From Lake Bled to Lipica, from the Skocjan caves to Medieval castles, Gay Star Travel explores the world away from the capital’s buzzing life
The countryside of Slovenia, a small state nested between Italy, Hungary, Austria and Croatia, stuns with its beauty and diverse attractions: Exploring a cave, swimming in an Alpine lake, eating some of the best food central Europe can offer.
The best part is, you don’t need to be an ‘outdoor lad’ to live this year-round countryside destination. While the rugged landscape is a favorite among spelunkers and white water rafters, there’s plenty for those looking to take it easy.
Staying in Ljubljana for three days, I had the chance to visit Lake Bled, the Skocjan Caves Park and the Lipica Stud Farm.
This is a traditional tour in Slovenia. Can tradition be worth a trip? Yes, of course it can.
I have to say that being a gay travel writer does not mean being into the buzzing nightlife only.
I really enjoyed the views, Slovenia’s soothing atmosphere and most of all the lush green I saw everywhere in this country, what I’m sure is one of the greenest countries in Europe.
First of all, the Skocjan caves are one of the best natural monuments I have ever laid my eyes on. Because of the extraordinary underground canyon that has shaped the caves and nurtured a unique biodiversity climate, the caves were included in the UNESCO natural and cultural world heritage sites list in 1986.
I went there by myself, supported by a superb Italian-speaking guide, and I had a several-mile-long walk under the rocks. It was really amazing and, in the middle of the canyon, she turned off the lights for three minutes, just to let me enjoy the silence and the loneliness. Pretty scary, I have to admit, but it was really so different to Ljubljana’s noisy and busy gay clubs.
The Skocjan caves system comprises numerous caves and passages, collapsed dolines, natural bridges and sinkholes. These natural wonders were created by the Reka river, which flows some fifty kilometres on the surface and then sinks into the karst underground, resurfacing again at Timavo Springs near the Gulf of Trieste, in Italy.
From Ljubljana, you can rent a car or a guided tour to make the short journey, but the public transportation is still very poor. I went there thanks to Slovenia Explorer, with its very professional and welcoming guides. An experience I suggest you to have.
The following day, I went to Lake Bled and Bled Castle. The first November snow had just fallen and made the peaks white. Lake Bled, just in the middle of the Alps, is one of Slovenia’s most popular tourist spots. Castle Bled is one of the oldest castles in the country, general Tito’s former residence on an island with a cute church.
It was raining but going by boat to the island was quite easy. Just the traditional boats can be used on this lake and handsome sailors can take you to the only island of Slovenia. Where I found the wi-fi as well, really impressive.
Next to the church of Bled Castle there’s a café as well, where I had a gibanica, a traditional Pannonian cake made of walnuts, honey and cottage cheese. I spent more than one hour in the middle of nowhere, contemplating the beauty of a fig tree and of the waves smashing gently into the rocks.
Then, I approached the castle. Its terraces offer a spectacular view of the Upper Carniola region, captured between the mountain ranges of Karavanke and the Julian Alps.
The buildings of the castle are arranged around two courtyards on two levels. On the upper courtyard visitors can find the most important part of the castle – a chapel dating back to the 16th century and a museum which takes you on a journay celebrating the eventful history of Bled from the Bronze Age up to the present day. Try its restaurant as well, or have a stroll along the lovely terrace. And you can even get married here, you just have to book it.
Then, on my last day in Slovenia, I went to the Lipica Stud Farm, where the famous horses grow happy and strong.
Lipica is very close to the Italian border and, in windy days, you can feel the breeze coming from the Adriatic sea. Hundreds of white horses live in this farm. The classical riding school is the pride and success of the Lipica Stud Farm.
You can see how horses and their riders train for the performance in the show. It is a special insight into the work with the best stallions of Lipica, the Lipizzaner horses.
The tour takes 50 minutes and is a unique experience of Lipica. You learn about the history of the stud from its founding to today. Visit the historic center with its famous ‘yard’, the mansion and Velbanca – the oldest stable in Lipica, peep into the church of Saint Anthony of Padua and find out everything you want to know about Lipica, Lipizzaner horses and the Karst in an interactive museum – Lipikum.
But the most impressive image for the most of the visitors will be the image of mares with foals at pasture.
by Daniele Guido Gessa
Source – Gay Star News