to one another.
Our Ljubljana food tour was excellent. The tour guide set us up nicely with recommendations for the remainder of our vacation.
A fellow American expat joined Peter and me on our tour at the last minute. My jaw dropped to the cobblestone for a second time in an hour when she said that Slovenia was her 108th country that she’d visited. There are differing opinions on the number of countries in the world but most agree that there are between 189 and 196. At 108, she was just a little over 50 percent.
Our last stop on the tour was at a bar located near a square. We sat at a table outside. It was so quintessential Europe, I just couldn’t take it. Ljubljana is so lovely.
A couple hours after our food tour began, it came to a sad and slightly intoxicated end. We went our separate ways and as Peter and I were walking away, the church bells started to ring. Church bells are almost always in the background when we are traveling but they never make it into this blog… until now.
Stuffed and intoxicated from our food tour, we set off on our very long journey back to our Airbnb and called it a night.
The following day we went on a full-day tour to Lake Bled, Predjama Castle, and Postojna Cave which I’ve written about in a separate post here.
Our third day in Slovenia was spent walking around Ljubljana, including hiking up to Ljubljana Castle.
After our walkabout, we indulged in more alcohol which was a terrible idea considering we had a long travel day the following day.
In retrospect, one full day is all you need to explore Ljubljana but you need a week to explore all of Slovenia. Similar to my statement about Zagreb, it would have been best if we had a car in Slovenia so that we were on our own schedule and could explore Slovenia to the fullest extent possible.
Eat, drink, and shop recommendations
Finally, a few recommendations for Ljubljana.