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Guest Post – Visiting Ljublijana and Lake Bled

If Slovenia were a story it would most definitely be a fairytale! Sophie from HeadingThere gives tips for visiting Ljubljana & Lake Bled.

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Visiting Lublijana and Lake Bled

Guest post by Sophie McGovern from the travel blog Heading There.

If Slovenia were a story, it would most definitely be a fairytale. One of the old ones I mean, by the Brothers Grimm or Anderson, where there is tragedy, beauty and magic in equal measure. Deep dark woods, turreted castles, caves, lakes and mountains, Slovenia’s landscape is what bedtime stories are made of.

bled castle Ljublijana

One of the most forested countries in Europe and the only one to have a native population of bears, Slovenia has a wildness that outshines the rest of the continent.

And, beyond the mountains and the deep dark woods, there is magical city…

Ljubljana

Compared to Madrid or Paris, Ljubljana is a walk in the park; you can quite literally walk from one side to another in 45 minutes. Banish all notions of what you would expect from a European capital. Instead think meandering lanes, art nouveau architecture, a gentle pace and extensive park land that’s perfect for picnics. Plus, there’s a small town feel and friendly local attitude to go with it.

Buy an ice-cream and walk along the river admiring the elegant bridges, listen to the traditional accordion tunes echo through narrow streets, and climb to the top of the Castle Belvedere Tower for views over the gingerbread rooftops.

Whilst exploring, you’re sure to catch glimpses of the city’s quirky, off-centre scene. Independent communities are abundant, there is a free licence for street performers, and the city hosts outdoor concerts and theatre performances throughout the summer.

Hostel Celica, a converted prison, was one of the most memorable stays on our European inter-rail tour. At neighbouring Metelkova squat we found lives bands, a kaleidoscope of decorations and graffiti, and a community cafe serving great quality, low priced food.

lublijana graffiti

Lake Bled

Central to this fairytale is the emerald Lake Bled, where a baroque church stands on a small island. Only an hour’s journey from Ljubljana by bus, this is the perfect place to explore when you’re done in the city.

Arriving there, we couldn’t help but feel that we had walked onto the pages of a story with the scene conjuring up the Arthurian legend of the Lady of Shalott and her enchanted island.

Hiring a rowing boat is loads of fun. We took a couple of beers and a pack of playing cards and drifted around the lake all afternoon. Alpine forest scenery and a hilltop castle ensure that you’ve always got an amazing view. Rowing over to the island, we rang the church bell and made a wish!

Visiting Lublijana and Lake Bled

Bled’s hillside castle manages to nobly compete with the island for the prize of ‘most outstanding fairytale features’. Moat, towers, shadowy cellars and ivy-covered ramparts, why, there is even a monk selling local wine is the cellars. Ooh, and did I mention the spiral staircase?

bled castle slovenia

Be sure to sample the local cream cakes in Bled when snack time comes around, and head out for some traditional Slovenia fare in the evening: beef and noodle soup in an edible bread bowl, that sort of thing. If you’re vegetarian, be prepared to eat a lot of pizza!

For a city break with an element of wilderness, the Ljubljana-Bled combination is perfect. But this is a tale of the traditional kind, and those seeking nightlife and shopping won’t find the area that exciting. For those who are looking for charm, natural beauty and magic, though, Slovenia could easily become their favourite European destination.

Sophie from Heading There

Be sure to check out Sophie’s own blog Heading There and follow along on Twitter for all her travel adventures as she continues to delve into fairytale wonderlands.

 

This is a featured article by a Guest Author. Their details can be found in the post above. If you want to become a Guest Poster please Contact Us here. Please also read our Website Disclaimer if you have any issues or concerns.

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19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Waegook Tom

    July 9, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    Loving this post – I’ve been reading so much on Slovenia lately, I’ve yet to hear a bad word said about the country! Lake Bled looks gorgeous. Also I knew Ljubljana was small, but didn’t know that you could walk from one end to the other in 45 minutes?! That IS small – but I guess that’s part of the city’ appeal 🙂

    • Sophie HeadingThere

      July 15, 2012 at 6:43 PM

      Thanks, Tom! Ljublijana is really cute and doesn’t feel like a capital at all. Slovenia in general is stunning and I could have spent much longer there…I look forward to reading about your experience if you do make it 🙂

  2. Arti

    July 11, 2012 at 3:30 AM

    A brilliant post! Loved the short descriptions and the accompanying capture!
    It surely seems a captivating land!

    • Sophie HeadingThere

      July 15, 2012 at 6:46 PM

      Cheers, Arti! Slovenia is particularly easy to write about…it really captured my imagination.

  3. T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries

    July 11, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    That part of the world is sadly over-looked, unfortunately…and it’s all like that…fairy-tale, pristinely untouched countrysides shrouded in mists, legends and history. I lived in Bulgaria for over two and a half years and traveled to many of the Eastern European countries but never made it to Slovenia…these pictures remind me of Serbia and Bulgaria….and I’m sad I missed Slovenia. Next time I head back I’ll have to check it out.

    Great stuff!

    • Sophie HeadingThere

      July 15, 2012 at 6:51 PM

      I really do love that part of the world. Amazing that you lived in Bulgaria for a couple of years! I remember seeing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a kid and getting a rather strange view of the country :)Serbia, too, is on my wish-list. I will check out your blog for recommendations.

  4. Ali

    July 11, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    I’ve heard such good things about Slovenia! And the more I read about it, the higher up it crawls on my list of places I want to go to NOW!

    • Sophie HeadingThere

      July 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      Hey, Ali! I have a similar list that just gets longer and longer 🙂 Good luck with you travels and making it out there!

  5. Lawrence Michaels

    July 11, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Thanks for sharing this, Slovenia looks very beautiful. That castle on the hill is so picturesque with those sheer stone cliffs, like something straight out of a Disney movie.

    • Sophie HeadingThere

      July 15, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      Hey Lawrence! The castle is a like something out of a movie, yes. It’s incredible how many places in Slovenia have that magical quality.

  6. Pete

    July 12, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    We’re here right now house-sitting and loving it. We know that these 2 locations (and the caves) are pretty much what draws the tourists. So needless to say in summer months the crowds are pretty crazy. But hanging out with locals we are getting the true inside tips and there are so many untapped gems that we are finding and looking forward to sharing.

    • Sophie HeadingThere

      July 15, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      I look forward to reading your Slovenia posts, Pete! A week wasn’t nearly long enough and I hope to go back and do more exploring one day. House sitting is something else I really want to try. How long will you be there?

  7. Kieu

    July 20, 2012 at 4:01 AM

    Slovenia is a newly added country to my places I want to go. Heard only good things and I’m all for a good fairy tale story. Was wondering if it’s as enchanting in the winter, say November?! Would you recommend it?

  8. Sophie HeadingThere

    July 20, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    Hey Kieu! The visit I have written about was in summer, but I know that Slovenia has fairly cold winters. You are likely to get a bit of rain in November, and will need your warm clothes. I don’t think the weather will stop it from being enchanting, though. The tourist sites will be a lot less crowded and the landscape still beautiful. I look forward to reading about it if you do decide to go!

  9. emma@greenglobaltravel

    July 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    Completely love both of these places. Was there in the summer of 2009 whilst interrailing and was so pleasently surprised by how much I loved Ljubljana as a city. And my day trip to Lake Bled was breathtaking!

  10. Jeremy McDonald

    August 2, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    The Bled Castle looks truly stunning. I’m a fan of breaks that combine culture and luxury and am surprised I have never before considered Slovenia. Great Post!

  11. bledtrip

    July 31, 2013 at 8:20 AM

    nice to hear so many people raving about Slovenia. Lake BLED is a must see.

    BLED TRIP is an experienced company that provides tailor-made bus, minibus and minivan trips to Bled for an affordable price. Our vehicles are modern, comfortable, clean and the drivers are friendly, responsible and proficient drivers with excellent knowledge of Slovenian roads and various languages. We recommend combining your Bled trip with visit of the surrounding sights, which we also offer.

    Please step in contact with us for any question, needed information or price demand.

    We offer special discounts for large groups, agencies and local guides.

    Additionally, if you need information about Ljubljana and Slovenia, we can suggest you interesting and convenient tours and sightseeing trips.

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Adventure Travel

Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos

These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.

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Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.

To be honest, I was relieved.

The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.

Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

Puenta La Reina Bridge – Camino de Santiago Arrows

There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.

Church of Obanos

The Church of Obanos

And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.

The French Way - Camino de Santiago

The French Way – Camino de Santiago Photos

Puenta La Reina

Puenta La Reina in the evening

Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.

Puenta la Reina Bridge and Sunrise

Puenta la Reina Bridge at sunrise

Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!

Church of Santa Maria - Los Arcos

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.

The endless French Way

The endless French Way

Irache Wine Fountain - Fuente del Vino

The free flowing Irache Wine Fountain or “Fuente del Vino”

Hay bales along the French Way

Hay bales along the French Way

Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.

Ermita de San Miguel

Ermita de San Miguel

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.

Natural arches - Camino de Santiago

Natural arches on the Camino de Santiago

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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