When the city’s tallest skyscraper is only 13 stories high…

Ljubljana is an absolute gem. A city not yet flooded by tourists and small enough to walk everywhere by foot. It helped that we stayed at one of the most convenient hotels right by the river Ljubljanica. 20 seconds from the apartment entrance is a street buzzing with cafes. Two minutes walk from central Prešeren Square and one minute from the City Hall. Convenience at its finest.

Prešeren Square. Loved the atmosphere!

Prešeren Square. Loved the atmosphere!

During the day, take a walk across town and you will find the Ljubljana Central Market in the city centre selling everything from fruits to flowers to souvenirs. We haggled our way to buy two beautifully hand painted bowls which serve as a wonderful reminder of our trip. North of the market, you will come across the Butchers’ Bridge, Ljubljana’s own version of love lock bridge. Unlike the one in Paris, this one was relatively bare and probably owed to the fact that it started collecting its share of love locks in 2010. (Getting in earlier is cooler, right?)

We even found some blank locks so of course we had to declare our eternal love. Never mind that the bridge is dotted with slightly scary looking ancient Greek and biblical sculptures.

Butchers' Bridge - Ljubljana's own version of love lock bridge. What will it look like it in 5 years?

Butchers’ Bridge – Ljubljana’s own version of love lock bridge. What will it look like it in 5 years?

And we are just like every other couple...

And we are just like every other couple…

We made it to the Ljubljana Castle where coincidentally, there was a National Geographic photography exhibition. A collection of beautiful photographs including the famous portrait ‘Afghan Girl’ by Steve McCurry.

Ljubljana is not a city with any world class attractions but we enjoyed the liveliness and communal atmosphere. The many outdoor cafes decked with lanterns and strings of lights make an evening stroll all the more romantic. Picture a violinist playing classical music underneath a monument; the light at the bottom of the column, like a spotlight, forming a gentle silhouette. The music echoed across the silence of the historic streets, right underneath the backdrop of Ljubljana castle. It was a scene straight out of a film and you could almost feel the melancholy of the violinist.

Ljubljana city centre at night

Ljubljana city centre at night

As always, no trip is complete without trying some local restaurants. A few notable places worth visiting are Marley & MeJulija Restaurant, and Le Petit Cafe (perfect for breakfast). We also visited the city’s first and tallest skyscraper Nebotičnik. When I say tallest, it was only 13 stories high but surprisingly it provided a great view of the city as we sat in the outdoor terrace with our coffee and cake.

View of Ljubljana from the city's tallest skyscraper.

View of Ljubljana from the city’s tallest skyscraper.

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Into Thin Air – Paragliding in Bled

I am not an adrenaline junkie. I’ve never seen the thrill in bungee jumping or skydiving. For what, so you can get bragging rights? Yet I really wanted to try paragliding. It seemed to be as close to flying as I could get in this lifetime.

Bled is a beautiful place to go paragliding. The morning we went, it was extremely foggy and at one point, it was uncertain whether we can continue as the fog did not seem to clear. Although this was something I’ve always wanted to try, there was one moment while we were standing at elevation 1220m overlooking the fields far below that I thought “maybe it’s for the better that we cannot fly today”. Suddenly, as if answering my thoughts, the skies cleared. The instructors immediately started preparing the gears and equipment. “Who wants to go first?”

Nobody answered in our group of four. Somehow I ended up going first. I casually asked the instructor how long he has been flying for, trying to judge if I was in safe hands. Thank goodness he has been flying for more than 20 years. I am supposed to run as fast as I can downhill towards the edge of the cliff and keep running until we’re up in the air. “I am a bit scared,” I admitted.

“Your guy is more scared than you,” the instructor replied. It made me laugh and calmed my nerves a little.

Soon we were off. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing except I was running and suddenly there was no ground beneath me anymore. I slipped back into the seat made by my backpack. It was freezing cold and my fingers were numb. Once we slipped into and out of the fog, we could see the lush green fields and mountains in Lesce. It was an aerial view of very uniform fields with various shades of green. Looking back into the direction of where we launched ourselves into thin air, I see other parachutes in the sky. Looking in front, I could see the horizon. It was an absolutely amazing feeling to float peacefully through the sky. There is nothing quite like it.

Definitely one for the bucket list!

It was very foggy while we were waiting to run off the edge of the cliff.

It was very foggy while we were waiting to run off the edge of the cliff.

And we're off!

And we’re off!

An easy and gentle landing.

An easy and gentle landing.

When it’s raining in Lake Bohinj

Located in the Triglav National Park, Lake Bohinj is the largest lake in Slovenia. Eager for some hardcore hiking, we took a bus to Lake Bohinj, about half an hour away from Bled. Unfortunately, it was raining so we walked around the lake instead. We had a quick toilet break before we hit the trail and funnily enough, I found *someone* next to me when I came out of the stall. Hilarious.

Under the rain and fog, Lake Bohinj looked very mystical. Standing on the dock, we had a 360 degree view of the lake to ourselves. Absolutely gorgeous.

Lake Bohinj on a rainy and foggy day. Much quieter and less touristy compared to Lake Bled.

Lake Bohinj on a rainy and foggy day. Much quieter and less touristy compared to Lake Bled.

We dragged our soaked selves into a lovely restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Despite its location, it was filled with happy hikers and families with young children. A large plate of freshly made pasta is heavenly when you are cold and wet.

The restaurant set within the Bohinj valley of the Julian Alps.

The restaurant set within the Bohinj valley of the Julian Alps.

The rain wasn’t so bad after all because it led us back to Bled where we checked out “the best spa in Bled”. The setting was tranquil and hanging out in the outdoor jacuzzi, we had a beautiful view of the barn and the mountains. We were lucky to be able to get in without booking as the sauna was limited to eight people at any given time. Thus there was a lot of privacy. So much in fact that someone decided to lock the doors on us and we couldn’t get back into the building without running around to the front entrance in our half naked selves. Not to mention that my glasses were half broken because someone stepped onto them coming out of the jacuzzi! But hands down, it was honestly the best spa I’ve ever been to. We were so relaxed that we forgot to take photos.

Dinner was at Mystic Garden, a highly rated restaurant which uses fresh ingredients such as flowers from their own backyard. Dishes we had include preserved garlic soup, trout and the signature cream cake. The chef came out and chatted with us, adding to the service which was already five star. The setting itself was grand!

Dinner Jason style - having the entire restaurant to ourselves.

Dinner Jason style – having the entire restaurant to ourselves.

Cyling to Vintgar Gorge, Slovenia

The digital clock reads 4:37am as he started the car. He could see the warm orange of the sun slowly colouring the sky as he takes the 30 minutes drive to her house. It is their first vacation together as a couple, and he has offered to pick her up so she does have to take the night bus. Such a small but sweet gesture.

The flight from London Luton to Ljubljana is only one and a half hour. It takes another half hour to reach Lake Bled, where it has been listed consistently as one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. With a population of 8,000, this small town sits at the foot of the Julian Alps. In the middle of the glacial blue lake rests a tiny island which is home to the Church of Assumption. From the shore of the lake, the scene looks like it has been snapped straight out of a fairy tale especially on that day which was slightly foggy and misty. Hand in hand, they walked around and explored the lake a bit.

Lake Bled

The skies cleared long enough for a beautiful photo. To the left, the Bled Castle sits atop the hill.

Later, they rented bikes and cycled to Vintgar Gorge. It was a pleasant ride through quiet back roads and fields, ending with a slight incline for the last half mile which left her huffing and puffing. At one point, she had to push her bike along even though the road was only a 5 degree incline. How unfit I am, she thought. When they finally reached the destination, she scratched one of her ankles with the bike pedals.

He was quick to pull out a Band-Aid from his wallet. “Now you can never tease me for having Band-Aids in my wallet,” he said with a smile. She snatched the Band-Aid from his hand and knelt down in an awkward position to put it on her ankle.

“Here, let me help you,” he said as he moved forward. How sweet, she must have been five years old the last time someone put on a Band-Aid for her.

The physical pain of cycling uphill was quickly forgotten as they walked along the gorge. The emerald green water snakes its way through the ravine, sometimes through steep vertical rocks, other times through quiet riverbeds and occasionally converging in rapid whirlpools. The picturesque scene is completed with a waterfall near the end of the path. There were no large Chinese tour groups descending from buses but there were just enough visitors to make the place touristy especially considering how narrow the path was. Couples strolled and families pushed buggies.

Various shades of green everywhere you look.

Various shades of green everywhere you look.

Walking on the wooden path through the gorge.. It takes about an hour to do the 1.6km loop.

Walking on the wooden path through the gorge.. It takes about an hour to do the 1.6km loop.

The small waterfall at the end!

The small waterfall at the end!

A Chinese couple with a teenage son walked towards them from the opposite direction, surely having done their round of the path. Shortly after they passed the family, he said, “You know, that’s going to be us in 20 years.”

“Did you just say we will be a married couple with kids in 20 years?” She was shocked, half laughing but secretly pleased that such a thought even crossed his mind.

“No! Never mind,” he mumbled, seemingly embarrassed by his comment. She badgered him a bit more and he finally replied, “I was just saying that it will be much more strenuous to walk and travel when we are at their age.” She did not think much of it then but it came back to her as she reminisced about the trip afterwards.

Overlooking the rushing rapids on one of the wooden bridges.

Overlooking the rushing rapids on one of the wooden bridges.

They eat at the outdoor terrace of Okarina, a restaurant specialising in Slovenian food. Eager to try Slovenian wine, they ordered a bottle. She was not much of a drinker so she only consumed a glass while he consumed three quarters of the bottle. The food was delicious and they were quite full by the end as the wine was heavier than usual. As always, their dinners easily last three hours and before they knew it, they were the last customers in the restaurant. It was obvious the waitress was only too happy to see them off as they stepped out onto the pavement.

“You left your book behind,” the waitress calls back at them as she takes a few steps and hands him the Lonely Planet guide.

“You’re in love,” she declares. To Sharon’s surprise, he does not deny it. “You won’t believe how many times I have been careless because of her,” he replies. Watching from aside, Sharon thought: Unbelievable, when did he become so open with his feelings?

The book he almost left behind.

The book he almost left behind.

As he comes back down the steps and swings his arm around her shoulder, he says, “I can’t believe it. Such a careless mistake. I am an engineer! It’s all your fault, Sharon.”

Although this was not the first time he has made such careless mistakes, it continues to surprise her that she could be such a source of distraction for somebody, anybody for that matter. It wasn’t too long ago when she wondered if she would ever get over her broken heart yet here she was, with this guy standing in front of her who seems to love her just the way she is. It all feels so effortless. Is this what love is? And though he has never said “I love you”, she knows it in her heart. His actions speak louder than his words.