Who the heck travels to Slovenia? Well…..my awesome cousin Maureen Sullivan does! In a world with endless travel options and destinations to explore, I love hearing about someone who goes somewhere totally unexpected and unchartered. When Maureen started posting pics of her trip to Slovenia, I was blown away by the natural beauty of a country I honestly hadn’t given much thought to until I found out the First Lady is from there. My cousin is a true explorer. Having lived all over the world and currently living in Alaska, she has a passion for travel and spontaneity and thankfully a mobile job (teaching Online) that allows her to travel so much. I knew that she would be game for a couple of questions about her fascinating trip. Here goes:
Where is Slovenia and Why go there? Slovenia is northernmost part of former Yugoslavia, and it is bordered by Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, Croatia to the south, and Italy and the Adriatic to the west. You’ve got an incredible diversity in culture as well as landscape because of this. There is something for everyone. My partner had a 17-day meeting in Bled, Slovenia, so I tagged along to spend time with her, enjoy the crisp Alpine air, and paddle board around Lake Bled, which is a stunning glacial lake fed by hot springs.
How did you get here? and Do you have any advice about getting to Slovenia? Most people fly into Ljubljana, Slovenia’s beautiful capital (think of a miniature version of Prague), and it’s about a 45 minute cab or bus ride from Bled. However, we took a different route, kicking off our adventure with a gorgeous train ride through Austria because my partner is from Munich, and we wanted to bookend our trip with visits to her father, so Munich is always our hub on any trip to Europe. We flew into Franz Josef Strauss in Munich, and after visiting her dad, we took the 5 hour train through Austria to Lesce, the nearest town with a train station, and then we cabbed the last 3 miles to our hotel. We probably saved money, too. Flights to Ljubljana are usually much more than Munich, and the first class train ticket is $180 each way. It’s pretty cool to see the architecture, gardens, and landscape change while traveling south towards Bled.
Who would you recommend travel to Slovenia and what advice would you give for those going? Because you can do anything in Slovenia from riding Lipizzaner horses to touring medieval castles to hiking in the Alps to scuba diving in the Adriatic to chilling out in a thermal hot spring pool and watching the day go by, I can recommend this trip to anyone. Basically, there is no one I would not recommend Slovenia to.
- First, don’t let any fear of a language barrier keep you from checking out this amazing country. No one speaks Slovenian besides Slovenians (it’s an amazingly complex language), so most Slovenians today are fluent in at least 3 other languages (usually students study English in school, plus either German or Italian, and then they learn Croatian because they share a border and the languages are closely related). It’s not as true with the older people, but they are so friendly that I’ve found communication easy. And I’m hearing impaired. Also, it’s part of the EU and they use the Euro, so that makes travel easy, too, if you are visiting more than one country or renting a car.
- Next, the food might be heavier than what you are used to. If you aren’t used to lots of meat and potatoes, be prepared. The flavors are wonderful, but it’s more eat than I normally eat. Also, these people eat ice cream all day long! There are gelato stands, ice cream stands, and everyone seems to be sitting at cafes all afternoon with ice cream coffee drinks in front of them. I’m talking adults! Temptation is everywhere. My golden rule of travel is “just say yes,” but that also means being prepared for some additional exercise to balance out the scales. Literally. Luckily, there are lots of places to ride horses, ride bikes, swim, paddle, hike… whatever you want.
- Lastly, get to know some Slovenians. The country is beautiful, the Julian Alps are amazing, the hiking is fantastic. However, we live on a pretty beautiful planet, and there are tons of gorgeous places to see. What makes Slovenia unique, as with any place, is its people. Get to know some and find out what they’re about. I’ve found that Slovenians are especially proud of their beautiful country. Ask them where you should eat next. You will get great suggestions that aren’t in the guidebooks.
What’s been the highlight of the trip?
I travel with a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard for those unfamiliar), so the highlight for me was getting up each morning, hiking down hundreds of steps from my hotel to the edge of Lake Bled, and then paddling across the lake to the island. On the island sits a baroque church that was built over a 9th century Slavic temple built for a goddess. There’s also a small museum, a gift shop and a café. I would tie up my SUP, get a coffee, journal, and take in the view. While I was there, the many swans of Lake Bled were nesting on the side of the island, and one morning, I got to see a mama with her new babies swim right by my board. It was magical!
What’s the best meal you’ve had?
I hate to be unoriginal, but it was goulash served with gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings). This is a common dish – most places give a choice of goulash with gnocchi or with bread dumplings, but we found place that does it better than anywhere else. Also (this is Kate) Maureen has an obsession with documenting her morning coffee and she loves to post pictures of food which apparently is genetic because I do the same thing…
Anything else special or poignant about this trip?
We did two cool side trips. We spent a day in Lipica to see the Lipizzaner horses. It’s one of the oldest stud farms in all of Europe and the cradle of the Lipizzaner breed. We took a tour in English, and it was amazing. We were able to hang out with the horses, and we could have ridden them, too, if we had known we had to set that up in advance. So if you want to ride a Lipizzaner, don’t show up that day! We will definitely be back some day for a ride. Our second side trip was to Piran, which is considered one of the jewels of the Adriatic. Slovenia sure doesn’t have very much coastline (less than 30 miles), but they made good use of what they had. The few coastal towns are lovely, and the Mediterranean flavor is strong – less goulash, more risotto with seafood! Last year, I filled my bags with small one pound bags of sea salt produced here, although, I can’t recommend that anymore! The salt is fantastic and everyone loved their gifts, but the airline overage charges for all that salt killed me and made me rethink this as a go-to souvenir!
Many thanks to Maureen for doing this! You are the best! Can’t wait to see where you head next…. You can find and follow Maureen on instagram @ms_wellness And if you have recently had a wonderful trip or traveled somewhere amazing and you’d like to share your experience please email me at email@example.com