Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A short visit to Slovenia

The Virtual Tourist Euromeet weekend ended on Sunday 3rd June, and I had arranged leave for the rest of that week.
On Monday 4th June the weather turned out to be very different, as it never stopped raining all day. Daniel & I left Italy for Ljubljana the capital of a pretty & mountainous country Slovenia. After our final breakfast in Abelia Holiday Home in Bergamo, we walked to the station. According to the "Departure boards" at Bergamo station, there should have been a direct train to Venice at 08.24, but this was not to be, and by the time we found this out we had also missed the 8.07 train to Brescia, which is in the right direction. We had to wait until 9.07, but the helpful lady in the ticket office had provided us with the details of our journey. From Brescia we caught a "express" train to Venice, which meant us not losing much time in our schedule, but all the trains from Brescia to Venice had all been delayed, the 8.44 arrived at 10.24 (the time we were booked to leave) & so we boarded it. The journey was interesting as we passed through Verona & Padua. We met Collette & her husband (from Virtual Tourist), but sat with a dissatisfied (with Trenitalia) student who told us that these delays were all too frequent. This lady said she travels to Verona University regularly. We arrived into Venice & after a short wait (at the Mestra station) we caught the next train to Gorizia, a pretty Italian city with architecture from the time of the Austro-Hungarian period. At about 3pm we took a No 1 bus from outside Gorizia station to Nova Gorica station, which is in Slovenia. Therefore we passed the border, the only formality being a one-Euro supplement. Our train to Ljubljana is a small train which left at 15.31, we passed through some magnificent mountain scenery, the Soca river valley & pass & the station for Lake Bled (Bled jezero in Slovene). Some of our passengers were walkers. When we arrived in Jesenice, an industrial city, we only had to wait a short time for our next (and final) train to Ljubljana. This train was the most luxurious of the day, a EuroCity train from Austria & going onwards to Zagreb (in Croatia). In our compartment we met & talked with with Monika (a Slovene now living & working in Germany) & a student. Monika was very helpful as when we left the train, she arranged the schedule for our train to Budapest (on Wednesday) & also took us on a bus (the rain was pouring) to a square near the University, this being a short walk to the river & our hostel (the Alibi) on the bank of the Ljubljanica river.
Daniel & I checked into the hostel, but I had also planned to meet Blaz, a couchsurfer who lives in Ljubljana, and we met by the pink coloured Francescan church in Preserven Square.
We all then walked to Sokol a restaurant & gostilina, which brews its own beer & serves traditional Slovene food. I had a Sokol beer. I had a bowl of beef & noodle soup followed by a Slovenian venison goulash, served with a "potato cake", pickled cabbage & a pear. Daniel, Blaz & I talked about Ljubljana, Couch Surfing & our travels.
After supper we had to curtail our evening plans (to explore the city) due the very heavy rain. Instead Blaz went home, and Daniel & I went back to the Alibi hostel, where we met two friendly Australian girls.

On this visit our full day in Slovenia was Tuesday 5th June 2012, and fortunately the weather changed for the better, the sun shone, there was a fresh breeze, just ideal for visiting Lake Bled (Bled jezero). I had a coffee in the hostel, before Daniel & I were ready to walk to the station, arriving in plenty of time to catch the 11.28 (to Lesce Bled), so we had a coffee & a ham/cheese baguette in the station's "Prihod bar". Our train to Lesce Bled was the more luxurious type (like our train to Ljubljana the previous evening) & the journey was scenic, I even managed to video part of the journey, showing the lush countryside. In Lesce Bled at 12.11 we had a short wait for the next bus to the lake. While waiting for the bus we met & talked with two American girls (also visiting, but staying in Bled), and arrived at the bus station about 15 minutes later. It was easy for us to find the lake & decided we could walk around the lake's perimeter. The water was so clear we saw the fish swimming. Lake Bled is so photogenic, the green hills around, the small island with the Church of the Assumption, the castle on one of the hills above and the small gondola style boats. During our walk we saw very little traffic, except when we wanted to stop at a cafe/bar, Gostilnica Pletna, the owner stopped the traffic to enable us to cross the road. I had a tomato salad & a glass of Union beer, sitting on the first floor balcony which overlooks the lake. We continued our walk & when we returned to where we started we went back to the bus station. At times particularly during the later part of our walk, the weather looked less promising, dark clouds formed over the mountains around the lake. We caught the 15.20 bus back to Lesce Bled train station, and the 15.52 train to Ljubljana, a local stopping service, which arrived 17.10. We took a slight diversion to enable us to reach the Dragon Bridge, via the Metalkova street. The Australian girls from our hostel had given us vouchers for the POMF restaurant they had visited & enjoyed the previous evening in Trubarjeva street (small street of old houses, bars, restaurants & shops). This street runs parallel with the bank of the Ljubljanica river, at the junction near to the Dragon Bridge (Zmajski Most)
We decided to have a look around the area, take pictures of the Bridge, Squares & the buildings, before having our dinner in Pomf. We were welcomed by the waiter Boris, who helped us to select a typically Slovene meal. We had local beer (I had Lasko pivo) & wine (free with our vouchers:-), and then I enjoyed the starter (served in a kettle) of Bograc, Cevapcici (small spicy sausages) pomfrit (fries) kajmak, lepinja, postrv po trzasko, with Boris's hospitality. Outside the restaurant there were also tables, and musicians were playing & encouraging other visitors to the restaurant. After dinner Daniel & I were full & so a walk up to the castle was needed. We also walked around the Old Town, and up a steep slope to the castle. The views of Ljubljana as dusk was falling were awesome. We made our way down via Ulica na Grad, and passed the Pleznik masterpiece, the University library, before we returned to the Alibi.

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