There are many reasons why we journey to different places. Some want to seek adventures or find themselves.
Written by Erika Grace R. Lapitan
Others travel to discover the story of the area—and later create their own stories about it. But no matter where we go, what we do or why we go there, we always look for magical moments that will be forever etched in our minds. It is this certain magic that I found abundant in Slovenia.
Reading about its interesting history, alpine mountains and dreamy coastal towns, I knew I would be taking home something special from the country. So I embarked on a trip to one of the most visited places in the world.
Lying between Hungary, Austria, Italy and Croatia, Slovenia was said to have been first settled by the Slavic groups called Slovenes. Centuries after, Germans took over the land, which eventually became part of Yugoslavia. Only in 1991 did the country receive its independence when the republic broke up.
THE RICH CAPITAL
My Slovenian getaway began in country’s largest city and capital, Ljubljana. The name was said to be derived from Ljubljanica River’s old name Ljubija, however many historians still debate whether the name was taken from the German Laibach or from the Italian Lubiana. Dating back to 2000 BC when lake-dwellers initially inhabited the area, the city was named lulia Aemona during the rule of the Roman Empire. The subsequent years brought the city under the influence of many empires until it became the capital of the country.
Among its interminable tourist attractions are the Ljubljana Castle which was constructed during the 12th century in a mixture of Renaissance, Medieval, Gothic, and Romanesque styles; the St. Nicholas Cathedral easily distinguished by its green-colored dome; the Prešeren Square where many streets and pathways converge around a monument of Slovene poet France Prešeren; the Tivoli City Park whose name came from Jardins de Tivoli and where the Tivoli Castle is found; the Cankar Hall where many cultural performances and events are held; and the Čop Street considered as Ljubljana’s principal promenade.
Also a must-see is the Triple Bridge connecting the Ljubljana’s modern and historical sides. Originally a single bridge, Architect Jože Plečnik and his student Ciril Tavčar designed two more bridges on both its sides to prevent a possible traffic jam (the city is the largest in the country, after all).
Four other bridges can be found traversing the Ljubljanica River: the Trnovo Bridge, the Dragon Bridge, the Hradecky Bridge known as the only well-maintained cast iron bridge in the country, and the Butcher’s Bridge popular among couple for its love locks.
Another sight to see in the capital is the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation. Aside from its red-hued façade, its other striking features are its bell towers and several sculptures of biblical characters and Our Lady of Loretto. Inside, fresco paintings by Matej Sternen can be viewed as well as a glorious altar.
Take a chance to wander around the University of Ljubljana, known for being Slovenia’s oldest institution. It has changed names throughout the past century, from “King Alexander University in Ljubljana” during the mid-1920s to “Edvard Kardelj University in Ljubljana” in 1979. The school is comprised of three academies namely the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, and the Academy of Music; as well as 23 faculties, and numerous libraries with specific fields of studies. A gallery also opened to public last 2012, displaying a wide selection of Slovenia’s masterpieces.
THE DARING CITIES
Ljubljana truly is a site to behold, however the Bled and Piran are towns I couldn’t dare miss either.
Lying in north-western Slovenia (just along the foothills of the Julian Alps), Bled is a scenic resort town where you can find glacial Bled Lake and the much photographed Bled Castle. Tourists and locals alike enjoy its many activities such as visiting historical sites, trekking in the Triglav National Park, and fishing or sitting by Lake Bled (or ice skating during the winter season).
In a small island in the middle of Lake Bled, one can find the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church popular for weddings and meditations. Reaching the church is an adventure itself: you need to ride a wooden boat and climb an estimated 99 steps just to get to its doors.
Rowing competitions and chess tournaments are also held in the town of Bled. Among its famous events are the World Rowing Championships in 2011 and the 35th Chess Olympiad held in the Grand Hotel Toplice in the year 2002.
Meanwhile, Piran stands to be one of the most picturesque cities in the region. Opening to the Adriatic Sea, the town exudes a coastal, old-world charm, owing to the Venetian-style buildings, winding alleys, and beautiful nature sceneries. Its well-recognized landmarks are Greyfriars Franciscan Monastery where musical performance are seen; Piran Coastal Galleries consisting of six contemporary art museums; the town walls significant in every way as they bear witness to Piran’s defiance against incursions; and the Church of Saint George known as the largest church in the area. Sports junkies can watch football games in the Pod Obzidjem Stadium, too.
A tourism hub, Piran also has an international airport aside from providing other modes of transportation such as ships docked in the marina and tram systems.
THE GALLANT HEART
A trip to Slovenia is not complete without indulging in the majestic view of Lake Bohinj, the country’s biggest lake. It forms part of the Triglav National Park in the Bohinj Valley. As it has a wide biodiversity, a lot of people come to this area to trek, fish, and swim. Because of the high demand for ways of touring the lake, many establishments now offer boat rides and cruises as well as its latest attraction: cable cars. Visitors have also taken an interest in viewing the famous Goldhorn Chamois popularized by Poet Rudolf Baumbach.
Lastly, take a stopover in Slovenia’s two other seaside settlements namely Koper and Izola. They also have beautiful coastlines and exciting nightlife to boast. Visitors will surely have fun exploring the Praetorian Palace, the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park, the Sergel Mašera Maritime Museum, and the Strunjan Landscape Park among others.
End your day with a boat ride, looking over the Adriatic Sea, and watching the sun sets in the horizon.
WHERE ALL ROADS LEAD
The summer days are nearing its end but while it’s still here, take the opportunity to travel to different countries. Keep the curious traveler in you satisfied by touring all landmarks historical and modern, meeting and exchanging stories with a variety of people, and being one with the country’s unique culture. Follow the road to a country of magic and bounty. This June, travel to Slovenia.