Slovenia: My New Favorite Place

Written by Vanessa February 9, 2012

“Slovenia?  I’ve never heard of it.”

This was generally the reaction I got whenever I told someone about my trip to Slovenia – and I must admit that, before this program, I was completely oblivious to Slovenia’s existence as well.  After visiting the country this weekend, however, I can now say that not only does Slovenia exist, but it has completely stolen my heart.

From the moment I stepped off the bus and walked out into Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city, I immediately felt at home.  The city is filled with the old, beautiful buildings that characterize much of Europe, but with a twist: most of them are covered with bright, colorful graffiti.  While some might see this street art as tarnishing the city’s architectural beauty, I saw it as an interesting juxtaposition between old and new, classic and contemporary.  The entire city was so alternative and hip, and filled with young people who breathed life and color into every corner…  I felt energized just walking down the street.

This modern aesthetic was even exhibited in the hostel I had the fortunate opportunity to stay in for the weekend.  Located near the center of Ljubljana, Hostel Celica served as a military prison in the 1800s, but has since been converted into one of the coolest hostels in Europe.  Each room was designed by a different artist from around the world, and while each one looked completely different from the next, they all had one thing in common: jail cell bars behind the door, for that authentic prison feel.  It was an incredibly unique place, and I think that the hostel in itself is a must-see (and must-stay) in Slovenia.

On Saturday, my group took a bus to the town of Bled, about an hour away from Ljubljana.  The quaint little town boasts Lake Bled, a picturesque lake at the center of which is an island with a church perched upon it, and Bled Castle, a 1000-year-old stone beauty that sits high above the lake.  After admiring the lake (and the swans swimming in it), we trekked up what felt like a thousand stairs to the castle.  The view from the top was indescribable – from one side, you could see for miles over the lake and into the city, and from the other side, the Alps.  The entire scene was truly one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.  The castle itself was filled with history, and we spent the entire day exploring and enjoying the view.

On Sunday, we visited yet another castle: Ljubljana Castle, which has presided over the city on Castle Hill for over 900 years.  The stone structure was distinctly different from Bled Castle, as the inside was not so traditional but sparse and modern – its interior reminded me of a swanky New York City apartment.  We climbed a seemingly endless spiral staircase to the castle’s main tower (I clearly got a great leg work out during the weekend), and I was completely overwhelmed by the view – it seemed like we could see the entire country, with all of its red-roofed buildings and mountains in the background.  No picture can really capture the essence of the amazing views I saw atop these castles.

With its graffiti, beautiful landscapes and historic castles, Slovenia is a tourist’s dream.  To me, though, it was honestly much more – I found myself thinking about how easily I could live there, and how at home I felt in this offbeat country that I had never even heard of a few weeks before.  While Slovenia was gorgeous to be sure, there was just something about the atmosphere that I haven’t found in many other places – and I can’t wait to go back.