“I Feel Slovenia” – Long weekend in Ljubljana

That’s a slogan from Slovenia’s tourism industry. I think it’s a very cute play on words, since it is the only country in the world with the word “love” in their name. ๐Ÿ™‚

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can you spot the sly cat ๐Ÿ˜‰ ?

For my half term break (yes I love how teachers have so many breaks !! Especially European teachers ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) I decided to pay a visit to the world famous Venice Carnival and as visit Slovenia only because it’s on the way to Venice. However, I quickly fell in love with this small relaxing country full of nature and friendly people.

One big advantage about Slovenia is how compact it is. You can do day trips easily around the country ๐Ÿ™‚ however, travelling alone and not trusting my own driving skills, I booked a tour with Roundabout travels, which receives high reviews on Tripadvisor.

I’m sure many people are into skiing in Slovenia’s Julian alps, but I’m here to share with you some other things you can do in the winter as a long weekend getaway.

1. Wander the streets and canal of old town Ljubljana

Ljubljana is very compact and walkable. Its has the name little Prague due to its bridge and canalsโ€‹:) On Sundays, however, all if not, most of the shops were closed, but not to worry! I walked along the water to find the Sunday antique market along the canal. It had some interesting/weird artifacts ! Everything from accordions to moose traps!

I also hiked up to the castle which luckily is open on Sundays. It is a modest castle, but from the top of the viewing tower, you can look down into old town Ljubljana.

Also, don’t miss the famous Ljubljana dragon! Legend says if a virgin crosses the brdige, it will wiggle it’s tail hehe. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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A cute store not to miss in Ljubljana is call the Smile Store?? I visited the next day evening because it was closed on Sunday. But it has the cutest designer/handmade gifts.

2. Day trip to Lake Bled

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There are two ways to get to Lake Bled by public transport-bus or train. I took the bus which stop right by the lake, saving me a walk from the train station to the lake. Bus schedules can be found here —– Its a very easy trip and the buses even comes with wifi ! Along the way, I got to see countryside scenery on Slovenia. I tried my best to take some photos as we drove by. We passed by quaint looking medical towns that I shall come back to on my next trip ๐Ÿ™‚

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Lake Bled is surrounded by resorts and cafes on one side and the further along the lake you walk, it gets more quiet. I decided to hike to the view point Osojinca . One that I had seen from Google and other trip reports. This is a trail near the campsite of the lake. However, because I went in early February, I saw absolutely no one on the trail.  I was feeling a bit unease, but I still hiked up to the first viewpoint. It is quite steep and at some parts, the trail is not super obvious. The view at the top, of course is worth the climb!

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3. Join a group tour

I had so many things I want to see but they are too hard to fit into one day without a car. My best option was to join a group tour. It was a very good deal with winter price rate! For around 55euros, I got a 12hour day tour of Skojan cave, Predjama castle, and Piran. I went with Roundabout travels which had high ratings on TripAdvisor.

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the famous Predjama castle in the rocks

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Slovenia has two main caves- Skojan and Postojna that are both very popular and if you google them, you will find many blogs comparing them. I did my homework, and had a hard time deciding which one to visit since I don’t have time for both. I finally decided on Skojan and I was not disappointed!

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the cave systems lies underneath these hills! this viewpoint is a mere 10min walk from the cave’s ticket booth

Photography is not allowed inside the caves of Skojan, but it was very magical to hear the roaring of the underground river and tumbling waterfall. This cave system features one of the largest caverns in the world. It is simply out of a Lord of the Rings movie.

Piran is a quaint seaside town by the —- sea. It was once part of the Venetian empire thus you can see resemblance of Venice bell towers in Piran. It was fun to walk and get lost in the tiny alleys. Piran is famous for their sea salt. There are spas and salt pools near Piran that you can go relax in ๐Ÿ˜€ I will be saving those for next time.

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Perfect for a solo trip, I sure have Slovenia high up on my list of travel destinations in Europe ๐Ÿ™‚

 

PS. Last but not least, how could I have forgotten the wonderful cat cafe in Ljubljana! They have very special Devon Rex cats at this cafe. It was my first time patting one. Their fur is soooooo soft and they are quite cuddly :3 The cat cafe is located just below the Ljubljana castle! Perfect for a little afternoon tea !DSC_2837DSC_2852

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Exploring Berlinย 

Since all my school christmas concerts are done, I thought I could do a overnight trip pre-Christmas weekend. Yes it was tiring, flying early Saturday morning, and coming back Sunday evening, but I did get a good deal of sightseeing done !

Berlin might not be the most beautiful city in Germany, but it is packed of history. I tried to imagine how it would be, only a couple decades back, being separated from my loved ones by a stupid wall. Nowadays, the ‘East Side Gallery’ part of the wall serve as a creative outlet for artists and this is also the location of the famous “Kiss” between Soviet Union and Germany.  It was packed with loads of tourist and tour busses. But I did manage to take a photo ๐Ÿ™‚ 20161217_102148_batch

I also managed to visit two Christmas markets. Definitely more colorful than the Polish ones. Well, I might be biased because I have a thing for Nutcrackers and little handpainted houses, and Germany is known for that :). German’s Christmas are also complete with merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheel. However, I wasn’t very impressed with the number of booths selling trinkets and souvenirs. They seemed quite tacky and touristy.

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The famous Christmas shop at Alexanderplatz market

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I rode on later on in Rome, and I was far from merry after the ride. I got very nauseated. >~<

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In the German Christmas markets, you can leave a deposit for a Christmas market mug. If you decide to keep the cup, then you don’t get your 2euro deposit back. Each market has their own designs every year! How cute and environmental friendly! โค

My christmas market doodles


The most famous Christmas in Berlin is called Gendarmenmarkt. It’s very famous because of it’s location amidst all the important buildings. However, I did not enjoy it as much as the market at Alexanderplatz. It was EXTREMELY crowded to the point that I can not walk and was stuck in a giant people blob:( and I am a tiny little person.. definitely not fun. However, it is still a nice market in a beautiful setting.

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I had  made a reservation to visit the Parliament buildings and their glass dome, Bundestag, a few days before arrival in Berlin. It was very impressive how the modern-designed dome merged flawlessly with the 19th century parliament building.

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The dome uses solar panels and mirrors to power the building. Directly beneath the dome lies the blues seats of where meetings would take place. The see-through glass of the dome represents how the government should work in Germany- transparent and open.

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In addition to the big glass windows at the Bundestag, I also liked the design of the Berlin train station. It was warmly decorated with Christmas lights, which is interesting to see alongside it’s modern architectural designs.

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Other things that are fun to do in Berlin include the Naturkundemuseum, or Natural History museum, home to the world’s largest assembled T-rex bones!! It also features a creepy/cool room with thousands of jars of creatures.

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And lastly, the funny looking Berlin bears that are around the city ๐Ÿ™‚ Selfie time!

ย Santorini, the island of blue domes and catsย 

Finally I made it to the half term break at school ๐Ÿ™‚ yayyy ย I had long ago been planning to travel to somewhere warm and sunny for this Oct/Nov break and I was debating between southern Spain and Greece.

I went with Greece because my parents, who were visiting me from Vancouver, really would like to see the famous blue dome churches of Santorini ๐Ÿ™‚
Late October/ early November seemed like a perfect time to visit Greece. We had zero days of rain the whole week while we were in Greece. I know that we were just super lucky… But we also had umbrellas with us in case it rained. Compare to the summer heat and gigantic tour groups, a little gamble with the weather forecast was well worth it.


Our first stop was the famed blue dome churches of Santorini. I would highly recommend booking accommodation in the lovely Oia town. Not only do we get to see it early in the morning with no crowds, but we were also able to pop back to our Airbnb for a quick afternoon nap ๐Ÿ™‚

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We did a day trip to Fira, the biggest town on Santorini. I would say the difference in scenery would be that in Fira, one would focus on the views of the Aegean Sea and it’s volcanic cliff walls; where as in Oia, one would focus more on its iconic white buildings with the sea as it’s background.

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I researched various blog posts about taking the classic postcard shot of looking down at the blue dome churches, and here’s my take on the tips:) —

1. This shot is taken from the steps to the right of the main church in Oia. As you walk down the little pathway away from the main road, you will see this classic view.


2. This shot is taken in between the town of Fira heading into the direction of Oia. It took us a long time to find this place and we ended up walking too far ๐Ÿ˜ฆ To avoid being like us, here are directions for you: Starting from the main bus station in Fira, walk upwards towards the big white church, then walk along the seawall in the direction of the cable cars. If you would like to ask for directions, as locals for the location of the restaurant “Mama Thira” or the hotel “Santorini Palace” The staff inside will show you the way. It is actually located in a very unimpressive parking lot/ yard looking thing. :0 Can’t believe so many photos are taken here.


The busiest time in Oia is in the late afternoon. This is when the sun shines onto the white alleys of the village andย everything becomes a warm golden colour.

 

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sunset over the Aegean Sea

 

 

 

If you are lucky, you may have free feline models pose for you, along with the white washed walls of Santorini and the Aegean sea. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The chill and lazy nature of cats really suits this place well โค

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