I’m quite certain there’s something about slovenian roads that turns motorcyclists into lunatics. I don’t know what it is. It could be an ingredient in the petrol. Perhaps something is injected as soon as a person drives off the dealer’s lot. Perhaps…
My suspicion is that it involves the road surface, itself.
From what I saw, Slovenian roads are immaculate. They wind and twist, like any good road in Eastern Europe. A few are in questionable condition, for sure. Overall, though, they’re a treat to travel on. I’d almost say that they’re relaxing. Suspiciously so. I suspect that something else is at work here.
You see, I think the road surface material has been specifically calibrated. In an attempt to improve the driving experience – perhaps even to preemptively defuse road rage – the Slovenian Transport Conglomerate has poured millions of €’s into the research of subliminal influence and its applications in regards to sensory feedback.
It’s a mouthful, but it’s really the only sane conclusion I could draw. You see, when a vehicle moves along a road surface, the rubber of the tyres interacts and vibrations are sent up through the frame, directly and indirectly into the driver and passengers. These vibrations are also accompanied by sound waves which, when combined with physical effects, can instill certain feelings and elicit responses, as a result. Why do you think people love road trips so much? Or that dogs enjoy hanging their heads out of car windows? There are other factors, but a large portion comes down to subliminal influence.
What else could it be? Just think, if you could moderate the interaction of tyres with specially calibrated road surfaces, you could potentially influence driver attitudes. When done right, rage could be diffused, patience could be bolstered, and serenity could be encouraged.
However, I believe somebody made a miscalculation. The equations work perfectly in most test cases. Simulations came back without a hitch. Everything looked promising and the future of road travel seemed to be on the horizon. But the boffins, with all their degrees, plans, formulae, and boffinery had forgotten one crucial detail.
Specifically, the number of tyres. The more tyres involved, the more potent the effect. Cars and trucks are the baseline, with drivers of such experiencing balanced calm and contentment. Buses and transports hit a new level, with relaxation levels reaching sleep-inducing euphoria – hence why drivers must sit in specially-calibrated driver cabins, wherein the effects are limited to manageable levels.
It’s when vehicles with two tyres enter the mix that things get interesting. The resonance created by the drastically-reduced amount of rubber/road contact has some extremely unpredictable results. In many cases, the sensory feedback creates a loop, ultimately leading to utter lunacy. Even the most even-keeled and calm of drivers find themselves driven to death-defying madness when dropped onto the saddle of a hog, cruiser, or crotch rocket.
One moment, a driver is waddling their way out of a car park, cautious as can be …
… several kms later, they find themselves rocketing along winding country roads, a deafening thunder in their ears and their vision whittled to pinpoint focus. The speedometer starts to edge up over 3 times the limit as cycle and rider become one. Weaving in and out of traffic, they move like an eel in rapids, flattening out, leaning sharp, thundering around cars into oncoming traffic, only to slip back, avoiding disaster by mere millimeters.
Then again, this is all my own hypothesis. More likely, the offending motorcyclists are just dicks.
When one appears from behind you, its thunderous roar making you jump in your seat, only to cut between yourself and an opposing car in milliseconds, at a near 30º angle, barely skirting disaster, you do begin to wonder if something fantastical is afoot.
In spite of nuts on bikes, Slovenia was a joy to visit!
Much more than simply Ljubljana and Lake Bled, there was far more to see in Slovenia that could be checked off in a long weekend. That said, we thoroughly enjoyed our short time there and walked away with a strong desire to return.
First and foremost for our trip, we’d decided to book a car. If the plan was to stay in Ljubljana, we could’ve managed without one. Since hiking and nature ranked very high on our lists, having a car would offer us the most possibilities.
A little research began to reveal just how much we’d have access to. It took a bit, but we narrowed things down to a short list of must-sees:
- Lake Bled
- The Julian Alps
- Lake Bohinj
- Postojna Caves
We also opted to stay outside of the larger centres, to make travel easier and allow us to escape the touristy hoards, should they prove to be too overpowering. Not to mention that both Kat and I are keen to have a leg up should the zombie apocalypse happen to kick off.
As for options, there are plenty of great little towns dotted across the countryside. Depending on tastes and budget, there’s everything from alpine cabins, village flats, and lakeside chateaus. With 5 of us on the trip, we opted for a full flat in a historic home in the town of Radovljica, not far from Lake Bled.
While it’s not a hopping den of nightlife, we quite enjoyed the slow pace of Radovljica. It was calm and quiet, offering a nice retreat after a day of hiking and queuing. Even better, we’d managed to situate ourselves next to the old portion of town, which hid a few gems of cafés, restaurants, and wine bars. The places here had a fantastically local feel, offering home-cooked meals, local wines, great coffee, and some excellent craft beer.
Not far from our flat was the town of Bled, and the lake of the same name. This is undoubtedly one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Slovenia. It’s easy to see why. The azure waters of the lake offer a picture-perfect centrepiece against a backdrop of sprawling wilderness and distant mountains. This is only amplified by an island church and towering fortress, both of which seem to have been purpose-built for photographers.
There are a ton of things to do on and around the lake, including limited swimming, kayaking, hikes, boat trips, and tours, not to mention beachside lounging. We opted to keep things on the cheap. Following a scenic forest hike, we hopped on a water taxi to visit the island church which, as it turns out, is a great place to relax with a gelato.
Truly there are few more picturesque places in Slovenia at which to lose a phone.
Following a brief swim, we drifted back to the mainland and a short hike up towards the fortress. Again, another place for stunning views. There are few places around Bled that don’t offer beautiful sightlines, and the fortress is no exception.
With the hour getting late, we skipped a tour, instead wandering our way through a forested path to our car, and the end of our first day.
When you’ve been awake since the wee hours to catch a cheap flight, it’s easy to forgo touristy things in favour of a comfy bed. Again, no regrets for finding a flat in a quiet countryside town.
The Julian Alps
I have to admit, I knew next to nothing about Slovenia before visiting. Did you know that 30% of the country is covered in wilderness and forest? It shows! In addition to this, it seems to be a nation of outdoor enthusiasts. Everywhere you look you’ll find hikers, mountain bikes, climbing schools, kayaking, and any number of outdoor activities. It’s pretty appealing, actually. If I could speak Slovenian, it wouldn’t be difficult to sell me on relocation.
I also didn’t realise that the country backs right up through foothills into the Julian Alps, which explains the plethora of climbing schools. This is where we pointed our car on day 2.
Skipping Bled, most roads to the West lead towards Bohinj and Triglav National Park. This is where you’ll find Mount Vogel.
While winter sees the area transform into a ski resort, the summer months open the mountain up for multitudes of hiking trails and rambling. Why would you do this? For the views, of course.
No, seriously. Next time we visit, I’m renting a cabin in Triglav.
Getting up the mountain is a matter of jumping on a short, yet somewhat harrowing, gondola ride, made only more nail-biting by sardine-can like conditions. From the upper terminus, though, the mountain is opened up almost entirely to foot traffic. You can set out on hours long hikes through passes, eventually leading up to the highest peak this side of Bohinj. Honestly, it’s pretty magical.
Should you opt for shorter hikes, there’s still plenty to see. The hike to the top of Vogel will take maybe an hour from the cable car, and still offers stunning views. Looking back towards the cable car terminus you can catch a beautiful view of the highest peaks in Slovenia, tantalising off in the distance. Sadly, those peaks are quite a journey away and many require serious climbing expertise to tackle.
On the Vogel side, however, there are options for hikes lasting anywhere from short hour long rambles, to multiple hour treks.
For the longer hikes, I’d seriously recommend coming prepared. Be sure to pack along some basic supplies – snacks and plenty of water – as well as prepare with maps and, if possible, proper GPS. It’s also a good idea to bring along a few layers. The temperature can be quite toasty in the direct sun, but drop surprisingly quickly with altitude, as well as when the sun slips out of view. Some of the routes to the higher points can get a little scrambly, as well. They’re not treacherous but I’d steer clear if you’re nursing injuries or aren’t prepared for a long hike.
We did a somewhat moderate hike and took in the simply breath-taking views. You could easily spend a day doing this. As we also wanted to visit the nearby waterfall and lake, we cut our time short on the mountain.
Not far from the far end of Lake Bohinj is a beautiful stop, culminating in a towering waterfall. Savica erupts midway down a sheer rock face, falling into a series of cascades and ending in an azure pool and tumbling river. It’s another stunning sight to catch in the region … and sadly I didn’t manage to take a single nice photo of it. Save for this shot of the vista looking away from the falls.
I’d heard other people say that they preferred Bohinj to Bled, and I can see why. It sits in a nook of Triglav National Park, with mountains towering up on three sides. Even without a fortress and island church, it’s hard to complain about the view.
The area around the lake certainly seemed less tourist-laden, as well. It felt more akin to a small town and lazy stop on a road trip. We took the opportunity to rent a few kayaks and set out on the – frankly chilly – water of the lake itself. This was a bit of a mixed bag. The scenery was well worth the excursion … but the kayaks proved to be pretty uncooperative, leaving most of us fighting to keep from simply spinning in place. Or perhaps we’re simply idiots.
I’d also recommend simply putting your feet up, or getting into the water itself. It is mind-chillingly cold, but immeasurably refreshing. One of my favourite memories of the trip is while standing in Lake Bohinj … the water slowly numbed my blistered feet while the sounds of live oompa music drifted across the water from a small festival in the town square.
It was a great note to leave the day on. On this, we left Bohinj behind and set off for a relaxing evening and home-cooked meal in Radovljica.
As is now necessary on our travels, if there are caves to be found nearby, we are morally obligated to visit them.
The caves to be found in Postojna lack the intimacy of the experience we had in the Czech Republic, but they reach a scale that the Punkva caves had only just begun to scratch. At least on a tourist preparedness level.
The Postojna caves seem tailor-made for tourist accessibility. Scaled down trains deposit tours 1-2 kms deep into the caves, providing jaw-dropping peeks at the sorts of scenery that will dominate the next 90 or so minutes.
The walking portion, alone, wound up, around, down, and through numerous caverns, passages, and dripping walkways. It was all very breathtaking, peppered throughout with vignettes of history concerning the discovery and exploration of the cave system. As a bunch of 30-somethings, we were thoroughly enraptured with the experience. I can only imagine how enthralled we’d have been as kids.
To top off the experience, the tour wraps up with a view of the cave’s delicate and highly protected wildlife: the Proteus, or Olm. It’s a cave-dwelling, entirely blind, amphibian that really must be seen. Imagine a pink snake with legs.
There are castles to be found nearby. We considered it, but food and flights beckoned.
Flying to Slovenia means that you really can’t avoid Ljubljana. Nor should you! It’s another place on this trip that I wish we’d had more time in. For the time we did have there, it felt very accessible, with plenty to see, do, and wander around.
We opted for a quick spin of the castle, which provided some excellent views over the city and countryside. It was undoubtedly cool to be able to look back towards the mountains we’d found ourselves on only the previous day.
Of course, we managed to seek out some fantastic craft beer, which Slovenia seems absolutely on top of.
What else can I say? I don’t think it’s a mystery at this point that I’d happily go back to Slovenia. There’s enough to see to keep most folks busy. If you’re outdoorsy at all, you could keep yourself busy for weeks and still have a trove of things to get up to. Retirement plan #18 is now to move in to a cabin high in the Julian Alps.