I am not quite sure how the travels of the past few months are going to find their way into this space… I have resolved to travel less in 2014 so can use the travels of 2013 to fill the lull periods 😉 I am on a plane to Bangkok enroute to Angkor Wat not long from now so it’s going to be more of a “find waldo” travelogue rather than a conventional one…
Right now we are going to one of the most mysterious places on the planet… Slovenia is like Botswana. One of those places that isn’t a world power where things mostly work so it never makes headlines and no one knows where it is.
I knew it was eastern Europe but even I wasn’t 100% sure where to put in on the map when I met a couple of people in a bar in Amsterdam raving about Slovenia. At that point I was on my way to Cairo so it just got put on the list…
Since I already knew Amsterdam and Paris quite well, I needed a third destination, something new and exciting. The original plan was to get to Montenegro. But I discovered, while the Balkans are definitely a tourist destination these days, the infrastructure is still a bit sparse, especially in September.
But one of the ways to get there is to fly through Ljubljana. The capital of Slovenia! There was a direct flight from Paris. So I decided to abandon Montenegro and just stay in Ljubljana. One of the best decisions of my life 🙂
That was about as far as the planning went. Randomly flinging myself at the world is not at all how I used to travel but it allows for some small adventures…
I was pleased to see the taxi driver spoke English and seemed to know where my hotel was. It was a sumptuous car, which I had entered after being swiftly whisked through the shiny, modern airport. Once we left the airport, we drove through the forest! Corn fields. We eventually approached some Soviet style housing projects but there were mountains poking through in the distance. It felt like Hansel and Gretel were ambling next to the highway. I was seduced.
And then I woke up from my fever dream. The taxi driver announced that my hotel was in a pedestrian only zone so he couldn’t drive me to it. But it was only a five minute walk and he would give me directions.
Oops! Perhaps a little more research would have been a good idea 🙂 I did know it was safe. They were part of the EU and I didn’t need a visa. They used the euro. But I had no idea how to get to the hotel!
But it was in the old town, which is stunning! The driver gallantly gave me some directions but they were sketchy. The three bridges are famous here I have discovered so it sounds normal to say cross the three bridges – instead of cross that bridge in front of you, turn right, go two blocks and turn left.
But someone was yelling at the crowd on the square and the music started and it looked like the Russian pop festival in Latvia I’d seen on television. It was a perfect blue sky day and the old town in Ljubljana looks like Venice or Amsterdam so I stopped to take some photos before attempting to find my hotel.
In the end, I had to ask for directions. But everyone speaks English. And walking the old town is delightful. And once you get to the hotel, it will all be worth it.
DO go to Slovenia. There will be more details in future posts… but it’s a teeny, tiny country so you can base yourself in Ljubljana and see it all on day trips. It’s like Prague before all the tourists found it with a dash of the seductive power of Amsterdam. One of the most amazing places you will ever see.
Go before people figure out where it is! And stay at the Vander Urbani Resort. More stories to come – it became so much more than a place to sleep. But it IS a brilliant place to sleep. Huge rooms. Great design. Delicious food. Gracious staff. The only hotel experiences to rival it were staying with my mom at Claridges and the amazing tents and camps AndBeyond has in Tanzania (also highly recommended :))
I am a jaded traveller who has been to 46 countries but Slovenia blew me away. It was so refreshing to see I could still be impressed with the world at large. You really should talk to random strangers in bars 😉