(Drive from 7 to 10 on the map below.)
I love taking trains in Europe, but sometimes you just need a car. I had decided to rent a car for a few days to drive from Ljubljana up to Lake Bled, up and around the Julian Alps, then down to Piran on the coast. It’s possible to do this by public transit somewhat but not really practical if you wish to stop and take lots of pictures at random places.
I’ve driven in Europe a few times and have found it pretty easy, but I still get nervous driving over there. Once I’m in the car for five minutes, I’m fine, but until then I worry. So I was a tad nervous heading over to the Sixt rental car place by the Ljubljana bus/train station. Fortunately, I got a nice little VW Golf (not a diesel though), very small but surprisingly comfortable. I was staying up at Lake Bled the next night – not far away, easy to get to via a wide highway, but I decided to take a scenic detour via the quaint little town of Skofja Loka – not mentioned in the Rick Steves books but well regarded by others.
The first part of the drive was easy, almost impossible to get lost driving from Ljubljana.
The town of Skofja Loka (“Bishop’s Meadow”) is pretty typical for Slovenia, if you’ll forgive me for me stereotyping it: a couple of churches, a little river, a nice main square with cool old buildings, and a castle up on the hill. On the other hand, it’s still pretty unique, even compared to the eastern Slovenian towns I’d seen the previous week. When I first arrived, the clouds were starting to roll in and ruin my light, but make the best of it, right? I walked around the river, through the main square, and up to the castle. As I was walking back, the sun came back out, so I walked it all over again, re-taking many of the pictures I’d just shot.
After Skofja Loka, I had considered taking a REALLY scenic detour, a windy path (according to the map) on narrow roads through the mountains. This made me quite nervous, but the travel information guide I talked to convinced me it was worth it and very doable. So I headed through the towns of Drazgose, Jamnik, and Kropa. Wow, she was right, and the scenery was amazing!!! This was one of the highlights of my trip.
There were great little churches, stunning vistas, and obscure but fascinating war memorials.
And in September, the roads were nearly deserted. It was almost the perfect un-tourist trap. I regretted later not spending more time on this drive, but the roads were pretty narrow, and it was hard to pull over sometimes (to take pictures!). And I needed to get to Bled before dusk if I could – I didn’t have much time there, and I needed to photograph that too!