From Sarajevo we decided to catch a bus to back to Croatia, but this time Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia and the hub of the country. A beautiful city with stunning architecture we walked around the city to explore. Our first port of call was the cathedral in Zagreb, typically gothic in style, the twin spires can be seen from most parts of the city. It was beautiful to just stand in front of the cathedral and admire the many statues which covered the entrance and of the cathedral as well as those adorned near the towers.
Nearby was a massive outdoor Green Market where there are rows upon rows of market stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, spices and herbs, honeys and jams, among many others interesting foods. It was a joy to the senses, the many colours the market provided together with the smells of the fresh produce and some free samples given to encourage buying.
A walk through the Botanical Gardens in Zagreb allowed us to explore the best of the autumn colours. With many of the same trees in England it was a little reminder of home. An indoor raised pond also gave us the opportunity to see some Lilly pad flowers which I had never seen before (plus they were very pretty and the colours striking!)
Walking through Zagreb you can’t help but be amazed by the wonderfully diverse architecture both old and new. Many of churches, theaters, monuments and towers have been renovated yet the splendour they hold is still retained through the decor on the outside and inside.
Throughout Zagreb we also spotted many cool places of graffiti too.
A train in a downpour of rain through some stunning scenery took us to Ljubljana, Slovenia’s thriving capital city. Dropping our backpacks at our hostel, we walked in the rain to the centre of the city where we would meet our tour guide who would show us around Ljubljana centre for free. A university lecturer in art history, we followed our tour guide in the rain as he used his vast knowledge of history and art to explain today’s Ljubljana as we saw it, seeing the famous Three Bridges based on the bridges over Venetian canals, bronze sculptures,and markets where they would sell everything from fruit and vegetables to horse meat!!!
Escaping from the incessant rain, we stopped for a hot chocolate and a light lunch before heading to Ljubjana Castle. Standing on Castle Hill overlooking downtown Ljubljana, it is a prominent feature in the city’s skyline. We spent time looking around the grounds, and the tower itself which also housed cells where prisoners were kept.
The following day we woke up early to see the Škocjan Caves. Located in Škocjanske jame Park in Slovenia, the caves, over three million years old, are a natural treasure and an underground phenomena that tourists flock to see, and it didn’t disappoint!! Carved through the limestone by the River Reka which disappears under the mysterious caves 150 meters deep, the gorge is surrounded with collapsed dolines which add to the beauty of the surrounding area.
Walking through a guided tour of the caves, we first entered the pitch black Silent Cave only lit by lamps along the footpath, where it lived up to its name and was so silent it was eerily beautiful. Stalactites dripped from the covered ceiling, as snow-covered icicles, white from the recent growth and glittering in the torched light; stalagmites towered above us both like overgrown mushrooms, each bigger than the last was. One particularly renowned stalagmite was nicknamed “The Giant”, a single, hulk of a stalagmite which stood taller than than you could imagine and was wider than I could even begin to describe. Resembling a melted wax candle the sheer volume was impressive and we were in awe!
The next cave we wondered into was much more noisy due to the rushing water of the Reka River. In the distance carved steps could be seen cut out of the edge of the limestone, whilst the expansive canyon grew larger with each step as we crossed the bridge high above the river yet only halfway from the water level to the cave ceiling. We were in awe, it was thrilling to be in a place so old but a place that had held its natural beauty without tourists spoiling it. A truly unforgettable experience!
The following day we took a bus to Bled, a tourist town located on the foothills of the Julian Alps with the glacial Lake Bled attracting tourists from near and far to witness its beauty. A short walk around the the town of Bled we headed towards Vintgar George by foot. Recommend by our hostel owner, we walked through the village Podham, and as the sun was shining it was perfect to see the autumn colours against the snow peaked mountains as we made our way towards Vintgar, four kilometres away from Bled.
The trail (or narrow footpath as I would cal it!) leads through the 1600 meter long gorge where the Radovna River thrashes loudly against rocky caves and into clear spaces, flowing with its emerald green colour, and so clear we could see trout swimming in the opposite direction against the current flow. Continuing through the gorge we see the end at the beautiful Šum waterfall, the highest river fall in Slovenia, with a backdrop of an impressive single arched stone bridge constructed for the Bohinj railway, surrounded by the orange and yellow colours of autumn against the bright blue sky.
We continued our trail as it rose towards the chapel of St Catherine above Zasip where we stopped to eat admiring one of the finest views over the entire area of Bled. A walk down to Zasip and then along the road took us back to Bled.
That evening as the sun was setting we walked around the lake towards one of the viewpoints around Bled which overlook the Lake, Bled Castle, and the famous fairytale church steeple which sits atop the small rock island in the middle of the misty lake. On the way to the viewpoint we came across a couple of fishermen who were struggling with what looked like a big catch. Stopping to watch, we saw him reel and pull in a 20kg carp!! It was enormous; it looked like they both thought it was a whopper of a fish as well, whooping and congratulating each other before weighing it, taking a selfie, and then letting it back into Lake Bled.
As we reached the view point, the small hike up was definitely worth the spectacular view we were seeing! The clouds and colour of the sky and lake accompanied each other well and Lake Bled looked magical against the evening coloured backdrop. Surrounding us was the Julian Alps and the Karavanke mountain range.
The next morning we took a local bus to Bohinj, Kranc, for a day trip to see Vogel ski resort and Bohinj Lake. The bus dropped us off at Kranc, and a short walk took us towards Vogel where we took a cable car up towards the ski resort. With the sky overcast we were dubious as to whether we would see anything through the fog and clouds but as the cable car began to rise above cloud level, we were greeted by terrific view of the mountainsides and the snow slopes, with a blanket of cloud covering Bohinj Lake.
It was proper snow for the first time of our trip and my first time in a ski resort altogether! Dave had previously been to Vogel Ski Resort some fifteen years earlier skiing with his family and it was incredible to see it though his eyes as if nothing had changed in those fifteen years! Snow surrounded us from all sides and it was a beautiful sight.
We took the ski lift up to see the resort from a higher point of view – the wind and the snow and the blue sky brought happiness as we sat on the chair lift swinging our legs and taking in the fantastic view.
Walking around the ski resort we had some fun in the snow making snow angels and sliding around the icy parts of compacted snow. We climbed to a high view point which gave us panoramic 360 degree views of Vogel and it’s mountain range, before walking back down the snow covered hills toward the large cafe that sits above the cable car.
Indulging in a hot cocoa to warm ourselves up we rested a while before taking the cable car back down to Bohinj Lake; as we descended we could see that the earlier cloud had lifted and the sun shone through lighting up the lake in the splendour. With time on our side we meandered our way along the lake path and Triglav National Park back towards where the bus would pick us up from.