Our next adventure took us to Slovenia via car. I never in my life would have thought I'd be visiting Slovenia. It was wasn't on my radar (I'm not even sure I knew for certain it was a country!). However, after researching a bit, it seemed like a fun, easy getaway. We picked the middle of Slovenia to visit, which took about 5.5 hours to drive.
I found the cutest little B&B to stay at during our trip. We ended up being the only guests that weekend, so we felt very pampered. The owner made us a multi-course dinner one night, and upgraded our room to one with a deep soaking tub for free.
We had decided to tour some caves and a castle for our weekend activites, and we were not disappointed. Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle were our first stops. They are very close to each other and part of the same park, so you can buy a ticket that includes both attractions. We toured the cave first, then drove to the castle.
The cave complex is very well built-up, with a hotel onsite, along with some restaurants and gift shops. The first part of the cave tour is a train ride through tunnels in the mountains to get to the main cave. They've set it up really nicely, with lighting in strategic places to give dramatic effect to the stalactites and stalagmites along the tracks. There's even one spot with several chandelier hanging from a tall ceiling! Once you arrive at the the "end" of the tracks, everybody unloads and starts walking. They have tours in a bunch of languages, including English so we were able to understand what the guide was saying! :) It was interesting to learn about the history of the cave (discovered by some kids in the 1800s and the first tours were done by lanterns!), and the cave structures were incredible. They have used the existing rooms in the cave to design a ballroom/gallery which is available for rent for any occasion. The acoustics were great and several music events have taken place there. After walking a little over a kilometer through the cave, you return to the train and take it back out to the outside world. The cave is pretty cool, even in summer, so dress in layers!
Just down the road from Postojna is Predjama Castle. It's been around for over 800 years and has seen so much happen in its years. We got an audio guide for this, so we were able to go at our own pace and skip things that weren't interesting to us. It is the largest "cave castle" in the world. The building blends almost seamlessly with the rock cliff. There are multiple places inside where one side of the hallway is man-made and one side is cliff-face. In the 1600s, a robber-baron lived in the castle and was put under siege. He was able to live in the castle for over a year under siege. The attackers thought he was the devil because he would taunt them by throwing down flower petals and fresh cherries from the castle walls and they couldn't figure out how he did it because there was snow on the ground in the valley where they were camped. Little did they know, he could escape through the cave at the back of the castle and pop out near a small village at the top of the mountain where spring had already sprung and trees and flowers were in full bloom. He probably would have lasted indefinitely in his fortress because he had easy access to fresh food and water, but one of his servants betrayed him and told the attackers to aim their cannons at the one "weak spot" of the castle wall, the bathroom. When the robber-baron went to use it one night, the servant lit a candle and the enemy attacked, killing poor Erazem. The castle itself is also very interesting, though. Lots of small rooms, and only a few were heated. Castles in the middle ages were built more for protection than for comfort, and this one definitely help up its end of the bargain where protection was concerned!
The last site we visited was Skocjan Caves. These were near the border the Italy, but still within easy driving distance. This cave was much deeper and had a river flowing through it. The walking path was high above the rushing river, and I was pretty freaked out...not a fan of heights/steep drop-offs! At one point in the tour, they turned off all the lights in the cave, and all the flashlights, etc, so it was completely dark and all you could hear was the water. It was eerie knowing how much space was around and under you, but not being able to see it.
The food of Slovenia was pretty good too. One of the dishes we tried was a grilled patty of meat that you slice up and eat with a bread similar to pita and a garlic/cheese spread and a red pepper spread. It was really good!
All things considered, Slovenia was an inexpensive, easy place to visit. Probably not a destination to spend weeks at a time (in my opinion), but a weekend added on to a Europe vacation is certainly worthwhile.