mountains

Day Trips & Dragons

· 6 min read ·

Hello there! We’re still in Slovenia and loving life. I thought we’d catch you up on a few of the fun excursions we’ve been on throughout this beautiful country. Since getting back from Bovec and our packrafting trip, we’ve been visiting a few of the places that made Sheila’s trip so special when she was here a few years ago.

One thing that Sheila didn’t get to while she was here last was the free guided tour of Ljubljana. This is an absolute must-do for anybody visiting the Slovenian capitol. The both of us have been on quite a few guided tours before but this one is truly special. Despite the small size of Ljubljana, our group had to be split in two due to how many people were interested in going! Over the course of the guided tour’s two hours, we learned quite a bit about the history surrounding the city and country itself.

Ljubljana Free Tour

Ljubljana day tours are the perfect way to explore the city and learn about its history. The free walking tour of Ljubljana is given twice a day, every day, at 11 AM (and, depending on the season, also at 3 and 6 PM). We learned about the ancient pile dwellers of the Central Europe region (also, that Slovenians prefer to be classified as living in Central Europe), whose marsh-dwelling lifestyle has now been popularized by the Venetians. The marshes of Slovenia are the result of snow & glacial melt from the Alps; for thousands of years the people in this region lived simply, canoeing from place to place and making their dwellings on wooden piles, lifting themselves above the water. Enter the Romans, who by 50 BC had expanded this far east - they founded the trading city of Emona, which for several centuries prospered due to its crossroads location prior to it being sacked by Attila the Hun. Turns out both traders and invaders didn’t want to cross the Alps twice, and Emona’s location proved too good to be true.

This is also the history of Slovenia in a nutshell. We heard repeatedly from the guide that the Slovenians, prior to declaring themselves a free democratic nation in the ye old year of 1991, had been governed by invaders of some shape or form for the past 1000 years. And the city of Ljubljana itself has some really interesting appearances - such as the landing site of Jason and the Argonauts during their quest to recover (or steal 🤔 ) the Golden Fleece. There are a few creation myths surrounding why the city’s patron creature is the dragon 🐲 , and that particular appearance in Greek mythology is one of them.

In the scenic heart of Ljubljana, locals adorn the bridge and frog statues with “love locks”
In the scenic heart of Ljubljana, locals adorn the bridge and frog statues with “love locks”

Ljubljana Fun Facts

  • The dragon is the official symbol of Ljubljana
  • The frog is the unofficial symbol - allegedly because of how the people loved swimming in the river so much, although the included link claims otherwise
  • The architect Jože Plečnik was hugely influential in creating the look and feel of Ljubljana’s town center. He really liked Greek and Roman-style pillars
  • Cars have been banned in the town center since 2007, although there are free electric taxis that can take you anywhere in the city center
  • Slovenia also has some fun facts - the highest per capita population of writers (but not readers); seemingly the highest per capita consumption of national wine (they produce 90 million liters and almost all of that is consumed domestically); and the highest per capita population of beekeepers! Honey is a really big product sold in Ljubljana

A Day Trip to Trieste

At this point hopefully it’s been established that we have been having a great time in Slovenia. HOWEVER, Europe has been … enjoying … an exceptionally frigid Spring and the weather here has run the full gamut. It’s rained pretty much every day for at least a little bit since our arrival, and even the city tour was held under grey skies, light rain, and high winds.

The other day we were once more graciously granted the use of our friend Špela’s car. She’s off on a four day sailing trip in Croatia, and with our newly re-discovered wheels, we took off for Italy and clearer skies!

Trieste’s only an hour away and the Italian port city was bathed in sun - something we had definitely been missing! After a fun adventure finding parking, we walked down to the water and found a nice little outdoor spot to enjoy one of the local specialties - buffalo mozzarella.

This pizza blew James’ mind
This pizza blew James’ mind
Sambuca and espresso - a classic combination
Sambuca and espresso - a classic combination

Sheila also payed homage to Mr. Corsetti, a family friend from home, who taught her that the best way to follow up a meal is by ordering: “espresso, a shot of sambuca, no beans!” James also accidentally enjoyed a rather large gelato (a very generous “one scoop”).

We’d recommend this day trip for anybody looking for:

  • a little taste of Italy
  • crazy driving
  • an escape to warmer weather

We both had such our fill of Italy that, even hours later back in Ljubljana, we ate spinach for dinner after failing to contemplate another meal.

We also stopped by Predjama Castle, in Slovenia, on the way back. This “castle in a cave” is quite the sight and makes a nice pit stop coming back from Trieste!

Cheesin hard at Predjama
Cheesin hard at Predjama

Hiking in Lake Bled

Warning! This place is exceedingly beautiful. You can expect to see more pictures of it 😎 .

The view from the path surrounding Lake Bled
The view from the path surrounding Lake Bled

Geography of Slovenia lesson! Trieste is to the southwest of Ljubljana, an hour away. Lake Bled is about the same distance away, to the northwest - near the border with Austria. We left early yesterday with the intent to do some hiking and sightseeing around Lake Bled. The forecast showed that it was actually going to get warm - and it did! We hiked up to the Mala Osojnica, stopping at the Ojstrica viewpoint along the way. We heard that if you happen to be staying in Bled, this is a really cool hike to do for sunrise.

We also tried to hike up to Velika Osojnica, but our attempt to bushwhack past several large downed trees was met with thorny resistance and we abandoned the effort to save our legs and clothing.

The view from Mala Osojnica of Lake Bled and its island did not disappoint! The water of Lake Bled is absurdly colorful and its blue green hue needs to be seen to be believed.

The view from Mala Osojnica
The view from Mala Osojnica
Still waiting on that Patagonia sponsorship
Still waiting on that Patagonia sponsorship

After our fun little hike we walked the entirety of the lake (something like 7 miles), pausing at times to take trails as we encountered them to other spectacles. One of the trails that we took went up to the Bled Castle, which also offers exceptional views of the lake. We decided to opt out of the 11 euro castle tour, so we unfortunately can’t share much of the history. It was time to find some eats!

We took this photo twice because the sun blinded James
We took this photo twice because the sun blinded James

On our circumnavigation of the lake, we stopped in the town of Bled itself to sample the wares at Public Bar & Vegan Kitchen, which we highly recommend! Great portions and prices, and phenomenal veggie burgers and salads.

Sheila takes the best food pics
Sheila takes the best food pics

For dessert, Sheila treated James to the local confectionery delicacy - the Lake Bled cake, which is well known throughout Slovenia for its layered goodness. How the people in this country stay fit with treats like this is an open question!

The Lake Bled cake proved to be quite tasty
The Lake Bled cake proved to be quite tasty

We agree that a day trip to Lake Bled is not to be missed. We recommend this trip for anyone— go here to hike, paddle, fish, or lay in the sun and watch your friends do any/all of the above.

It’s about 10am here now and the sun is out AGAIN! We are going to take advantage of the day by visiting the Open Kitchen and watching a climbing competition that is supposedly happening in the middle of the city center. 👋

It's us!

Adventure travel blog by James Simone & Sheila Murray. Travel along with them on their backpacking trip(s) as they actively explore the American West, Europe and beyond:

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