(Driving from 14 to 15 (Stanjel) to 16 (Lipica) to 17 (Piran))
After my night in Kobarid, I was headed to Piran, where I’d return my rental car. Enroute I planned to detour over to see the little town of Stanjel, perhaps stop in Lipica to see the horses, and then tour the Skocjan Caves. This wasn’t that far of a drive but there were a lot of stops and detours, and I’d hoped to get into Piran before sunset.
I had considered getting a GPS or at least a good driving map for Slovenia, but I decided to wing it with the driving map I got for free in Ljubljana. So far – plus with some prior research on Google Maps – this had turned out pretty well. I never got lost at all in my drives. The signage was pretty good. This drive turned out to be the most challenging of all in terms of directions, but I still didn’t really get lost for more than about 5 minutes. The road names and route numbers are not marked with BIG signs in Slovenia as they might be in the US, but route numbers ARE marked on small signs every 0.1 km. So if you know you’re supposed to be taking route 624 to some town, you can tell quickly whether you’re on it or not by looking for the small yellow km markers and the route number. Also, the signs pointing to various towns are helpful – so it helps to know which towns are in the path of your destination. This is where prior research with something like Google Maps helps a lot.
My only misstep was at the Italian border in a circle where I could have headed to Trieste or back into Slovenia. I wound up driving this little circle twice, past the “Welcome to Italy sign” twice(!), so technically I drove from Slovenia to Italy to Slovenia back to Italy back to Italy…all I the span of about 20 seconds! But I quickly found the right direction.
Stanjel is a cute little town – by comparison, far smaller than Skofja Loka.
I did a basic walking tour of the town in about an hour but felt rushed to get on to Lipica and the caves, so I missed a few things. I’d say the town itself is hardly going out the way for, but the drive to the town is pretty and made it worthwhile, probably.
I wasn’t sure if I’d spend any time at Lipica Stud Farm or not. I like horses but I’m not a horse fanatic. I decided to drive to the farm and see if I could see any horses. There was a tour of the stables or something an hour and half after I arrived, but it wasn’t cheap, and they didn’t seem happy that I had a camera without a press pass. So, I quickly left, stopping as I excited the farm to take pictures of some of the beautiful Lipizzaners.
Then, on to the Skocjan Caves.
The Caves were really interesting – huge underground caverns with large crystals growing from the rocks - but no pictures allowed!!! And since photography is really my thing, this was a big disappointment.
See some official pictures of the caves here: http://www.park-skocjanske-jame.si/eng/caves.shtml
You can tour the caves only with a guide (as part of a group, at a scheduled time), and some mild hiking is involved. The waterfall outside the exit of the cave was pretty nice, though.
Finally, on to Piran!