EUROTRIP: Birthday Celebrations in Slovenia

Slovenia was another country on our travel itinerary where I didn’t quite know what to expect. Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, so I was thinking it would be like a former-Balkan country, not quite as developed as other European countries. But all my research said that Slovenia was a small alpine gem, more like Austria than any country in the Balkans. Coming back to Slovenia after Bosnia, I can definitely attest to the fact that Slovenia feels more European than Balkan.

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

Slovenia actually has an incredibly developed economy, and was the first former Balkan Republic to join the European Union. The capital city, Ljubljana (you say it “Leeyublyana”) has a quaint Alpine-village feel, nestled into the mountains and full of beautiful architecture. I think Ljubljana was my favorite European city we visited. In fact, if I had to pick a country to be the setting of a modern fairy tale, such as the Princess Diaries, I would definitely pick Slovenia. Everyone was so kind and friendly (the Slovenian people were the best!), the streets were pristinely clean, the buildings were brightly colored and kept in great condition, and there was so much to do! Plus we were celebrating my 24th birthday while we were in Slovenia, so that definitely added a degree of specialness to the memories we made there 🙂

Ljubljana, surrounded by mountains. (Click to see the picture enlarged!)

Our first stop in Slovenia was at the Postojna Cave, which is famous for being one of the biggest cave systems in Europe. The cave is so deep you have to take a 10 minute train ride into the depths of the cave before you disembark and the tour begins. Here’s a pic of Tori and I being goofy, sitting on the train and waiting to enter the cave.

We were COLD! The caves were chilly, especially in an open train car.

Riding the train into the caves.

The caves have more than 20 kilometers of paths to follow, but Tori and I only saw a few kilometers worth on our tour. I was impressed with Tori’s knowledge, as she paid better attention than I did on our tour and eagerly pointed out “stalagmites” (start on the ground and grow vertically) and “stalactites” (look like icicles hanging from the ceiling) and got excited in the rare instances where you could see a stalagmite and a stalactite meet. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the caves were impressive and fun to walk through, but I was looking forward to shopping in downtown Ljubljana and eating out at a nice restaurant for my birthday dinner! So I must give Tori credit for these pictures, because the caves were more up her alley than mine 🙂

The pictures don’t really do the caves justice; it was hard to get a good shot without using flash, but without flash the pictures were really dark. These were the best two we got.

After visiting the caves, we had a tour of downtown Ljubljana. We changed into pretty dresses because we knew celebrations were in order that evening. Ljubljana was the last stop with the tour  group we’d been traveling with to see Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia. So after our tour guide showed us around the city, we were officially on our own and once again traveling as the dynamic duo. We said good bye to all the older couples who had been in tour group, and spent a few more hours with our Australian friend Kelly exploring the Ljubljana Castle before saying farewell to her too. We had a fun experience with the tour group, but I think we were both excited to be on our own again, the masters of our own schedule and itinerary 😉 Here are some pictures from our tour of Ljubljana’s Old Town.

Up on the hill you can see the Ljubljana Castle, and to the right we have the main university of Ljubljana.

Prešeren Square, the central square in Ljubljana. The statue on the right is of Slovenia’s most famous poet, France Prešeren and his muse. I love the salmon colored building on the left! 

Enjoying our day together in Ljubljana 🙂

Another popular square in Ljubljana. 

Ljubljana has a famous Dragon Bridge, and this is Tori with one of its guardians. The chocolate in Ljubljana even has the dragon emblem on it! Tori, the dress you’re wearing in these pictures is so cute! 

After exploring the city we’d worked up quite an appetite, and started thinking about what to do for dinner. We knew we wanted it to be something exceptional, and some of our friends from the tour group had recommended a picturesque French bistro with outdoor seating as a wonderful place for a special meal. The restaurant was called Juliette’s, and it was as adorable as promised. Tori and I split a bottle of rose wine, and spent a lovely evening talking, laughing, sharing our favorite memories of the trip thus far, and just reveling in the beauty of Ljubljana, the tastiness of the food, and the joy of each other’s company. I remember distinctly thinking that night that I’m so incredibly blessed to have such a cool person for my sister and friend… if anything, our summer adventures have cemented Tori’s coolness factor and eternal place in my heart ; )

I’m 24! Smiling at Tori during my birthday dinner.

Juliette’s did not disappoint. Tori ordered Sesame Soy Tuna, and I got veal, and we were both very happy with our selections. We also ordered two desserts to share, and the waitress even put a candle in the lava cake to make it more birthday-like, so I got a birthday wish in ; ) After dinner we strolled along the river front, and Tori kept asking me what I wanted for a present. We’d just spent a good chunk of change on dinner, so I told her I was quite content, but we stopped to browse at a jewelry stall and ending up falling in love with the craftsmanship of these handmade silver bracelets. Tori insisted we go for it, so she bought a delicate silver wrap-around bracelet with purple stones, while I went for a more elaborate version in blue. Now whenever I wear it, I have this beautiful memory of my 24th birthday in Slovenia with Tori! 

My bracelet is the blue one on the left; Tori’s is the purple one on the right!

Back at the hotel, we called our parents for a Skype date so they could wish me a happy birthday and hear an update about how the trip was going. Then the next morning we got up early to catch a train to Budapest, one of the last stops on our Euro-trip.

To hear about the special friend we made on the train ride, and see pictures from all the crazy things we did in Hungary, check out the next blog post.

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