Sunday, 27 September 2015

Ljubljana and Northern Slovenia

Slovenia, 21st – 24th September 2015


Triple Bridge and Franciscan Church in Presernov Square
Our next stop was the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. It has an attractive city centre with lots of cafés on the riverside. It is compact so doesn’t feel like a capital city, also helped by not having hordes of tourists, so is easy to get around. It is one of the greenest capital cities in Europe, awarded the European Green Capital Award 2016, with a pedestrianised centre that has electric vehicles giving free rides around for the less able, green open spaces with four nature parks and one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe.

To visit Ljubljana we had two options, the first of which was a campsite that’s part of a hotel complex which is in the ACSI book but would be around €20/night with taxes etc included, or the second option was a restaurant in the village of Sostro just outside the ring road that has a Camper Stop which we found online. We went for the latter cheaper option as it is €10 per night including electricity and WiFi at Gostilna Pri Kovacu (GPS: 46.03144 14.60383), or free if you have a meal in the restaurant. Handily there is a bus stop right outside and it’s just a 20 min ride into the centre.

The motorhome parking area at the back of the
 restaurant
We made a friend!  This one along with two more kittens and a couple of adult cats were hanging around the campers
Arriving around 8pm we went straight in to the restaurant to eat and luckily the owner who served us could speak some English as the menu was only in Slovenian, we opted to try their €8.50 3-course menu. This included soup for the starter, then for the main, pork (which was described as ribs but was like belly pork) with nice mash/crushed potatoes, veg and a side salad, followed by a chocolate pancake and cream for dessert. For an extra €1.50 you could have veal instead of pork so we got one of each type and shared them. After the meal the owner gave us a city centre map that had all the sights marked on it, and advised on the bus number and stops, and handily he sells bus tickets. For buses in Ljubljana an electronic card pre-loaded with credit has to be used, so we got one with enough for four trips to get us both into the centre and back the next day (€1.20 per journey) and left a €2 deposit for the card which we got back when we returned the card.

Ljubljana's Dragon Bridge, showcasing the symbol of the city

After the bus ride into the city in the morning we started making our way around the sights starting at the Dragon Bridge next to where we got off the bus, then the Central Market. We wandered around the streets and along the riverside looking at the various buildings and bridges. One of the attractions we found during a quick search on Trip Advisor before we came out in the morning was the Skyscraper which has a café at the top where you can sit on a terrace outside looking over the whole city. We headed there taking the lift up to the twelfth floor where we sat out with a cappuccino and hot chocolate taking in the great view.

The view of Ljubljana from the Skyscraper with the castle on the hill
The castle courtyard
After getting a bite to eat in a self-service bakery café we walked up the hill to the castle which was quite a way up. Entry to the courtyard and certain areas is free, while other areas you have to pay for. We looked at the viewpoints over the city from the walls and tower (which weren’t as good as from the skyscraper) and around the other free bits including some prison cells where Italian prisoners of war were kept. The castle has undergone refurbishment relatively recently with quite a mix of architecture including some very modern parts, some rusty steel structure, along with the old stone, making it one of the stranger castles we’ve seen. Afterwards we looked around some more of the old town and chose between the nicest looking gelato shops. When we’d settled on one, I got a white chocolate and berry flavour and Jo had one with coffee based ingredients, which were nice but not as good as b052 in Rovinj.

We enjoyed Ljubljana, there are attractive buildings and décor with street bars and restaurants, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s probably not suited to a city break due to being a small place and not taking long to get around, but would make a good base for a trip to Slovenia as it is centrally located for trips elsewhere such as Postojna or Bled. It’s a nice place to spend a day or so if visiting Slovenia.  We've put more pictures of the city at the end of the post.

After the second night at the camper stop, which we paid for as the restaurant is closed on a Tuesday so couldn’t eat there, before leaving we made use of the service point. It was a very good one with a decent toilet emptying point with effective flushing built in, which is worth a mention as it makes a welcome change from many of the facilities we’ve come across. It’s probably the fact that the owners were motorhomers so understand the simple requirements.

The weather forecast wasn’t looking good for the next few days so rather than waste money sitting on the campsite at Bled we thought we’d delay going there and visit a couple of other places first. We had details of a bar-restaurant that does overnight parking at Kamniska Bistrica near Stahovica which is at the end of a road amongst the mountains. At Pri Juriju they charge only €5 per night to park on their grassy field behind the restaurant including water and emptying facilities, and electric for an additional €2 (GPS: 46.32686 14.58693).  It was a nice spot with the mountain views and was very quiet with only the sound of the nearby river audible at times. Just as we were ready to go out walking it started raining and poured down for a while. The temperature was down to about 18°C too so felt quite cool, we had to get our fleeces out after months of just shorts and t-shirt. Coincidentally, this happened to fall on the day that our diary told us is the first day of autumn.

After waiting out the rain we headed out walking up past the small river and followed signs to Spominski Park. It turned out to be a wooded area with lots of memorials attached to the rocks that were dotted about. Some had candles and flowers and one was decorated with bunting and photographs. It seems that it was for climbers that had died during climbing as some plaques had what looked like the names of mountains on, from the dates the people were mostly only in their 20s, the oldest we saw was in their 50s, and one memorial was a rock decorated with climbing rope and shackles. It was quite a nice walk but eerie particularly as we know people who are keen climbers.


Back at the van the owner of the restaurant was about outside, he was a jovial friendly man who spoke English and let us know where to get water and empty the toilet. Asking where we from he said was it Yorkshire because he thought he detected it a bit in my dialect, so maybe he knows someone from the area, or got it from watching English satellite TV with subtitles which we saw was on in the bar the next day when we were leaving. It’s a very traditional quiet little bar-restaurant but we didn’t get chance to sample it. The rest of the day it rained again so after Jo made a nice leek and potato soup for dinner we watched our first film since leaving the UK.

We saw lots of these little fellows wandering the area -
any idea what they are?
The river near our overnight spot

After reading a short paragraph about it in a leaflet picked up from tourist information in Ljubljana we called at Trizic for a look around. The town had been gutted by fires in the early nineteenth century leading to an order for all windows and doors to be fitted with metal shutters, some of which still remain today. A lot of the buildings looked run down and the main street was very quiet with just a few small shops open. Our info described the town as “the Venice of the Alps” and “a historical monument full of canals” but in reality there was just a river running through the town and a stream between and under some houses!


The blue sign denotes the number of the hairpin, so you
can count your way up to 50
We moved on towards the Vrsic Pass over the Julian Alps spotting an attractive area of lakes a short distance before it that we stopped to look at. It was a recreational park area with jetties into the water and a library box of books to borrow. The lighting and low cloud made for a good photo opportunity. The pass itself consists of 50 hairpin bends rising up to a peak at 1611m. It is scenic and one of the prettier passes we’ve driven so far; on the north-eastern side were views of snow-capped mountains then it drops down into the Soca valley at the other end of the pass. On the way up from the north end the corners are paved with cobblestones and are very tight meaning most had to be taken in first gear. We were lucky that the pass was very quiet when we drove it around 5pm as the small roads weren’t particularly suited to a motorhome. It would probably be best driven in the opposite direction from south to north from Bovec, to avoid pulling uphill on the cobbles (for largish front wheel drive vans) which we lost traction on at one point.


In the details Steph had given us about Slovenia she told us about an Aire at Bovec that they’d used, so we were heading here for the night (GPS: 46.33240 13.53998, €6/12h €9/24h €12/36h inc electric or €3/12h parking only). After taking the road alongside the River Soca we arrived and parked up before investigating the ticket machine. We put our €9 in but didn’t get a ticket out so I called the helpline on the machine and spoke to a lady at the local sports centre which manages the site. She wasn’t sure what to suggest, said not to worry about it if we’d paid it was ok and if there was any problems she could deal with it. So I put a note in the windscreen, got hooked up to the electric and we settled in for the night. This Aire is in a good location being on an elevated terrace with mountain views. It is part of the parking for a cable car station but this was closed and barriered off looking like work was being done on it while we were there. We’d read online that it’s noisy at weekends with a nearby club, however the building which might’ve been this looked closed up, maybe due to the time of year.

From here we’ll be moving on to Lake Bled next.

- Matt

More Pictures:


Ljubljana


Locks and Sculptures on Butcher's Bridge that has glass floor panels along the sides
National and University Library
The American Embassy
The square outside the Town Hall
Courtyard inside the Town Hall
On the castle walls


Around the Vrsic Pass:



The Soca River

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