MAY 13,2010 - JUN 01,2010 (20 DAYS)
In May 2010 we began a 20 day trip through some of the most beautiful nature reserves and scenery destinations in the former Yugoslavian Countries – Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia - with a small detour to Italy for one day and another detour to Carinthia region in the southern part of Austria for almost a full day.
In the spring, around May-June, the rivers are gushing with water and nature is at its best. To entice your imagination I’ll add some photos that might inspire you to visit these countries as well.
Day 1 – The alleys of the old city
We landed at 7:30, picked up a Renault Scenic diesel from the Sixt Car Rental Company, and headed to “Castelleto Hotel” in Cavtat, hoping we could check into our room early – and we did. The price for the night wasn’t cheap (€75), but we didn’t like the thought of having to look for a hotel upon arriving.
After a sweet nap we went to conquer the old city of Cavtat, which isn’t big but very lovely. When we saw that we have the strength we drove to Dubrovnik, and we could see the city’s beauty even from a distance. The plateau we arrived from was higher than the old city, which is easier to travel. When we saw all the stairs we will need to go down in – and later go up – we turned around and headed back to Cavtat, for a fish dinner on the water, with a view of the sunset.
Day 2 – Cappuccino across the Bay of Kotor
The direction is east of Montenegro. Right after passing the border we paid an ecologic tax of €10 and drove to the first gas station.
From there we moved to Budva, also surrounded by walls and situated by the shore on a beautiful bay. By the entrance to town we had pizza and burke (börek) and then stormed the alleys of the old city. We moved to the shore and strolled along the beach, admiring the islet of Sveti Stefan, and from there we continued to Petrovac.
We moved on to Virpazar and headed to the hotel “13 of July”, overlooking Skadar Lake. We were deeply disappointed when we noticed the hotel was closed for renovations. Out of nowhere came a woman who informed us she that she was renting a guest house nearby. We followed her and after a five minute walk on the road right by the hotel we discovered that indeed, there is a Sobe overlooking the lake for €25 a night, breakfast not included.
The lady greeted us with a cup of coffee and recommended a restaurant named “La Terraza. The place has no sign outside but it’s located near the statue commemorating the soldiers of World War II. It was a homemade restaurant, and we ate some good salads and fried fish and it was delicious. We told the owner that we'd come back the next day for breakfast. After dinner we toured the place and then went to bed with the sounds of frogs croaking in an unharmonious symphony.
Day 3 – Overlooking the Morača River
We got up to a rainy morning and took a walk to “La Terraza” restaurant. This time we couldn’t sit on the balcony overlooking the lake because it was raining, so we had our breakfast in a beautiful cellar decorated with antique artifacts and equipped with a bar. We were served all kinds of goodies: fried eggplants, cream cheese, tomatoes, different sausages, a sunny side up omelet, juice and coffee, and all for the price of €5 per person.
We drove on the road crossing the lake and the strong winds blew the water in every which direction and it seemed like they were going to flip the car over. We continued in the direction of Podgorica, and before passing by Morača Monastery we stopped for a view of it and the nearby waterfall. On the way we also saw the Morača River, which enchanted us with its turquoise colors. We visited the monastery, and it reminded us of the monasteries in Romania, both from the outside and from within.
We drove along the Tara Canyon and took some pictures with the big bridge behind us, but the river’s color changed to brown because of the sediment caused by the rain.
We stopped at Kolašin in a guest house which cost us €30 (including breakfast) for a large and beautiful room overlooking the brown river. A large sign with the word “Rooms” on an orange house led us from the center of town to the guest house. The owner spoke French so I was able to communicate with him.
He directed us to the Platinin Restaurant in the center of town, and it was a good choice, inexpensive, with large plates. The bean soup was delicious and filling, but we ordered some other dishes and nearly exploded… We ended up paying €18 a couple, including tip. Back in the guest house we watched the one channel the television had to offer, and hoped for a less rainy day tomorrow.
Day 4 – Snowy Mountain with Biogradska Lake at its feet
In the morning we drove to Biogradska Lake in the rain and fog. There were no guards or rangers at the entrance to the nature reserve. We took some pictures with the view of the beautiful lake, and continued in the pouring rain to Žabljak.
We admired the beautiful Crno Lake (black lake), but couldn’t drive around it like we had planned on account of the rain. We had lunch in a local restaurant on the lake’s shores. It was delicious and also inexpensive. When we finished we headed for the lake again, and for a moment the skies cleared and we could see the snowy peaks of the mountain across the lake. An Israeli tour guide we met in the restaurant told us that the road to Trsa is closed because of the snow, so we had to cancel our visit to Piva Canyon.
We thought about sleeping in Šavnik and from there climbing to the canyon, but we couldn’t find a place to stay and we ended up in Nikšić, where we spent the night in the excellent “Vukov Most Hotel”, paying €80 a couple for a room and a modest breakfast.
Day 5 – A fish meal on the water front
The people in the hotel recommended that we visit two lakes nearby. We searched but couldn’t find them, so we continued to Podgorica and from there to the old capital Cetinje. At some point the road was blocked and we had to take a partly dirt road passing between the villages. When we finally got back to the main road we saw a sign after 2-3 km with the direction to Rijeka Cernovica. We continued in that direction, and we were surprised when we noticed a big lake with a swamp flora. It’s a narrow road on the side of the mountain (at least in the direction we were driving), with an amazing view of the lake.
We continued in the direction of Cetinje and wound up in Budva because of the grey and foggy weather. We quickly realized that we would not be able to see much from the Peak of Lovćen Mountain, while the view from the road down to Budva is extremely beautiful. Instead we drove to Kotor Bay and stopped for lunch in Tivat, where we ate fishe by the shore.
Day 6 – Spending the night at Adrian and Lucia’s
We had breakfast on the balcony with the view and left at 8:00 to Dubrovnik. It was early so we managed to find a parking space in the lower level of the city. The moment we got out of the car we absorbed the ambiance of the place. There was a man playing an instrument, another man performing his mime act, and lots of tourists everywhere. Later in the evening we learned actor, Roger Moore was in town, so maybe that was the reason for the public gathering. We were enchanted by the walls of the city.
To gather some strength we stopped for lunch in Vila Koruna, a famous seafood restaurant with fish tanks inside the place where you can find all sorts of fish as well as giant turtles. We ate black mussels, fried oysters (which are grown in that area of the Adriatic Sea), and shrimps, but we were still hungry so we ordered anther plate of pasta and a dessert to set our stomachs at ease.
We strolled around in the alleys of Stone and Mali Stone, and I wasn’t too impressed. We were too tired to climb the wall. We planned to take a cruise to Mljet island that day, but the cloudy weather, a two hour wait till the ferry arrived, and the fact that we hadn't booked a place for the night on the island led us, with much regret, to change our plans and to head on to Split. We admired the view along the shores and the view of each and every bay and inlet. On the way we passed by a beautiful nature reserve with lakes and islands named Baćinska jezera.
Before we reached Makarska we stopped by Makarska Bay at Zivogosce, where Adrian and Lucia rented us a small apartment with a spacious room and kitchen and a huge balcony overlooking the bay and the beautiful mountains for the price of €40 including breakfast. When Adrian found out we were from Israel he gave us a bottle of red wine from his father's winery which suited our dinner. They both spoke fluent English and were very pleasant.
Day 7 – A Picturesque Bay
Following Adrian’s advice we headed first thing in the morning to Gubavica waterfall, located in Zadvarje. The trail to the waterfall begins just before the gas station to the left, and from there you can see the canyon of the Cetina River. The waterfall was gorgeous, dropping to the bottom with a stop in the middle, but it's pretty far away and I think that in the summer the stream is weak.
We went back to the scenic beach road and drove to Omiš, which was founded by the Illyrian tribe. A row of trees and the extremely beautiful cliffs behind the Cetina River are part of the magnificent entrance to the city. Pedestrian malls with cafés and souvenir shops greeted us and we greeted them in return by buying some nice souvenirs.
We continued on the stunning road near the river, admiring along the way, the green color of the river and the spectacular rocks. We arrived at Split, the second biggest city in Croatia and the Capital of Dalmatia. We found a good parking spot in the bay near the old city.
The Diocletian's Palace offered an impressive welcoming. We strolled the main pedestrian mall, entered an underground pathway with shopping carts selling glass souvenirs and more. We turned in the direction of the market and bought some magnets for our collection and knitted pillows with a pattern of lavender leaves, then we went back through the beautiful, narrow streets to the pedestrian mall and had a delicious pizza and salad for lunch. We were deeply impressed by the beauty of the city. Beside Dubrovnik, it was the most beautiful city we had ever seen.
10 km before Šibenik we got off the main road to Zalisnucka across from house number A138, we rented an apartment with a yard overlooking a picturesque bay and sea. The entire garden was full of roses and amaryllis blooming in red and pink.
It was our 30th anniversary and the landlord recommended us a great restaurant by the main road to Šibenik, right off the exit to the highway in Grebastica, named “Sibenik Stari”. We ordered Skarbi, which is some kind of crab, we received some heavy machinery as cutlery, that the waitress had to help us operate. We thought the next dish we ordered was boneless fish, but instead we got a plate of squid. Again, the waitress had to give us directions about the proper way to eat it. For dessert we had rolled pancakes filled with ice cream. We relaxed at the balcony of the restaurant and enjoyed every minute, as one should when celebrating an anniversary.
Day 8 – The Fjord on the Krka River
We were 35 km away from Krka nature reserve and we got there at 8:05 only to discover that the reserve only opens at 9:00. The ticket sales center didn’t give us any answers. The entry fee is 80 Kn (Croatian Kunas) per person.
At 9:20 the first bus departed to the entrance of the reserve. On the way you could already see the turquoise canyon formed by the Krka River. When we got off the bus we were told that the boat sailing to the island didn't leave until 14:00, and the other boat takes a 3.5 hour cruise and leaves around 12:00. Both options weren’t that appealing so we decided to go hiking inside the reserve according to the description in the brochure. First we walked by foot in the reserve for an hour and 15 minutes, crossing small wooden bridges over waterfalls, the most famous of them was Skradinski Buk – a wide waterfall descending with tremendous force. When crossing the nearby bridge you get small splashes of water from the waterfall and it’s very impressive.
Around 11:30 we arrived to a seafood restaurant inside the reserve, in a place surrounded by gushing water and beautiful scenery. We decided to order, assuming that by the time our fish arrived we’d be hungry – and so it was.
We continued circling the reserve and came by a bridge which offered a spectacular view, and the park ranger guided us according to the map how to proceed with the drive inside the reserve. Eventually we reached the Roski Slap Waterfall, which is less impressive, but the road leading to it is beautiful.
The exit from the park isn’t on the same route, so we continued according to the guidance in the direction of Šibenik. In Šibenik we were impressed by the impressive cathedral and stopped for a light lunch, which included ravioli and salad in a restaurant overlooking the cathedral.
On the exit from town up north on a beach road we were struck by the sight of the impressive fjord of Šibenik on the Krka River. The intense turquoise color between the lovely cliffs with the purple wild flowers left us overwhelmed with beauty. The sailboats sailing the fjord also added to the grace of the area. We drove along the road and every minute another part of the fjord appeared in front of our eyes. Charming!
Day 9 – The Cliff Reserve Paklencia
After drinking our morning coffee we left for Zadar, and we found a parking spot by the pier where the ferries dock. We entered through the gate of the old city and turned to the market. For breakfast we had cheese burkes and a kind of apple strudel hot and fresh from the market. In the market we also bought strew cheese – a kind of orda cheese – and a delicious yellow cheese.
We went to the second pier to hear see the Urgule – playing as a result of the waves crashing to the cracks of the wharf. It is amazing hearing the music echoing from down below. We joined a Japanese group receiving an English explanation and progressed with them to the organ, but since it was a cloudy morning we missed the viewing experience.
We continued to Velica Paklencia reserve – which is a cliff reserve. Just before we arrived we stopped by a bridge over a very wide river. In the reserve we were asked how much time we planned to spend inside, and when we told them just an hour they sold us juvenile tickets that cost only 6 kn instead of 40 kn. Inside the reserve there were a lot of mountain climbers and grooved cliffs, and down one side of the cliff flows a nice stream with a lot of vegetation. The reserve ended after 25 minutes of walking when we came to the beginning of a long climb and realized that most of the beautiful sights were concentrated in the first half an hour. That was our cue to head back to the car.
We continued up north along the beach road to Karlobag when we saw on our left the island of Pag with golden sands and lots of inlets, one inside another. At that point we started crossing the Velebit Mountains on the road leading to Karlobad and with each turn we saw more of the island and the islands behind it. A breathtaking view. Once we were a bit further in the direction of Plitvička heavy rain started coming down on us.
Day 10 – Turquoise in Lake Kozjac
We left around 8:30 for entrance number 1 of Plitvička nature reserve. A ticket cost 110 kn per person. We bought a map for 20 kn, which contained an explanation about the route we should take.
The walk to the lake was easy and took us an hour. From there we took a boat for 20 minutes to the other bank of Lake Kozjac. From here we followed the G2 trail which led us through countless waterfalls and lakes with a deep turquoise color. Until you reach the reserve you really can’t comprehend how the color green has so many shades and how it fits the blue and turquoise, with waterfalls in different size and form coming at you from every direction. When we got to the rail cart after another 45 minute walk with mild slopes muscles I didn’t know I had were aching. We decided to leave the reserve and after waiting for the rail cart we went on another 30 minute walk, with a view of the reserve from above. That walk was easy too.
From there we drove to Rastoke quarter in Slunj. We thought we’d be disappointed after the amazing Plitvička nature reserve, but when we arrived we were surprised to see tons of mighty waterfalls bursting from the houses and descending with great force to the river. The sun came out and we even saw a rainbow at one of the waterfalls. When we finished we sat down in a local café with water flowing around it, and listened to the symphony of the water. A great ending to a wonderful day.
Day 11 – Visiting Villa Angelina
With sorrow we bid our farewells from Plitvička and turned in the direction of the beach road to the city of Snej, which wasn’t on our original plan, but since we were excited about the beach road we wanted the get there quickly. Right away we climbed to the Nehaj Fortress which is located on the top of a hill and the view from it to the island of Krak is absolutely amazing.
We arrived at Rijeka and circled around the old city, but couldn’t find a single free parking space. With great sorrow we moved on and stopped in a town called Rabac, which looked from above colorful and in the heart of the bay. It was less pretty up close. We continued to Opatija, planning to visit Vila Angelina, which I had seen in a picture in an article I read on a travel site before the trip. Since it was Sunday, we couldn’t find any parking here as well.
We continued to Lovran which is 5 km from Opatija and spent the night in a tiny apartment, owned by seasoned Italians who recognized we were from Israel, and wanted €50 for place. It was raining cats and dogs so we all agreed to take it instead of searching on. When the rain stopped we went down to the nearby bay with the beautiful rocks.
Day 12 – A flat in a villa on the water
We returned from Lovran to Opatija and this time there was plenty of parking. We parked the car near the promenade and continued on foot in the direction of Villa Angelina. On the way we took pictures of the statue of the woman with a dove in her hand, and admired the building of Hotel Kvarner. Eventually we got to Vila Angelina and we were much disappointed – no flowers and the seedlings have yet to be planted. The gardeners were working hard and we had to settle for a statue of a piano player and some old trees. Some organized groups were arriving, and that was our cue to leave.
We continued on Istria peninsula through Ičići and after 18 km we arrived at a beautiful bird’s-eye view. We drank cappuccino and enjoyed the view, we continued in the direction of Pazin and from there to the beautiful city Rovinj. The city is located on the tongue of the land in a beautiful bay and all of the houses there are colorful.
We turned right to a parking lot and entered Kristina restaurant overlooking the beautiful view. And what did we order? Orada fish – of which we had fond memories. We received a huge plate with fish swimming in French fries. The taste and the view were both excellent.
After lunch we skipped with the car to a parking lot closer to the old city and conquered it within 2 hours of walking. Carrera pedestrian mall, the market, the promenade, we loved it all. From there we continued in the direction of Poreč. On our way out from the city we got a bit lost after receiving the wrong directions.
On the way we took a turn through a tunnel called Limska Draga fjord. It didn't look like a fjord and after seeing the fjord formed by the Krka River we were disappointed. Poreč is located, like Rovinj, on a tongue of land inside a bay, but it’s less picturesque than Rovinj. We strolled in the narrow streets of the old city, and bought a handmade copper plate for a souvenier.
We continued to Novigrad, where we decided to spend the night. It seemed pretty interesting on the map, and an interesting bridge leads to it and divides the sea to 2 parts. We found a flat in a villa on the water, but the landlord was in Vienna and she couldn’t locate her husband. We settled for a villa on the second line from the water, and a flat which cost us an extra €90. We took the car for a drive in the lovely town and then we relaxed on the promenade until the flat was ready.
Day 13 – Škocjan Cave and an extra down coat
We drove on the beach road in the direction of Piran, but the road in that section isn’t well paved and you can also take the highway. We continued to Portorož, which means “the rose harbor”, so we saw some roses on a traffic island, but I have the same amount of roses near my house… we continued to Koper, also not worth a visit, and from there we moved on to the Škocjan Cave.
We made it to the 13:00 tour. During the month of May the last tour departs at 15:30, and we were very happy not to be on the last tour. The entrance fee is €14 per person. The ticket saleswoman warned me that inside the cave you have to go down and up 500 stairs. As if I wasn’t terrified enough of the cave already… inside the cave the temperature is 12 degrees (c) and I carried my down coat with me, a decision that turned out to be a big mistake. I took off the coat right away and had to carry it all along, switching from hand to hand. The beginning of the route is on a trail outside the cave, a downhill slope and a fast pace. I finished it wet, and had to catch my breath while the guide gave us an explanation about the cave. We formed two groups and I asked the guide to walk at a slow pace so I could finish the trip without collapsing, and she did. The cave is amazingly beautiful – not so much because of stalactites, the trail sticks to the deep canyon, the cave ends isn’t easy – 200 stairs you have to climb straight. When you go outside you can see the path of the of the river between the cliffs, which is also a beautiful sight. The walk took us 2.2 hours, and not 1.5-2 as we were informed before.
We continued in the direction of Postojna cave and settled inside a tiny apartment which cost us €40 including breakfast. The owner of the place recommended us a restaurant in the main street of Postojna. The sign said “Pizza”, but they served us all kinds of dishes. We chose a mix of meats which was good and not too expensive.
Day 14 – The Predjama Castle carved into the mountain
We drove to Postojna cave, and though I'd heard it was beautiful, I didn’t know how much. A sort of train cart leads you inside for 10 minutes through huge halls filled with stalactites, through a chilly route. After the halls I couldn’t figure out why people even proceed on foot, what else is there to see, but while walking you can spot different shapes and examine them from up close. It’s a 1.5 hour walk on a concrete trail, mostly downhill, but you do work your muscles, so don’t worry because it’s not easy. At the end you can see the river and only afterwards you exit with the train cart on a slightly different route from the one you came in on. The cave is amazing, huge and rich in rock formations. The entry fee is €20 per person.
From there we drove to the Predjama Castle, which is carved into the rocks and offers a great view, but after the hike in the cave I was too tired for another trek. The road continued along the Soča River, and we were mesmerized by its turquoise color at first sight. We stopped on each and every bridge to admire it.
Eventually we arrived at the Tolmin Canyon, near the town of Zatolmin. We walked in the canyon and climbed the bridge and saw the river from above. At one point we had to go down narrow stairs with no railing, but we were too tired and preferred to go back to the entry point. We went to see the river on a trail near the entrance, and here too, after 15 minutes of walking I couldn’t go on and had to turn back around, but my husband proceeded and came back with great pictures.
In the information center we got directions to a nearby restaurant: “Gostlina Zatolmin”. It was a good restaurant and not too expensive. Its located in a pink building on the exit from the Tolmin Canyon.
In Tolmin we found the apartment of Teodora Blazetik, which everyone calls Dora. It’s located on 36 Brunov Drevoired Street, and costs 16€ a night per person, breakfast not included. Dora greeted us with homemade cherry filled cookies, and put at our disposal coffee and tea, which we drank in the garden. Dora was a lovely warmhearted woman.
Day 15 – The bridge on the Soča River
We drove to Kobarid and stopped in the information center, where we were told how to get to Napoleon bridge and Kozjak Canyon. According to the directions we had to stop in a gas station where we were told we should turn left in the direction of Drežnica and at the next bridge you pass is Napoleon Bridge. We stopped and took some photos and moved on to Kozjak waterfall.
Across the road from Camping Koren there is a small parking lot to your right. We parked the car and walked from the right side of the entrance to the camping section on a dirt road which joined the river shortly and then ran by its side. The turquoise color of the Soča River was hypnotizing and we went up on the suspension bridge and were reminded of the Capilano Bridge in Vancouver. We continued to the waterfall, passing small bridges with no railing till we reached the end, and behind the rock appeared the waterfall, descending to a pool of water. A gorgeous sight. The trek took us an hour and 50 minutes in both directions.
We continued in the car with the Soča River as our companion and after Zaga, across the bridge over Soča River, stood tall the spectacular Boka Waterfall. There is a bicycle trail leading up to it, but we didn’t have the strength or the bicycles. We continued to Vrsic pass which is a road with 50 sharp curves one after the other. We stopped to take some pictures of the pointy mountains, and we could still see some snow on the peaks. The Vrsic pass is 1,600 meters above sea level.
Just before we entered the town of Kranjska Gora, we stopped on the left side of the road for lunch in the Milka Restaurant. It’s not the best restaurant, but the balcony offers a spectacular view of the cliffs and the lake. The restaurant also operates a B&B, and the price for a room for the night is €75 – but all the rooms were taken.
Day 16 – A short detour to Italy
Being so close to Italy, we decided to spend one day in the country. First we drove to Lago di Fusine, a turquoise and green lake with a snowy mountain in the background, with ducks swimming around, it was a truly lovely sight.
On the shore of the lake we found Edelweiss Restaurant, with a balcony that offered another view of the lake, so of course we settled in to drink our morning cappuccino. The restroom in the place wasn’t in tip-top condition, so you’ll be advised to go to the end of the road and there, on the left side above the stairs, you’ll find a very clean facility. On the right you can see the far corner of the lake.
We continued to Passo di Predil, with Lake Predil, also featuring snowy mountains around it and an intense green color. We continued to the Sela pass, 4 turns all and all, and when we almost reached the end we stopped in a small restaurant with a view of the snowy mountains and had a very bad cup of coffee with homemade strudel and gibanica.
We continued driving near the river on a beautiful road and after a while we reached a spot where construction work was taking place, beyond the construction we had to drive on a narrow road, where only one car can pass at a time. The road was scary and I was worried a car might come in the opposite direction, but all that vehicles that passed us were motorcycles. We drove in the direction of Treviso and from there made our way back to Slovenia.
We stopped at the first restaurant after the border, which wasn’t that great, and continued to Bled. We couldn’t find a B&B for a reasonable price, so we moved on to Bohinjska Bela. At first we tried Bovec B&B, but he only had one apartment left at the top floor with a climb of 32 stairs, and it didn’t really suit us. We arrived at Ravnik, house number 64 (www.sobe-ravnik.si), which cost €44 a couple including a great breakfast. The owner, Mojca Ravnik, greeted us with a cup of coffee and cookies. We booked the place for 4 nights.
After we settled in we drove to Bled Lake and saw a rowing contest with Israeli participants, one who broke his paddle right on the start. We traveled along the lake and stopped at a Panorama pastry for a cup of coffee and our first Kremšnita (Kremna rezina). It turned out that the birds also love Kremšnita, and picked the crumbs from the plate. When we got back to Bohinjska Bela we found out that there is a train rail near the house. We were worried we wouldn't be able to sleep, but the last train passed by at 21:10 and from then on it was quiet.
Day 17 – A visit to a typical Slovenian restaurant
After breakfast, Mojca gave us an explanation on the places we planned to visit that day, and even recommended a typical Slovenian restaurant. We started at Lake Bohinj and admired the reflection of the mountain on the water. We continued to Savica Waterfall. We already knew about the 500 stairs, but when I checked our online guide afterward I read that someone counted 550 stairs. We stopped occasionally until we reached the summit and it was worth it. The waterfall seemed like it was springing out of the rock with a green pool at its feet.
After descending from the mountain we ate a sandwich and drove to Mostnica Canyon – we walked for half an hour to the bridge and there we saw a lovely canyon, in it hiding an intense green colored river which fit together beautifully with the green vegetation. Near the parking spot, on a wide meadow in front of the snowy mountains, the cows were resting from the pasture.
At that point the sky grew darker and a light trickle started while we drove in the direction of Srednja Vas to Stara Fuzina, where the restaurant Mojca recommended us was located. The waitresses in the place are dressed in Slovenian outfits. We ate some delicious Slovenian cuisines and drove back to the guest house in the pouring rain and fog.
Day 18 – From Vintgar Canyon to Bled Lake
Again a decorated breakfast, and since it was Sunday an excellent strudel cake Mojca baked. We drove to Vintgar Canyon and arrived at 9:00, before all the other tourists. In the Canyon the colors green and turquoise reigned supreme again. You walk on small bridges and move from one side of the canyon to the other. At the end of the trail there are two waterfalls. You have to go through the entrance from the opposite side and go down the stairs to see the second waterfall. At the end and the beginning of the trail there is a restroom. We walked at a slow pace and it took us 3 delightful hours.
We continued to the town of Radovljica and stopped for lunch at the excellent Kunstely restaurant which is located near the entrance to the town to the right. We ordered a velvety asparagus soup and a delicious trout with a side dish of potatoes wrapped in chard leaves, a typical Slovenian cuisine. It cost us €30 a couple.
We drove to Bled to the Park Hotel, which was recommended by an Israeli couple that we’d met in the boat race and had a world class gibanica and cappuccino.
Day 19 – A fortress on the top of the hill
In the morning Mojca gave my husband a birthday kiss and made our hearts beat faster. Since it is his birthday, it means it’s the first of June and we have to fly back. Fortunately she got the date wrong. She also gave us a surprise – a cake which is only baked during Easter and new-year’s eve. It was pouring rain and we went out to Kropa, the famous blacksmith’s town.
When we got there we were immediately approached by the local crazy woman, and in order to escape her and the rain we went into the blacksmith museum. We joined an organized group and heard some explanations. On the wall we saw grates in a variety of shapes and forms, a few animals and a mask. We were pretty disappointed, having driven all the way here. Every welder back home can make decorative grates. The town was lovely but in the rain it seemed a little wretched.
We continued to Kranj, and encountered some construction works along the way and had trouble finding a parking spot. We continued to Ljubljana, and I fell in love with the city at first sight. It was freezing cold outside with chilly winds. Not far from the university we entered a student’s café where I sipped some warm soup and a cappuccino. When we went outside again it was less chilly.
We walked along the river till we reached the triple bridge and the beautiful red Franciscan Church. We moved along to the open market where we bought some souvenirs and gifts, toured along the alleys and for lunch stopped at Julia's restaurant, which was beautiful from inside but serves just mediocre food. After lunch we took a ride on the miniature train that goes to the fortress every round hour. The fortress is beautiful, with a view of the snowy mountains and the whole city stretched beneath our feet. The train cost €3 per person for the round trip. Naturally, on the way back we stopped one more time in the Park Hotel to check out how the gibanica and the Kremšnita were (a perfect 10 score). When we got back to Ravnik we gave Mojca a present and a thank-you letter.
Day 20 – Ljubljana’s airport in the horizon
This is the last day of our trip, and also my husband’s birthday. Mojca surprised us with a personal birthday cake made of whip cream and colorful sweets, decorated with a birthday candle, and signaled us to start singing. After lots of hugs and kisses we said our farewells, and Mojca gave us a goodbye gift. This is the day that we made our little detour to Austria.
In the first gas station we bought a sticker for the roads. We looked for the first lake and missed it. Then we saw a lake that paled in comparison to the lakes we saw in Italy and Slovenia. We were not thrilled with the city of Villach, and moved on to Worthersee Lake. We drove around a long time but couldn’t find a place with a good view. Eventually we found one and stopped and had a cappuccino.
Around noon we reached Maria Worth, where we stopped, strolled around and had lunch. We continued to the beautiful city of Klagenfurt, where we visited 21 years ago with the girls when they were little. I remembered how to get to the dragon statue near the town’s hall. We recalled the route we took back then, only this time we stretched the visit a little longer, admiring the beautiful architecture of the buildings. Every building is like a work of art. We stopped at an excellent bakery shop for a birthday cake with blueberry and cheese, and licked the plates clean.