Category Archive for Slovenia
Ljubljana Alternative Travel: street art & culture! Metelkova murals, Dragon Bridge, Slovenia castle.
Call me Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons!
I’m excited to share my alternative guide to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. With Medieval red rooftops and dramatic canals, it could pass for one of the great cities in Game of Thrones.
And I hope you enjoy our latest Slovenia travel video! Follow me through this European city, as I discover a surprising world-class food, art, nature and culture scene. There’s footage of the magical Lake Bled, coastal beaches, and lots of delicious cuisine. (Video produced by Borderless Media.)
Click to watch our Slovenia travel TV episode now!
Pronounced “lube-lee-anna”, the Slovenian capital is the definition of charming. The city center is small but filled with beautiful sights, and doesn’t have a touristy-commercial feeling. It’s the perfect European destination for a laid-back, all-day stroll.
But don’t write off Ljubljana as quaint and quiet. There’s a punk-political alternative scene here, which encompasses LGBT-inclusive squats and art factories.
I’ll show you all the fascinating sides of Ljubljana’s culture, in my artistic city guide.
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My film team and I wanted to start by getting an overall sense of Ljubljana. A boat tour was the perfect way to get the lay of the land.
We went on the 45-minute River Ljubljanica boat ride, which took us down the canals and under the famous bridges. We loved observing locals enjoying summertime activities, from this unique point of view.
With a glass of champagne in our hands, we passed under Ljubljana’s unique arches, including the three-way Triple Bridge, glass bridge, and Cobblers’ Bridge (because it once housed the booths of shoemakers).
The colorful, historic European architecture is a feast for the eyes. Love these classic buildings overlooking the water.
My favorite bridge is “Zmajski most”, with roaring green dragons perched at both ends. This bridge was erected in the early 20th century, and looks like a scene from Game of Thrones.
According to local legend, Jason (of Argonauts fame) was the founder of Ljubljana, and killed several dragons during his conquest. Some say that when a virgin crosses the bridge, these dragons will wag their tails.
I found lots of heavy metal attitude at Metelkova, an autonomous social and cultural center in the centre of Ljubljana, Slovenia. These former military barracks became occupied by squatters in the early 90s. Over time, they covered every available space with colorful street art.
Metelkova Mesto feels like a giant acid trip. There are multiple buildings, decorated in everything from graffiti tags to moving installations.
This web of Gollum alien clones will haunt your nightmares. Metelkova encapsulates the eccentric, alternative side of Slovenia — perfect for alternative travellers like ourselves.
Metel Kova is a hive of creativity. There are artist studios here, as well as dive bars, design workshops, concert spaces. The young community works hard to organise social and cultural activities for anyone to join.
Can we talk about how talented these artists are? The murals are masterfully executed. And these images are only a fraction of what we saw here.
Slovenian artists used found objects to build playful sculptures throughout Metelkova. One had a motion detector: when you stepped up close, the parts moved and pounded on a drum.
In Metelkova, inclusiveness is everything. The residents host community organisations that support women, the disabled, and LGBT. These clubs run campaigns against racism and exclusive policies — above, this rainbow structure was the first gay club in Slovenia.
Metelkova is within walking distance of the city center, but not in the main streets — therefore many travellers miss out on it. As you can tell from the photos, this commune is something you must see with your own eyes. I hope you’ll get the chance to discover this alternative, eclectic side of Ljubljana.
We walked past the entrance of Rog, another autonomous factory or squat. These abandoned buildings were occupied in 2006, and have morphed into gallery collectives and two skate parks.
Time to escape heat, and enjoy lunch with a view. Thankfully, everything is within easy walking distance. We took the short glass funicular (cable car) up to Ljubljana Castle, the icon of the city.
I felt like Cersei Lannister, looking out at the rooftops from my tower window. “Ljubljanski grad” was originally a Medieval fortress, and remains one of the best look-out points in Europe.
We sat near the Medieval curved stone windows, and thoroughly enjoyed the lunch tasting at Gostilna Na Gradu restaurant. By now, I’m sure I’ve convinced you that Slovenian food is magnificent.
We sampled organic spreads with fresh baked bread (the Istrian cod was my favorite), with cold glasses of homemade pear juice. The bottom left image shows the best sea bass I’ve had in my life: it’s paired with broccoli cream, and the fish comes from Fonda fish farm (remember I visited them?)
After the meal, we explored the art and antiquities displays around Ljubljana castle. We walked up the winding staircase to the viewing tower, and were rewarded with this panorama. (You can see my Snapchats from the castle here.)
I looked out at the canals, bridges, steeples and squares, framed by blue mountains in the back. “Neverjeten,” or “amazing” in Slovenian.
After a quick rest at our hotel, I was ready to do some shopping. As I mentioned before, there thankfully isn’t a commercial, big-box vibe in Ljubljana. Instead, you’ll find lots of local, handmade fashion and accessories — sold in little boutiques that line the cobblestone streets.
I also enjoyed roaming around the produce markets, and watched Slovenians relax at outdoor cafes near the waters.
While you won’t find a Goth scene here, I did run into the Skelet bar that my friend Zoetica Ebb recommended. There are, however, plenty of stores with hipster and twee designs.
We saved the best for last, and had a memorable farewell dinner at the family-owned Restaurant JB. Chef Janez Bratovž was named one of the best 100 chefs in the world, and if Slovenia had Michelin stars, he would without doubt have several.
We stepped into a 1920s building that was decorated in his handpicked art. The space was luxurious, yet comfortable and without pretension.
JB is the friendliest and most attentive chef you’ll meet. He came by our table with each new plate, chatting us up with a smile, and then presenting his dishes with passion.
His menu is inspired by the balance between the four elements, which represent the tastes of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Each is artfully presented, and a delight to the palate.
JB makes handmade pastas that melt in your mouth, and infuses international flavors (such as Asian sauces) into his preparations. Filmmaker Melissa’s reaction to the tuna dish: “If I were in prison and had to choose my last meal, I would pick this!”
JB Restavracija changes its menu with the seasons, and I’m eager to come back for more of his culinary magic.
Cute, charming but with a gritty alt scene: this picture sums up why I adore Ljubljana. (Fun fact: Slovenia is the only country with “love” in its name!)
Hvala (thank you) to Slovenian Tourist Board (IFeelSlovenia) for the perfect travel itinerary, and to Ljubljana Tourism for organizing a tour of the alternative side of the city. (All photos by Borderless Media.)
I leave you with one of the many unique city bridges — this one is decorated with locks. It’s a promise that I will come back to Ljubljana soon.
(If you missed my previous blogs about Lake Bled and Portoroz, you can find all my Slovenia travel guides here.)
Please take a moment to watch our Slovenia travel video! Thanks for watching and subscribing.
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Travel guide to visiting Lake Bled, Slovenia! Romantic castle & island near Ljubljana, Slovenian cuisine at Tito’s Palace.
I’ve been asked: as a travel blogger, do I get jaded about traveling? Does going to new countries become boring at some point?
The short answer is no. Every time I visit a destination, especially one I know little about, I end up finding unexpected gems.
This was exactly my experience at Lake Bled in Slovenia. Who knew that this unassuming country would have a lake and castle straight out of a fairytale?
Photos of Lake Bled are stunning enough, but the views are even more impressive in the flesh.
It’s the definition of picture perfect: a tiny island with a white church, in the center of an emerald lake. The isle surrounded by the lush green Julian Alps, and Medieval-era Bled Castle.
You’ll recall from my introduction post that Slovenia is a tiny country, which makes it easy to travel around. From the capital of Ljubljana, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Lake Bled.
That day, I wore my new blue tie-dye dress by Disturbia, the Goth and alternative fashion label that is one of my favorites.
My sheer Sailor Moon jacket is perfect for warm weather. I got it in Hong Kong, and love how the color is neutral, and the wands and crescent moons are subtle (but Sailor Moon fans will understand the references!)
Shop more fashion from Disturbia by clicking the pictures below
Bled Castle is the oldest in Slovenia, and one of the country’s proudest attractions. Since it’s easy to access Bled from Ljubljana (there are also buses and trains), many visitors take a day trip to the lake.
I walked around the towers of Bled Castle, imagining that I was a European princess. Inside, I saw the silver armor of knights, spooky bones and other relics from the Middle Ages.
There’s a crazy Medieval toilet in one room: the hole is a precarious drop down below, like the Vale’s Moon Door in Game of Thrones.
Bring your camera. There are outstanding views of Slovenia, from the castle windows and terrace.
It’s obvious why Lake Bled is a favorite destination for romantics. The location also leads into Triglav National Park, where you can take part in all types of outdoor adventures.
Time to explore the little island on Lake Bled. The traditional way to get here is by pletna, or a gondola with paddles.
As you can see, it takes a lot of muscle to row, row, row the boat!
The Church of the Assumption is the focal point of island. Excavations revealed a chapel that dates back to 9 AD, but the current one was built in 1698. Inside, there’s a “wishing bell”: you pull on a long rope, and it rings the bell at the top of the steeple.
Lake Bled is not one of Europe’s most known attractions, and this is a good thing. You’ll feel as if you stepped into the olden days, and the experience doesn’t feel commercialised.
The same well-muscled fellow took us back to the shores. He does hundreds of back-and-forth rows per day – what a workout!
I was glad to have the pletna to myself. We shot a 360 degree virtual reality video on the boat, which we will release soon.
I looked back, and the island faded into the distance. Many Slovenians get married here. According to local tradition, if a husband carries his new bride up the 99 steps to the church, then a happy marriage is guaranteed!
But even if he crashes and burns, romance is in the air, with pink flowers and picturesque frames like this.
Even though I didn’t do any rowing, I was ready for lunch. At Lake Bled, dining comes with a 5-star view.
Our guide Ales took us to Vila Bled, which used to be Tito’s palace. President Josip Broz Tito lived here, during Slovenia’s time in Yugoslavia. He was known as a “benevolent dictator”… perhaps the beauty of Lake Bled kept him from harsh ruling!
We walked through Tito’s decadent palace. One of the rooms had a giant Soviet-style mural, featuring hardy workers waving red star flags and sickles.
We sat down at a table in his courtyard — you can’t beat a view like this. My filmmakers and I started with fresh juices, asparagus soup, and a feta and vegetable souffle. Even the simple brown bread, dipped in Slovenia’s best olive oil, was beyond this world.
As I mentioned in my Portoroz post, there are lots of Mediterranean influences in the local cooking. This starter, a ravioli with parmesan, was executed with as much finesse as anything I’ve eaten in Italy.
If you’ve been following me on Snapchat (@lacarmina), I’m sure you were drooling at the food we ate that day. Trout is outstanding in Slovenia, and I ordered it multiple times during my journey. As you can see from the stamp above, Vila Bled’s version was moist and colorfully presented with fresh vegetables.
Everywhere we went, Slovenian food was outstanding. At Gostilna pri Mari in Piran, an older local couple brought out plate after plate of incredible seafood. We started with octopus and squid carpaccio, moving on to squid ink risotto and penne with cuttlefish, and an entire grilled seabass.
Although you rarely hear of Slovenian wines, the local varietals are as complex and delicious as the ones produced in neighboring Italy and Croatia. I’m holding one of their dry, white wines from the Littoral region.
From Bled, we drove to Vila Podvin in the village of Mošnje Radovljica. This was a bed and breakfast inn to remember: the owners are proud of their heritage, and display Slovenian crafts in the lobby. We relaxed in clean and quaint rooms, then went downstairs to the garden — to experience their award-winning Slovenian restaurant.
At Vila Podvin, the dishes are “New Slovene” masterworks by Chef Uroš Šteflin. He reawakens forgotten Slovenian recipes, with modern and creative techniques. We started with a unique soft boiled egg appetiser, followed by either lamb or trout in nuanced, naturally-flavored foam. One of the best meals of our entire trip.
We even woke up early for the breakfast at Vila Podvin, a mix of homemade thick yogurt, fruits, farm eggs and other European delicacies.
Like Elaine on Seinfeld, I don’t like to use the word “breathtaking”… but for Lake Bled, I’ll make a happy exception! Although my film team and I have been to many beautiful places around the world, this under-the-radar destination took our breath away… awayyy…
(All photos by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann of Borderless Media).
I wave goodbye with the national flag of Slovenia. The coat of arms is a shield with the image of Mount Triglav, the country’s highest peak. Below are two wavy blue lines representing the Adriatic Sea and local rivers, and the colors go back to Medieval times — like the castle where I’m standing.
Had you heard of Lake Bled? Wouldn’t you like to visit?
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Why Travel to Slovenia? The Mediterranean beaches of Portoroz, Slovenian food, Fonda sustainable fish!
Ah, there’s nothing like the Mediterranean coast in summer. Could this be the Italian Riviera? Dubrovnik in Croatia? Surprise… I’m standing in Slovenia!
Before my trip, I knew very little about this tiny European country — and I’m guessing you’re in the same shoes. To my surprise, I discovered a world class beach town, creative restaurant scene, and ethical food produced by Slovenians with passion.
On our first day, my filmmakers and I learned straight away that Slovenia is a travel destination full of surprises.
But first, a style revelation: there’s a dyed skull underneath my hair!
If you’ve been following my social media, you’ll have seen images of my skull-shaped undercut, which is the work of stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio in Vancouver. I’ve trusted her with my rainbow hairstyles throughout the years, and am thrilled with this big change.
Want to know how to achieve a skull shaved hairstyle like mine? Then watch the video of my hair transformation, step by step! You’ll see how Stephanie used clippers to sculpt the shape, then bleached and dyed the skull and crossbones. (Watch it on LaCarmina Youtube.)
(Shop more designs by Long Clothing with a click below — this nu-Goth brand rocks!)
My nail art is Miffy meets the devil. They’re by Glam Nail Studio, an award winning salon located in the Vancouver area, specialising in Japanese nail art.
My head feels so much lighter, after taking out the lower layers of hair. I like how I can wear it up to show off the skull, or leave it down to cover it. Perfect for my summer travels.
Slovenia is an easy, quick flight from most European countries (it only took 2 hours for me to get here from Amsterdam). The country is also within a few hours drive of Austria, Italy and Croatia — it’s possible to visit all three by car, in a single day!
Many people assume that Slovenia is a land-locked country, since it appears to be that way on the map. In fact, there’s a warm and gorgeous coastal stretch along the Adriatic Sea. (How glorious is this waterfront view from my hotel window?)
My filmmakers and I started our journey in Portoroz, one of these seaside towns known for wellness. We stayed at Hotel Slovenija: beautifully designed, luxurious and modern.
Their spa offers therapies related to the surrounding nature and healing mineral waters. I was glad for a massage after multiple flights and jetlag.
Crowds of tourists can ruin experiences for me. In Slovenia, there’s nothing of this sort. No Starbucks or McDonalds. Not a single bus tour in Tartini Square.
I loved walking around and seeing the layers of history in the architecture. Portoroz feels like an undiscovered seaside town in Croatia or Italy.
I stopped to take a Vine video of the red roofs overlooking the Adriatic. (I’m @lacarmina on Vine, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.)
Perhaps this gorgeous country is overlooked by travellers because it’s so tiny. It only has two million inhabitants, over 20k square kilometers.
The small size is a big advantage, when it comes to food production. Slovenian ingredients are outstanding because locals can take their time and use natural methods to bring out the best possible flavors.
My travel film team and I visited Soline / Sečovlje Saltworks, the famous evaporation pond located in Piran. At these saltworks, everything is done in the traditional method.
Saltmaking is one of Slovenia’s oldest economic activities. At Soline, the process is the same as it was centuries ago: the sea, sunshine, and a lot of muscle work. The salt flats also have an ecological benefit, as they encourage flora and fauna.
I pretended to be a salt-worker, and failed. Let’s just say that I only managed to push the cart a few inches on the track!
Slovenian salt also has health benefits, since it’s high in minerals and crystallized naturally.
I’ve tried a number of gourmet salts, but Sečovlje’s product is outstanding. The taste is light, with hints of minerals. Since the crystals are enhanced by the seawater captured inside, flavors are nuanced rather than explicitly “salty.”
Slovenian salt gets my “Miffy two thumbs up!” If you’re curious, you can order Piranske Soline salt through their website.
My next stop was again an eye-opener. I always thought of “fish farming” as bad for both the creatures and the environment, and preferred the taste of wild-caught. However, at Fonda Fish Farm (Ribogojnica Fonda), I met a woman who is taking a very different approach.
Dr. Irena Fonda (molecular biologist and award-winning researcher) joined her family in raising fish via the free-floating method, or cages in open water. The rich sea water, continuous movement, and natural environment result in sea bass that are ethically raised — and recognized as the best quality in the world.
Dr. Fonda took us on a boat ride through the warm and beautiful Piran Bay. As the waters deepened, we came across what looked like yellow caterpillars, floating on the gentle waves. It turned out to be Fonda’s mussel farm! Ropes hang down from these buoys, and the mollusks grow on them.
We arrived at the pens, and they were nothing like the crowded, dirty “fish farms” that I always heard about. The sea bass swim freely about in the fresh Piran waters, which have an ideal balance of salt and minerals. The cages also become homes for other underwater organisms, supporting the local ecosystem.
Every day, Fonda’s team comes to feed the sea bass (they grow for 2-3 years). I got to give it a try: you can watch me tossing food to the fishies, in this Instagram video!
Dr. Fonda impressed us with her heartfelt dedication to every aspect of her work, including education and package design. If you see Fonda sea bass on a menu, you’ll know this means the highest grade. The body had a clean, pleasing smell — nothing “fishy” is going on.
(On the boat ride, I wore this exact Sorel Torpeda sandal, which is both stylish and practical — you can walk all day long, and they match most clothes. I also love Sorel’s studded sandals. See more of their footwear below.)
It doesn’t get any fresher than this: sea bass carpaccio, straight from Slovenian waters. With a sprinkle of Soline salt (from the flats we visited) and local olive oil (which was better than any I’ve had in Italy or Greece, no joke).
“Na’zdravje” or cheers to Fonda fish farm for the enlightening tour and snack.
With our appetites whetted, it was time to sit down for lunch. Our guide and driver Ales took us to Domačija Šajna, which is the definition of a charming Slovenian village. We passed through these big doors into an open courtyard with a flowering garden.
Yet another pleasant surprise: Slovenian cuisine has a lot of seafood and Mediterranean influences. It’s certainly not the “central European” stereotype of meat and potatoes.
We started with farm-fresh cheeses and prosciutto, paired with Slovenian wines (all were outstanding). At the bottom right, I could have eaten ten servings of this shaved truffle gnocchi.
The chef used local fruit and wines to add both color and flavor. He served aged beef steak in wine sauce, poached pears, and millefeuille with strawberry.
Everything is close by in small Slovenia, and Domacija Sajna is well worth a drive for a meal like this.
Our road trip continued with a few more scenic stops. In the Littoral region (Municipality of Komen, in the Karst plateau), we walked around Štanjel church.
This Parish Church of the Prophet Daniel was built in the 15th century. It has a Games of Thrones feeling, doesn’t it? I half expected the High Sparrow to step out.
Are you surprised by what we found in Slovenia? This is what I love about off-the-beaten-path destinations: they’re full of hidden treasures, which surpass our expectations about a place.
In a single day, I had my eyes opened in many ways. Coming up, I’ll show you what we found in the capital of Ljubljana, the island on Lake Bled, and more.
If you’re digging my outfit, you can shop these same items below:
And here’s the DIY tutorial hair video of my skull shaved cut. Would you do an undercut style like this?