Did you know that Slovenia has only 47 km access to the Adriatic Sea, has the largest bear population and is the third most forested country in Europe? I did not know it until last June, when I finally explored a little of this Central-European country. Here are some impressions from 4 days in Slovenia and Venice.
Portoroz is one of the few cities on the coast of Slovenia. It’s also the reason why thousands of tourists come here to spend their summer vacation. Until mid-June you can enjoy Portoroz and the surrounded area without all the tourist madness. The city is built on a hill, from where you can admire the beautiful view over the bay and the border to Croatia. Portoroz has a long promenade right at the beach, full of coffees, restaurants, bars and hotels. At the end of the strip you arrive at the harbor, from where you can take a boat tour if you are interested. The beaches are in my opinion not the yellow of the egg. Most of them are made of concrete. You can also find several wooden piers which are great at night when you can grab a drink and enjoy the moonlight at the seaside but probably not ideal for sunbathing.
Portoroz borders on the city of Piran, which lies at the most southern tip of Gulf of Trieste. Piran is a small, lovely city with an Italian atmosphere. Here you can explore the ruins of the former castle, from where you will have a great view over Piran. In the city center you will find many restaurants, small shops, harbor and a small promenade along the seaside. Few minutes’ walk will take you to a small church where you can find some sculptures made of the surrounded rocks.
Both coastal cities are quite expensive. If you want to enjoy a good and affordable meal outside of your apartment, try the seafood pizza. That way you can taste some local products without spending too much (10 EUR inc. drink).
Scammed by Car Rental Company “Avantcar” in Koper
On the third day of our journey, we (group of students) rented a car in Koper to pick up our friends in Venice and visit the Bled lake in north of Slovenia. I have to admit, I never rented a car before. If we would know how car renting companies operate in Slovenia, we would never do it.
We rented it through rentalcars.com, which has contracts with local car rental companies and allows you to book a car online and pick it up at the set location. In our case, we rented it from a company called Avantcar which is located in Koper 20 km away from Portoroz (where we should first pick up the car according to Rentalcars.com). Unfortunately this was not the case, I googled Avantcar, called them and asked about the pick-up location again (since it should be in Portoroz), which turned in to be in Koper. After a local friend argued with them on phone, they agreed to pick us up from Portoroz and drive us to Koper. With 40 minutes delay a lady met us and took us to Koper. In the office of Avantcar another unexpected surprise occurred. They asked for 1000 EUR deposit for the car, which was not mentioned in the Rentalcars.com terms and conditions and even the guy at the office could not show me this in Avantcar conditions. We did not have such as big amount of money on our credit card and arguing did not helped either. After negotiating for a while, he proposed to “extra” insure the car for 72 EUR, that way we would only have to pay 300 EUR deposit. Since we knew that our friends are coming to Venice at night and that if we would not agree, the costs for them would have been even bigger, we finaly accepted this proposal.
At the beginning, the rental should cost 133 EUR, in the end it was more than 200 EUR for two days without any highway fees and gas. Never again.
Trip to Venice
In the afternoon we took the highway to Venice to pick up our friends. Since we had some spare time, we drove to the city to check out the center. The parking situation in Venice is quite limited and therefore very expensive (more than 30 EUR/day). I advise you, when coming to Venice, park ar the mainland and not at the island, that way you will save some money. Since we had not much time we looked for the cheapest parking lot (7 EUR / 2h) at the island and found one close to the center (45 minutes walk) at the Piazzale Roma square. From here we walked to St. Marco square. There are a few signs how to get there but honestly, without a map you get lost in Venice, that was also our case. Luckily we met a couple from Australia, which had a map. Together we made us on the way to the hotspot of Venice.
While walking I kept meeting street sellers who tried to sell me boots. I was laughing, asking myself why does he want to sell me boots? It’s not raining. Few minutes later I was not wondering anymore, the St. Marco square was flooded (water and faeces included). I heard from a local that it rained in the morning and that this is not a rarity. Few “jumps” took us to the Rialto Bridge which is just gorgeous. The architecture of Venice is admirable. Although as a student it’s hard to afford a lot since the area is crowded with expensive restaurants and luxury shops, the walk through the center is free and absolutely worth it. When driving to Venice please take in account that the highway fees are quite high, from Trieste to Venice it’s 20 EUR (160km).
Trip to the Bled Lake
Next morning, back in Portoroz, we made us on the trip to the Bled Lake. Some said it’s one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe? What do you think? Is it?
When arriving in Bled by car, park at the castle, the parking here is free for visitors, but no one checks if you bought yourself a ticket or not. All other parking spots are paid, according to the very friendly lady at the tourist office at the entrance to Bled. The Bled Lake is located 35 km northwest from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. You can take a 6 km walk around the lake or rent a boat and paddle to the small island in the middle of the lake. We decided to go for the second option and rented a paddle boat (boat for 6 people / 15 EUR/h). You can also go for the “tourist” version which is a boat where you sit with 20 other tourist and someone else is paddling for you. At the island you can visit a church and ring the bell (which brings luck, some said). I have to add that you need to pay to do the church excursion, although they don’t stamp the tickets so maybe you can ask someone who is leaving if he would give you his/her and try to check it out that way. If you visit this place in summer and you are a fan of ice cream, go for it, they sell a really good one right in front of the church.
The nature around the lake is breath taking, I wish I would have more time to explore it. Although we got scammed in Koper, we had great time in Slovenia. The coast, northwest as well as the capital are worth visiting. I know I will once return back to explore the country even more. I hope this post is going to help you for your next trip to Slovenia. If you have been here already, I am curious to hear about your experiences. Feel free to share it in the comments below.
If you have found this article helpful and want to get more information about cultural differences and travel tips on a budget, follow me on my FB page Kuba’s Journeys.