Always looking for new solo travel destinations, I followed a friend’s suggestion to try Slovenia. Traveling alone, the prices were good, and Slovenia provided options for hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter or just exploring its history/culture year-round. Having been to former Yugoslavia’s Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, Slovenia made sense as the next step.
After arriving in Zurich, I discovered my flight to the capital city, Ljubljana, had been cancelled. However, I was quickly accommodated and dispatched to Germany for a connecting flight. On arrival, a fellow passenger and I watched forlornly while the door on our flight closed leaving us behind. Not to worry, I was reticketed on a flight to Austria. I arrived hours before the next scheduled flight to Slovenia. As I waited to make it to my fifth country in 18 hours, I kept my eyes glued to the jet way. I was afraid I would fall asleep, miss the flight and be sent to a 6th country.
It was well worth the journey. Ljubljana’s historic area was a surprise as it looked more like Vienna than the Balkans. My Art Nouveau choice, the Grand Hotel Union Executive, combined style with convenience. It was walking distance to the Old Town and its multiple restaurants which were still serving at 10 PM. Eating alone was no problem. After a lively conversation with the table next to me, I could almost say I felt like I was solo no more!
In heading out the next day, I was struck by how similar the architecture along the Gallus Embankment was to parts of St. Petersburg. The Ljubljana Castle had a colorful history from defending against the Ottomans to serving as a prison in the Austrian Empire and again in World War II. Afterwards, I strolled back through the Old Town, the Plaza and the Triple Bridge. The last key sight was the Dragon Bridge topped by a fierce creature keeping watch over the city.
Having felt so at home, I was almost sorry that it was time to move on the next day. I was off via public bus for another 3 day adventure. I had read about the town of Bled, a tourist haven since the 19th century popular also with the ruling dynasty and later Yugoslav’s Tito. In the current day it is also a great spot for hiking, golf and fishing. I had two chief objectives: (i) visiting Bled Castle and (ii) exploring the small island of Bled and its Church of the Assumption. I was surprised to see there was no pedestrian bridge to the church. Access was by boat only and not then as it was in the dead of winter when “icebergs” predominated.
Undaunted, I struck out for my second destination, to reach Bled Castle. Its history even antedates William the Conqueror’s Conquest of England. My guidebook described it as a brief walk from my hotel. As I approached the hill, it looked like a snow-capped Mt. Everest crowned at the top with ice-covered boulders. When I somehow made it to the entrance, I realized getting down would be even more challenging. After my tour, no cabs were available. In a moment of desperation which I DO NOT recommend, I accepted a ride with a stranger, an elderly gentleman who found me stumbling down the hillside. A safer alternative to hitchhiking would have been to sit down and slide down like a human luge.
Next I headed out to my last destination, Kranjska Gora on the Austrian border. By then, I thought I was an old pro at mastering local buses. However, I discovered a large difference between the English words “bus stop” and “bus station”. When the bus stopped on a two-lane road and opened the door, I jumped out into the snow with my suitcase. Across the way, I saw the village with a path through the snowdrifts. Guided by welcoming local residents, I located my hotel, fortunately painted a very bright yellow and conspicuous from a distance.
My first day on the slopes I skipped my usual routine: a private or semi-private lesson to get the lay of the land. That was a mistake. My rental skis had been set by height and weight but apparently not by ability. As an infrequent intermediate skier, there was more ice than I could handle. The result? At the top of the slope, the one ski that came off would not go back on while the other would not come off at all. Glad there were no witnesses, I was rescued by snowmobile and sent down the lift with my skis then firmly in my lap. As I approached the bottom of the lift, loud shouts began instructing me exactly(?)what to do. Not understanding a word of Slovenian, I just waited for the lift to stop. When that never happened, I took a wild leap on the still moving lift. Luckily, the next day with a private lesson went much more smoothly.
Then it was back to Ljubljana for a little shopping and a much shorter flight home!
Looking back on it, Slovenia was a great choice for a solo traveler because of:
- Attractive prices even when traveling alone
- Friendly people and safe environment
- Active sports options summer and winter
- Multiple historic and cultural sites to explore
- Available local public transportation
- Proximity to the crossroads of Europe for combining vacations
- The benefit of still being off the usual tourist route.