I have to be honest, Slovenia was not always on my list of places to visit. I simply didn’t know much about the country. But, I did end up visiting Slovenia last summer and it completely blew me away. Slovenia is one of the most “outdoorsy” countries in the world, with more than half the land covered in forest, more than 7,000 kilometers of hiking trails, and home to the largest population of brown bears in all of Europe. Knowing these facts alone would make me jump at the idea of visiting Slovenia.
one of my first impression of Slovenia occurred when my wife and I were driving one of Slovenia’s highways towards our first destination, the city of Bled. We had just come from Croatia and the landscape had changed quite a bit. Sitting in the passenger seat, I glanced out the window and found myself overcome with a familiar feeling rushing through me. It was the feeling you get when a place reminds you a little bit of home. The route was void of traffic. The openness of the road allowed my eyes to quickly flicker back and forth as undulating green hills and undeveloped landscapes rolled by.
As we entered Bled, we were greeted by alpine-style buildings lining the main street. We took a quick drive around famous Lake Bled, which was dabbled with visitors walking, biking, and snapping photographs around and about the lake’s well maintained pathways. We were not actually in the mountains yet, but I knew that Slovenia was a place that could potentially capture my heart forever. And, it only got better.
After an initial visit to the tourist information center, we drove to Bohinj and around Studor, a town in the Upper Bohinj Valley. Everything was so green and misty that the fog made things feel captivatingly mystical. Save the occasional hikers, the roads were almost empty. We parked our car on the roadside to snap pictures of the famous double hayracks, a staple icon of Slovenia.
We walked through towns with incredibly narrow streets and houses packed tightly together. The reason for this dense concentration of buildings is to preserve the availability of the surrounding farmland. The architecture was beautifully quaint, and it felt typically alpine. We meandered up a hill with a church at the top, and found that we were being followed by a local cat who seemed to be enjoying the views of the town below almost as much as we were. Slovenia is a country with one of the largest numbers of religious buildings per capita in the world. We would see many more of these buildings.
The next days were spent exploring different parts of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park. We took a cable car up to Vogel Mountain, which takes you up about 1000 meters in less than five minutes—one of the fastest cable cars in the world, as a matter of fact. We hiked upward, alongside one of the mountain’s chairlifts—Vogel Mountain is a well-known ski resort in Slovenia and is open year-round. At the top, we continued on a trail that took us around blind bends, up and down gravely trails and, finally, toward a view that made me feel completely insignificant. Standing on the side of the mountain, we experienced that feeling of awe when you recognize what a beautiful world we live in. Well, this was Slovenia.
The following days we engaged in similar activities and had the pleasure of tasting local foods, meeting other tourists and seeing a bit more of the sheer beauty that Slovenia has to offer. We went on a few more hikes, one of which was across the gorgeous peaceful alpine meadows of Pokljuka. We walked through canyons, past waterfalls and along rivers.
Whether you’re someone who loves to ski, hike or just let yourself be refreshed by natural beauty, Slovenia is a place that deserves your attention. I certainly enjoyed my time there and hope to go back someday, especially for a long distance hike. Slovenia, you treated me well and from what we experienced, I can truthfully repeat their motto: I Feel Slovenia.
Written by and photos by Bram Reusen for EuropeUpClose.com