Slovenia 2016 Day 15 – Lake Bohinj and Trenta Valley

At 630am, I was woken up by baby K who was sleeping close to our legs. Quickly I shifted him back to original position. I couldn’t return back to sleep and googled good sunrise location and was surprised to find good view recommendation at Osojnica. Informed wife who was barely awake and quickly got out of bed.

I left at about 7am and quickened my pace in order not to miss the golden hour, the time when the scenery would look the best with the rising sun. Brought along my mifi and followed Google map, which showed a possible shortcut to the location and I took it. And as with the usual trekking in the forest using a shortcut, I got lost and ended up climbing steep hills to get to the top. There were no signs around and while I depended on my iPhone to guide me, it died (the battery was not so good already and I had Wifi on which drained it even quicker). The android that had the data plan on was working but somehow I didn’t know how to operate due to unfamiliarity and outdated apps (belonged to wife who had fully customised it with weird icons that I couldn’t decipher where the map was and also because it hadn’t been in use for a long time, the apps weren’t updated). I was on my own, like a survivor. After struggling for a bit, I finally found some routes that looked more like a clear path. Following it towards the lake direction, I finally ended up at the viewpoint. Beautiful view of the lake, definitely worth the climb.

Morning view
Viewpoint with a seat
Another viewpoint
Beautiful Lake Bled in the morning

I spent some time taking photos and selfies and also a deserved break from all the climbing to catch my breath. When I am finally ready to go, I found myself at a lost again, because I didn’t take the right route Initially, how do I return? I tried to follow the path back where the signs indicated a long journey back, I was doubtful. I ended up at another view point. Then it was just about do or die, I followed the direction towards Bled and as the path became clearer and wider (although there were multiple terrain changes from muddy to rocky to track), I knew it was right and then the feeling of relief when I saw people walking in the opposite directions and the main road. It was still a distance from the apartment and my brisk walk became a slow jog as I headed towards the apartment. I got back at 840am, got some drinks to quench the thirst from the morning exercise and returned to the apartment. I was pleasantly surprised then baby K was still asleep in bed.

Muddy terrain
Rocky terrain
Sandy terrain
Another view of the church

Baby K was cranky as he woke up, maybe he was tired. We were going around places near the lake for a visit, and one such place was the beautiful Lake Bohinj, a much bigger lake then Lake Bled. It was a short drive there, we managed to park at a public carpark as it was still early and paid 1.5 euros per hour for tickets. It was quite cold in the morning as we walked around the bank of the lake to take some photos. The water was so clear and looked like I could just drink from it. After that, we visited the tourist information center to see if what else we could do there. We walked to the small but interesting Church of St John the Baptist, and found it full of people from tour group. Then walking towards the bank again, we saw another family nearby, feeding ducks that were waddling in the shallow waters.

Parking ticket dispensor
Goldhorn Statue
Church of St John the Baptist
Inside the church
Tourist Information counter
Calm Lake Bohinj

Enough of being so close to water, we returned to the car and drove to Vogel, a gondola station that would bring us up into the mountains. The car park at the main level as the station was full so we parked at a level down, closer to nature. I bought the tickets 28euros for the gondola but there was a family package tickets which was only 12 euros but it was not available to us as baby K was too young to be considered as a family (weird but true). There was a schedule for the gondola and missed the 1130 one because while we were about to board, I showed the staff the receipt which I thought were the tickets and he told me that these were not the tickets. As mommy was pissed off with me, I ran back to the ticket counter and the staff there who wrote me a voucher for me to take the gondola (whom was herself pissed that I dropped my tickets which I explained that I didn’t receive any in the first place). We managed to board another one just before the scheduled 12 noon one.

Vogel receipt
Way to Gondola

As the gondola climbed steeply, we were offered the beautiful expansive view of the lake, the view constantly changing subtlety as we gained elevation. At the top, we could see the lake acting like a mirror, reflecting the mountains that surrounded it and also the fluffy clouds in the skies. At the top, the ice capped Julian Alps could also be seen. However, there weren’t much to see other than the view. We walked around the area to take some photos and didn’t venture further like the others who took the time to explore deeper than we did. There was a chair lift meant for transporting skiers but we didn’t pay for that (neither was it operational). Ended up at the cafe where we ordered some drinks before returning to ground level in the gondola.

At the top
From the top of Vogel station
Another view of Lake Bohinj

We drove back to the same parking lot and was lucky to find space, for another 1.5euros. We walked to the nearby cafe Pod Brezo Skalco to have our lunch, and ordered Panini ham and cheese and Slovenian desert cake, all for about 6euros. K was cranky and cried a lot and made a ruckus. After the uncomfortable lunch, we returned to the car and K fell asleep.

Panini for lunch

There were 2 more places to visit and one was the Vintgar gorge, about a 30mins drive away. As we got closer to the destination, what was initially road converged to small streets. We parked the car at the free parking space and checked out the ticket counter by myself (as mommy stayed with the snoozing baby), it costed 5 euros per entry with an estimated 30mins one way walk. Decided that we would skip this since it was said to be a smaller Plitvice, which we had already experienced it ourselves.

Small town on the way to Vintgar gorge
Vintgar gorge ticket counter
Stream near Vintgar gorge

Our last place to visit was Trenta valley, this was a longer journey away, smacked in between the Julian alps. Before we got off onto the smaller roads from the highway, I got the car topped up with petrol at service stop. The entire journey was about a 1.5hrs drive one way. The challenging part of the drive was the mountainous road that consisted of 24 hairpins up and 26hairpins down. The beautiful views along the way that accompanied us made the journey a little more enjoyable. As we went through the Vrsic Pass, there was a Russian Orthodox Chapel that was mentioned as something worth a visit. Wife went to have a look as I stopped by the road. We chose not to take up too much time there as before us was a bus load of tourists whom have disembarked to visit the chapel too and we didn’t want to end up driving slowly behind the bus. Baby K woke up as we continued on the roads so I slowed down to avoid any puking incidents. Along the way, we encountered cows grazing near the roads and even on the road while we were going downhill.

Russian Orthodox Chapel
Face to face with a cow
Julian Alps on the way to the Trenta Valley

We arrived at Trenta valley and parked at one of the open yard before visiting one of the small store to buy drinks and yogurt. We soaked in the calmness of the little town sitting on a wooden bench while baby K ate his yoghurt, our family surrounded by the mountains and the sounds of flowing water in the background. There was a tourist info center where we visited to use the toilet and bought ourselves a souvenir. After this short stay, it was time to get back, and it was the only the same way back (at least the shorter way back). I drove slowly and everyone seemed fine. We stopped at hairpin 28 as there was a viewpoint of the valley in which I took a few photos. We got past the hairpins and arrived at a little lake called Lake Jasna and stopped there for a breather and took the opportunity to feed the ducks there. After the 10mins of rest, we hit the the road again.

Shop at Trenta Valley
Tourist information counter
Trenta Valley
50th hairpin
Trenta Valley
A water mill at Lake Jasna
Lake Jasna
Another statue of the Goldhorn

Baby K asked for milk and bread and biscuits while driving back and it was quite a smooth journey. But then our nightmare returned when baby K puked the second time this trip just when we were reaching the apartment. We brought him up to apartment quickly to bath and mommy also washed up while I brought detergent to wash car. The familiar smell was back. The only difference this time was that I didn’t have to return to the apartment to fetch water, I only needed to go to one of the drains where fresh gushing water from the streams was readily available (I left the keys in the apartment and was locked out anyway and couldn’t enter! Thankfully somebody came out from the building and I was able to retrieve my keys).

After all the washing, we got ready for dinner and walked to the same restaurant we previously had lunch the day before. This time around, we chose the seats on the inside to avoid the cold. Ordered Gnocchi, chicken fillet Ljubljana and grilled dory. This was the first time for baby K to have outside food completely for his meal and as usual he didn’t eat a lot. For desert, we ordered Grmada which was pretty delicious. All these for 55 euros, paid with card.

Chicken fillet Ljubljana
Grilled dory

The night was about washing again, had to clean up the smelly clothes and hanged them in the balcony and hoped that the cold would dry them by the time morning come. After the work, it was bath time and then joining mommy and baby K in bed, who both had gone to bed earlier.

Slovenia 2016 Day 14 – Ljubljana to Skofja Loka to Lake Bled, Bled castle

We woke up late and baby K snoozed even longer as we entered the last few days of this trip. Though it was at a far more relaxing pace then our Swiss France trip from more than a year back, traveling for long periods of time with a toddler definitely was tiring. We packed and prepared for our journey forward as we would be driving to Lake Bled. Got out the apartment by 1030am and in our haste, we locked ourselves out! Quickly contacted the landlord but were relieved that it was ok to leave as she had spare keys to the apartment.

Before going back nature, we drove a quaint little town of Skofja Loka, some 45 mins drive away. We found a parking lot as close to the castle as possible and parked there. Walked through old town, which didn’t look all that old until the end where we saw the Capuchin bridge and took some photos. As we returned, we got onto the old but still stable bridge to cross it.

Skofja Loka map
Skofja Loka town
The Mark of Mary statue
Interesting facade
Church of St. Jacobs
Capuchin Bridge
St. John of Nepomuk statue on the bridge
Buildings in Skofja Loka

There wasn’t really much to see so we thought we would visit the castle. After returning to the point where we started off, we had to climb a long gentle slope followed by a long flight of stairs to the castle. Upon reaching we noticed that other than a cafe, the castle was not available for visit as it was turned into a museum, and that frankly, we weren’t really interested. We returned to ground level where we visited a local shop (Trava) and ended up with some more packs of medenjaki, cheaper than those we purchased from Ljubljana market.

Skofja Loka castle and museum
View from the castle
Castle exterior
Front view of the castle
Trava store

On our journey towards Lake Bled, we stopped by a Interspar hyper mart to shop for more groceries (what else?). It was easier to shop here as there was a tiny shopping cart for baby K to push around and he was enjoying pushing it around, much like his grocery shopping mom. After we were done, we changed his diapers in the car before we were on the road again. The trip took only 40mins before we arrive in Bled.

The Airbnb that we had booked was one just a road across the beautiful Lake Bled and had a clear view of the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria. I parked at the carpark which was just in front of the apartment and was met with the landlord almost immediately. She showed us the initial room that we had booked and offered a bigger one which I agreed as it had a wider balcony. It was difficult to move our giant luggage up the steel spiral staircase up to the second floor where our room was but I managed nonetheless. Had to visit Mercator supermarket next door to get some water after all the exercise.

Spar supermarket near Skofja Loka
Kids’ trolley
Carts of pumpkins seen on the way to Lake Bled
Lake Bled Airbnb
Master bedroom
Living room

I drove the car around the lake to explore the lovely surroundings. Baby K was asleep from the drive to Bled and so I left mommy in the car with him as I checked out the lake myself. Didn’t spend a lot of time before we drove up to Bled castle. Bought myself the castle tickets and was amazed by the beautiful view of the lake that afternoon. The lake became a mirror that reflected the blue skies together with its white fluff, a sight that got me wowwing and stuck to the spot taking photos. I spend little time around the other places of the castle, walking briskly past some exhibit with no time to see and appreciate. By the time I returned to the car, baby K had already woken up.

Bled castle on top of the hill
Entrance to the castle
Tickets to the Bled castle
Castle inner compound
Chapel in the castle
Armour on display within the castle
Other exhibits
Castle with a view
Digital exhibition of its panoramic surroundings
Mirror Lake Bled
Panoramic view from Bled Castle away from the lake

For lunch we drove back to the apartment where there was a restaurant Penzion Milno next door. We ordered chicken curry and dory fillet with rice for 27euros. We had sat in the open and we felt chilly halfway through our lunch since it was a little windy and the temperature was quite cool.

Dory fillet with rice
Curry chicken
Pension Milno restaurant

We returned to the apartment for a while to removed some stuff from the day bag and lightened the load. Then we proceeded to the bank opposite the apartments where the boats were parked and asked to be taken to the island where the Church was. It costed 14euros return per adult but we had to wait for more passengers as it was a boat that could take at least 10. It wasn’t too long though, about 15mins or so, that we had already about 6 people on board before the boatman picked up his oars and started rowing. It was a gentle row along the calm lake for 10mins before we reached the shore at 430pm. Before we disembarked we were told that the boat return was at 510pm.

Boat transfer to the church
Duck on the lake
Heading towards the entrance of the church

There was a flight of steps to climb before we were on the same level as the church. It was a nice view to see the town from the island. We then proceeded to visit the small church and bell tower, which costed 11euros for our family. Inside the Church, we could actually make a wish and then ring the church bell. The gong of the bells could only be heard softly but it was fun to tug the rope. Afterwards, we climbed the bell tower where we could see the clock but didn’t stay and wait for the bell to ring. There were some popular quotes and sayings pasted on each level as we went up and down the stairs. Baby K was still fascinated with bell towers and therefore had fun.

Church of the Assumption
A cross inside the church
A bell rope to pull at the front of the altar
Pendulum and weights of the clock
Clock gears

We enjoyed the last bits of the island taking photos and having a gelato, which was claimed to be best outside Italy but really, we couldn’t tell the difference.

Then it was the same boat back and we were early just to be sure we didn’t miss the boat back. There were another couple there and on the boat back with us and the rest seemed to want to stay longer. We returned to the room for a while before driving out to the Bled castle again.

As I had earlier bought tickets for my own visit, I asked for re-entry like I did in Croatia. The ticketing guy allowed me after murmuring that it was for single entry and was clearly unhappy. Mommy bought tickets and we entered. Baby K was obsessed with climbing steps since he was at the stage of learning to walk and so I stuck to him at the stairs while mommy walk around to see. The lake was a different view during sunset, beautiful still.

Museum with a scary figure overlooking
Lake Bled in the evening

We left the castle for the apartment. Mommy cooked dinner while I bathed baby K in the small bathing area. For dinner, I drove to what looked like a tourist center or mall, Trgovski center. Bought a chicken burger from Tropical Kava bar for 4.5 euros and bought tomato soup and chicken fillet from Arbor restaurant for 19.8 euros. As it was already late, nothing but food establishments were opened. I soaked in the night view and went around taking photos of the lake with the illuminated castle while waiting for food. The temperature at night was very cold.

Trgovski center, closed.
Within the mall
Tropical Kava bar
Inside Arbor restaurant
Bled castle illuminated

Driving back I stopped along way take photo, though it was really dark and couldn’t really capture anything. Mommy was putting K to sleep while I ate first. After our dinner, and t was bath and then bed, typical night.

Another night view of the lake
Dinner of chicken fillet, chicken burger and tomato soup

Slovenia 2016 Day 13 – Ljubljana old town and castle

Got up a little later than usual. It was the second day at Ljubljana and we had only a city tour so we could afford a little more rest in the Airbnb.

We only managed to get out by 1020am, but with the bicycles available to us, we could cover more distance in a shorter time. I strapped baby K onto the baby seat that came with one of the bicycle and out we rode towards old town. As like many modern European cities, there were dedicated lanes for bicycles, made it much safer even if it was on the road. Our first location was famous triple bridge in Ljubljana, and it only took less than 5mins to get there from the apartment. The old town was a little bumpier but it was still easy to ride there. There were many bicycles parking available and so we went to the unused ones and chained up the bicycles, with chains that were provided to us along with the bikes.

Preseren Square
Our bike amongst the line of bicycles

Visited a tourist information counter to get a map and directions to the nearest mobile shop, MobilSI, to get a SIM card for on-the-go data. We visited the Central market to have a look and see if we could get any breakfast but we found Medenjaki instead, the Slovenia version. We tracked back and found a breakfast store named Back Werk just near the bridges and had our breakfast in there. Ordered hot dog bun and spinach pastry together with some coffee and drink, all in for about 10euros.

Backwerk for breakfast
Our breakfast
Triple bridge
Central Market in the background
Fresh fruits on sale
Ljubljanica River

After breakfast, we decided to explore the old town further and strolled towards the funicular.  The medieval buildings lined the streets that we walked and it felt like we were transported back to the days of old. We reached the funicular station, about 10mins stroll and purchased the tickets to go up to the castle perched atop the hill for 20euros. The funicular was crowded as many wanted to visit the castle. We were lucky enough to be at the front of the queue and therefore had a window view as the funicular climbed the steep slope up.

Butcher’s bridge with lover’s locks
Gothic door arch of Ljubljana Cathedral
Another door with scary design
Ljubljana Town Hall
Old town street
Funicular to the castle
Tickets to the funicular and castle

In this Ljubljana castle that dominated the space on top of Castle Hill were various locations where they were exhibits telling the historical stories of castle. We visited the virtual castle that had a film history of the castle and climbed the bell tower which gave a nice panorama of Ljubljana. There was an interesting Chapel prison which had a small display of what used to be a prison. But the restroom required a payment of 50cts to use. We got a chance to take photos with some characters dressed in medieval costumes to enact a time in history.

Castle compounds
Castle tower
Inside the castle bell tower
Castle bells
Stairway to the top
Inside the chapel
Once a prison
Another view of the castle compounds
Panorama from the castle
Another view

After all that walking around and exploring, we decided to rest at one of the cafes Grajska Kavarna and ordered orange juice and Fanta for about 5 euros. Baby K was interested to just sit around and soon we were off to check out the castle corridors when baby K had fun running across while mommy bought a green dragon toy from the souvenir store. Green dragon was significant to Ljubljana’s mythology and history.

Boarding the same funicular, we returned down to ground level and went to the market where we bought lunch from mobile food stalls there. Our takeaways lunch consist of grilled mackerel and cheese Burek. At the same time we also purchased bags of medenjaki initially costing 4 euros per pack, we had them at 1 euro discount for each after mass purchase that we intend to bring back to Singapore as gifts.

Lunch from mobile store

We returned to the apartment where baby K had lunch when I took a quick cycle to Ljubljana town after I saw Mr. Mime (Pokemon Go) on the map (and caught it). When I returned, I had my lunch while mommy tried to get baby K to nap. I got out of the apartment again afterwards to stock up on milk and water from the supermarket. With mifi enabled GPS on phone, I cycled out to the old town but couldn’t find any in the old town. Then I cycled to the dragon bridge and found out that the supermarket had closed down. Tried another one which was outside the old town called Mercator and finally got the water and milk that I needed. The rest for the afternoon was spent lazing in bed while mommy prepared baby K’s dinner.

Green dragon statue
Mercator supermarket
Old church building

By the time baby K woke up from his nap, it was almost 7. We then rode out to the old town in search of a place for dinner. Thought we would do a little shopping after dinner and so we parked near a mall Nama. Walking down the street towards the river, we found out that there was Spar supermarket nearby (which I didn’t see earlier in the afternoon). Mommy wanted to see the dragon bridge so I led them there for some photos before returning to search for a dinner place in the old town.

Ljubjana town at night
Preseren Square at night
Night view of the river

Weather wasn’t on our side as it started to drizzle. We quickly got into a Zlata Ribica restaurant that served really good delicious food. We had mushroom soup, noodles with mushroom and pasta with scampi, for some 45 euros, expected of a pierside restaurant.

Noodles with mushrooms
Pasta with scampi
Zlata Ribica restaurant

After dinner, en-route to our bikes, baby K was attracted to the lights on the ground in Preseren square and hopped on them one after another. The green glow of the castle could be seen from here, giving it a slightly creepy yet mysterious feel about the castle. We continued on and bought pastry for breakfast at Milnar bakery for 2.2 euros, as they were about to close for the day. Nothing much were operating at that time except for the pubs and so ended our tour of this beautiful town, cycling back on our wet bikes.

Reflections of town on its river
Night view of Preseren Square
Milnar bakery

Back at room I bathed baby K and had another free beer. We spent some time on TV (cartoons) before bedtime.

Croatia & Slovenia 2016 Day 12 – Rovinj to Porec, border crossing, visit Postojna Cave and Predama Castle to Ljubljana

The day started with the same preparations. However, we would be leaving Croatia for Slovenia, which was a cross border drive and change of accommodation. After we were done packing, it was already 10ish by the time we were about to leave. The morning exercise of moving the luggage into the car boot through the gravel made me sweat in the morning. As I made my way out of the gravel driveway, my miscalculation caused the front bumper of the car to scrape the walls but thankfully it wasn’t too bad and the landlord quickly tried to guide my bulky car out.

Bakery along Ul. Stanke Pauletića
View of old town from street near Airbnb

Our first and important destination was to get to a petrol station (Bought ours at Petrol station @ BRAĆE BOŽIĆ 14, link to point of sales in DARS webby) to purchase a vignette as it was required for highway usage in Slovenia, unlike in Croatia where we could pay tolls. The highways had cameras in place to check on cars and therefore it would be unwise to risk crossing the border before purchasing one. Earlier I had researched the authorized station was actually really close to where we stayed and it was also closed to the hypermarts that we had visited earlier before. Went to the cashier and asked for the vignette (there were also indications on the counters informing that they were selling vignette) and it cost 116kunas, which I paid in euro and realized later it costed more. The cashier helped punched in the date before handing over the vignette that I promptly pasted on the windscreen on the drivers side.

Vignette for Slovenia

Mommy realized that she left an ice pack behind and at the same time, we received a Whatsapp from the landlord informing us too and so I made a detour back quickly to pick up the ice pack. This time around, I didn’t have any issues getting out of the driveway.

Our last Croatian stop was a small coastal town of Porec, 1hr drive away. It had the similar look and feel of Rovinj, only smaller in size. We arrived at a large parking lot and left the car there before taking a short walk to the old town, wherein the Euphrasian Basilica, a UNESCO site, could be found. We first explored the surroundings of the old town for a bit before finally visiting the cathedral as we were pondering if we should spend the final kunas on the entrance fees, 40 kunas per person.

Another coastal town, Porec
Streets of the old town
A piece of history still standing

The basilica had quite a couple of places to visit and had many interesting mosaics on display. We couldn’t missed the bell tower, the latest fascination that baby K had for bells. Upon climbing to the top, we were able to see the surrounding sight of Porec old town. But the most interesting experience was to see and hear the bells go off at 12noon, loud but definitely memorable. Then it was more mosaics on the floors out in the open and in the crypt before we left the location. Before leaving Porec, we decided to draw some kunas to pay for the parking and for contingencies and got 200kunas (minimum sum) from the ATM. Parking was just a mere 20kunas.

Entrance to the basilica
Intricate carving on pillars
Inner compound of the basilica
Modern algae about to cover over the mosaics
Bells that got my kid excited
Tickets to the basilica
Exhibits in the museum
Compounds within the basilica
Mosaics of a fish
Crypt where mosaics can be seen
Beautiful mosaics filled the underside at the altar

We kinda liked the Croatian cookies that we bought in Zagreb and thought that it would be great to bring some home for families and friends to eat. So we drove to a nearby Billa. I had an issue trying to get a carpark ticket to enter but I couldn’t. In the end I just entered without the ticket. As I tried to find the Medenjaki, there weren’t any available either so I returned to the car. Baby K was already having his lunch as it was already afternoon but the parents had to make do with some snacks first. Without the carpark tickets I was forced to drive out through the entrance when there were no cars entering.

Before we crossed over to Slovenia, I drove to a gas station to fuel up my car which I paid with credit card as it should have been cheaper to do so in Croatia then its neighbour. Then its couple of minutes drive from the highway petrol station to the border which we got our passports stamped and cleared within 10 mins. Just immediately past the borders was an exchange (with an obvious exchange word prominently placed) where I received 23euros for 190kuna. Vignette was sold there as well.

Thought we would grab some lunch along the way and as we drove along  towards Postojna, we saw pizza grill sign next to Ristorante Gostilna Belvi (@ Salara while travelling on E751) and went into the open yard carpark. Went to the restaurant to ask if they do takeaways (as expected from a pizza grill) and found that they didn’t sell pizzas. Dumbfounded and thought I must have gone to the wrong place and walked to another building a level below and asked around. People there said it should be the restaurant where I asked previously. I gave up and we were on the road again.

Pizza grill next Ristorante Gostilna Belvi
Panoramic view near the restaurant was not too bad.

It wasn’t long before the small road merge into a faster highway. One good thing about highways were the presence of service stops, which we got into one en-route. I parked the car in the carpark behind the huge service stop and bought a sandwich and a pizza which we ate in the car (since baby K was snoozing). Then it was on the road again to Postojna.

Lunch from the service stations

As baby K was still asleep, I decided to quickly drive to Predjama Castle first which was furthest inland from the main highway. I parked at a obscured carpark as the main one was full and briskly walked to the castle to take some photos. Nothing like seeing with my own eyes, a castle built within a cave mouth. It’s a pity that we couldn’t spend any more time to explore the castle grounds. Quickly went back to the car for our last stop of the day.

Predjama Castle

Postojna cave was 10km away from the castle. We parked at huge carpark and proceeded to entrance to buy tickets, hoping to catch the last train, literally. Tickets costed 28.8 euros for 3 persons, 1 euro for baby K. Our train was scheduled to leave at 5pm and thus we visited the toilet and bought some drinks to quench our thirsts and put on some warm clothing for ourselves and baby K, as the cave was expected to be cold. There was an audio guide available with the tickets. A large crowd gathered at the entrance of the cave, all waiting to visit it. This wasn’t our first cave but it was surely baby K’s one.

Ticketing counter
Audio guide that came along
Steps to the entrance of the cave
Last train crowd at the cave entrance

The cave temperature was at a balmy 10DegC and it was indeed chilly on the small but long open top train as it travelled deep into the cave. The visit was a 1.5hr guided tour including 2 train rides and a 1.5km walk. The walk had a guide to lead us to the various locations in the cave and the audio guide helped to explain what we were looking at, but all seemed the same to me since I couldn’t listen to the guide as I carried baby K and had to depend on mommy’s selective explanations. The cave was huge, having many levels, different chambers and even got a gift shop inside the cave where we bought some souvenirs. After the train ride out, we hurriedly left Postonja for a 45mins drive to Ljubljana, stopping to visit a supermarket Spar before hitting the highway.

Small open top train
Stalactite and stalagmite
Different shapes and sizes
And colours
Different “halls”
Natural pillars
Proteus on display
Shop in the cave
Dusk, near the Postojna Cave
Spar before going to Ljubljana

As informed by the landlord, her friend would be meeting us instead and was already waiting for us when we arrived at 745pm (we were late for 45min). As with all old towns, it was again difficult to drive into the parking space so I had to reverse into the compound.

After I was done with parking right next to the flower pots just outside the ground floor apartment, the representative showed us around the Airbnb apartment which had a lot of other things complementary such bicycles and baby pillows. There were even free Slovenian beers!

Open concept bedroom
Storage near the entrance with bicycles!

As Mommy cooked, I went to the old town to buy dinner, bought Slovenian cuisine pork cutlet and potato for 18.8 euros at one Aroma restaurant. At the restaurant there was a certain protocol of order, I could only order from waiter, not receptionist or bar tender as I found.

Green castle at night
Water fountain
Aroma Restaurant behind the fountain
Inside the restaurant

The night view of Ljubljana was beautiful, unlike modern Singapore that were brightly lit everywhere, Ljubljana gave the feeling being back in the days of knights and dragons, the green illuminated castle on top of the hill reinforcing that image. Though not so brightly lit, there were many people around, it felt safe.

View of the river running through at night
Many people can be seen walking at night
Congress Square at night
Church near Congress Square
Dinner, potato and eggs

We had our cold but delicious dinner back at the Airbnb. Ended the night with a bath for baby K and a nice (free) Slovenian beer.

Escape plan to Croatia/Slovenia September 2016

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Croatia/Slovenia 2016:

Total duration 18D18N
Singapore is 6hrs ahead of Croatia and Slovenia.
Flight time is 11hrs 25mins on Turkish Airlines from Singapore to Istanbul, Turkey followed by a 1hr 50min flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia after about a 4hour transition at Istanbul.
Return is 2hrs 30mins from Salzburg to Istanbul, a 11hrs layover then a 11hrs 5mins flight from Istanbul back to Singapore.

Flight from Singapore to Istanbul at 10pm, arriving at 425am in Istanbul and fly off again at 920am arriving in Dubrovnik at 1010am. Return flight from Salzburg is at 1125am and touching down in Istanbul at 255pm and flying off at 150am and finally touching down at 555pm.

Day 0 Flight to Istanbul
Day 1 Arrival in Dubrovnik, old town visit
Day 2 Day trip to Perast and Kotor
Day 3 Day trip to Mostar and Blagaj Tekke
Day 4 Dubrovnik to Neum to Split
Day 5 Day trip to Hvar and Stari Grad
Day 6 Krka National Park waterfalls and Sibenik
Day 7 Split – Diocletian Palace and old town
Day 8 Split to Trogir to Zadar
Day 9 Plitvice National Park waterfalls and towards Zagreb
Day 10 Zagreb old town towards Opatija, Motovun visit
Day 11 Opatija to Pula to Rovinj
Day 12 Rovinj to Porec, border crossing, visit Postojna Cave and Predama Castle to Ljubljana
Day 13 Ljubljana old town and castle
Day 14 Ljubljana to Skofja Loka to Lake Bled, Bled castle
Day 15 Lake Bohinj and Trenta Valley
Day 16 Lake Bled to Salzburg, Mirabell gardens
Day 17-18 Flight to Istanbul then Home Sweet Home

This annual family trip we wanted to do a road trip as it would be easier for us to manage with toddler in tow. With a car, we could get from place to place at our own pace. A few other options did surface (such as Eastern Europe – Prague and Budapest) but we were more in favour of this itinerary as we thought in terms of security these countries had less issues as it seemed less popular amongst tourists and therefore lesser target for security issues. Though we had concluded that it was really difficult to travel with a toddler from our Europe trip last year, I guessed wanderlust got the better of us?

Budget – Depends – budget buster for us due to choice over comfort.

The total amount spent was about 12k SGD, mostly coming from the plane tickets and the car with all the tolls and petrol. Accommodation was the other major contributor especially in Turkey airport. Food expenditure was not very high and comparable to Singapore’s standard of eating out at a normal restaurant, unlike in other European countries. Croatia had its own currency and there would be some losses due to double exchange from SGD to Euros to Kunas.

Complexity – High without car. Ours made easy due to car and Google maps on data plan and GPS.

Although there were multiple border crossings, it wasn’t really difficult with our own transport since we have everything with us most of the time. Road signs were clear and easy to navigate. Only roads in old towns were narrow and parking were challenging to find. We had to purchase data SIM (12-15euros?) which eased the navigation bit as Google map was accurate to the dot. The map that was used in my Garmin GPS was neurotic, often choosing the smaller roads which made the journey longer than it should have been thus unreliable.