Saturday 13 to Wednesday 17 September
Many years ago we had travelled by bus from Athens to London. The journey was excruciatingly long – three and a half days on something a little more comfortable than the school bus I took in the 1950s. But it was cheap.
Of all the countryside we travelled through, the most stunning and memorable was the Julijske Alpe (Julian Mountains) in Yugoslavia. Mountains closed in on both sides as we followed streams and rivers on poor bumpy roads.
I saw an opportunity to return and explore this area, now part of Slovenia.
The train from Budapest stopped part way through the journey and we were herded onto buses to cross the border, and back onto a train to complete the journey. It was late and raining when we finally arrived in Ljubljana. We hailed a taxi, but he wouldn’t take us, the journey was too short. We hadn’t realised the hotel was just 500m down the road. So we arrived wet and hungry, but there was absolutely nowhere to find food after 10:00pm.
I figured we had to go to Ljubljana but only planned a short stay there without expectations. And our arrival seemed to confirm this. But I was wrong – it is a beautiful city, compact and interesting.
We hired a car and drove to the Postojna Cave. These cast caves are the second biggest in Europe. A small train, which has been operational for more than 100 years old, takes you into the cave on a guided tour.
Postojna Cave is famous for its 16-metre-high stalagmite known as the Brilliant, the oldest underground post office in the world and the most famous underground animal – the proteus or the human fish. The proteus, also called an olm, lives in the water and has external gills. It was no skin pigment and as an adult looses its sight. We were luck enough to see one.
We also visited the nearby Predjama Castle (Predjama means in front of cave). Built in the middle ages, it would have been damp, cold and draughty with little light all outbalanced by the security and a secret exit to freedom.
We got back to Ljubljana in time to see some friendly jousting, enjoy the city by night and make a quick reconnoitre next morning. We should have allowed more time here.
We drove the Lake Bled – the inspiration for visiting Slovenia and spent two days exploring this amazing area. We walked around the lake and drove through the Triglav National Park to Lake Bohinj and the Savica Waterfall.
We returned to Lake Bled and hiked into the Vintgar Gorge on the Radovna River. It was a well hiked track with swirling waters, wooden walkways, colourful wildflowers and the odd chapel.
Getting out of Slovenia to Italy had proved difficult. The best option seemed to be taking a train from Lesce Bled to Villach in Austria, another train to Venice and finally a train to Verona where we would pick up another hire car for the last part of our journey to Como.