As I’ve mentioned here before, my family came over to join us towards the end of our time in Slovenia. We had planned a big road trip through Italy with them, but they decided to spend a few days with us in Slovenia first. They spent one day in Ljubljana and then we took them to Bled and the Julian Alps for two days. For our final day in Slovenia we headed to the southwest corner of the (tiny) country to check out one of its famous cave systems and then spend the night on the coast.
Slovenia’s two most famous cave systems are Postojna and Škocjan. Between the two, we chose to visit Škocjan for two reasons: 1) Postojna sounded like it was a bit too commercial. (They actually have a train that you ride on inside the cave) and 2) Škocjan has a cavern that’s 100 meters high, and you get to walk across a suspension bridge 50 meters above the base of the cave. I read that and decided I had to see it.
It. Was. Amazing. I was absolutely in awe. You start off at ground level and walk further and further down into the cave. The full walking distance is 3 kilometers, and it takes about two hours. You aren’t allowed to take photos inside (and the lighting is no good anyway). But I did find this one available under Creative Commons so you can get an idea of what it looks like:
The first section of the cave is known as the Silent Cave. As you make your descent, you go from a narrow pathway to larger chambers full of giant stalactites and stalagmites. Eventually you reach the second portion of the cave, known as the Murmuring Cave. It’s called that because you can hear the murmuring of water from the underground river that created the cave.
Gradually the murmuring swells until it turns into a roar as you enter the cave’s largest chamber. Martel’s Chamber, as it’s called, is over 325 feet high. It’s hard for me to describe how I felt walking over a 165-foot tall bridge in a massive cave with a rushing river thundering below. This photo doesn’t show the full scale of the chamber, but it gives you an idea:
You emerge from the cave much further down in a valley, and you get back up to where you started via a combination of a walking trail and funicular.
I can’t compare Škocjan to Postojna because I haven’t seen them both, but I certainly don’t regret our choice to go to Škocjan. It was a breathtaking experience.
From Škocjan, we continued westward to Slovenia’s tiny strip of coastline, sandwiched between Croatia and Italy on the Adriatic Sea. There are several coastal cities, but our destination was Piran, a quaint little town full of Venetian architecture situated on a small peninsula. I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but I was in love with Piran from the moment we arrived.
We stayed in a little guesthouse just inside the boundaries of the old town, and it was a lovely 5-10 minute walk along the water to get to the heart of Piran. There was a beach directly across the street from our guesthouse, so my brother and step-dad decided to run over there and take a dip in the not-particularly-warm water. That didn’t last long.
(I’m using the term “beach” loosely. In Europe they consider a pile of rocks to be a beach. I’m a little skeptical.)
Then we all walked into town. We had absolutely nothing planned for Piran, so we just wandered and enjoyed taking everything in: charming squares, sailboats, bell towers, colorful buildings, sea views.
Meanwhile my husband and I struggled to get a single photo where we both had our eyes open. I’ll spare you the outtakes. This is the best one we got. (This is clearly better of Matthew than of me because I’m pretty squinty. There were several better ones of me, but Matthew looked worse in those. I chose to publish this one where I look worse. That is true love, people.)
If you climb up the stairs to St. George’s Cathedral, you have a panoramic view from which you can see three countries (Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy).
When we got hungry, we picked out a restaurant on the water where we knew we could enjoy some local seafood.
As we ate, we watched the sailboats come in and the sun sink lower in the sky.
While my family ordered dessert, I hurried down to the tip of the peninsula. I knew it was west-facing, and I was hoping for a beautiful, unobstructed sunset view. Piran did not let me down!
There were very few people around, so I got a prime spot sitting on the rocks. It was so peaceful, and it gave me a moment to reflect on how grateful I felt to have the opportunity to see the world. It might sound cheesy, but sunrises and sunsets tend to give me a swell of emotions and appreciation for the beauty of our planet. (After a few minutes, my mom walked over from the restaurant and joined me. She’s the one who snapped this photo.)
After the sun sank below the horizon, we rejoined the rest of my family and began our leisurely stroll back to the guesthouse (stopping for gelato on the way, of course). And I kept taking photos because, well, the town kept being beautiful.
The following morning, we just had time for a quick breakfast in the (nearly deserted) main square before we had to leave to catch our shuttle to Venice.
I was so sad to say goodbye to Piran. I could have stayed for a week just enjoying the gorgeous views and the peacefulness of that town. (I’ve read that it gets crowded during the summer, but I guess the beginning of June is a bit before the high season really starts. I also think that “crowded” in Slovenia doesn’t really feel crowded at all if you’ve been somewhere like Venice or Rome.)
Anyhow, I would go back to Piran in a heartbeat! It was a beautiful end to our time in Slovenia. As the opener of this amazing world trip we’re on, Slovenia will always hold a special place in our hearts. It has so much to offer: food, historic cities, vineyards, mountains, lakes, castles, caves, coast…and the country is so compact that it doesn’t take much time to see it all. So if you have the chance, I urge you to go! I know that Matthew and I will be back at the first opportunity.