Slovenia in One Week or Less

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ljubljana from above
Alright, so first things first. That cool hostel I told you about. Well, here's the deal. Brian and I checked out of our other hostel the next morning and showed up at Celica Hostel (AKA The Cool One) at about 11. We ate a decent brekkie there, talked to the person at the front desk, who took our names and let us put our bags away until check-in time (3:00), and booked a two day adventure for us with a guy named Matic (pronounced Matice) on Wednesday. Brian & I left to explore Ljubljana, checking out the not so great castle, discovered a place of perpetual rain where they even have signs warning of rain and for umbrellas (AKA Overhead sprinkler), and grabbed a bite. We went back to the hostel and discovered that while we were there before 3:00 (in fact, as late as 1:30), we were there BEFORE 3:00. Which means, of course, we couldn't have checked in. Further, we were there AFTER 5:00, which meant they'd given our room away. So back to the HI hostel. Which would be the theme for Slovenia, though thankfully Slovenia's HI hostels are far above the current running average.

Lake Bled
I briefly mentioned a tour with Matic, but I should say more on that now. Brian & I both wanted to do some stuff in the mountains, hiking, biking, whatever. Matic was to take us to all these spots for swimming, hikes to waterfalls, cool out of the way places we'd never get to on our own, and throw in some adventure sports on top of it. For 80 Euro, including 2 days travelling around and touring, and food, the deal couldn't be beat, especially considering we were spending between 20-30 Euro a night on our hostel. We wanted to go on Tuesday, but while he said he'd work something out for us if we could get 5 people together, we went with Wednesday and headed off to Bled. Great choice for us, really.

Lake Bled Castle
So, we got into Bled, hostel booked, and dumped our bags before hitting the town. It's a beutiful town surrounding a lake, completely non-exploited, at least for now. Tourism done right. Brian and I hiked up to a much cooler castle with a great view over the lake and the famous island in the middle where there is an old monastery/church. We walked down from the castle along the lake, just admiring the amazing emerald water and came across a house with a couple rowboats in front. I asked the woman that lived there if we could rent one from her and got a boat for about 1500/hr, which is 1/3 the price of a gondola there rowed by someone else and much more fun. We rowed to the island, checked out the church, I rung the wishing bell, hoping only for general luck (mostly because I thought it was called the Lucky Bell and didn't know to make a wish). The island was really amazing, with a big 100-some step staircase leading to the top.

View from lookout
Then we rowed to where my Lonely Planet said there was a hiking trail for "brochure quality photos". Well, you know because I used the quotes that we found anything but. We hiked for about 45 mins on some rather challenging terrain up hill to the summit finding nothing but trees. We looked around and found only a viewpoint over the side of the mountain at other mountains, which, while alright, wasn't worth the hike and certainly not brochure quality. Brian insisted, thankfully, we keep looking (though we got some photos there in case that was the best thing to see) and we did find a nice outlook, but again, nothing fantastic, looking over the lake. Still, I wanted to hike, we did, we got a bit of a reward, and it was still great. Then we rowed back, returned the boat, and hung around in Bled.

Lookout below!
Matic picked Brian, myself, and a guy named Johnner up from our hostel a little late, but not too bad. He took us to a little river where there was a diving board and the guys (in the van already from Ljubljana were Andrew, Alyssa, and Simone) took a jump or two in while the girls took photos. It was chilly! Then, although not on the itinerary or promised to us at all, Matic made special arrangements for Brian and I to go Zorbing AS WELL AS White Water Rafting. More on zorbing later. We after took another stop in Lake Bled and another lake nearby, relaxing a little and swimming around in the beautiful scenery. The water really wasn't cold at all, but the girls insisted on not coming in.

Yes, Zorbing, I haven't forgotten. Zorbing is, effectively, getting into a big rubberish ball 3m in diameter, and getting kicked rather unceremoniously down a mountain. We had to do it, of course. It was a lot of fun, though you get quite dizzy, and in truth the mountain slope was a little on the short side. Still, we got our Zorgonaut certificates, so I'm pretty happy. Rafting was fun, though White Water was largely a misnomer, we made it fun by doing some crazy stuff. A massive bridge jump into the river, a little body surfing, and almost flipping the raft. Brian & Matic also dove into a glacial lake that was the source for the Soca river, but I had done my time in Mo I Rana and the Arctic Ocean, so I passed. Then he drove us across the quite scenic Vrsic pass before arriving at our campsite nestled in the Julian Alps, cooking up a dinner which featured some Slovenian specialties, not least of which was horse sausage (surprisingly decent). We drank some beer and some pear schnapps that Matic gratiously provided, and called it a long day.

Our Canyoning Group
The next day, the girls went rafting, and Matic took us four guys Canyoning again. It was quite a different experience from Switzerland, but I love this sport, it's just always so great. I could see doing that everyday for a living... at least until, you know, you push your luck and hit some rocks. It wasn't as intense as Switzerland, but there were some crazy things anyway, like jumping from 3m high into water that was just barely past waist deep and remaining surprisingly unhurt. The slides started smaller, 1m, 2m, 4m, and were less technical, but it was more fun in some ways, even if less of a rush. The last slide was plenty of a rush though, 15m high and REALLY steep. We drove to a castle, the Napoleon bridge (20m high where Matic told us we could jump if we wanted to, but he'd only heard of people doing it and had never seen anyone). Naturally, no takers. 20m is quite high. We stopped at a lower 12m bridge where he & Brian jumped, though, and also hiked 30 mins to a waterfall. The thunder started rolling about halfway there and we got trapped in a wicked downpour which flooded a lot of the trail and we had to force our way back in, but that only added to the experience. Then he drove us back to our hostels and the tour was over, but I cannot recommend Matic and his little startup company highly enough (email me if you want more info), it was a great time and well worth every cent. The guys and girls on our trip all agreed.

The next day, i.e. today, I left for Zagreb, determining, sadly, that I was financially unable to join some friends in Spain for La Tomatina (a tomato throwing festival) on my birthday, but now at least I know I'm heading to the south of Croatia and then Italy and then Greece. In fact, I have an overnight train leaving from Zagreb in just over an hour. And, on that note, I should get moving. But I should say once more, Slovenia is DEFINITELY worth a couple days in any itinerary.

<Ljubljana Photos>
<Photos from the Julian Alps>

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