Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
284Trip End Ongoing
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The first standout was Slovenia. I knew nothing about the country and the only thing that enticed me was the strange name of their capital city, Ljubljana, which I had no idea how to pronounce. After consulting the Lonely Planet for Europe it seemed Slovenia was well worthy of 3-4 days and small enough to see quite a bit of the country, only decision was how to get there the cheapest way. Easyjet fly direct to Ljubljana whilst Ryanair fly to tiny regional airports. We settled on a flight to Klagenfurt, Austria (£10) with Ryanair and a return flight from Ljubljana (£45) with Easyjet. This was the cheapest option available.
At the same time I also booked a weeks holiday in Southern Spain with the plan of visiting Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Jerez but I won't be able to afford it so that will be put on hold for a while. Flight was a ridiculous £17 return!
Anyway back to Slovenia. The only downside about the flights was having to get to Stansted. Luckily the flight wasn't until 13:30 so I had plenty of time to get there, but I still had to leave at 6:30am! It took 3.5 hours to drive 95miles to Bishop Stortford! The M25/Dartford Crossing is an absolute joke. Total gridlock for 1.5 hours trying to get through the tunnel and we finally arrived at John's house (mate from Uni) at 10am.
I hadn't flown from Stansted before or experienced the delights of Ryanair and I was pleasantly surprised. Stansted was actually quite a nice airport. It seemed clean and new compared to Heathrow and Gatwick, and had no fast food joints at all. Quite refreshing. Can't say Ryanair were that good but who cares when the flight is less than 2 hours? Cheap plastic seats with hose-down leatherette accompanied by a very bouncy landing, still greeted with applause. I will never understand this. The landing was awful (bounced at least 3 times) and the pilot gets applauded for doing his job and not killing us! On the 20 odd flights I took during my RTW trip only 1 landing was met with applause and that was the return flight to London.
Klagenfurt seemed like a very sterile town with not much to offer. I was very surprised to see it was one of the host cities for next years Euro 2008 football tournament, but I doubt I'll be returning as England are highly unlikely to qualify now!
We needed to figure out how to get from Austria to Slovenia and the tourist town of Bled. This looked simple enough in the LP as the towns were only about 40miles apart but it took ages. We had to catch a taxi to the train station and then find a train heading to the town of Villach. Villach is close to the Italian border and there were loads of trains heading there. The train was like something out of the movie Hostel! Small compartments designed for 6 people and we were able to grab one for the 3 of us and admired the views of the alps from the window.
45 minutes later we arrived in Villach and boarded possibly one of the smallest international trains in the world. A tiny 2 carriage train to take us to Jesenice in Slovenia. After getting to Jesenice 45 minutes later we quickly jumped on another 2 carriage local train for the remaining 10km's to Bled.
It was quite eerie arriving in Bled in darkness with the station lit by ominous orange lighting. The second we walked out of the station they locked up for the night and we stood around for 10 minutes waiting for our minibus to the backpackers. As it was off season the hostel owner started with the hard sell, telling us about rafting, hostel restaurant, bar etc. We listened then headed away from the hostel and into town.
The town was completely dead! We wandered around checking out the few restaurants that were open before having a great, somewhat spicy, pizza in an Italian restaurant. Spotted a local bar opposite advertising "cocktails & dreams" so had a few pints before returning to the hostel bar which was heaving! Obviously all the tourists in town were there enjoying the cheapest beer in town, €1.75/pint(ish).
After the insanely tiring journey to Bled yesterday we allowed ourselves a well deserved lie in. The hostel definitely wasn't one of the best and we found out the bathroom doors didn't lock when we heard a girl screaming when someone walked in on her having a shower! Showered and ready for an action packed day we set off into town in search of breakfast as we had missed the free one provided by the hostel.
We had seen a nice looking bar/restaurant the night before when looking for dinner so went there for a very healthy breakfast of muesli with fruit and yogurt with a coffee. It was like being back in SE Asia again as that was my detox breakfast for about 2 months!! We found a small supermarket and stocked up on chocolate and bread rolls for lunch before setting out on a trip around the lake. 500ml bottles of beer in the supermarket were an unbelievable €0.39!
We slowly made our way around the lake, taking hundreds of photos, until we arrived at the starting point for a climb up Mt Osojnica (685m) for an overview of the town. The LP stated a 3hr round trip but we knew we could do it faster than that. I realised after about 5 minutes that I am seriously unfit as the climb was exhausting! Still we made it to the top after about 40 minutes and the view more than made the effort worth it.
The view of the town was incredible! The photos won't do it any real justice, especially as it was a slightly hazy day. We sat around eating lunch, admiring the view before Dave realised there was a serious echo off the surrounding mountains. Very impressive! We slowly wandered down the hill and it had taken half the time the LP recommended, even though we stopped for lunch.
Back at the lake we decided we couldn't be bothered to continue walking all the way round, and didn't really fancy visiting the castle so we found someone renting rowing boats and rowed over to the island to see the church. I say we but I couldn't row to save my life so sat at the front trying to stop the boat tipping over. Once at the island we decided we didn't wish to pay anything to enter the church so spent the money wisely on another coffee before heading back to the harbour and onto the bus station.
We caught a bus to Ljubljana (1.5hrs) at about 3pm and tried to find the hostel John had booked. Thankfully we bumped into a Kiwi couple who were staying there as we'd never have found it otherwise. There was no signage whatsoever and the only distinguishing feature was a tiny sticker on a mail box! First impressions weren't good.
But I was wrong, John had picked an absolute gem of a hostel. We ended up in a 4 bed private dorm with en-suite, cooker, microwave, fridge. It even had a washing machine! If you were backpacking around Europe and found this then you'd be sorted! After dumping our stuff we went for a short walk into town to get our bearings.
First impressions mean a lot and Ljubljana worked a little spell, it was a fantastic little city. A river winding it's way through the centre of town and what looked like a massive al fresco drinking culture. I loved it straight away.
After dinner at a very good Italian restaurant we went back into town to see what the nightlife had to offer. We found a live jazz band playing in the town square outside an open air bar which was brilliant. Why can't there be more stuff like this back home? People socialising whilst listening to free live music on a crisp Autumn evening. It doesn't get better. The fact that it was -4C and I was walking round town without a coat or even a jumper was also some kind of miracle!
The hostel owner had told us that the 2 clubs to visit are Global and Bachaus. He said Global was best so we headed there first and found it was empty. We decided to go back to the street of bars by the river for another few, then went to Bachaus at about 1:30.
Bachaus was amazing! Not the music generally as that was your standard cheesy club fare, but the clientele was astounding. The amount of gorgeous women in Ljubljana takes it to the top of the list of honey pots of the world, displacing Fukuoka, Japan. I stayed until about 4am before heading back to the hostel. John and Dave disappeared off to Global and I didn't hear anything from them until they came barging into the room at 5am. John was more drunk then anyone I have ever seen before! He was throwing stuff around the room, refusing to lie down and disappearing off to the river every 10 minutes. God knows how much he had been drinking after I left....
We all had steaming hangovers after the antics last night so an early start was out of the question. We had a full day of sightseeing planned though so we were out of the room by midday. We had to switch room first though into a far smaller room without all the amenities, probably due to Johns drunkenness the previous night!
Across the street from the hostel we had noticed an intriguing fast food restaurant called "Red Hot Horse". After the amount of drinking last night it didn't sound too appealing but we thought it was worth a try. We knew it was a mistake after they fished one of last nights burgers from a bucket of murky, lukewarm water, probably contravening all health and safety restrictions! I had a tiny nibble off the side of the burger and struggled to swallow it. John took a whole mouthful and instantly regretted it!! Disgusting. We found some more palatable food before returning to the hostel.
We had requested to rent some bikes for the day but we had to wait around in the lobby for over 30 minutes because of a group of Spanish idiots. They were complaining that their room was unfit for human habitation because it didn't have a hand rail on the stairs. It was ridiculous and went on forever! They even called the police in to make a formal complaint! I had never seen anything like it before and still can't understand it.
Renting bikes was a great way to see the town. Ljubljana isn't a very large city so it's easily navigable by bike and the pedestrianised zones meant we didn't have to worry about being run down by traffic. The main tourist spot is the small castle overlooking the town so naturally we headed there. To be honest I don't think any of us were too bothered about visiting the castle but it was something touristy that had to be done. We basically used it as an excuse to have yet more coffee and get a nice overview of the city from the tower.
Once back at the hostel our thoughts turned towards food and rugby. The food was so good the day before that we had no hesitation about going back for a second helping, and it was just as good as before. Absolutely mammoth pizza and I could only finish half of it before we were rushing out the door in order to find somewhere in town showing the England vs France Rugby World Cup semi-final.
We had noticed the ubiquitous Irish Bar during our many walks around town so it seemed like the perfect place to watch the match. It seems every other tourist in town agreed as the place was heaving! Forcing our way into the bar we found there was a major division between the 2 rooms. 1 room was full of French fans whilst the other side was full of English fans and haters. Aussies, Kiwis, Boks and Brits mingling together for light hearted banter. It was great! Loads of song-singing and the place was rocking when England won in the end.
In buoyant spirits we headed back to Bachaus and it was just as great as the night before. We found out through some locals that they were all boycotting Global that weekend as someone was killed by a bouncer the week before! Won't be going back there then...
Sunday marked the end of our 4 days in Slovenia and they had been fantastic. We ambled around the river and side streets for a few hours, killing time, before getting a minibus shuttle to the airport. On arrival the Turkish guy on the bus kicked up a right fuss that he had to pay! Saying stuff along the lines of "I'm not paying, call my company and they will pay", "I didn't want a share taxi, my company is providing one". We paid up, thanked the driver and left him with the idiot. Ljubljana airport seemed very new but almost devoid of things to keep you occupied. There was 1 duty free shop and 2 coffee shops!! There were less than 10 flights for the whole day that I could see yet they are currently building a second terminal. Obviously expecting higher traffic in the future.
Easyjet were far better than Ryanair. We weren't subjected to endless adverts, scratch cards etc and they just got on with the job at hand. We did manage to have a couple of drunk idiots behind us that continued to drink throughout the flight even though they looked like they would be sick at any moment. I'd much rather fly with Easyjet again, especially as most of their flights depart from Gatwick!! Getting to Stansted was a problem and it was just as bad getting back. Sitting in traffic for 90 minutes is never fun, especially at night!
Slovenia was just what I needed for a first proper weekend away in Europe. It was a complete unknown but turned out to be a gorgeous country, packed with things to keep you occupied. Hopefully it won't be long before the next weekend Eurotrip.
Ryanair - LDN Stansted - Klagenfurt (Austria) - £10
Easyjet - Ljubljana (Slovenia) - LDN Stansted - £45
Return Flight time - 1hr 50mins (25mins early) 665 Nautical Miles
Drive Stansted to Cranleigh - 4hrs 94.8 miles
Amount Spent - £160.83 (of which around €50 on accomodation)
Total - £215.83