The year 2020 is different for everyone. Working is different, schools are online and traveling has changed dramatically as well. More and more countries are encouraging domestic tourists to explore their home countries this year instead of traveling somewhere else. And Slovenia is not any different. For this reason, I also decided to visit different places around my home country in 2020.
I spent 9 days at the beginning of July exploring 17 different historic towns around Slovenia. This is thanks to the play contest organized by The Association of Historic Towns of Slovenia. Slovenia combines all the different times of Europe at incredibly easily reachable distances between the Alps, the Adriatic, the Pannonian Plain, and the Karst. You can experience the ancient iron age and modern ironmongery, life in a time of Roman legions and the blooming of medieval towns, mining in the mysterious underground world of mercury mine, or the tranquility of the mystical passionate performance.
About the play contest
The play contest lasted from the 20th of June till the 15th of July. During this time you had to visit as many of the 17 towns (Idrija, Celje, Jesenice, Kamnik, Koper, Kostanjevica na Krki, Kranj, Metlika, Novo mesto, Piran, Ptuj, Radovljica, Slovenske Konjice, Šentjur, Škofja Loka, Tržič in Žužemberk). In these towns, you had to find a specially designed poster where you had to take a photo next to it and uploaded it in on your Instagram account together with a couple of required hashtags and a mention of the association.
If you visited 3 to 5 towns you earned a title of a bronze friend and got a specially designed bandana as an award. if you visited between 6 and 9 towns you earned a title of a silver friend and competed in a drawing ceremony for 67 awards with a value of up to 20 euros. If you visited 10 to 16 towns you earned a title of a golden friend and competed in a drawing ceremony for 16 awards with a value above 20 euros. And if you visited all of the 17 towns you earned a title of an ambassador of historic towns of Slovenia and you would get a special certificate and an award at the closing ceremony in September
As for all of my other trips in the past, I also made an itinerary for this ”trip”. I was not able to start exploring these 17 towns right on the 20th of June because I was busy with other things at that time. So my start date was the 4th of July, instead. Therefore I only had 11 days to finish it. Yes technically I could have done it in 2 days, like a group of people did but is that really worth it? Do you really deserve the title of an ambassador if you just rush for one sign to another without really discovering the town and what it offers? I do not think so and that is why I wanted to spend a little bit more time so that I could have learned more about these places. Especially considering the fact that I have never been to some of these towns in my life.
I made an itinerary for 9 days and had two spare days just in case if there was any bad weather or just as a rest day if any of the days were too exhausting.
Day by Day
What follows is a short summary of the 9 days that I spent exploring Slovenia. I will write posts for every individual day as well
Day 1: Šentjur– A town where the locals have music in their genes, and a town which has long been shaped by the railway. Experience it through the museum collections and learn about important people from Šentjur. The pristine nature offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, hunting, and cycling. My family actually owns a countryside house in a village that belongs to this municipality but neither of us explored this area much before.
Day 2: Kamnik – In the Middle Ages, Kamnik, a town in the embrace of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, was a booming commercial town where the Bavarian Counts of Andeches had their seat. Spent a morning hiking up to a hill with the best views of Kamnik. You can even see the highest mountain of Slovenia from here on a clear day! Then I continued exploring the city streets with numerous interesting old houses. I also went a bit north to Kamniška Bistrica valley where was a little bit cooler. It was my first time there and there are so many things to see there! Unfortunately, I ran out of time to visit everything so I’ll have to return one day
Day 3: Škofja Loka & Kranj – These two towns are one of the oldest places in Slovenia with a very interesting and diverse history. I visited both cities a few times before but it’s always great to walk around those colorful medieval streets. On the way to Škofja Loka I also stopped by a mysterious old church that is hidden from the main road. While in the city itself I was also brave enough to cross the Devil’s Bridge
Day 4: Piran & Koper– Slovenia might only have about 45 kilometers of coast but that does not make it boring. It’s right the opposite actually because there are so many things to see there! You can go to a few nature reserves where you can observe hundreds and hundreds of bird species, learn about the centuries-old tradition of salt harvesting. This part once belonged to the Venetian Republic, therefore you can observe lots of similar architecture like in Venice but minus all the crowds! Don’t forget to stop by in one of the many local restaurants and eat some delicious seafood or try some truffles because they’re found all around Istria region.
Day 5: Žužemberk & Kostanjevica na Krki – This was kinda the first time for me in both of these towns although I made a brief stop in Žužemberk years ago. In Kostanjevica na Krki I also finally had enough time to try out the drone that I recently bought
Day 6: Idrija – First time in this town as well. Idrija is one of the most beautiful gems of Slovenia. The town is known for its intricate bobbin lace – Idrija lace – delicious Idrija žlikrofi, and its mercury mine, which, thanks to its legacy, has been inscribed into the UNESCO List of World Heritage. I also visited the deepest lake in Slovenia on the way to Idrija and visited the famous Partisian hospital Franja.
Day 7: Tržič, Jesenice & Radovljica – It was my first time visiting the center of shoemaking in Slovenia, Tržič, while I visited both Jesenice and Radovljica many times before but it is always great to return, especially to Radovljica which offers so many great options to eat, including a one Michelin restaurant where you can eat a 3 course lunch for only 20 euros!
Day 8: Celje, Slovenske Konjice & Ptuj – All these three towns are located in the eastern part of Slovenia so it was an easy decision to combine them in one day. Celje is a famous medieval town and was home to Counts of Celje, which symbol you can see on Slovene coat of arms (the three yellow stars). Slovenske Konjice is also an attractive medieval town located between the mysterious Konjiška gora mountain and the sunny hills of the wine-growing Škalc. The numerous small surrounding villages round off the unique appearance of the valley along the Dravinja river. And finally Ptuj. Apparently the hardest place to pronounce by British people but it’s not hard to fall in love with it. The city is overlooked by one of the most impressive castles in Slovenia which houses a great museum as well. A walk through the oldest Slovenian town takes you past Roman monuments to the wonderful facades of medieval buildings.
Day 9: Metlika & Novo mesto – The last day was dedicated to exploring a region that is quite a mystery to a lot of people in Slovenia, Bela krajina. The dialect is quite different from other places, food is unique and the folklore as well. The day started at a small but at the same time the strongest karst river spring in the world where you can find a rare cave shell which only lives there and nowhere else! The road then continued through the deep forests that quickly changed to endless fields of various products and among those you can observe a real plane from second world war! While Novo mesto is slightly more familiar with its famous riverbank houses next to the emerald green Krka river.
These 9 days were really amazing and it was great exploring all of these hidden spots around Slovenia where I have not been yet or did not even know that exist. These are the places that tourists should be exploring in the future as well because Slovenia is way more than just Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Postojna cave and Piran. There are so many more stunning places in Slovenia that are full of colors and full of love. I will definitely be returning to these places soon again because there are still things that I have not seen yet and foods that I have not tried yet (Slovenia has way more than a hundred of traditional foods!)
And for the end. What did I win? Well, I won a gift package that includes a raspberry wine and strawberry marmalade from a local farm, a special bandana, and two tickets to Bela krajina regional museum in Metlika where I actually have not been to yet (I did not receive the award yet since the draw just happened but I will let you know about the taste of those things once I receive it). And on top of that, I became an ambassador of Slovene historic towns and will be getting a certificate at the closing event in September. I will be proudly wearing that title and continue to represent my home country of Slovenia, which is to a lot of foreigners still a mysterious country.