As Slovenia is so small it is very easy to have Ljubliana as a base and then head out on day trips to see other parts of the country which is what I did in between enjoying the city.
The cave systems in this part of the world are extensive (unfortunately causing the creation of a lot of sink holes) but also enabling visitors to experience huge caverns. Postojna Caves (which I think I visited back in the 80’s) is more than 25 kms in size so you only get to see a fraction of it. On arrival you board a train that takes ten minutes to get you further into the caves and join a group to be taken around the caves for 45 minutes and then back again on the train. I like these caves as they are very airy, have fabulous examples of stalactites and stalagmites and other cave formations. The problem with caves is it is hard to give a real feel for the grandeur of the place so I have had a go but then shown some formations which appear more abstract when viewed in isolation but I quite like that.
Some different formations and colours inside the caves
A short distance away we came to Predjama Castle – a feat of building that is staggering as you can hopefully see how skilfully they built the castle into the side of the mountain on top of a cave. Not sure how they did it but it worked and they were not successfully attacked. A Slovenian Robin Hood character called Erasmus lived here for a while (he managed to get out regularly via the intricate tunnel system and always bought back fresh cherries for all the people who lived in the castle so he was very popular) but he was eventually killed because someone advised his enemies that the weakest part of the castle was his toilet which jutted out from the side of the wall and that is where he met his end – blown to pieces as legend has it! His girlfriend planted a tree in his memory but it is not looking too healthy!
On another day I visited the Trinity Church in Cerkev. It is another walled church that I saw so many of in Romania and also has frescos in good condition since they had been whitewashed over back in the 15th century during the plague as a means of disinfectant and were only rediscovered and cleaned in the 20th century. While the frescos are all good I really liked the “Danse Macarbre” or the Dance of the Dead. Very popular in medieval times it shows a group of people from child to beggar to wealthy to bishop all being led to their death by skeletons. The message being – whoever you are in this world – we all end up in the same way! I like it.
Onwards to Koper, the second largest city in Slovenia. It has a nice square, original water cistern and some original walls but that’s about it. What you do start to notice in this part of Slovenia is the strong Italian/Venetian influence in buildings. In fact this area officially retains dual language – Slovenian and Italian – since so many people from Italy lived here and indeed many still do.
Just outside of Piran are the salt pans. An area where salt has been harvested for centuries and still is although to a lesser degree than in the past. It is an activity that takes place for 6 months of the year and looks like very hard work. Each pan is first primed with an algae mix which acts as a barrier and filters and ensures that the salt never mixed with the mud below. Then they wait and eventually salt crystallises on the surface and is collected for packing and sales. It is very high quality.
And then we headed to the seaside town of Piran. Slovenia doesn’t have much land by the sea but they managed to nab this bit when the former Yugoslav states were divvied up after Tito’s death. It is the usual rocky beach that you find on the Croatian coast with sparkly water and people wandering about in bikinis that are too small for them. You can see both Croatia and Italy from here.
The overview of the city was taken from the former city fortified city walls.
But it wasn’t the coast I like the most about Piran, it was the side streets off the main square which were full of old Italian looking buildings in every colour imaginable.
And finally had to include this pic of some baby swallows I came across in a nest in one of those alleyways. So cute.