This morning we all had a bit of a sleep in, being tired from sickness and long journeys (the girls travelled 9 hours from Budapest). After our free breaky we headed out into the snow and walked to the coffee shop down the road to get Jess her much needed daily coffee. We then walked towards the centre of town and found out just how small Ljubjana is when we reached it within about 5 minutes.
We walked through the new town along the river and crossed the triple bridge (three of the same bridge in a row) across the river to the old town. Although the town itself is tiny, it’s a very cute pretty town with lots of random sculptures around the place.
From the town we walked up the main hill to the Ljubjana Castle that sits on top of it.
We checked out the castle and the view from the tower and watched a ‘virtual castle’ video about its history. By this time we were all freezing and hungry so we headed back down the hill towards the town.
We found the first restaurant at the bottom and went inside.
It was a cute restaurant with good food, I had vegetable soup and tomato gnocci which was very tasty. After a long sit down lunch we went to see the dragon bridge in town which is another bridge crossing the main river that has big dragons on either side that have become a type of mascot for Ljubjana.
The bridge was also covered with locks, apparently a symbol of peoples love. After numerous photos we headed back through the town to the main supermarket near our hostel. We picked up some food for dinner and lunch the next day. Back at the hostel we cooked up the dinner which was tandoori chicken with vegies and rice, however after cooking we realised it was tandoori concentrate paste that you are only supposed to use a big of with yoghurt… oh well… it was still nice, just very very strong. After dinner we did our blogging and pictures and had some delicious Indian chai spiced tea that the hostel lady made, and chatted to a girl who gave us lots of tips for our time in Slovenia, and then headed to bed for an early night.
Saturday 11 February
Woke up nice and early to catch our 8am bus to Lake Bled. We grabbed some breaky on the way to the bus station from the bakery and ate it on the bus on our 1.5 hr trip. We arrived at Lake Bled around 10am and went to the ‘Art Café’ to grab some coffee and delicious hot chocolate (they have hot chocolate so thick you have to eat it with a spoon, and they have 33 different flavours – I had chocolate banana which was yummy). After our coffee we walked down to the huge lake which was completely frozen solid and covered in a thin layer of snow.
The lake was so big and had a cliff on one side with a castle sitting on top of it, and an island on the far side with a church on it, and hotels lining another side. After watching other people, we tentatively stood on the frozen water and then got the courage up to walk on it. Jess chose the land path, but Rachelle and I walked across it on the ice. We went to the hotel area where we knew a local event was going on. It was the local winter bathing races where they had broken out some of the ice to make a small swimming area, and people were having 25-50m races in the freezing cold water!
One guy even did an ‘endurance’ swim where he swan 500m that took about 15min! Crazy people… After watching some of the swimming we got out our bread and prosciutto and lettuce and camembert and mayo and made ourselves some lunch which we had with some yummy hot honey water they had. After lunch Rachelle and I began to hype ourselves up as we had signed up for the ‘penguin dip’ which is the last part of the winter bathing where you just jump in the water and stay in however long you like (which wouldn’t be long!) So we got changed and ready and headed out to the ‘pool’ in our big jackets, towels and thongs.
We had to wait for about 5mins in -8degC where I felt like my toes were about to fall off. It was then time to jump in :S we took the jackets off, threw the towels away and took the plunge! It was absolutely freezing yet you felt more sensation rather than coldness and after afew seconds you start to loose your breath. After about 15 seconds I was climbing out of the water shaking and barely able to move and with toes that felt like they were no longer there. From here we had to walk back to the hotel to dry off and warm up which felt like it was a mile away and Jess had to help push me along as my body didn’t want to move. We finally made it and jumped under a hot shower and then went into a nice warm sauna where we slowly came back to life. The sauna was lovely and smelled like flowers (it was a Turkish sauna) and there were other types of sauna we tried out too, but the Turkish one was by far the best.
After heating back up we went and got changed and headed out to the ‘award ceremony’ where we received a little goody bag for participating. Next stop was the island in the middle of the lake with the church on it. Normally you can take a little boat to the island, but in this case we could walk along the ice all the way there. It was a fairly long slow walk due to the fact that it was a fair way away, and that we were walking on ice which is pretty slippery.
After our nice stroll mixed with afew frightening moments when we heard the ice cracking, we made it safetly to the island which we wandered around before heading back on the ice to where we started. On the way back to the bus station we got some postcards and stopped in the coffee shop again to get more coffee and hot chocolate (this time I got meringue chocolate mmm) and then got the bus back to Ljubjana. Once we arrived we headed straight back to the hostel where we had a relaxing evening as we were all pretty tired. About 9pm we went out to find some dinner and went to a little Slovenian restaurant that was on the Lonely Planet. It was nice but not the best, I had goulash and baked polenta which was quite good.
After dinner we tossed up weather to go out or not (being a Saturday night and all) but chose to have an early night as we have another early morning. So off to the hostel and into bed it was.
Sunday 12 February
Another early morning today, but we managed to fit in our free breaky before leaving. We got our 9.40 train to Divaca where we caught a free mini bus to the cave entrance. We arrived early so went to have some lunch in the restaurant. It was a nice restaurant and not too expensive with nice people.
I had a spinach strudel which was nice as well as a whole lot of bread. After this we went for a wander around the area and up to the lookout which looked over a big cliff to a valley below where a frozen river and waterfall ran.
It was an amazing view however we couldn’t admire it for long as it was blowing a gail and was so freezing! It was almost time for our tour so we went back and got our tickets and waited. The tour began at 1 and took us through an artificial tunnel into the cave itself.
We walked through a number of different cave areas from a smaller one with huge stalectites and mites, and then one that was over 100m high! And then my favourite one that was absolutely huge both in height and width and had a gorgeous river running through it (that was mostly frozen at this time), and had the walkway up high along the walls as the caves often flood. It was painfully difficult, but we were not allowed to take any photos so have no pictures of this amazing cave, but it was amazing to see and be inside. After the cave we came out at the natural entrance where you could see the river entering the caves in the big valley area.
We then took a little venicular back up to the starting point where it was time to get the bus back to the station. The caves which are called skocjanske caves are the second set of caves in Slovenia and are bigger, better, less touristy and are UNESCO listed (unlike the other caves that are not yet are the main tourist ones, probably because they are more easily accessible). They are millions of years old and each cm3 of stalactite/mite takes about 100 years to ‘grow’ which is just amazing seeing the shear size of some of them!
Anyway, we got back on the train and decided to cook a nice dinner and get some food for the journey tomorrow, however once we arrived we found the grocery shop was shut! This threw quite a spanner in the works as we were so close to the hostel and all tired but we had no food and were all so hungry. We decided to just head to another restaurant that had been in the lonely planet. It was about 15mins away and took what seemed like forever to get there through the snow. We made it to a little place called Pri Skofu that looked like a house. We got in and sat down and found out they don’t have a written menu so she recited it to us, where we also found out it was not nearly as cheap as it had said it was. So after hearing the menu about 3 times, and hearing the delicious sounding steaks and chickens and truffles, we decided on pate and soup and a shared bowl of gnocci as that’s all we could afford! It was a little sad and pathetic, but we are backpackers!
Before out food the lovely waitress brought out some homemade bread with ricotta cheese dip for each of us as a ‘gift’ from the kitchen which was so nice (separate to our other normal bowl of bread which we also devoured). After my pate dip and bread, and the girls’ soup, we shared our tomato gnocchi which was lovely and enough since the kitchen had apparently given us a slightly larger than normal serving.
We were about to get the bill when the waitress came out with three big bowls of chocolate mousse and vanilla sauce for each of us as another ‘gift’ from the kitchen! We were all so shocked and happy! It was so nice to have such lovely treatment from a restaurant as they obviously knew we couldn’t afford much. So what started out a bit stressful (Rachelle’s bag caught fire on the candle) turned out to be a great dining experience. From here we headed home to pack and head to bed.
Monday 13 February
Yet another early morning to catch our train to Venice. Yay!
There are unfortunately no direct trains to venice so the plan was to catch a train to sezana, then to nova gorica which is on the boarder of Slovenia and Italy, walk across the boarder to the Italian train station goriza? And get a train from there to Venice… a bit of a trek, but either than or getting a train to Austria and then a bus to venice. So off we went to start our journey, got to the station at 8am and hopped on the train. The train began moving 5mins early and we asked what train it was…. And it was the wrong train and in the wrong direction, and the first stop was 45mins away… bugger.
So we settled in for our ‘trip’, explained the situation to the ticket officer, hopped off at a tiny town, and hopped on another train going back to Ljubjana. By the time we got back it was about 10am, and we had well missed out train. So we went and got some coffee and waited for the next train at 10.40. The train times would change a bit but we would still arrive at venice at a reasonable time (about 7pm instead of 4pm). We got on our first train to Sezana, after making sure it was the right train, and settled in for the 2 hour trip. We arrived at sezana with a 2hr wait till our next train so after a bit of wandering we found a post office and a supermarket where we bought some sandwich ingredients from which we made yummy lunches at the train station.
After our wait we got on our next train to Nova Gorica which was an hours ride away and took us to the very edge of Slovenia. We arrived here around 3.30 and started our ‘trek’ across the border on foot.
Crossing the border to Italy was the easiest part of the journey, it was right outside the train station! The next part was more difficult, a 4km walk through the town carrying our packs for about 4km to the next station… We finally arrived, too late for the first train we wanted but in time for the next one. We hoped onto this train, the last leg of our trip. Halfway through the 2hour ride, the train stopped and everyone was getting off the train and the old Italian ladies next to us told us we had to get off and change – argh! So off we got and waited with the crowd for the next train to continue our journey. It arrived and we got on to our 6th
train of the day! We fiiiinally arrived in Venice at about 8.30pm, after over 12 hours of travel and we headed on our way to the hostel.
Thankfully we managed to find our hostel easily enough and arrived at 9pm. To get to the hostel door we have to cross a little bridge over a canal which is so cute. The hostel itself is… interesting. It has a big common area with dining table and couches and a good friendly atmosphere which is great. Bathrooms are clean however there are only 2 of them. The rooms are big and they have beds that can be moved and added and taken away at will. Our room is the ‘storeroom’ where all the beds are kept and to get to it we have to walk through someone elses’ room. The place is run by an English guy who likes to drink, and another two guys who just go about doing their jobs. It seems that this place isn’t technically supposed to exist as we have to pack up all our stuff every morning into our bags so they can be moved around and they pack up the beds in the morning and there is a strict lockout period between 10am and 2pm. They provide free pasta dinner (haven’t had it yet so don’t know how good it is) but we have to call it a ‘gift’ from the guy as they’re not allowed to ‘give away’ free food. Anyway… other than the strangeness it seems an ok place to stay and it is the best location out of any hostel as all the others are on the mainland not on venice itself. Anyway… after we dumped our stuff we headed out to get dinner. We wandered the streets a bit, trying to find somewhere off the main street but we were all tired and hungry so we just opted for one of the ‘tourist traps’ on the main run. We all had pizza which was good but not great, and costed a bit especially with the ‘cover charge’ (ie. Tourist trap) of 2.50 each. After dinner we headed back to the hostel and had an early night after our huge day of travelling (by the way, by car the trip from Ljubljana to venice is only 4hours!)