Slovenia may seem like a tiny little country sandwiched between between nations from all its four directions, but it’s not. At least not when you think of all the beauty it holds. Throughout my 4 day stay in Slovenia, I was amazed by its diversity, and the experiences it had to offer. From serene lakes to gigantic cave parks to medieval towns — tell me what Slovenia doesn’t have. Nothing!
But out of all the places of interest three highlights that complete your trip in Slovenia are Lake Bled, Postojna Cave, and the Predjama Castle.
Located at only an hour’s drive from Ljubljana, it is fairly easy to explore all three places in one day, but only if you’ve your own car, given that the lake Bled is located in an opposite direction from Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. And since I’d only a day to spare, and didn’t want to rent a car and drive in solitude, I carefully chose a company called The Roundabout, which runs day trips from Ljubljana and Zagreb, and explored the three highlights on a fast-track.
First Half Of The Day: Lake Bled
Lake Bled is one of the most popular places to visit in Slovenia and is unarguably one of the most beautiful spots in the whole country. And in a country so breathtakingly beautiful, that really is saying a lot!
The journey to Lake Bled, from Ljubljana took only around 30-45 minutes, and was rather straight forward, but speaking of the beauty it offered, every sight was a sight to behold. Surrounded by lush green mountains, with a periodic snow-capped ones, the highways in Slovenia turned out to be more picturesque than in any other country I’d seen in Europe before. Honestly speaking I’d rate them one point higher in my list than the overrated highways – and the beauty they offer — of Switzerland.
Located in the North West of Slovenia, on the edge of the Triglav National Park, Lake Bled is the only natural island in Slovenia. But that’s not its original charm. The original charm, however, is its beauty — so dramatic and unreal in its appearance that it reminds you (at least it reminded me of it!) of the Disney movies you have grown up watching.
Speaking of the unrealistic beauty, picture this: A fairytale medieval castle with a Roman style tower, overlooking a serene lake, which sometimes appear green, and sometimes blue. Almost in the middle floats a small island — home to a church and a couple of al fresco cafés creating an enjoyable ambiance. The lake is moreover so calm and undisturbed that any movement in it is done either by a flap of a duck wing or the dip of a kayak paddle.
Upon reaching the location, inside the Triglav National Park, we first set off to explore the Bled Castle – one of the oldest in Slovenia, dating back to 1011. It was very famous during the 19th century when it was used as a sanatorium founded by Arnold Rikli. The rich and famous of that day flocked there for his therapies. Today, it’s a popular destination for nature and bliss junkies.
Other than the great views of the lake, what’s worth visiting the castle is its blacksmith’s shop and a winery (where you can fill your own wine bottle, seal it, and get a certificate). The castle also holds a publishing house (a small room) depicting how Slovenia got its first few letters printed back in 16th century.
As we finished the castle visit, next in the list was a hand maneuvered boat ride to the Bled island and back.
Second Half Of The Day: Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave
The second half of the day required us to come back to Ljubljana and then drive south of it where we reached Predjama castle.
Built into the rock itself, the white walls of Predjama Castle feel like a stark statement on the surrounding landscape. Its romantic appeal is further emphasized by the idyllic River Lokva, which disappears into the underground world deep down below the castle. Today, Predjama castle might just be a spectacular tourist site and one of Slovenia’s many photogenic vantage points, but centuries ago, it served as an impenetrable fortress.
Built up on the foundations of the original medieval castle, the whitewashed walls that we can see today were put in place sometime around 16th century. Moreover the castle received another makeover much later, after it was destroyed in a siege, but as you wander through its drafty passages, you can still feel it’s a place echoing with ghosts and memories.
With a continuous feed of information, our guide led us up to the top of the castle, up the stairs and through a network of bare rooms, pausing at a corridor where the natural rock met the Renaissance façade. We were told about the many famous castle inhabitants, but among all, the story of knight Erazem of Predjama, who rebelled against the imperial autocracy in the 15th century seemed most fascinating. As nowadays Erazem is the main protagonist of numerous legends, which on the one hand glorify him as a passionate, handsome, noble knight, while on the other hand, describe him as a bandit and a robber (the Robin Hood with a twist) who eventually breathed his last while in the toilet.
It took almost an hour to finish our visit of Predjama castle, before starting with the highlight of the day — exploring the cavepark of Postojna!
Though I’ve been to a few caves in my life, and have walked, swam and even paddled a canoe through them, and they were all pretty impressive in their appearance, but Postojna cave turned out to be unlike any of them. After all, Postojna cave is one of the world’s largest karst monuments — it had to have its own distinguishing appeal.
With its 21 km of passages (yes you read that correct, 21 km it was!) galleries and magnificent halls, the cavepark of Postojna offers a unique experience of the underground world. The guided tour, which is offered in 15 different languages, takes about an hour and a half to finish – with two 20 minute train rides inside the cave and a half an hour walk.
The first signature of Postojna cave dates back to 13th century, but it was only after 19th century that any modification in the cave was done. In 1899 the world’s first underground postal office was operated in the cave. Today, it is Slovenia’s biggest tourist attraction that has welcomed over 37 million people so far… and counting!
Have you been to Lake Bled, Predjama Castle & Postojna Cave too? Or any of them? What was your highlight of the trip?
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