Our flight from Atlanta to Ljubljana, Slovenia (via Zurich) was uneventful, and that’s a good thing! I love being able to fly out of the busiest airport in the world (and Delta’s hub). It means never having to fly United Airlines ever again (if I can help it!) and opting for Delta and Southwest Airlines (domestically) instead.
Vantage Travel’s arrangements were flawless, and we had a seamless day of arrival. For our pre-cruise extension in Slovenia, we spent three nights in Bled at the Grand Hotel Toplice, located on Lake Bled, and dating back to 1845. GORGEOUS! Although the hotel wasn’t anything special on the outside, it was grand on the inside with a lovely lounge and restaurant overlooking the lake.
The key to minimizing jet leg is immediately adapting to local time. Neither of us sleep well on planes, so it was a challenge to stay awake until after dinner. I chose to go for a refreshing swim in Lake Bled while Bruce lounged on the hotel’s private “beach.” At 77 degrees (just below competition temperature), I was in heaven! It did the trick and energized me for the remainder of the day and evening.
After meeting the 12 other Vantage travelers on the pre-extension over a glass of wine and briefing by Sinisa , our program director, we enjoyed dining with sunset views of the lake and Bled Castle. Dinner was fabulous! Bruce and I had never tasted grilled calamari (they refer to it as “squid”) so fresh and perfectly prepared that you could cut it easily with a fork.
By now, many of you may be wondering just where Slovenia is located and why we would travel there.
A small country bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Croatia to the southeast, and the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, Slovenia is smaller than the state of New Jersey. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, the country gained independence in 1989. In 2004, Slovenia joined the European Union. It is one of Europe’s least-densely populated countries with just under 2.1 million people who are mostly Roman Catholic.
I was impressed to learn that Slovenia’s education ranks as the 12th best in the world and that 92% of adults between 25-64 speak at least one foreign language.
Slovenia’s extremely strict gun laws also impressed me. Before you can purchase a gun, you must undergo a medical and psychiatric exam. If you pass, the next step is to participate in a six-month training program. As a result, the percentage of privately-owned guns is only about 15 per 100 civilians compared to about 120 per 100 American civilians! In addition, most of those privately-owned guns in Slovenia are used for hunting, which is only allowed on Sundays.
A few other facts about the country: In addition to banking and tourism, Slovenia is known for its production of electronics, wool clothing, wood furniture, beer, wine, and jams. Apples, pears, plums, and vegetables are the main crops; and the cuisine is a mix of Central European, Mediterranean, and Balkan.
Slovenia is very mountainous with over half the country covered by forests, so it is absolutely beautiful—and, clean! Conservation, a clean environment, and recycling are priorities of Slovenia, so we never saw litter on the streets, and the air and water were fresh and clean.
Located in the Julian Alps in the northwest region of the country, the scenery surrounding Lake Bled is stunning, making it an ideal locale for destination weddings—very popular for the British.
In my next post, we explore more of the Julian Alps region.