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Sometimes you hear about a place or see a photo of it and you know it’s calling your name. I had that with Barcelona, Berlin, the forests of Brazil, and most recently, Slovenia. It was a country I’d never considered. I’d barely heard its name until a couple of years ago when Never Ending Voyage wrote a series of posts singing the country’s praises. It’s always a safe bet that if Erin and Simon like a place then Steve and I will too. We share a love of good vegetarian food, gorgeous nature and charming cities. Slovenia has all of that, and it went straight to the top of our wish list, until we finally got to visit last week.
As always, with high expectations, we were a little worried it might not live up to what we imagined, and we tried to lessen the hype as the day began to approach. The pressure was only heightened by the fact that it was the first time in months that Steve had more than one day off from working on the film. This was to be cherished, quality time – a chance to step away from the computer and rejuvenate.
We were going to Slovenia as part of the Must Love Festivals project. We’d spend two days in the capital, visiting the Nights in Ljubljana Old Town Festival, followed by a little road trip through the country. Steve knew very little of our plans so it also had an element of surprise. It was a sort of celebration of our engagement, perfectly set in a country that has the word ‘love’ hidden inside it.
Our favourite fact about Slovenia – pre-trip – was that it’s made up of over 50 per cent forest. Nestled between Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy, it’s a little green enclave, around the size of Wales, which takes highlights from its neighbours to make a tasty melting pot of the four cultures with its own distinctive edge. To the north and west there are mountains, and as we flew into Ljubljana, we looked down upon a blanket of hilly greens. In the south-west, Slovenia borders the Mediterranean and has some popular beach towns, but we chose to focus our trip north of that in the wine valleys and mountainous regions of the country.
Our first stop, Ljubljana, was the fairytale capital we’d dreamed of, and the city charmed us with its pretty, pedestrianised cobbled streets, picturesque baroque architecture and medieval castle sitting majestically on the hill. We spent our time there simply wandering the streets and enjoying the vibes of the festival by night. I’ll post soon with a photo essay of the city, as well as some stories from the festival itself. We were only in Ljubljana for two days, but we were captivated by it and know it’s a place we’ll likely return to.
On the Saturday, we set off early to collect our hire car and head out into the countryside. As Slovenia is so compact, we were in the Vipava wine valley within an hour amid rolling hills and bountiful vines. We spent the whole day there, stopping for a seven-course feast in the wonderful Majerija. The whole trip was structured around food – a gourmet vegetarian tour of Slovenia’s wine and mountains. I’m working on a post about the wonders of Slovenian cuisine – I’d say it’s among the best we’ve ever tasted.
That night we feasted more at a charming family vineyard in a hilltop town with sweeping golden-lit views across the valley. Day two of the roadtrip saw us enter the mountains and be awed by the magnificent landscape as we drove through the Vrśič pass. Of course, there was more feasting, and the day ended with our arrival at Lake Bled and its fairytale castle surrounded by turquoise waters. And we slept that night in a treehouse!
This post isn’t about going into the details. I’ll follow this one with a series of stories on Slovenia, but I wanted to start with a taste. And to say: Oh my, we love Slovenia.
It was a trip where time stretched and four days felt like so much more. There was no need to worry about hype. Slovenia far surpassed that.
We went to Slovenia as part of the Must Love Festivals project.