Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Exploring--Surprising Slovenia

For a unique, yet comfortable travel destination, Slovenia, the most prosperous nation of those formed from the former Yugoslavia, is a delight. If you are dreaming of a journey to Eastern Europe, consider visiting this lovely country while it is still relatively undiscovered. 
Presenting a remarkable variety in a relatively small area, Slovenia has mountains (the Julian Alps), World War I history (including the setting of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms), a romantic lake, excellent wineries, and sophisticated towns and cities. The capital city, Ljubljana (pronounced loo blee AH nah), is as charming as Prague, with similar Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture, but is quieter and dramatically less crowded than Prague. We'll see a bit of the city in a later post.
Today's photos are of lovely Lake Bled, framed by the Julian Alps, which we visited this past September. As dramatic clouds skidded across the sky, we hiked to the castle on the cliff above the lake for breath-taking views, then enjoyed being rowed on a colorful, hand-made pletna boat to the fairy-tale island. The island's Baroque Chapel of the Assumption replaced an 8th century pagan temple dedicated to the goddess of love and fertility. Wedding parties often cross to the island for pictures, and it is traditional for the groom to carry his bride up the 98 steps from one of the docks to prove his "fitness for marriage". Whew! Rick Steves' Croatia and Slovenia guidebook claims 4 out of 5 grooms make it. The laid-back town of Bled, on the lake shore, boasts peaceful resorts and a famous cream cake speciality to savor on balconies overlooking the lake.
I will continue posting about the history and natural beauty of Slovenia next time. If you enjoy reading about travel, also see my April 28 post about our thought-provoking visit to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Question of the day:  Where would your dream journey take you? Why not start planning for it today? 

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