“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. πŸ™‚

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can you spot the sly cat πŸ˜‰ ?

For my half term break (yes I love how teachers have so many breaks !! Especially European teachers πŸ˜‰ ) 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 πŸ™‚ 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 canals​:) 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. πŸ˜‰

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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 πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚

 

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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Wroclaw, a city full of colors and gnomes.Β 

A week after landing in Warsaw back in September, I was already eager to explore other Polish cities. Despite the numerous advice from colleagues, telling to visit Krakow, I decided I needed to first pay a visit to one of the most colorful cities in Poland. I was looking online at pictures of different Polish cities and this picture stuck out. I thought to myself could this be in Poland? This reminds me of perhaps somewhere in the Netherlands or Belgium. Vibrant colors definitely was not what I had in mind when I thought of Poland, with its conflicting past.

Image from google of Wroclaw

Back in September when the weather was still warm and sunny, I was happily admiring the vibrant colors and also people watching in the market square. I was also very keen on finding the photo spot from the Google image.

I went inside a vegetarian cafe,”Vega”, right by the old town hall, which by the way is delicious and a very affordable price. I Β asked the waitress if she knew where the photo was taken. However she said she wasn’t sure. :/

After wondering around the old town, I think I found the spot where the photo was taken πŸ˜€ However, because it’s still warm outside, patios and visitors were covering some parts of the buildings, so I decided that I would return to Wroclaw when it’s chilly and sunny:) brrr!

 

And fast-forward to Feburary, I did return to Wroclaw, with a side trip to see the UNESCO wooden church in Swidnica, which I will write about in another post.

The weather was very sunny but also cold ! However there were way fewer people on the streets, and I had the colorful houses all the myself πŸ™‚

Here is my attempt at recreating the Google image that I found.
And now, I will share my two cents on the things you shouldn’t miss when visiting Wroclaw!

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1. Climb climb climb ! Up the church towers!

For the best views of the views of the old town, climb the bell tower of St. Elizabeth. For a small fee (I forgot how much >βˆ†<) and lots of hard work, you are rewarded with super awesome views of the cute buildings down below!

Fu view of old town wroclaw

Adorable!

Houses right out of a fairy tale

Another tower to climb is the tower of St. John the Baptist on Cathedral Island. This will/might give you a view of the sunset and the beautiful canal, which I hopd, but did not see :/ due to early closing times.

Awesome views from St John the Baptist

2. Look down, and spot little gnomes hiding in the city.

For some reason (perhaps I can Wikipedia) Wroclaw is sprinkled with little gnomes hiding in unexpected corners throughout the city. There are apps and maps that you can download or buy that gives you the exact location of each gnome. There’s a gnome riding a pigeon, eating pierogo and even one playing the slot machine πŸ˜€ I’m a big fan of gnomes because of one of my favorite childhood book —

See how many gnomes you can collect ! :3

3. Stroll around Cathedral Island and the romantic ‘most Tumski’ bridge full of love locks.

Don’t be like me and rush into buying a lock from the first lock vendor you see. The further along I walked, the cheaper the prices got !!

I was alone, but I think with your honey here, it’s going to be very romantic ❀

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our love lock hehe

4. Visit Β cute independent stores.

I really like this bookstore hiding the alley behind the town hall. It has a hipster feeling to it and tastefully decorated and so serve as a cafe. Β I bought a classic Polish children’s book on world maps. πŸ™‚ I will need to learn more Polish to understand it, but the reason I bought the book was because it listed Taiwan as a country !! Woohoo ! Being a Taiwanese-Canadian, those are the small things I become to appreciate:D

Those are my thoughts on the beautiful city of Wroclaw. If you have another other suggestions please let me know !

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I’m hoping to visit Poznan next as I read that it’s also very beautiful ❀

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Winter weather in Warsaw is not very outdoor friendly, unless you’re prepared to wrap yourself up like a snowman before venturing outside. I decided that this gloomy winter weekend is a good time for musuems.

I didn’t have much expectation for the POLIN, Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, as my interests are mostly in the fine arts and not history. However, the winner of ” European Museum of te year  2016″ did not disappoint! 

A mondern and minimalist design building

Ticketing and entrance

I was very impressed by the numerous interactive displays in museum, clearly captioned in both Polish and English. I quite enjoyed the display that lets you create your own Jewish coins with your name spelled out in Hebrew. I wish I can somehow take one home ! 

My name coin

It also had stamping stations for you to take home prints taken from  traditional Jewish designs. 

Printing station in POLIN

The museum follows the timeline of Jewish history in Poland since the first arrival in 10th Century, up to the dark times of Holohaust. I found it extremely heavy and sad to walk through the WWII section of the museum. I think the museum did a very good job of bringing visitors back in time to the 1940s through many personal quotes as well as old photos. 

I did not know that Poland had the highest number by far of Holocaust victims. I also learned that thousands were killed in the gas chambers while being told that they were given a chance to shower. πŸ˜₯ 

The museum had on snippets of personal stories which really makes me able to connect and trying to picture myself in their shoes. 

Warsaw post war


In addition to the Holocaust section, the museum also features a replica of a sysnongue alter which is beautiful decorated, as well as a replica of a typical Jewish street and village scene. 

Street scene

Wooden synagogues of Poland


The gift shop also carries a nice selection of books and artsy souvenirs which I didn’t see in the old town. I bought a famous children’s book written by a Polish Jewish writer which I will be reading soon πŸ™‚ 

Adorable childrens books in the gift shop


I highly recommend the POLIN musuem as it gave me a more in-depth look at my new city that I’m temporally calling home.