The year I turned 30 was also the year that I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree so I thought I would do it up big on my annual trip abroad. I have had a friend since I was 14 who was from Austria and now lived in Slovenia and we agreed that I should come to visit her that year. So I started in Austria, went through Slovenia and ended the trip in Italy.
Slovenia is an uncommon destination for pretty much anyone I know, so I was excited to learn more about the country. It was Communist until the early 1990’s and in the recent past it’s been a country really getting to know itself.
The beginning of my trip through Slovenia was in Maribor, which is the second largest city in the country. We went to several places to eat and for drinks and walked through the outdoor markets throughout the city, but the place I remember the most was called LUFT 360°. This was a rooftop bar with inside and outside seating. You could see over the top of the whole city and there were all kinds of plants and lights hanging in the outdoor space.
The Slovenian language was difficult for me to pick up as Slavic languages (think Russian) use a lot of consonants. To order coffee with milk you say, “kava z mlekom”. I don’t know about you, but pronouncing an “m” and a “l” immediately following a “z” makes my tongue come out of my face way too far. But needs must, and I’m a coffee fiend, so it was essential. My friend is a very accomplished woman, so on top of speaking a billion languages and being a DOCTOR she also had become a sommelier. You know, for fun.
So we went to The Old Vine House in Maribor, where the oldest noble grapevine that still produces grapes is, walked through the little-bitty museum and tasted some wine. The grapevine is over 400 years old, practically ancient!
The next day we toured the Postojna (Poh-stoy-nah) cave system on our way to Ljubljana (Lyoo-bli-ahna) and Koper. The caves are imposing, cold and impossibly dark, even with the lighting throughout. You can also have the experience in pretty much whichever language you require.
The tour is very interesting and there’s more than one cave system worth viewing in Slovenia. At the end of the tour you get to view some of the little reptiles, known as the Postojna cave “dragon”. These little dragons are actually olms, a sightless aquatic salamander. Their population is classified as “vulnerable” so there is an ongoing conservation effort in this cave system with a resident biologist and everything!
From the caves we went to Ljubljana and walked through the medieval fortress on a large hill overlooking the city. It’s quite an imposing beauty but the highlight really is the views of Ljubljana from the top. It’s a beautiful city.
Once we finished walking through the castle we proceeded down to the wide open squares that had a HUGE open-air market called the Central Market hosting the Open Kitchen Festival. It was bustling and alive and you could buy things from clothes to crafts to food. It was around Easter so there were many things related to that for sale as well.
From Ljubljana we proceeded to Koper where we rented an apartment at Bordon Winery. The first night we stayed there was night of my 30th birthday, so we were served a beautiful dinner and a wonderful wine tasting where I have discovered the wine-love-of-my-life, “E.Vin Rosé”. If only they distributed stateside. Bordon Winery is converted from a mill, so it has a creek running through it. It’s lush and green and so beautiful, so if you ever find yourself around Koper, considering staying at this little gem.
We also took a day trip to the port town of Píran. Slovenia was interesting in that the further west you got, the more Italian the architecture looked and this is what you got in Píran. Sadly, it was pouring rain and I was soaking wet so we didn’t get to stay long here. Another note on the architecture in Slovenia: with its Communist roots, many of the building are very uniform and stark looking.
There are still a lot of things I want to see in Slovenia and I look forward to taking another trip!
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