Slovenia

See 30 photos of our 2008 trip in this album.

In May 2008 we spent three short days in Slovenia (not to be confused with Slovakia). Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and joined the EU in 2004. It's a small country, about two-thirds the size of Belgium, with a population of about two million. It's heavily forested (more than 50%) and quite mountainous but with wide flat plains. It's surprisingly wealthy for a Central European country - a new airport, new motorways and most people seem to be driving newish cars, at least in the capital, Ljubljana. It's a bit cheaper than western Europe except that hotels in Ljubljana are expensive due to a lack of hotels.

We spent our first day exploring the capital, Ljubljana (pronounced 'Liubliana') which has a charming centre that straddles the Ljubljanica River. The centre is small though - maybe one square kilometer, and the suburbs are much less attractive. Accommodation is apparently expensive here - with prices comparable to those in Brussels. The population is quite homogeneous - 83% Slovene. Most people we spoke to were quite friendly with good English. In the afternoon we visited the castle that overlooks the old town and the river.

On our second day we took the bus to Bled Lake (north-west of Kranj on the map below) which is very picturesque (Slovenia's only island is on this lake) but small - only 2km long. We walked around the lake in two hours, pausing to row a boat across to the island where a New Zealand couple were getting married.

On our last day our friend Jean-Patrice, who began working here a few months ago, kindly drove us to the famous Postojna Caves, known for their size rather than varied colours. We've seen a half-dozen major cave systems in our travels, but this must be the best - don't miss it. We drove further, to Slovenia's short (40 km) coastline, and visited Koper which lacked charm and Piran which had some.

Would we recommend a trip to Slovenia? Yes, if you appreciate forested mountain scenery and limited numbers of tourists. It's probably a good place to go trekking through the mountains, though we didn't do this, and there seem to be good opportunities for rafting and visiting caves. Planning a beach vacation? Slovenia isn't for you.

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