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If you’re looking for reasons not to love a place you’re visiting, sLOVEnia is not for you! After being there a week, which was not nearly enough, I kept looking for excuses to stay :) My visit came about rather oddly in that I was never planning to visit Slovenia. I had a trip planned to Italy, which I’d visited before, and this idea floated into my head. Since I was going back to Italy, maybe I should use the opportunity to visit a country I hadn’t been to before. But one not too far from Italy. That’s when the planning wheels started turning. Because I was starting my Italy trip in Venice, I looked at the map and noticed that Slovenia shared a border with Italy. Hmmm, interesting.
Then I remembered that Adam, over at Point me to the Plane, talked about his trip to Slovenia. He went there in 2013, so his wonderful impressions of Slovenia must have really stuck in my brain for me to recall it all in 2017! When I emailed Adam, all he could say was, “Just go, you’ll love it!” So I booked my trip! So now I’m paying Adam’s advice forward and telling you, “Just go, you’ll love it!”
When you read about Slovenia it always says its capital, Ljubljana, is a city made to the measure of man. It’s always interesting to me how places describe themselves. Not only is this way of describing Ljubljana totally true, it gives you a window into the energy and feeling of this city and its people. They are warm, friendly, full of life, and certainly living in a beautiful mid-sized city. Ljubljana lies between Venice and Vienna, which makes for an interesting mix of cultures and cuisines, though I found Slovenia to be uniquely its own place.
Without gushing too much about how wonderful this country is, I want to give you 5 ideas for what to do and see that, with the exception of one of them, won’t likely end up on any MUST SEE lists you’ll find online. I wrote a separate post on the coffee scene in Ljubljana – Shelli’s World Coffee Tour – Coffee Houses in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Part 1). Hint: if you drink coffee, you’re in for a real treat!
1. First let’s talk about the site you will see on every list, which I feel is an absolute must: Postojna Cave. Simply spectacular! I suggest renting a car and driving there from Ljubljana. Slovenia’s nature is beautiful. It is one of the seven countries that border the Alps (can you name the other six?), and driving on the back roads to the cave gave us time to appreciate the scenery and not rush our day.
I have to think back, but it’s possible I’ve never been to a cave before, and certainly nothing like Postojna Cave. Let’s just say Postojna Cave set a super high bar for my cave experiences, and now I’m more curious to visit other caves as well. The tour of the cave took about 90 minutes and there were other exhibits to see. We enjoyed an amazing butterfly exhibit. After the tour, the park that houses the cave makes for a relaxing place to enjoy. We spent about three hours out by the caves.
2. The first thing I do when I get to a new city is find a park. And then I go walk in the park! It’s my way of putting myself in the local scene and getting a sense of the people. So right after I checked into my hotel and took a look at the city map, I walked in the OPPOSITE direction of all the touristy areas to Tivoli Park. Tivoli is my kind of park! Beautiful walking paths that, should you want to go up into the hills and deeper into nature, allow for that. The walking paths through the flatter wooded areas are fun too, with lots of walkers, runners, families with children, and people and their dogs. The museums and architecture are worth a visit, especially the history museums.
Walk all the way through the park and you’ll come to the sports complex area of the park. Wow! As a health and fitness professional, I’m not easily impressed. But Tivoli’s sports complex did, indeed, impress me. The indoor aquatic area was huge, lots of tennis courts, buildings for clubs like ice hockey, basketball, and martial arts clubs, too. I even saw a miniature golf course for kids. In general, Tivoli is very family-oriented with quite a few playgrounds for kids. Do take time and stroll through Tivoli. It’s only a 15 minute walk for the old city area where you’ll likely be staying.
3. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I didn’t expect there to be so much amazing fish to eat in Slovenia. I know, strange, huh, because Slovenia is on the sea :) I love fish, so I was ecstatic. I ate so much fish I may have grown gills! And I found a gem of a fish place called Valentin. As you walk in, you’ll see a fish market to your left, and then a counter with 8 seats to your right. Whatever kind of fish you like, they have it and will cook it up anyway you like it. There’s a more formal dining room in the back, but I sat at the counter and enjoyed not only the food, but watching it all being cooked as well. I ate there three times! Notice the prices in the photos. Amazingly deal :)) Even with wine or beer, you’ll be hard pressed to spend more than 6 or 7 Euro.
4. Got milk? Got raw milk? If you live in the states, I doubt it. Raw milk is still illegal in many states, and even in the ones that allow it, it’s still hard to find. I won’t get into the politics of milk (here’s a good NPR article if you’re interested), but I will say that I don’t drink homogenized or pasteurized milk, and so much to my delight, I found a milk machine in Ljubljana! It’s hard to describe so take a look at the photos. The milk gets delivered fresh every day. You choose either a glass or plastic jug, put it under the dispenser, and for 2 Euros, you get a large bottle of milk. It’s delicious! When I came back to the hotel carrying my jug of milk, they looked rather strangely at me. I knew they were curious. I explained that back home, we didn’t have milk machines and that we get homogenized and pasteurized milk, so this was a real treat for me. Like many things about the states that astonish the Europeans, particularly about our food, it was interesting for them to hear about our milk scene.
5. And speaking of dairy products, I’ll save you a bunch of time and money and recommend the best gelato in Ljubljana! The Slovenes are crazy for ice cream and gelato. At all times of the day, every day, they eat it. Cones, cups, on waffles… there are many, many places to buy it. Go straight away to Romantica. The woman who owns it is passionate about the quality of the gelato and it’s all made on the premises. She rotates her flavors and usually has at least a dozen flavors in the rotation. And she’s very generous about giving you a taste of any flavor that catches your eye. She even insisted to me to try a few flavors I wouldn’t have thought I’d like. I won’t tell you my favorites because she might not have them when you’re there, so sample some and see what you think.
Have you been to Slovenia or are planning a trip there? Have you visited these places? Want to add any of your “must sees” that aren’t usually in the top 5? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Hvala (thank you)!