Backpacking Lesser-Known Europe: Ljubljana and Lake Bled, Slovenia (Part 3)
Third destination: Slovenia
July 6th: Vienna to Ljubljana
I took a FlixBus from Vienna, Austria to Ljubljana, Slovenia, which took about 5 hours. When I arrived in Ljubljana, I was instantly taken aback by the grittiness of the buildings around the bus station. While walking from the bus station to my Couchsurfing accommodation, the grunginess of the city really showed. Needless to say, my first impressions of the city were not very good.
Once I arrived at our Couchsurfing accommodation, I met my host. She was extremely friendly, welcoming, and sweet. I learned that she was becoming a doctor, is a vegetarian, and has a deep love for travel! She then recommended me a place to get some great sausages in the Old Town of the city, which was called Klobasarna.
I walked to the nearby bus stop and bought my transport card, which were very easy to purchase (at the bus stop in a machine) and cheap (about 1.20 Euros per ride).
I rode the bus into the Old Town, then walked to the aforementioned sausage stand. However, I was so hungry, so a piece of sausage wasn't going to do it for me. I needed a proper meal!
Instead, I fumbled around on Google and found a traditional place not too far from there called Sarajevo '84. There, I ordered tons of meat and satisfied my hunger perfectly. Specifically, I ordered cevapi and pljeskavica. Everything was incredibly affordable and delicious! Excellent recommendation, Google!
I walked around a bit more and noticed that Ljubljana was far better than I thought it would be. My first impressions, which were overall negative, were instantly blown away just by walking around for more than a few minutes. The old town wasn't overrun with tourists, which was nice, and everything was so colorful, well-built, well-maintained, and almost majestic! I really felt like I was in a little romantic European town-- which I was!
After walking around a little bit, I headed back to my Couchsurfing place because I was absolutely exhausted!
July 7th: Ljubljana
After knocking out for about 11 hours, I woke up feeling refreshed and anew! I quickly got ready and headed out towards the Old Town once again. First, I went to Le Petit Cafe, which I found on Google as one of the top cafes to go to in Ljubljana. I got a killer breakfast dish, which was some scrambled eggs and vegetables. In order to really prepare myself for a day of exploring, I ordered an espresso as well, which was delicious and strong. I highly recommend that cafe!
With my full tummy and head buzzing with caffeine, I waltzed around a bit more and found myself 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-- my favorite! Even though I just ate, I knew I had to try some of that seafood, specifically the grilled squid! Once again, my tummy wasn'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 me, while walking around the market, I 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, I simply and happily strolled around the city. It was a city that felt alive with happy, peppy people (like me!) and I was so glad to be in the middle of it. But, I couldn't help but wonder, would it be like this perfect and enjoyable in the winter? Most likely not, right?
Anyway, I wanted to sit along the river and have a drink, so I found this place called Makalonca. I 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 I'd gone to with a killer view of the Old Town and the emerald-green river. The prices were reasonable for my drink, too!
By the way, a lot of people told me to skip Ljubljana. I am so glad I 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, I 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. I thought, I MUST visit this because it's so out of place!
Naturally, I 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 me, 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!
I then ventured to the bus station to buy a ticket for Lake Bled the following day. It cost 14 Euros roundtrip. Quite affordable!
I pocketed my bus ticket, then wandered around this large park there called City Park. It was just as you’d imagine, though: a place with some trees and sidewalks!
My Couchsurfing host was planning on making me a salad with vegetables for dinner, but I knew that wouldn't be enough food for me. So, I finally went to get some sausage at Klobasarna, which my host recommended to me the previous day. The sausage turned out to be delectable! It's definitely a must-visit when you're in Ljubljana.
With my belly somewhat full of sausage, I walked around a bit more and had an Aperol Spritz at a random cafe on the river.
After that, I walked a block to the bus stop and went back to my Couchsurfing accommodation for some yummy and healthy dinner!
Once I finished my scrumptious, homemade meal, my host told me to not even go to Lake Bled because it's overrun with tourists. That made me nervous to go the following day, but didn't stop me from going!
July 8th: Lake Bled
I woke up relatively early and took my bus from the main bus station to Lake Bled. The ride was about an hour. Once I arrived there, I got off the bus, turned left and walked straight-- and found myself staring at the most beautiful lake I'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 my surprise, there weren't very many tourists at all! That was incredibly relieving, since I was so nervous of that. I walked around the lake, which was about 6km (3.75 miles), and even with the other tourists there, I 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 I knew it would be beautiful, I was still completely blown away by its beauty.
During my walk, though, my stomach was nagging at me for some grub. I hadn't eaten all day! I 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 my walk, I stumbled upon a small strip mall with cheap food options. Phew! Then, I ate a salad and a huge plate of meat at Ham Ham for only 24 Euros. It was delicious, cheap, great portions (a bit too much for one person, though!), and I even had great service! (Not sure why their reviews are so poor, though..).
Finally: my tummy was full and content! I finally finished my loop around the lake and stopped at some touristy cafe/restaurant for some wine (duh!). It was nothing fancy, but I did love the view!
When I was finished our wine, I walked back to the bus stop and headed back to Ljubljana.
Back in Ljubljana, I wandered around the neighborhood I was staying in and found a small restaurant with outdoor seating where I ate lots of meat and drank some more wine!
After that, I headed back for dinner #2 with my Couchsurfing host! Although I didn't cook anything, I did clean and give her some yummy cake from the restaurant!
July 9th: Ljubljana to Zadar, Croatia
On this day, I left Ljubljana and took a bus to Zadar, Croatia.
Slovenia blew me away! It has so much incredible nature-- and I barely even saw any! I'd love to go back one day to explore far more, especially Lake Bohinj, which is supposed to be more beautiful and less crowded than Lake Bled. I might even move there one day because I could see myself living there! It's comfortable, clean, beautiful, cheap, has great people, and food!