For the 95% of Americans reading this: Slovenia is the small country bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. It is not Eastern Europe.
Now that that’s out of the way…
I just came back from a beautiful week driving around the country. Slovenia is only about as big as New Jersey, and the capital, Ljubljana, is smack dab in the center. I rented a car and stayed a night or two in each destination, but they could all easily be day trips from the capital, as even the most distant city is no more than a 3 hour drive from Ljubljana.
Lake Bled is absolutely gorgeous. If you take one day trip outside the capital, let it be here. The lake is so peaceful and there’s this tiny ass island in the middle of it (actually, the only island in Slovenia).
There is a beautiful four mile path surrounding the lake that you can walk if you aren’t too busy shoving famous Bled Cream Cake into your mouth (as I was).
In the summer time, this place is popping with activities: paragliding, kayaking, and paddle boarding. It’s much more quiet in winter, which is when I went, but I found the serenity to be incredibly refreshing. It was wet and grey the two days I was there, but I was still so enamored by this place.
Lake Bled is also the easiest to reach from the capital if you do not have a car. There is a direct bus from Ljubljana that takes about an hour.
Lake Bohinj is the less-visited neighbor to Lake Bled, only 30 minutes away. If you have a car and are short on time, you can definitely visit both lakes on the same day. In February, it is nearly a ghost town which I absolutely loved because sometimes you just have to belt Beyonce in nature, you feel me?
About 10 minutes by car (or 50 minutes on foot) from Bled is Vintgar Gorge. Many guidebooks call this a hike. I am chubby and I have weak ankles and even I think it is the same intensity as moving walkways in airports, so don’t stress it.
Vintgar Gorge is technically closed in winter. There is a sign that says “CLOSED” in front of a locked gate. But like, jump over it and live your life you know? You can get a fair way in before you will notice that panels have straight up been removed from the walkways, leaving only a narrow beam.
Now, most people wouldn’t risk it, and understandably so because if you fall you will die. But I am from Tucson, Arizona and if you think I was going to give up my one Kerri Strug moment, you are sadly mistaken. So while it may not be as safe in winter, it is definitely dope to have a whole gorge to yourself.
Sweet Lord, this coastal town is CUTE. Piran has a heavy Italian influence (up until the mid 20th century, the main language was Italian), and you can get gelato and pizza just as easily as freshly caught seafood.
The main place to be is Tartini Square, but I also recommend exploring the narrow streets, strolling by the water, and climbing up the Bell Tower for beautiful views of the city.
If you’re into it, there is an aquarium, a shell museum (yeah, like a museum of sea shells) and a maritime museum. I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of them but I WAS impressed with the homemade olive oil at Pavel so if you get bored just go drink that shit up.
Pro Tip: If you are driving, park your car at the garage at the top of the hill just before the city gates. Cars are only allowed on the outskirts of Piran and parking is mostly for inhabitants. It’s much easier to just park at the garage and walk down.
Situated in the North East part of the country is Maribor, home to the oldest grape vine in the world.
Maribor is bigger than Piran, but less charming and cozy. Strangely enough, there is a pretty strong Latin vibe here. There are several tapas bars, as well as latin cocktail lounges and clubs. I also walked into a place called CASINO, which was not a casino but rather a funky cafe/bar that was hosting what I understood to be Slovenian spoken word interspersed with harp music.
Also note that the most poppin place in Maribor is a bar called fucking MINIONS, like the fucking movie. And you can only guess the kind of goddamn assholes who drink at MINIONS. Massive goddamn assholes.
And if anyone swears to you that a bar called Niagara is fire, tell them to eat a bag of dicks. That shit looks fresh out of 1980’s Atlantic City. It was 9:30pm on a Thursday and at one end was a dude slamming his tongue down a girls throat (whatever, get it) and at the other end were two chicks drinking lattes in active wear.
Pro Tip: Definitely visit the Old Vine House where you can enjoy the small museum and discover some local wines in the tasting room. Instead of settling at the cafe/bar next door however, walk just a block over to Vinoteka Maribor to enjoy a glass of quality wine by the water, without the pretension.