Another wonderful drive over the mountains and through quaint little villages and alpine meadows from Zagreb at a leisurely pace took us about 3hours to Ljubljana’s camp Laguna on the 12th May. It was cloudy and cold (snow on top of the mountains) and everyone told us that it had been much warmer the previous year – NOT what we wanted to hear!

It poured with rain most of the next day so we decided to spend it in a shopping centre called “City Park” with a gigantic “Interspar” complete with the best and largest  food stations with unlimited choice of anything you wanted. We settled on soup and salad which was delicious. They even had a station for handwashing and a microwave to further heat food and a rotating contraption to take used trays. We decided to buy an oven but for this we had to go to another even larger centre called “Leclerc” a few kilometres out of town. Helen who we had met in Croatia said she had one and we thought it would be a good idea as we could heat or cook food outside the van when or if it got hot!
The camping ground had a bus stop directly outside the door which took us directly into Ljubljana city the following day which happened to be nice and sunny after some morning mist but with a cold  The bus only took about 15minutes.

The Austro-Hungarian influence was evident in the magnificent buildings around the old town.
In 1991 they made the centre of town a pedestrian zone which was wonderful for wandering around without looking out for traffic. We decided to take the 2 1/2 hour free tour from the central Preseren square right next to the three bridges which cross the river Ljubljanica.
We had a very experienced Uni. graduate Tina who had great knowledge of the city and it’s history. She  told interesting stories about the people who had influenced the structure of the city and it’s edifices. In the time we had with the guide we covered most of the inner  city. There are less than 300,000 people in Ljubljana and only 2million in the entire country.
Slovenja appeared much more affluent than Croatia and was affected very little by the war before it’s independence in 1991 with only 10days of fighting before peace was restored unlike the very violent war in neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia which lingered for 4years.
The guide also explained that even with communism, the Slovenians had much greater freedom than it’s neighbours and could venture into the “west”.
Ljubljana had a large outdoor market every day of the week with produce from local farmers with small holdings. The produce was very fresh and tasty and we stocked up on freshly made sauerkraut, fresh peas
and broad beans. I saw a lady in a sari getting into a car so I rushed over and asked her where I could buy Indian spices.
She was also visiting the city but her driver gave us the name of the local Hare Krishna temple where we could buy the spices.
A bite to eat (local Bureks – pastry filled with cheese) and a rest for our feet and then we walked on to “Metelekova mesto” an enclave close to the city which was like graffiti town! It is a small part of a neighbourhood with a youth hostel and very unusual art forms where various music and other activities are presented and artists display their work.

We walked to a very different enclave called Metelokova Mesto which had very alternative art and buildings covered in graffiti.  We had a coffee there, didn’t catch anything and went back to the old town.

Most people we met in Slovenia seemed to speak English and the few older people from whom we asked directions spoke German.
We really couldn’t believe how everyone from shop assistants to parking attendants to cafe and shop staff were not only friendly but very cheery and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble. Some were interested from where we came and one shop assistant replied with “WOW” when I told her we were from Australia!

After three nights we left Ljubljana feeling a real affinity with the city. It felt comfortable and was easy to get around and find our way around the whole area. As we left the city we stopped off at the Hare Krisha temple and
found a great range of Indian spices and various types of dhal so we  stocked up on many of them and the staff were again very helpful and pleasant. The backstreets were also very clean and tidy as was the whole city.
Slovenia is very ecologically conscious and in several places around the city were several steel bins for recylcing absolutely everything separately.
The day we left we also drove up to the back of the castle which showed a parking area on the map. The parking attendant said that we could not park there as it was a mistake showing it on the map as it was only for castle staff. He kept appologising to us and explained in detail where we could park and take the funicular if we wanted to see the castle.
We were making our way to Bled so we opted for a couple of photos and made our way out of the city.
Everywhere in campsites and at roadsides workers were clearing away weeds and preparing for the high season which doesn’t seem to start until June.
One advantage of having been in these countries before the high season was that there were few tourists around and although we didn’t like the cold weather it was a big plus when visiting the “highlights” of the cities and also for encountering less traffic everywhere.

We stopped about half way to Bled (an hour from Ljubljana) and had coffee in a newish modern cafe by the side of the road.  For 2.40euros we had two coffees and with them they gave us a small pastry and a glass of water! Most cafes serve you with a glass of water with your coffee and either a biscuit or chocolate or a sweet. Wonderful value.

We drove into the small town of Bled and around the vast lake with a small island and church in it’s centre. We drove and then walked a way up to Bled castle which gave us a view of the lake from above. The wind was icy so we didn’t spend too much time outside our van. We stopped at one point and  a cuckoo was cukooing. I first looked around expecting to see a clock as I had never heard a REAL cuckoo before.
From Bled we drove on to Bohinj which was recommended to us as being a beautiful part of Slovenia.
It was surrounded by snow covered mountains and the small villages and meadows with lots of spring flowers were lovely.
The locals keep their wood in A framed structures on poles and sometimes there were tractors or machinery in the space below.
Unlike Australia where the hardwoods burn for a long time, the local people in many European countries have soft woods which burn very quickly resulting in large stores of wood for a season. This we experienced when we lit our fire in Roccamandolfi.
Before getting to our camping place we drove on to see the “Slap Savica” – the most visited waterfall in Slovenia.  We needed a walk after a few hours sitting in the van. The parking attendant said it was a 20minute walk which we thought would be a good walk there and back. He didn’t tell us that from where we parked it was a few hundred steps straight up the mountain
to view the waterfall. Luckily it was worth seeing but we were glad to go downhill on the return.

We stayed for two nights in the well equiped camping place in the tiny town of Bohinj right on the river and not far from the beautiful lake. It was very tranquil there with practically no tourists –  just a few of us braving the cold.

The small town of Bohinj had a tasteful souvenir shop (the only tasteful one we had found in Croatia or Slovena) and a great little bakery with the bus stop right outside. It looked as though it had been a service station at one time.
There was snow on the mountains and the temperature fell quite considerably at night.
The following day was wet so we again caught up with household chores and washing.

The 17th May we drove over for a few hours on small roads over the mountains and through the alpine meadows and into Austria. Our first job was to buy our “vignette” for the toll roads which we found quickly at a service station as there was no formal border where we drove.

We very much enjoyed Slovenia and it’s people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.