As we continue to contend with the dull and dreary days of lockdown, a ray of hope comes from the west as Slovenia becomes the first European country to declare an end to the coronavirus pandemic within its borders. While it might be early days yet to plan your next vacation, this does provide an opportunity to whet the appetite by taking a look at what the Central European nation has to offer. For the time-pressed traveller, here’s what you must see if you have only 24 hours to spend in Slovenia.
Ljubljana, Slovenia’s consonant-rich capital city, is chock-full of culture and history, providing a variety of activities and tours for travellers to take part in. Legend has it that the city was discovered by Jason and the Argonauts after defeating a dragon, making the mythical beast an important influence on the city’s architecture, most notably seen on the ‘Dragon Bridge’ that crosses the Ljubljana river.
An interesting way to explore the city and get one’s bearings is through a tour of its 40 public water fountains. While water fountains might not seem like the most adventurous draw, the tour, which can be taken through the Tap Water Ljubljana app takes you all around the city and shows you many important landmarks on the way, even as you enjoy drinks of Slovenia’s pure and plentiful untreated groundwater.
These landmarks include the 18th-century Ursuline Church, whose Baroque architecture houses plenty of art to marvel at, as well as the magnificent Ljubljana Cathedral, whose opulent interior, completely decked out with fixtures and frescoes, can arouse a child-like sense of wonder in any visitor. These attractions aside, some of the water fountains themselves are intricate sculptures, one of them even being designed by renowned Slovenian artist Jakov Brdar.
Any romp in Ljubljana would be incomplete without a trip to Ljubljana Castle. The 900-year-old structure can be accessed by a funicular ride and provides an aerial view of the entire city, where its history and modernity can be seen in one panoramic frame.
A trip to Postojna Caves cannot be missed when travelling to Slovenia. The 24-kilometre cave is the most visited one in all of Europe and a tour takes you on a two-kilometre rail ride right into its heart. One of 10,000 caves in the country, the Postojna caves contain dazzling rock formations which hang from the ceiling, natural white sculptures created through the dripping of water which has passed through limestone, and even a historical bridge built by Russian prisoners of war in 1916. The caves also contain an exhibit where the ‘Olm’, a cave-dwelling salamander can be seen which can live to 100 years!
Another must-do is a visit to Lake Bled, thirty minutes from the capital. While accessible in a number of ways, the most exciting is a toboggan ride from the nearby hill. A ski-lift takes you up and from there, you speed your way down winding rails, soaking in a view of the lake and Bled Island, with the Julian Alps in the background to complete the postcard beauty of the landscape. From here, row-boats can be rented to have a leisurely paddle around the lake or to make your way to Bled Island in the centre.
On the island, travellers can pay a visit to the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, inside which the iconic church bells can be rung, which, if rung three times, are said to make the dreams of the ringer come true.
The Sava Hoteli, a chic eatery on the island, is known as the birthplace of the Slovenian dessert kremsnita in 1953. The custard and Chantilly cream cake is a close relative to desserts found in neighbouring regions, but Sava Hoteli sets itself apart through its adherence to the rule of sevens; a 7x7cm slice, the pastry folded over seven times, and the egg-cream left to boil for seven minutes. This creamy pastry is the perfect way to round off a spectacular 24-hour Slovenian sojourn.