Backpacking Europe: Ljubljana and Lake Bled, Slovenia (Episode 38)
Our third destination during our backpacking Europe trip was Slovenia. We left Vienna, Austria on July 6th for Ljubljana, Slovenia! We'd heard Slovenia was beautiful and was known for their nature, but we didn't prepare for the glorious and magical place that is Slovenia, specifically the two places we visited: Ljubljana and Lake Bled.
In this episode, hear all about our trip to Slovenia, including:
- What Slovenian food is like
- Why our first impressions of Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital, were not so good
- How our first impressions were quickly demolished
- The best bar and restaurants to visit in Ljubljana
- The most disappointing landmark in Ljubljana
- The best market ever
- The greatest place for some good sausage!
- Our awesome Couchsurfing experience
- Exploring the most beautiful lake we've ever seen: Lake Bled
And more! Be sure to check out our blog post below for pictures of stunning Slovenia! Thanks for listening!
Wine: Soli - Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc (Bulgaria)
Third destination: Slovenia
July 6th: Vienna to Ljubljana
We took a FlixBus from Vienna, Austria to Ljubljana, Slovenia, which took about 5 hours. When we arrived in Ljubljana, we were instantly taken aback by the grittiness of the buildings around the bus station. While walking from the bus station to our Couchsurfing accommodation (yep-- we stayed somewhere for free once again!), the grunginess of the city really showed. Needless to say, our first impressions of the city were not very good.
Once we arrived at our Couchsurfing accommodation, we met our host. She was extremely friendly, welcoming, and sweet. We learned that she was becoming a doctor, is a vegetarian, and has a deep love for travel! She then recommended us a place to get some great sausages in the Old Town of the city, which was called Klobasarna.
We walked to the nearby bus stop and bought our transport tickets, which were very easy to purchase (at the bus stop in a machine) and cheap (about 1.20 Euros per ride).
We rode the bus into the Old Town, then walked to the aforementioned sausage stand. However, we were so hungry, so a piece of sausage wasn't going to do it for us. We needed a meal!
Instead, we fumbled around on Google and found a traditional place not too far from there called Sarajevo '84. There, we ordered tons of meat and satisfied our hunger perfectly. Specifically, we ordered cevapi and pljeskavica. Everything was incredibly affordable and delicious! Excellent recommendation, Google!
We walked around a bit more and noticed that Ljubljana was far better than we thought it would be. Our first impressions, which were overall negative, were instantly blown away! The old town wasn't overrun with tourists, which was nice, and everything was so colorful, well-built, well-maintained, and almost majestic! We really felt like we were in a little romantic European town-- which we were!
After walking around a little bit, we headed back to our Couchsurfing place because we were absolutely exhausted! Luckily for us, instead of sleeping on a couch in someone's living room, there were two beds and a private bedroom for us! Wow!
July 7th: Ljubljana
After knocking out for about 11 hours, we woke up feeling refreshed and anew! We quickly got ready and headed out towards the Old Town once again. Firsy, we went to Le Petit Cafe, which we found on Google as one of the top cafes to go to in Ljubljana. We got some killer breakfast dishes. Matt had a frittata mixed with some cheese, pancetta, and mushrooms. I got some scrambled eggs and vegetables. In order to really prepare ourselves for a day of exploring, we ordered some espresso, which was delicious and strong. We highly recommend that cafe!
With our full tummies and heads buzzing, we waltzed around a bit more and found ourselves in the Ljubljana Central Market. Various vegetables, fruits, meats, snacks, and other goodies were being sold there, like almost any other market you'd find in Europe. However, this one also had a few food trucks selling some scrumptious treats, like freshly cooked fish-- our favorite! Even though we just ate, we knew we had to try some of that seafood, specifically the grilled squid! Once again, our tummies weren't disappointed.
This market, by the way, didn't feel run down by tourists. It really felt as if there was a good mix of tourists and locals, which was very nice to witness and be a part of!
To us, while walking around the market, we felt as if the Slovenian language sounded like it was a good mixture between Italian and Slavic languages. Their culture also seemed to be a good mixture of Italian and Eastern European, such as their food and overall attitudes. They offered tons of hearty meats, like Eastern Europe, but also lots of freshly cooked fish, like Italy! The people are also friendlier, like the people in Italy. Slovenia, being sandwiched between Italy and Eastern Europe, is such a wonderful combination of the two in many different ways!
Oh, and almost everyone spoke English. Another great positive!
After the market, we simply and happily strolled around the city. It was a city that felt alive with happy, peppy people (like us!) and we were glad to be in the middle of it! But, we couldn't help but wonder, would it be like this perfect and enjoyable in the winter? Most likely not, right?
Anyway, we wanted to sit along the river and have a drink, so we found this place called Makalonca. We got to sit literally on the river-- on a floating part of the restaurant with tables and chairs! It was one of the most relaxing bars/restaurants we'd gone to with a killer view of the Old Town and the emerald-green river. The prices were reasonable for our drinks, too!
By the way, a lot of people told us to skip Ljubljana. We are so glad we didn't listen to those naysayers! If you get the opportunity, definitely visit the capital city because it's worth exploring!!
One thing to do in Ljubljana apparently was to see the Dragon Bridge. On Google results, we saw a picture of the bridge and it looked like something straight out of Asia! It looked like a colorful dragon, covering the entire bridge. We thought, we MUST visit this because it's so out of place!
Naturally, we got there, and the bridge looked nothing like that one picture. It was just a plain bridge with four medium-sized, pale green dragon statues, two on each end of a small bridge. Google lied (but since then, it's changed the picture)! So, it was a little underwhelming for us, personally.
Word to the wise: use caution when ordering "Ice Coffee" in Europe and especially Ljubljana! "Ice Coffee" there is literally coffee with ice and ice cream! We actually figured that out early and ordered one at the Central Market without the ice cream. It was hot, so an iced coffee sounded lovely. We got that, but they charged us the same price for it with ice cream! A whopping 7 Euros! We even argued, but they refused to change the price for us. So, yep: we spent 7 Euros on a cup of coffee with ice cubes. Rude!
Afterwards, we walked to the bus station to buy some tickets for Lake Bled the following day. It cost 14 Euros each roundtrip (7 Euros per person one way). Quite affordable!
We pocketed our bus tickets, then wandered around this large park there called City Park. We flew our drone there just for fun! The park itself wasn't very interesting in any way, though.
Our Couchsurfing host was planning on making us a salad with vegetables for dinner, but we knew that wouldn't be enough food for us. So, we finally went to get some sausage at Klobasarna, which our host recommended to us the previous day. The sausage turned out to be delectable! It's definitely a must-visit when you're in Ljubljana.
With our bellies somewhat full of sausage, we walked around a bit more and had some Aperol Spritz at a random cafe on the river (we can't find it online nor do we remember the name, but it wasn't anything spectacular). After that, we walked a block to the bus stop and went back to our Couchsurfing accommodation for some yummy and healthy dinner!
Once we finished our scrumptious, homemade meal, our host told us to not even go to Lake Bled because it's overrun with tourists. That made us nervous to go the following day, but didn't stop us from going!
July 8th: Lake Bled
We woke up relatively early and took our bus from the station to Lake Bled. The ride was about an hour. Once we arrived there, we got off the bus, turned left and walked straight-- and found ourselves staring at the most beautiful lake we'd ever seen. The shimmering turquoise water was calm and clear. Plus, in the middle of the lake, there was a small island with the most quaint church on it. How adorable is that?
To our surprise, there weren't very many tourists either! That made us very happy, since we were so nervous of that. We walked around the lake, which was about 6km (3.75 miles), and even with the other tourists there, we didn't feel overrun by them. The hike was pleasurable in every way: flat ground, gorgeous views at every moment, not a lot of other people in your way, places to swim, places to have a picnic, places to rent canoes/kayaks and go out on the lake, and so on. Everything about Lake Bled was incredible. Even though we knew it would be beautiful, we were completely blown away while we were there.
During our walk, though, our stomachs were nagging at us for some grub. We hadn't eaten all day! We discovered one problem with Lake Bled: all of the restaurants around it were expensive and didn't seem to offer any good food. Eventually, at the end of our walk, we stumbled upon a small strip mall with cheap food options. Phew! Then, we ate salads and a huge plate of meat at Ham Ham for only 24 Euros. It was delicious, cheap, great portions, and we even had great service! (Not sure why their reviews are so poor, though..).
Finally: our tummies were full and content! We finally finished our loop around the lake and stopped at some touristy cafe/restaurant for some wine (duh! Have you seen our name?!)! It was nothing fancy, but we did love the view!
When we were finished our wine, we walked back to the bus stop and headed back to Ljubljana.
Our Couchsurfing host was planning on making us a big salad for dinner again, but we knew we'd need more food than that. So, we wandered around our neighborhood, searching for an open restaurant-- that's hard to find on Sundays in Europe! We eventually found a small restaurant with outdoor seating where we ate lots of meat and drank some more wine!
After that, we headed back for dinner #2 with our Couchsurfing host! Although we didn't cook anything, we did clean and gave her some yummy cake from the restaurant!
July 9th: Ljubljana to Zadar, Croatia
On this day, we left Ljubljana and took a bus to Zadar, Croatia. Stay tuned for our next podcast/post on Zadar!
Slovenia blew us away! It has so much incredible nature-- and we barely even saw any! We'd love to go back one day to explore far more. We might even move there one day because we could see ourselves living there! It's comfortable, clean, beautiful, cheap, has great people and food!
Wine: Soli - Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc (Bulgaria)
About the wine: it was a strong wine-- and it tasted that way, which wasn't very enjoyable in that regard. But, it really hit the spot because it did the trick!