We have to confess to knowing very little about Slovenia before we arrived here. Shame on us, I know! All we really knew about it was that it was the first former Yugoslavian state to get it’s independence back in 1991, that Lubljana is it’s capital city and it’s the home of Adria motorhomes and caravans and Elan yachts! Other than that, we were pretty much clueless, despite having driven through a small stretch of it on our way to Croatia in April and it didn’t really spark our interest at the time. However……. we now know an awful lot more than we did two days ago!
We left our pitch at Camp Zagreb on Friday morning, with the intention of avoiding the tolled motorway up to Lake Bled. Common sense should really have prevailed before we even left our pitch, to be honest – a 2 hour 36 min 198km drive up the tolled motorway OR a 5 hour 47 min 260km drive on the non-tolled roads? No brainer, huh? Yup, we chose the former, and scrapped the idea that we would see more of the “real” Slovenia AND save ourselves an unknown quantity on the toll charges, reckoning that we’d save more on the tolls than 60km-worth of diesel…….
To cut a long story short, we topped-up our beer and wine stocks in Lidl just outside Zagreb then headed up the non-tolled section of the motorway out of Zagreb, heading for the border. We stopped at the last fuel station before hitting Slovenia and put the last of our Kunas into Sebo’s diesel tank – then brimmed it, using my Euro credit card in the mistaken (!) belief that diesel was cheaper in Croatia (it’s not, as it turns out!Doh!). Anyhow, as I went in to pay for said diesel, I noticed them selling Slovenian motorway vignettes – a necessary evil, apparently, if you want to use their motorways since they abolished toll booths a few years ago. Problem is, the minimum duration is seven days, at a cost of €15 and, since we actually only needed it to get to Lake Bled today, we thought this was a tad much to be spending……you see where I’m going with this, right? Yup, we ummed and aaaaahed and finally decided to scrap the toll road journey and take the long way there so, with CoPilot re-instructed to avoid tolls, we head off the motorway at the next junction, slap bang into major roadworks, huge amounts of traffic and potholed roads like you wouldn’t believe and that’s before we even reached the Slovenian Border! By this stage, it was getting hot again – and after only 3km of this nonsense, we reverted to our original “use tolls” decision and turned around and back onto the motorway. Thankfully, we got across the Border without any delays at all and were told to buy a vignette at the sales point just past the Customs building. We really need to be more decisive sometimes! With vignette duly purchased, off we tootled up the motorway, at 90kph (Roy’s still on a mission to improve Sebo’s 30.5mpg current fuel consumption record! – it’s a “man” thing!), being overtaken by pretty much everyone, including lorries who then cut in front of us almost taking our front wing off on several occasions!
Needless to say, we saw very little of the “real” Slovenia and I took very few photos – motorway barriers are pretty hard to avoid when taking pics of the surroundings and I ended up with pretty much all of those I did manage to snap being photobombed by said barriers and/or speeding motorists. Anyhow, what we DID manage to see reminded us both very much of Austria, but in miniature! Understandable since the Austrian and Hungarian Borders are less than an hour’s drive from here, as far as I can see.
Unlike Croatia, Slovenia is far from “poor” – it was the wealthiest state within the Yugoslavian Republic and seems to have managed to do extremely well out of declaring Independence in 1991, joining The EU in 2004 and the Euro in 2007. It also managed to escape amazingly lightly during the war in 1991 – it only had to endure invasion by the Yugoslav Army for a period of 10 days before a deal was struck and the Yugoslav’s withdrew (casualties amounted to 66, apparently – unlike poor Croatia who lost 10,000 over the four years of fighting!).
We skirted Lubljana since it was now raining, thunder was threatening again and time was getting on and we reckoned that the campsite at Lake Bled could well be busy, it being a weekend AND Republic Day in Italy (only 20 minutes drive from Bled!) and, thus a Public Holiday there. Our thoughts were confirmed as we left the motorway at the Bled turn-off only to be stuck in a mega traffic jam all the way down to the town! Thankfully, we managed to find a pitch at Camping Bled – albeit way up at the back of the site with a schlepp of almost a kilometre to walk down to the Lake but at least we were parked, with a bit of shade and, to be honest, we reckon it was quieter (and a bit more spacious) being in the “back of beyond” compared to down with the hordes.
On Saturday morning, we took a stroll around Lake Bled – unbelievably beautiful, we can see why it’s pretty much Slovenia’s most popular tourist destination. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves….
Even despite it’s “touristy” vibe, it’s not been allowed to be over-developed so it will, hopefully, be forever beautiful! It’s a popular winter sports destination too – the lake can often freeze over and becomes an ice-skating rink and there’s several ski resorts within a 30km radius so pretty much an all-year-round tourist trade!
It even looks incredible by night…..
We didn’t bother with the schlepp up to Bled Castle, though I’m sure the views would have been awesome but it’s quite expensive to go inside and at the moment, there’s some kind of Mediaeval Fest in progress so we’re expecting the place to be thronged anyhow – Lord knows there’s enough Selfie-Posers around The Lake itself, let alone up at The Castle plus Harley was with us and we’re pretty sure he wouldn’t be allowed in!
We’re currently trying our best to “eat the fridge” in case we need to empty it for a prolonged period at the “fridge doctor” on Tuesday morning so, with this is mind, we defrosted some of our precious Norn Irn back rashers this afternoon and bbqd an “Ulster Fry” for our late lunch. It was superb and left us both not wanting much for dinner later!
Tomorrow, we’re gonna drive the Vršič Pass – a heartstopping, high altitude, series of 50 hairpin bends over the highest road in Slovenia……. if you don’t hear from us, send out the search party?