We knew little to nothing about Slovenia before starting the Europe Train Challenge. It was like a country which had been left in the shade between Austria and Croatia.
But very soon all of that changed, and we went from not knowing anything about it to absolutely adoring it!
Bled, the small town we went to in Slovenia, was almost too good to be true. It was one of those places you didn’t really think could actually exist, other than in Disney movies.
The lake was unlike anything I have ever seen; bright turquoise from a distance, but when you went closer the water was so clear that you could see fish swimming 2 meters below the surface.
The wild animals were more curious than afraid of people; swans and ducks swimming closer to get a better look, curious of you and your camera.
Coming to Bled felt as though you had entered a book of fairy tales – thick green forest, old traditional cottages, an abundance of animals, a castle perched on the edge of a cliff and a church on a tiny island in the middle of a turqoise lake – with a wishing bell…
I mean seriously, the wishing bell just takes the prize! – this place cannot be for real?!
There are a lot of legends about Bled, with the one about the wishing bell being the most famous.
The story goes that if you make a wish and ring the bell three times your dream will come true, and many people say that they actually do come true.
The only thing missing from the story would be Rapunzel’s hair hanging down from the Castle’s tower…
But what made our visit even more memorable were the people we met in the town – they were all so friendly.
Tourism is finally catching up here since the Yugoslav war (although Slovenia was never really in war, except for 10 brief days, tourists were afraid of going there for many years).
And unlike some other places we’ve been to, the people there seemed very grateful we were there and instead of wanting to keep Bled for themselves, they were very proud and wanted to share this little gem with the whole world.
Slovenia Secret Getaway Hotspot
Before I went to Slovenia I knew absolutely nothing about it. This was partly down to my ashamedly poor general knowledge but, in my defense, Slovenia also seems to be bizarrely far off the tourist radar.
My friend Sally and I decided to go because we had both been to Croatia and Italy before, but neither of us had ever even considered Slovenia and from all the photos it looked pretty stunning.
We arrived with no place to stay (very disorganized) but luckily found somewhere almost immediately, although they called it a hotel, it is more like a cosy guesthouse.
The outside was beautifully decorated with hundreds of colourful potted plants growing on the yellow painted window sills, I felt as if I was stepping into a doll’s house! Inside was equally as vibrant with a beautifully tiled entrance hall and lots of wooden furnishings.
However, the thing I really loved was that they had hundreds of bikes (fully equipped with helmets and locks) that you could borrow, so it was really easy to get around.
We soon discovered that we were only five minutes from Lake Bled so we peddled there in the early hours of the morning and got there just in time to see the sunrise on the Lake, I felt as if we had cycled straight onto a postcard, it was o picturesque!
We then walked around the Lake, which can take up to two hours, but it was incredibly relaxing.
I would recommend taking the boat to the island on the lake as there are some beautiful old steps there that lead to a lovely church. To top it all off there is a beautiful view once you reach the top, so make sure to bring a camera, as I completely forgot!
For the last few days we decided to travel to Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia) and treat ourselves by staying in the fantastically luxurious Antiq Palace Hotel.
Originally for the aristocracy, we felt very posh (and slightly out of place) as we walked in. The room was absolutely beautiful, we got a suite (I know really pushing the boat out!) which had a Jacuzzi in it.
Naturally we spent the next two days acting like celebrities. They also have a Spa that offers great massages that had us floating on cloud 9, I felt more relaxed then I had been in years. Plus there is a relatively large gym, which kept the holiday weight off, just!
Although not as beautiful as Bled, Ljubljana has a great deal of character and loads to do! I would recommend the walking tour and ride to Ljubljana castle.
I learnt so much about the history of the city, the buildings were a mixture of Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, I was in complete awe and this time I had my camera.
I would highly recommend this beautiful place to anyone considering an adventure. Slovenia Hotels are full of character and charm and there is so much to see and do.