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Flying My First Inaugural - London to Ljubljana

Flying My First Inaugural - London to Ljubljana

Old May 22, 20, 1:09 pm
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Flying My First Inaugural - London to Ljubljana

Introduction



It's been a while since I last posted anything on FT and I've missed it. My excuse is that I've spent the last year not really travelling much and what little travel I did manage I wrote about on my own website in the hope of being able to produce some more personal or experimental content rather than just the straight up hundred miles an hour photo-fests I've happily posted here in the past.

This will be a pared down version of something I wrote for my own site late last summer that focuses more on the flying, planning and airport experience than every last twist and turn I took before, during and after the trip. For those who are bored and impatient you can read it here: Fly To Takeover The World - Slovenia TR

At the time of booking we had an AMEX 2 for 1 voucher on the brink of expiry and not that many Avios or much in the way of funds for a summer holiday. Mrs. Spymon and I trawled through the destinations on the BA website until she came up with the idea of Slovenia. I was a little surprised as I had no idea that BA even flew there and it was only a little closer to the travel date when I checked the schedules and the BA FT forum to look up the lounge info that I realised we'd be on the inaugural flight!

For everyone else let's get started on this tale of beautiful lakes, amazing food and an inaugural flight as we travel back in time twelve months to Slovenia and a very different world.

Part 1: My First Inaugural Flight



I'm not sure what time we woke up, but my Grandma was right, the builders would do it. If you ever wanted to know what it might be like to live on a building site, or perhaps a coal mine you most likely have something wrong with you! We attempted to sleep for another half hour but gave up right at the point where we thought they'd made the breakthrough. Not wanting to wait and see if we'd be receiving a Jack Nicholson, Shiningstyle good morning, some trapped Chilean minors, or perhaps even discover the real reason why Crossrail had yet to open we got up. We were then able to enjoy the remainder of Rip Off Britain before saying our good-byes and getting the Piccadilly line to Heathrow, thankfully dodging a large school group on route.

I don't know how but by the time we had checked in it was already 13:39. How did it take so long to get to T5! The Club check-in queue was reasonably long but fast moving considering every 2nd person had enough luggage to fit a family inside! Service was friendly, with an apologies for waiting and an attempt to make conversation. Both were appreciated.



Whilst waiting in line in dawned upon me that I couldn't recall the last visit we'd made to Galleries Club. Our last visit to Terminal 5 was on an economy flight to CDG with no status. Prior to that was in First to India. So in all it was probably more than 6 years ago. No wonder that whilst the terminal felt familiar I was struggling with a few wrong turns and forgotten moments.

Security was cramped but fast and after a quick stop at Boots to replace Mrs Spymon's leaking make up remover we headed off to the lounge.

British Airways Galleries Club South

Finding the lounge was still relatively easy, though again I forgot about the extra run of escalators to the Club lounge and felt confused at seeing only the Concorde Room and Galleries First. We were soon in the lounge and at first we were taken aback at quite how busy it was. It made us realise how lucky we'd been with so many of our flights over the last few years departing from Terminal 3 which allowed us to spend so much time in the quite wonderful (and my official happy place) Cathay Lounge and most recently the beautiful cocktails on offer at the Qantas Lounge.







We turned right and found a dining table and chairs by the side of the cinema and hunted for food. The furniture had definitely been changed since our last visit and the food had definitely seen an improvement: curries, sandwiches, soups, bread, drinks hard and soft or hot and cold. The choice and brands of drink felt more varied and of higher quality than I recalled from our last visit but then again I'm probably mistaken.













I started with some curries and a soup accompanied by a glass of white wine before moving on to a sweet and delicious aged rum and coke. I also drank my usual black Americano alongside some quite tasty cappuccino cake.





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The Union Coffee is definitely an improvement over what went before but does anyone know why it tastes better at the LGW lounge?



We then moved to the opposite side of the lounge to enjoy some sunlight, minor plane spotting and to charge our devices where for once my phone worked on the wireless charger! Oh and I kept hydrated with some rather delicious fruit infused water.







Flight: BA690
Class: Club Europe (Business)
Depart: LHR T5 17:20
Arrive LJU T1 20:35
Aircraft: A321-200
G-EUXI Delivered 05/08/2005
Seats 3A and 3C Depart 09R



With around 45 mins to go, gate A6 was shown on our phones and the departures screen so we headed down in the hope of some inaugural flight related fun and festivities...
We were left somewhat disappointed by the grand total of absolutely nothing, but at least the automatic boarding gates worked!









Our plane looked nice and clean and we departed about 10 minutes late. The CE Cabin was rather large that day, though many of the seats remained unoccupied.









It was a beautiful day at LHR and there were loads of gleaming white BA birds out on show.

















Our flight commenced with a beautiful route along the Thames and we were treated to exceptional views of Central London, Canary Wharf and so forth before hitting a soft blanket of cloud as we crossed the channel which stayed with us for the majority of the flight.















Food was served and I chose Beef and chicken salad with chimichurri sauce with a little bottle of Cote du Rhone.





There was time for a quick browse of the limited in-flight entertainment options.









The photo below was the last time we saw our guide book. I got over excited on arrival and left it behind!



As we passed over the Austrian Alps we enjoyed some majestic mountain views and beautiful alpine forests, this continued on the approach and right onto the runway which was surrounded by forest.















We arrived around 5 mins late to a media frenzy, with this being the inaugural flight, we received the full paparazzi treatment on arrival, though personally I was hoping for the water cannon salute.





On arrival we finally got some goodies! OK, that is an exaggeration. We received a little BA lollipop each, of the two colours on offer one was sponge cake, the other a brownie.



There was the usual wait at baggage so I called our hotel as per the instructions and as promised a nice shiny BMW 5 Series came to pick us up! Despite it being basic accommodation we got a very nice transfer vehicle.

I have to say I was a touch disappointed with this flight and I don't think I was the only one. There were two people sat in front of us who we also overheard on our return trip discussing the fact that this was an inaugural flight and like us they too were expecting some sort of celebratory mood. After reading all the reports on FT and seeing the numerous You Tube videos where all sorts of goodies are given out it was almost like a slap in the face to be given a sphere of cake on a stick at the end of our flight. That said it was a solid experience from check in to touchdown and if we hadn't of know it was BA's first flight into LJU we'd have been none the wiser.

Up in the next day or so a quick tour of the beautiful Lake Bled.

Last edited by Spymon; May 22, 20 at 1:18 pm Reason: Grrr... Flickr
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Old May 23, 20, 2:12 pm
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Thanks for sharing! Slovenia is on my to do list and I hope I can visit soon!
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Old May 23, 20, 3:32 pm
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lockdown in Ljubliana?

Dude, I was all set to post my suggestions on what to see & do in Ljubliana.................until I saw the date on the onboard menu?
Did you take this trip in August 2019? If so, why wait nine months to post your outbound pics? And where is the rest of the TR?
Are you locked down in Ljubliana??
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Old May 26, 20, 11:50 am
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Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
Dude, I was all set to post my suggestions on what to see & do in Ljubliana.................until I saw the date on the onboard menu?
Did you take this trip in August 2019? If so, why wait nine months to post your outbound pics? And where is the rest of the TR?
Are you locked down in Ljubliana??
Mate - have you ever considered that the OP is a busy person with a job and all the other accoutement of daily life.

Maybe now that social distancing is occuring he has the time to format and publish his TR.

It does not matter to me that it took place 9 months ago, it was still an enjoyable read, and having visited LJU and Lake Bled - by car on our from Venice to Salzburg, I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of the TR.
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Old May 28, 20, 11:28 am
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Originally Posted by i_travel_for_work View Post
Thanks for sharing! Slovenia is on my to do list and I hope I can visit soon!
Thanks i_travel_for_work, Our short time in Slovenia was beautiful. I hope you manage to visit there soon.

Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
Dude, I was all set to post my suggestions on what to see & do in Ljubliana.................until I saw the date on the onboard menu?
Did you take this trip in August 2019? If so, why wait nine months to post your outbound pics? And where is the rest of the TR?
Are you locked down in Ljubliana??
I did take this TR back in 2019. Apologies if it wasn't clear from the beginning of the post. I hadn't originally intended to post this on FT but with the current situation I had more time to post, just not as much as I thought! I have finished every TR I've started on here and I don't plan on changing that anytime soon, even if it takes me a while!

Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
It does not matter to me that it took place 9 months ago, it was still an enjoyable read, and having visited LJU and Lake Bled - by car on our from Venice to Salzburg, I for one am looking forward to reading the rest of the TR.
Thanks adampenrith, LJU and Lake Bled were indeed beautiful. We took this as a bit of a throwaway trip but by the end we actually really wanted to go back to try more of the food and especially the wine as well as the landscapes.

Looks like I better get the next parts up soon!
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Old May 28, 20, 12:31 pm
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Onwards to Lake Bled!

We spent the night at a cheap hotel, Rooms and Apartments Jana that really wasn't much to write home about. I posted my thoughts on the original version of this TR from my website, so you can click the link in the first post if you want to read more about it. We pick up this tale again with an anxious wait at LJU's bus station:

Arriving at the airport we suffered a brief moment of confusion due to the bus time table at the bus stop and the one shown on Google Maps both being wrong. Luckily we ended up on the 10:05 bus to Lake Bled exactly as planned. The bus was comfortable and clean with plenty of space. The journey along the motorway was picturesque without being spectacular and we made good time until departing the motorway as we approached Bled. The narrow road towards the lake was no match for the traffic snake that had developed and our worst fears of tourist overcrowding looked to be realised as we crawled past the rather frighting for all the wrong reasons, Dino Park...

In the end we pulled into Bled Bus Station about 10-15 minutes late. After grabbing our bags from the luggage storage it was a short walk via the lake to our hotel.



With the sun already beating down hard we were glad that it was only a short walk uphill from the lake to our hotel. Our accommodation for the next two nights, Penzion Kaps was situated on a small square opposite the deceptively large Rikli Balance Hotel (named after Arnold Rikli, the Swiss healer who founded a health resort in Bled in the 19th century which helped make Bled the tourist attraction it is today) and a few other similar sized Penzions and properties to ours which gave the square a rather pleasant, homely feel.

Penzion Kaps
Room: Double Room
Status: N/A



As we had arrived early we were only allowed to drop our bags in the room as it was still in the process of being cleaned. The service at Penzion Kaps felt very welcoming and the hotel had a nice finish to it which was better than I was expecting considering the price range for properties in the Bled area during peak season.





Our first port of call was to get one of the traditional Pletna boats out to Bled Island in the middle of the lake. We quickly found a free Pletna and whilst it was expensive at 15 Euro per person, the boats were rowed by hand and it can't be easy to row a boat full of tourists day in day out, especially in the blazing summer sun (though I can't imagine they get much custom for the remainder of the year). It was a calm boat ride, but unfortunately with us being last to board we did not manage the best view, in fact I was rather scared of having my head taken off with an oar! The scenery was stunning and we got decent views of Bled castle on the voyage out.







Bled Island itself was tiny and there was next to nothing specific to see on it other than a small church. It was only after we had a walk around that we found the true worth of taking the boat trip, the amazing view back to the shore line, framed by the mountains and forests.





Before long we were headed back on the boat, this time with seats nearer the front allowing us to take some better pictures. Photography opportunities were not the only bonus from our improved spot, we also improved our eavesdropping opportunities by overhearing some Americans who had managed to snag the prime seats in both directions. Apparently one chap had near wine steward knowledge of Slovenian viticulture as he apparently knew the one place in Austin,Texas and for that matter most probably the entire USA seeing how scarce Slovenian wine is that sells the stuff. Maybe we were just jealous as we were yet to sample any ourselves.







By the time we returned to shore we were pretty hungry and with our guidebook having flown back to London ahead of us we were sadly stuck with the ever unreliable Google Reviews and Trip Advisor for support.

After some debate we ended up at Restaurant Arbor, it looked worryingly quiet for a 4+ star Google reviews rated place, but the menu items online looked decent and the views of Lake Bled and Bled Castle from the terrace were rather nice. The only concern (which actually seemed to be a common occurrence) were the lack of menus with prices on display. In the end we pulled one from a vacant table and as the prices looked OK, we settled down and as soon became the norm the waitress looking after us spoke good English.

The one good thing about lunch was the ice cold Slovenian Union Beer. The rest that followed was slightly less satisfying. I ordered the Carniolian Sausage with mustard and garlic bread. Mrs Spymon took the venison goulash. The food took a reasonable amount of time to arrive. Whilst our lunch was perfectly pleasant and the portion size was generous to say the least, it was also a touch disappointing. Mrs Spymon swore her venison was actually lamb and my garlic bread tasted like a Tesco Value 3 for a Pound job. Looking back it was an unremarkable meal in a tourist restaurant (and we got the feeling that finding somewhere in Bled that was not a tourist restaurant would be near impossible). Anyway, we'd certainly had much worse food, service and ambience whilst paying more money for the privilege and besides we'd come to Bled for the beautiful scenery and not for the food.









After all that hearty mountain food we needed a walk and luckily for us we had a beautiful lake to explore! We took the slow route round Lake Bled taking in every last moment of beauty we could find. From the luxurious summer houses to that one little spot of sand where every last family did their best sardine impression crammed and squeezed together. We loved the beautiful turquoise water, the shade from the trees and those brief moments alone. The reports of Bled being over crowded with tourists in summer were thankfully more myth than legend.





After making our way round about three quarters of the lake we spotted a sign for Bled Castle sticking out amongst the trees. We thought that this would be a shadier and more pleasant route providing respite from the baking 30+ degree temperatures. Well, we were right about the shade and not much else. What followed was a treacherous route up dry and slippery gravel paths. Thank goodness I had my trainers on as we met at least one casualty wearing flip flops sporting some rather unfortunate cuts and grazes on her legs. We wound our way up hill till we finally spotted the castle. Then we found that the entrance from our little path was closed off with with a gate which forced us to backtrack down the hill around the castle and then back up the main path through the car park. In short our shady route was probably not worth the detour.



Ever so slightly fatigued we arrived at Bled Castle and paid our admission. For 11 Euro each it was probably not worth the money as there was not that much to see. We did enjoy an overpriced soft drink each with a free serving of absolutely spectacular views. There was a museum or two with moderately interesting exhibits about the history of Bled and a live performance dance of a man going up through the ranks of society as a knight. If I could plan our trip again I would have booked the tasting menu at the restaurant which comes with free entry to the castle and treated it as a blow out dinner. We finished up our castle visit with a trip to the Castle Printing Works and Art Gallery. The group of English school girls that followed in behind us found the works particularly amusing! (I'm trying to think of a SFW way to describe the art for you and I 100% cannot). Sadly the Castle Wine Cellar had closed for the day by the time we found it...





















We took the slow walk down from Bled Castle and headed back towards the lake. Mrs Spymon had been looking up places for us to eat and found a Bled blog suggesting we try "Trip Adviser's best rated pizza restaurant". As we made our way through the immaculate streets of Bled we found ourselves slap bang in backpacker district and it would be these fun backpackers that supplied us with our dinner entertainment.

We arrived at Pizzeria Rustika to find it rammed so we had a short wait in the queue before getting a table. The place seemed pleasant enough and the menu offered up a huge selection of pizzas. At least there were plenty of locally themed toppings to try and due to Slovenia bordering with Italy we didn't feel so bad having Pizza for dinner. I think we were lucky that we ordered quickly and managed to do a good job of catching the eye of the wait staff. Other tables were not so lucky, with those who had come before us getting their food/drinks/bill significantly later than we did. I ordered a deliciously refreshing pint of beer and we picked our pizzas doing a 50/50 split. I remember trying the 3glav and Mrs Spymon the Olivia. The pizzas were OK and were certainly crisper than the anaemic look they are giving off in our photos.

There was one gentleman in the vicinity of our table that stood out to me. There's a risk that I'm maybe blurring him with a film or a TV show, but he did seem to be that typical English speaking back packer heading from hostel to hostel, bar to bar with one drunken tale too many to tell. Hopefully he didn't end up in London and going to test out a new immersive video game like the poor man in that episode of Black Mirror! Maybe one day I will take some time out and live that simple life for a few months. I always wondered if it would be a romantic adventure that exists in its own bubble of time or just a drunken blur of bars, beds and backpacks. He certainly talked it up well from his table nearby but I can't say I was jealous of his drinking exploits.







We settled up at the Pizzeria and made the perfect twilight walk back to our hotel, past the church and around the lake. We loved Lake Bled so much. What a perfect day!





In the next part we travel to Bohinj and end up on top of a mountain.
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Old May 28, 20, 12:54 pm
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Join Date: May 2020
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Originally Posted by Spymon View Post
Thanks i_travel_for_work, Our short time in Slovenia was beautiful. I hope you manage to visit there soon.



I did take this TR back in 2019. Apologies if it wasn't clear from the beginning of the post. I hadn't originally intended to post this on FT but with the current situation I had more time to post, just not as much as I thought! I have finished every TR I've started on here and I don't plan on changing that anytime soon, even if it takes me a while!



Thanks adampenrith, LJU and Lake Bled were indeed beautiful. We took this as a bit of a throwaway trip but by the end we actually really wanted to go back to try more of the food and especially the wine as well as the landscapes.

Looks like I better get the next parts up soon!
Thanks for sharing!!
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Old May 30, 20, 4:20 pm
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The region is really worth a visit
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Old Jun 4, 20, 12:13 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
The region is really worth a visit
Agreed, I can't recommend it enough and we only scratched the surface.
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Old Jun 4, 20, 1:09 pm
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Lake Bohinj: Up in the Mountains, Down by the Lake

We had agreed on an early start in order to spend the bulk of the day at Lake Bohinj, but honestly being on holiday and getting up at 07:00 felt like hell so in a welcome change from the norm I slept in till 07:30 whilst Mrs Spymon got ready.

Around 08:15 we popped down to the basement for the breakfast buffet. The breakfast room was near enough empty and we were warmly welcomed and offered made to order egg dishes if we wanted them. I can't say that the buffet was excellent quality but then I've been lucky enough to have been royally spoilt over the years. That said, there was a solid selection of hot and cold food, fruit juice and most importantly a coffee machine!

After breakfast we made the short walk to Bled Bus Station to get our connection to Bohinj. It was a bargain at €10 each one way. There was a good system set up where a multilingual person sold all us tourists tickets before we got on the bus, saving the not so multilingual bus drivers a lot of work. Our bus was a little late, very busy and thankfully well air conditioned. The views from the tinted windows were pretty decent as well; mountains, railway lines (train geek alert) and little villages. We got off a little later than the majority of the bus who headed straight for the lake as a few stops down the road we had a cunning plan to enact!

At the cross roads with the funny to those with bad British humour sign (It says 'Slap Savica' I couldn't help myself) we headed slightly away from the lake and up hill. Five minutes later we'd arrived. Yes, we were taking the cable car up the mountain side to Vogel Ski Centre. However, it would't be us without some minor drama... First of all the cable car ride wasn't super cheap at 24€ return per person and secondly it did not help that we didn't double check our tickets. It helped even less that the lady at the ticket office seemed to have taken a particular disliking to us and gave one of our two tickets to the group behind us (we worked this out as they stated they had an extra ticket) and then completely denied it. We all make mistakes and luckily on this occasion two wrongs and one nice tour group (yes, they do exist!) made a right and we were luckily reunited with our missing ticket as the cable car was about to depart.

Thankfully Mrs Spymon
loves loathes cable car rides and heights so we enjoyed a joyous ride up the mountain side with the pain of finger nails digging into my hand as a constant reminder. One of us at least was able to marvel at the beautiful view below. Things got even better once we escaped our capsule as there was a wonderful viewing platform at the mountain top. I tried my trusty NEX, I tired my wide angle lens and even my poor old phone and even then I couldn't do that view justice. Looking down on the lake, along the valley and across the mountains was worth the drama, the arguments and the now subsiding pain in my hand.



For the next few hours we enjoyed the mountain air, mountain walking, the most beautiful mountain cows, mountain hens and apparently the most amazing mountain pig you ever did see! We took loads of silly photos that are not fit and proper for FT! A word to the wise, whilst you don't need any fancy walking poles or hiking boots to tread the mountain paths, a pair of trainers with a decent grip are a must as the gravel paths are steep and slippery making it easy to loose your balance.









I persuaded Mrs Spymon to take the chairlift down, in hindsight I'm still in two minds about the quality of my idea. On the plus side it definitely helped her overcome her fear of heights. On the downside there's nothing worse than seeing someone you love suffering from a full blown anxiety attack in a space where once you are on you cannot get off without killing yourself! To put it mildly for at least the first half of our chairlift ride Mrs Spymon was petrified and I thought she was going to hyper ventilate into a full blown panic attack. The marks from my hands have only just faded. That being said it was a smooth ride and a beautiful way to enjoy the mountain scenery if you can keep your eyes open! It's also a heck of a lot easier to get off these things when you're not wearing skis!



It was now lunch time, that cool mountain air and 'hike' had left a hole in my belly and being captive on the mountainside we had a choice of - 'tourist trap' place by the chair lift exit or 'tourist trap' place by the chair lift entrance! We ended up at
Chalet Merjasec which was closer to the entrance. Whilst the service was a touch brisk we were treated to huge portions of food at a very reasonable price. Mrs Spymon ordered the sausage with buckwheat mush and sauerkraut and I chose Wild Boar Stew with Polenta. We enjoyed our beverages of choice as usual, with me going for an ice cold beer. I have to say our meal was very tasty and noticeably cheaper and quite possibly better quality than the previous days lunch. Unfortunately during our meal I was struck with a horrible bout of Bohinj Belly and if you like making jokes about my stew resembling my diarrhoea then now's your chance!









I'd like to say I enjoyed the cable car ride down, taking in my last glimpse of the wonderful views but that would be a lie. I had one thing on my mind, being first off the cable car and first to the bathroom. Luckily we were near the door and I and made a dash for the loo. Whilst I'm not a big fan for paid for public toilets at restaurants/tourist attractions, especially those with faulty locks on the door that are not particularly clean, that was the best 50 Euro cents I've ever spent!

Once I'd relieved myself in anger for the last time that day - further movements during the day were not of the involuntary kind, we were able to walk the lake. And what a stunningly beautiful place Lake Bohinj was! If Bled is where the cool kids hang out for a stroll and a drink or five, Bohinj is where people come to camp and soak up the sun. We followed the Fairy Trail past the battalion of tents, stamping our hands at the various Fairy Trail checkpoints like the overgrown kids we are. There are a few caveats in that parts of the walking path around the lake are not in great shape. I would imagine it would be significantly worse if you were going by bike, with bits of the lakeside bumpy in places with rocks, tree roots, a dry river bed, skinny dippers young and old and the searing hot sun.



















It was a great walk and exhausted we stopped for drink at possibly the worst place I can ever imagine, but they had cold drinks, shade and aircon which made up for the awful slow service, flies and appalling atmosphere. And despite what another TR writer might say, my Pepsi Max was just perfect.





It was time to head back to Bled. Finding the bus stop was easy enough. A similar ticketing system operated to Bled Bus Station where tickets were purchased before getting on the bus. Time ticked on and the queue got bigger and bigger. Some of the hotel hoppers and park and rides were filled to the brim, but the folks kept on coming and coming. In the end our bus was 15 minutes late and annoyingly for those of us that had arrived on time, they opened the rear doors letting all the late comers on first. The bus was very crowded and thanks to Mrs Spymon's quick thinking we were lucky to both have a seat. At least the bus was cheap, the views pleasant and time passed quickly. Our company was some backpacking kids talking boyfriends, girlfriends and drinking, what more could we want.

After getting off the bus we retreated to the hotel but not before enjoying our first encounter with the brass band Orange Friends from Copenhagen. We then enjoyed a well earned rest and much needed shower.



After a good rest it was dinner time! Our first attempt was
Penzion Berc (Sounds so funny in French, but what the heck), it looked good and was right next to our hotel but we failed as it was all booked up for the night. In the end we followed that Bled Blog and our instincts and ended up at Restaurant Babji zob near the lake. I have to say it was a pretty decent choice and we were lucky to get a table almost straight away. The service was friendly though 100% on holiday time (perhaps they were a person short, at least that was how it felt). We started with a delicious bottle of Slovenian white wine, perfect as a cooler on any summers day.



Not feeling massively hungry we skipped starters. I chose the "Chicken Breasts Wrapped In Prosciutto, Filled with Spinach, Dried Tomato and Feta Cheese with Spiced Roasted Potatoes"



Mrs Spymon picked the "FuŽi with Smoked Salmon and Smoked Cheese". Both portions were humongous and beautifully presented. This was definitely better than your average trap by the lake, it was a perfect summer holiday meal.



Somehow we cleared our plates and of course no trip to Bled is complete without a slice of that famous cream cake. Although the photo doesn't quite do it justice the portion was easily big enough for two. It was a good job we shared!




Whilst we finishing off our wine we noticed a flash in the sky and the far away clap of thunder. No rush we thought, just a few minutes walk back if it starts to rain. By the time we'd polished off the bottle the flashes had become a touch more frequent and rumbles a little closer. We requested the bill and prepared to head home as quickly as possible. We settled up as the first drops of rain fell from the sky. The wind had really begun to whip up at this point but with so many folk sat calmly outside, beers in hand we didn't really worry too much. About half way back to the hotel the wind had more than just whipped up and some of the bars were closing up. The rain had also got a touch heavier and those rumbles and flashes felt ever closer. Despite this we still felt safe being just about five minutes from our hotel.

Those five minutes turned out to be one of the longest five minutes of our lives. The rain poured, the thunder roared behind us, the lightning filled the sky and we were stuck outside with no shelter as the howling wind blew the torrential rain this way and that. With 4 minutes and 30 seconds walk to go things had moved on from a nice spot of summer rain and the calm before the storm had turned into a disaster. We were soon soaked to the skin and if I'm being honest a touch scared. After about 5 minutes that felt like half an hour we decided to make a run for it. I'm not sure if this was a mistake or not but as we stood petrified by our bedroom window watching flash after flash it was probably the right choice. Strangely enough I really felt like a hot shower. Exhausted it was time for a sleep as tomorrow we were back on the road!
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Old Jun 6, 20, 12:16 pm
  #11  
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Eating Like A King in Ljubljana

Our morning started off with the now customary basement breakfast buffet at Penzion Kaps. Whilst I enjoyed eating from the decent spread, I would later find out again that there was something in my selection that did not agree with me at all. Once again I would find to my distress that it would be the second lunch in a row where I had the runs... Fun times, but I'm getting ahead of myself.



We checked out and settled up in cash as for some reason Penzion Kaps chooses not to take card payments when you book with them directly. We then took a slow and slightly sad walk along the edge of Lake Bled for one last time. Whilst the both of us were looking forward to exploring the capital city of Slovenia we knew we were going to miss the beauty of the lake and even now writing this up I do hope we can find the opportunity to return to Lake Bled in the future.


The bus to Ljubljana ran every half hour from Bled and just like our previous trips on the bus it was late and busy. The initial part of the journey was incredibly scenic and the strong air con meant we quickly forgot about the heat outside. The journey took about an hour and much like arriving into any large city our final approach into Ljubljana took us past all the least scenic parts of town from industrial buildings, the Union Brewery and some derelict land, before we pulled into the giant bus terminal adjacent to the main train station. Our first impressions of Ljubljana left us with feelings of regret that we'd decided to spend two full days in the city rather than allowing ourselves some extra time to enjoy the beauty of Bled.
It only took a moment or two to get our bearings before Google Maps showed us that our hotel was just a short walk in a straight line from the bus with the quality of the buildings improving with every step we took away from the bus station.





We arrived about three or four hours early for check in at the Grand Hotel Union. Despite the hour, our first impressions were excellent. The staff were friendly and offered us the option of a twin room if we wanted a room straight away or we could wait till check in time if we preferred to stick with the double room we had booked. We were also allowed to use their 'Business Centre room' to change clothes and repack our bags in the mean time. Before we headed out into the sunshine I also asked the concierge to book us a table at Gostilna Na Gradu the slightly cheaper of the two fine dining restaurants at Ljubljana Castle.



We left our baggage at the hotel and headed out into the midday sun for
Park Tivoli. Despite the heat we quickly got a feel for Ljubljana. Small car free streets, lots of independent shops and restaurants, galleries plus what appeared to be a healthy mix of tourists and locals. On our way to the park we passed a couple of museums before taking the underpass into Park Tivoli. At the entrance to the park there was a small outdoor photography exhibition on the sights of Ljubljana, one of exhibits even mentioned the restaurant we'd booked for dinner.

Looking past the exhibition and towards the highest peak of the park were a couple of large houses. We paused for a moment to argue over our lunch options. The downside to our approach for this trip compared to some of the more micro managed trips we have done in the past is that when you lose your guide book you are at the mercy of the internet. So as became the custom for this Slovenian adventure, we fired up Google Maps for food options. Let's say the results didn't look great. Most of the places coming up were nowhere near the park except for one which was right slap bang in the middle, the alpine lodge like building in our sights was apparently a restaurant with rather good reviews. However, its website was not particularly helpful. The set menu looked awfully cheap compared to the pictures on the site and most of the information seemed to be about booking the place for a wedding reception!

Seeing as we had little choice if we wanted to lunch in the park we headed up the hill, past the Tivoli Mansion home to modern art and a children's' play area and up to the second building. Approaching from behind
Bistro Švicarija (a.k.a. The Swissery) didn't look much like a restaurant but we did see a few mostly empty tables out front and as we turned to face the restaurant we spotted a waiter bringing wine and plates of food to a table of guests. Mrs Spymon picked us a sweet spot in the shade and we waited for service. Something seemed a little off that the set lunch of soup, main and salad was only 9€ but what the heck, for that price we thought we'd give it a try!



After waiting just long enough for us not to walk away, our waiter came over to take our orders (in English) whilst apologising for his language skills. We told him there was really no need. My thoughts are when you are a guest in another persons country it is your duty to try and learn a little of their language and not the other way round. In fact our waiter's English was pretty good. We both ordered the set lunch. Anne-So had the fish and a soft drink whilst I had the gnocchi with turkey and a fresh glass of Slovenian wine. We did feel a little sorry for our poor waiter who was very friendly and good humoured in the way he complained of being a touch tired from a rather brutal sounding shift pattern. Having had the fun of working with the public and doing the occasional 10 days straight from time to time I had some idea how he felt.







Whilst it will never win any prizes we both really enjoyed the food and setting, plus at 25€ for the both of us Bistro Švicarija was a total bargain.


Whilst we were eating a familiar sounding brass band started up in the distance. We enjoyed the musical entertainment at first thinking nothing of it. I was especially pleased when they played a James Bond medley. After finishing lunch we got up to have a closer look at the source of the music and having joked at how funny it would be if it were the same band that we caught at Lake Bled, we were in hysterics to see that it was indeed our orange clad friends from Copenhagen playing their hearts out and having lots of fun.


We felt like a nice long walk after all that food and began following the walking trails through Park Tivoli until we heard a clap of thunder. No sooner had the thunder played the opening notes of its tune we beat a swift retreat down the first available path heading towards the exit, we then saw two young German speaking ladies who had the same idea as us make an even hastier retreat.







They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but I don't recall anybody saying the same thing about thunder or food poisoning! There was another storm brewing for the second time in as many days and with it being too soon to blame lunch for my nasty stomach ache all that was left for me to do was speed walk in the direction of the nearest toilet. Thankfully the National Gallery was right outside the park and I enjoyed its glorious, wonderful and free facilities to the maximum! Feeling about a thousand times better after our quick stop at the museum we made our way though the light rain back to Grand Hotel Union to ride out the bad weather.
<br>

Hotel Grand Union
Room: Delux Double Room (Room 457)
Status: N/A



We were able to check in by this point and our room was very much as we expected it to be. For some reason it made me think of Hotel Okura in Fukuoaka, in that it had a somewhat old fashioned charm and had aimed slightly higher than it was able to pull off. That said we enjoyed room 457. There was plenty of space to dry our still soaked clothes from the previous nights downpour. The fittings in the room were pleasant and the designers had done a decent job of keeping the art deco styling following the hotel's recent refurbishment. The main difference as you move up the room categories appears to be the art deco finishes, space and castle view.











After deciding that rain, rain had gone away and would come back another day after we'd left the country, we got changed into some nicer clothes and headed out towards Ljubljana's famous castle which looks out over the city centre and beyond.




















Our first stop on the way to the castle was the rather scary clock at the Puppet Theatre where a man and his donkey pop out every hour!



We then made the short funicular ride up to the castle deciding to purchase a full ticket to enjoy all the exhibitions on offer.

The view was spectacular. With the city below and mountains in the distance it was impossible not to be in awe. Whilst the view from the free viewing tower was good, the panoramic view from the paid for viewing tower was significantly better.













We also enjoyed two of the four exhibitions included with our tickets, one a history of the castle which was located in the old chapel and secondly a brief and at times humorous history of Slovenia. I noticed that whilst watching Emir Kusturica's excellent film, Underground earlier this year that it included a few shots that also showed up in the exhibit. We tried to find all the answers to the questions posed by Friderik the Castle Rat but only managed three out of five before dinner. Due to us having so much fun enjoying the views and the castle history we missed out on the Puppetry Museum and Virtual Castle Exhibits.







There are three places to eat at Ljubljana Castle: a cafe, fine dining restaurant and even finer dining restaurant with what looked like a spectacular view from the castle terrace. I liked the idea that there was something for everyone who chose to spend time at the castle and needed refreshment.



As mentioned earlier we went with the fine dining on offer at Gostilna Na Gradu and we were not disappointed. Despite not being massively hungry we went with the five course tasting menu as so many of the dishes really appealed to us and we couldn't narrow it down. Thankfully it turned out that our apparent lack of hunger would not be an issue. We also picked out a couple of wines to try as we didn't think we'd manage the full wine pairing, which looked like a bit of a bargain at €25 per person. Good luck finding a wine pairing at that price anywhere back at home in the UK!



Our first course was scampi, cuttlefish and corn. Whilst it looked like something a dog had deposited that had been left out to bake in the sun, it tasted delicious as underneath the crisp shell was some perfectly cooked seafood.



It paired nicely with the white wine we had chosen.



The second course was courgette flowers stuffed with cottage cheese and a cheese foam. This dish was also very good, with surprisingly light flavours whilst at the same time being rather filling.



Our third course was some delicious homemade ravioli filled with courgette and again some more of that tangy Slovenian cheese. It was served with a light tomato oil and basil sauce.



For our fourth course we switched to a deep and buttery Slovenian Merlot to accompany our beef.



Our beef was perhaps a little closer in places to medium well than medium rare but it was so soft and beautifully seasoned all was forgiven. The meat was topped with some lard for added flavour and it was probably the best beef I ate in 2019. It was served with a carrot souffle, a piece of beetroot which probably wasn't needed and a tarragon roll. All in all this meal was becoming increasingly memorable for all the right reasons.



Finally it was time for course number five, dessert! Just as I though the meal could not get any better it did. We were not served the white chocolate, strawberry and meringue dish on our menu, but instead a soft, gooey chocolate fondant with strawberry sorbet and elder-flower meringue. Sometimes life kicks you hard but that evening it was giving us a feast.



The castle courtyard where Gostilna Na Gradu was located also featured an open air cinema during the summer and whilst dessert was being served the film screening commenced. Showing that night was
Maria by Callas, a documentary about a famous opera singer of the same name. Whilst we were not familiar with the singer in question her music sounded as haunting and full of pain as her life story. Rather than sit through the movie we made a quiet exit to the rear, taking one last look of the city at night. We then rode the funicular down the hill and headed back to the hotel. We were exhausted but what a great day we'd had.


Fredrik74 and TM78 like this.
Spymon is offline  
Old Jun 7, 20, 1:39 am
  #12  
 
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Slovenia looks lovely. It won't be this year but I will put it on my list. I'm hopeful any stomach problems were on your side and not a Slovenian thing. Having such issues is something of a phobia, especially when it involves public toilets.
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Old Jun 11, 20, 12:56 pm
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Maria Callas an amazing soprano who became more famous for marrying Aristotle Onassis than for her amazing singing.

Callas is in that handful of incredible voices that us opera fanatics know. She was divorced by Onassis so he could marry Jackie Kennedy the widow of JFK
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Old Jun 11, 20, 5:37 pm
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One of my abiding travel memories is standing on the viewing platform of Ljubljana Castle and listening to the thunder claps get ever louder. You haven't been in a thunderstorm until you've been in a Slovenian thunderstorm!
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Old Jun 12, 20, 11:18 am
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Originally Posted by Fredrik74 View Post
Slovenia looks lovely. It won't be this year but I will put it on my list. I'm hopeful any stomach problems were on your side and not a Slovenian thing. Having such issues is something of a phobia, especially when it involves public toilets.
Thanks Fredrik74, it was definitely one of the hot items from the breakfast buffet at our Lake Bled hotel. Definitely not a Slovenian thing in the slightest as the rich food at dinner had no ill effect on me at all. I do have a habit of eating questionable things from questionable places but with the odd graphic exception I'm normally ok.

Originally Posted by adampenrith View Post
Maria Callas an amazing soprano who became more famous for marrying Aristotle Onassis than for her amazing singing.

Callas is in that handful of incredible voices that us opera fanatics know. She was divorced by Onassis so he could marry Jackie Kennedy the widow of JFK
Thanks for the info adampenrith, we are not fans of opera but her voice was hauntingly beautiful, especially in that setting. However, the story was just too sad to sit through on what was supposed to be a fun holiday. Maybe we will watch the film in full if it appears on one of the streaming services we dip in and out of.

Originally Posted by Top of climb View Post
One of my abiding travel memories is standing on the viewing platform of Ljubljana Castle and listening to the thunder claps get ever louder. You haven't been in a thunderstorm until you've been in a Slovenian thunderstorm!
Top of climb, I couldn't agree more after we got soaked and a little scared in Lake Bled. Seeing a storm like that from the castle must have been amazing!

Last edited by Spymon; Jun 12, 20 at 12:10 pm
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