1) EXPLORE A CAVE
Some 10,000 caves are listed on the official register in Slovenia. Two of the most spectacular -Postojna and Skocjan… are open to visitors.Don’t leave Slovenia without seeing one.. but which one?. Postojna is the most popular (and the most commercialized). An open electric train transports you through the first two and last three kilometres of underground caverns.In between there’s a steep up and down one kilometre walk which begins in the incredible five-story high cavern that, when used as a concert hall, holds 10,000 people. The tour takes about an hour and a half. (See website http://www.postojnska-jama.eu)
The Skocjan caves receive only a fifth as many visitors as Postojna although they contain the largest underground cavern in Europe. They are a UNESCO heritage site and are explored on foot.It’s three kilometres of demanding walking after you cover the 500 metres downhill to the cave mouth. I visited the Skocjan caves in February.It was zero degrees celsius and there were treacherous patches of black ice on the steep road down to the cave mouth. At the entrance a sign warns people with heart problems not to enter. That may be because, in addition to the 3km walk you read about, there are 580 steps you don’t read about.
The cave is lit in sections..on my visit an attendant ran ahead switching on the lights for the next stretch as we, two Italians and two English speaking tourists,clustered around the guide at the occasional halts. The cave temperature is a constant 12 degrees and humid. the stops give you a chance to catch your breath, contemplate the surreal underworld scenery and see what lies ahead .. the narrow pathway clinging to the cave wall and, eventually, the fragile-looking Cerkvenik Bridge spanning the cavern. Crossing this bridge, suspended 50 metres above the thundering Reka River, is an unforgettable experience. Once outside the cave, a climb with dramatic views leads to a funicular which hauls you up the last bit of the uphill journey. Skocjan cave visits in February are at 10 and 13:00 Monday-Saturday with an additional tour at 15:00 on Sundays.The visit lasts about 90 minutes. No photography is allowed in the cave. See website http://www.park-skocjanske-jame.si
2) VISIT THE LIPIZZANERS
Because the climate and soil of Lipica is similar to that of Spain, this is where the Hapsburg Archduke Charles established the royal stud farm in 1581.He planned to propagate the Spanish horse, considered at the time the ideal breed. In 1583, 24 broodmares and six stallions were brought over from Spain to Lipica;the famous white horses got their name from the town. Over four centuries later, despite the vicissitudes of two world wars, the stud farm flourishes. Visitors can walk through the famous “yard”, the mansion and Velbanca, the oldest stable in Lipica. The tour takes about 50 minutes and includes a visit to the Lipicum, a fascinating inter-active museum. Experienced riders who meet certain criteria can pre-book a trail ride. For tour times at the stud or to book a trail ride, visit the website http://www.lipica.org/
3) TOUR A DESERTED CASTLE
Castle Sneznic, the only surviving, fully-furnished castle in Slovenia, was home to a succession of German nobles until 1832,when it was won in a lottery by a Hungarian blacksmith. The castle was eventually purchased by Prince Oton Vktor Schoenburg-Waldenburg whose son,the last resident, died in 1943. During WWII, the castle caretaker guarded the estate, repelling looters; as a consequence, the interior furnishing of the Schoenburgs survive intact.In 2008, after a complete restoration, the castle reopened to the public. A tour takes you through four floors of rooms frozen in time as they were on the day they were ‘abandoned’.To visit, join a castle tour (cca. 40 min).Tour times in winter (October 1st – March 31st) every day, except Mondays, from 10.00 to 16.00 on the hour; last admission at 16.00. There is an attractive gift shop,with local products, gifts and souvenirs. http://www.nms.si/
A former dairy building on the estate houses the Dormouse Hunting Museum (April-October). Dormouse night, in late September, is open season on dormice, prized for the pot and for their fur.
4)ROW ACROSS A GLACIER LAKE
Lake Bled is extraordinarily beautiful and, consequently, the most visited tourist attraction in Slovenia. The Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church rises in the centre of the lake on the site of a former pagan temple. Nine hundred steps lead to the chapel;grooms carry their brides up to the church to be wed.Row yourself over to the island or be ferried in a Pletna, the traditional flat-bottomed boat. Visitors are invited to ring the church bell and make a wish. Bled Castle,high on a rock on the lake shore, contains a museum,forge,printing press and a wine cellar where you can try your hand at bottling wine. Open 08:00 to 18:00.For a spectacular experience, particularly in winter, drift over the area in a hot air balloon.(http://freeweb.siol.net)
Directions for reaching these destinations are on the relevant websites or you can arrange a tour through Roundabout www.travel-slovenia.com.)