Archive for July, 2014

July 27th, 2014

Slovenia Travelogue

We have traditionally spent a few days abroad every summer with the whole family. Last year we were in Pärnu and Kuressaare in Estonia, and this year we found ourselves in Slovenia.

The flights from Helsinki to Ljubljana were surprisingly inexpensive on Finnair, around 250 euros per adult and a little less per child.

As we are a family of five, accommodating everyone in a hotel is sometimes quite cumbersome and recently we have been looking for apartments instead. And it paid of in this trip, we found a really gorgeous apartment next to the old town. Two bedrooms, big living room and kitchen, and quite a spacious bathroom — we had plenty of space to spare.

Also, I’ve found out that prebooked airport transfers reduce the stress when arriving and leaving the country. There’s someone at the lobby waiting for you, instead of you trying to navigate through the airport to find a taxi stand.

And now to the journey. We left Finland on early Wednesday morning and boarded our direct flight with no major hassles. The children have grown during the years, and this time I could actually focus on my own matters during the flight instead of giving instructions left and right, wiping noses and mouths, or dashing to the toilet to get tissues. A very long wait has thus ended.

We had had excellent weather in Finland — and still have — so the difference between sunny Slovenia and sunny Finland was very subtle. We got to our huge apartment in half an hour and then explored the city on foot. At the end of the day, we had seen most of the touristy part of the city already, except the castle and the park.

The castle was explored on Thursday. It is built on a very steep hill, a natural location for a fortification — the castle commands the city and the river. As Ljubljana has quite peaceful history, the castle is not very big or heavily armored. It had still a lot to see and do for several hours. We lounged in our apartment during the hottest afternoon and then ate very well on a riverside restaurant. The bill was staggeringly small, around 40 euros for five person, including drinks. This is due to our kids sharing a pizza, but still Slovenia is nicely inexpensive destination.

We had booked a car for Friday, and our goal was to visit in Venice, Italy. As we had already covered most of the city on Wednesday and Thursday, we extended the rent period with an extra day to visit caves in the karst region.

Venice was excellent and easily reached from Slovenia. We drove around two hours on highways and then parked the car on a multistorey car park on the main islands. We walked through the mazelike alleys to the main square and then took vaporetto back to the car park. I can truly recommend this approach should you have only day in Venice. You get to see the local life, find restaurants and shops while leisurely strolling around, and then return back to your car with sore feet in the luxury of a waterbus.

There were huge queues to the basilica and museums, so we skipped them and bought cones of ice cream instead.

On our way home, we visited Noventa di Piame designer outlet village and found a few things worth purchasing. There was also a charming café, Bottega Dei Sapori, with elegant service and delicious cakes. I can heartily recommend their chocolate fudge layer cake.

Friday was spent on caves. There are two big cave destinations in the country. We decided to skip the one with an underground train and focus on less touristy destination at Škocjan. The cave is carved through the karst rock by an underground river, and it was huge. We walked more than two kilometers under the ground. Some halls in the cave system were huge, several dozen meters high and over hundred meters long. The underground river valley was, of course, even longer and deeper. Our two year old managed to walk the whole cave by herself, we just carried her when there were longer stairs.

After the caves, we visited Slovenian coast and spent a couple of hours in Mediterranean rocky beach in Koper before visiting Trieste on Italy for dinner.

On Sunday, we had no car anymore, so we spent the morning in the Tivoli park watching kids playing football and enjoying themselves at the play areas. We also visited the small museum of modern art that had art also from Laibach, a band that I’ve been listening to in the past (and nowadays now and then).

Monday was the day of returning to Finland, and it was also the first day that it rained. It rained quite hard for the whole morning. We navigated, albeit badly, to an indoor waterpark Atlantis, located a few kilometers away from the city centre. We were already wet when we arrived, but fortunately the mood improved as the waterpark was quite good. Children enjoyed themselves and it was refreshing to swim in a warmed pool while it was raining cats and dogs.

Everything must end, and after the bus ride from the waterpark we packed our bags, waited for the our ground transportation to arrive and flew back to Finland. Everyone was tired at the end of the long day, but it was also good to be back at home.