Before driving over the border from Croatia to Slovenia we pulled into a garage and bought a seven day vignette as our van is weighted at 3.5 ton. Any van weighted over our weight has to stop at all the toll booths to pay their toll as they go. We also used the card machine there as we were back in the land of the Euro and we had precious few of those left. I was really pleased with myself because, paying for the vignette, used up virtually all the Kuna notes and coins we had after our stay in Croatia.
We have been to lots of caves during our travels and have seen our share of stalagmites and stalactites so why were we heading towards the Postojna Cave? Elaine knows best. Her research paid off again. We pulled into a camper stop right by the car park for the cave complex. We bought our tickets and were told we had to be at the cave entrance by 5 pm. for our tour to begin. There were lots of things to look at and plenty of eating places so the waiting tourist is well catered for. They even hire warm coats for people to wear during their tour underground. We showed our tickets and all the waiting people were sorted into groups depending on what language they could understand.There are 24 kilometers of underground passages, galleries and halls so we got on a train that took us 8 kilometers underground to where our walking tour would begin. Tourists have been coming here for over 200 years but those early visitors would have had to walk the whole way round.
The journey on the train was worth the entrance fee. We then walked, took pictures, stopped to listen to the guide for the next hour. The sheer scale and size of the galleries and the endless paths taking you from one wonder to the next, all took our breath away. When the walking tour ended we boarded the train again to take us back to the surface. What a great start on our tour of Slovenia and by the look of the things we had seen already on the way there then we were in for a treat as we tour further.
2nd-3rd June…….Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana
The countryside we saw on our 38 mile journey looked lush and green and the houses and farms we passed gave us the impression that Slovenia’s economy is doing well and the large houses dotted around look very much like those you would find in Austria or Switzerland. We soon got chatting to our neighbours once we had set up our motorhome and started to get a similar story from those that had travelled down through France and Germany to get to Ljubljana. They were all complaining about the rotten weather they had on the way down to here. We have had such great weather during our month in Croatia with only the odd night of bit of rain and the one storm. We gave the leaflets and a book on Croatia’s lakes to a Scottish couple. In the reception of the site we saw a free, English speaking, walking tour of the capital advertised for an 11 am start every day of the year.
So the next morning we caught the bendy bus into the city and made our way to the main square.
There were a lot of people waiting by the steps of the pink church. We joined them and were soon put into three groups and we had Janez as our guide for the next two hours. What a great way to find out about the city, to have the main sites pointed out to us and to find out about the history that had gone into making Ljubljana what it is today. Janez was not only very knowledgeable but he had a great sense of humour to go along with it. He must have been good. In a large square there was a food festival taking place where all the hotels and restaurants had stalls selling take away food and the smell was so enticing. As we walked through not one person dropped out of the tour, overcome by the temptation of the delicious aromas. I took some pictures on the way round and now we knew the places to go back round again to take the images I had seen during the tour. We gave a good tip as the daily tours are funded by voluntary contribution and said goodbye to Janez.
We made a beeline back to the food festival and sat on the steps opposite eating succulent, lamb cutlets with spicy potato wedges accompanied by a glass of a very nice, local red wine.
After we walked around the city we waked towards the castle that dominated the landscape as it sat imposingly on top of the large hill overlooking the town. It was a very hot day and we had done a lot of walking already so we paid for a ride up in the funicular railway instead of walking up to the top. We got some good views from up there and enjoyed looking around the old stone fortress.
We caught the bus back to the campsite after a great day and put a glowing review about Janez and The Free Ljubljana Tour on Trip Adviser.
4th-5th June…..Lake Bled
Unlike the paid motorways in France, Spain and the like, the motorways are quite heavily used because once you have a vignette then there are no further costs involved in travelling around quickly. quite heavily. When we got to Bled we had to drive around the huge lake to get to the campsite that is right by the shore at the opposite end of the lake to the town. There is an island on the lake and in the centre of the island is a church. Many locals earn their living by ferrying visitors to the island.
It is said that if you go onto the island and ring the church bell then you will have good luck. Elaine and I think we are lucky enough as it is being able to visit so many beautiful countries so we didn’t take the crossing. Instead we set off to walk to the town. It was quite a walk. Half way round we came across an artist with small pictures of the island for sale and they were 4 euros each We picked one we liked.
He took the picture and then painted himself, Elaine and me on the reverse side of the painting and chatted and giggled the whole time. What a character and what a great keepsake. He put another cardboard frame around that side and we all parted with handshakes and smiles as if we had known him forever.
Near the town we came across the way up to the castle. No funicular railway this time so we just had to walk up the windy path to get to the top. What luck! Around the base of the castle there was a mock up of an old soldiers camp. There were all sorts of stalls and people were dressed in traditional, medieval costumes.
There were soldiers in armour and different groups took turns in playing old instruments of the time. All around in the different encampments there were lords and ladies, Turks with their curved swords and Royal knights practicing their sword play. We paid to go in the castle and the performances were just about to start. Despite the big crowds, Elaine and I got good places at the front to stand and watch.
First we watched a display of medieval dancing and then we saw an exciting performance about a camp of noblemen and their ladies. Then a band of Turks came rushing in and after a very boisterous sword battle they ran off with the ladies. Then we were in the Turks’ camp so there was belly dancing and fire eating.
Then back into the arena came the knights. During the the very energetic sword battle the Turkish leader fell over backwards and Elaine nearly became one of the fallen….skewered by the Turk’s scimitar.
We walked back to the camp the other side of the lake and relaxed that evening after a barbecue. The next day I took the bikes off the back of the van and we went off to follow the map to Vintgar Gorge. The start of the Gorge was only about 8 kilometers from where we were camped and the windy, narrow roads went up and up and in the end we locked our bikes up behind a farmer’s hay bails and walked the rest of the way. The gorge runs for 1,600 meters and the Radovna river, in places, roars through flanked either side by steep slopes overgrown with beech forests.
The whole run is full of small waterfalls, lots of rapids and the deeper parts where the water appears to slow down. How the trail that is attached to the rock face was constructed in 1893 is beyond comprehension. There are bridges that take you from one side to the other and brown trout can be seen swimming whenever there was calmer water. When you get down to the far end of the gorge you just have to turn round and walk back. However you are now viewing the water flowing towards you and in lots of ways the view is even better.
The planning committee (Elaine) has been hard at it and a rough plan is being formulated so that we will take in Budapest in Hungary, then Vienna in Austria, then Prague in Czechoslovakia followed by a route across Germany to the Hook of Holland in the Netherlands for our crossing back to England sometime in July. We still have plenty of time so our journey to Ptuj which is in the Eastern part of the country is perhaps the first small step towards home.
When the natives say the name of this town it definitely sounds totally different to the way it is spelled. However you say it, Ptuj is a beautiful town.
We walked into town along the bank of the very wide, fast flowing river Drava and came across 3 bridges, one after the other. The first is a footbridge, then there is a very busy road bridge and the third bridge is the railway crossing. We crossed over the first bridge and had a good look around the town. There were lots of interesting buildings and a very interesting ice cream parlour and in the interests of helping the local economy we both had our 5 fruits of the day accompanied by lashings of ice cream, topped by whipped cream, nicely decorated with a rich chocolate sauce.
The monastery near the end of the town was used as a weapon store by the Germans during the second world war. Subsequently it was virtually destroyed by the allies. Instead of trying to build a replica of what was there before they built a modern replacement and what a beautiful job they did of it.
Another castle meant more climbing and this time a lot of it was up slippery cobbled streets. We paid our 4 euros and went around all the exhibition rooms set up on the different floors of the castle. Ptuj is the centre of the masquerading region and the display in the castle made sense to some of the things we saw for sale around the town.
The gallery area was fascinating and the old armoury was authentically equipped just as it would have been hundreds of years ago. The living quarters were well displayed and you could imagine the old lords could be back any time. Our favourite was the rooms full of old musical instruments. Each time you stepped into the next room the lights would go up and the appropriate music would start up. On top of that each room had a clever machine so that in the brass instrument room, for example, you just pressed the button to hear a bugle dominating the tune. We were the only ones in there so it was fun to walk from room to room and then back again to hear the different music.
We have had a relaxing day today in the sunshine and tomorrow we will move slightly back upon ourselves to Maribor.
So the next morning we caught the bendy-bus and found our way to the main square and the English speaking tour would start from there at 11 am. There was a large group of people collected there so we were split into 3 groups. We were put into Janez’s group and off we went. Janez was very knowledgeable