This is my second trip to Slovenia. When I returned from my first trip, my “skeptical” friends were amazed to see the fabulous pictures that I had brought back. It is mini Switzerland! I had covered the Lake Bled and Bohinjska area in that trip. I had heard about the wine area around Maribor and decided to include it in my itinerary this time.
Slovenia has very good access from Austria by train. My husband and I took the “Railjet” from Vienna to Graz, then local express to the border town, Spielfeld-Strauss and then the colorful, graffiti splashed local to Maribor.
In front of the train station, Maribor
Maribor is set amid the wine region of Slovenia on the banks of river Drava. It has a very small town centre where the streets are lined with shops selling everything from branded clothes to vegetables and fruits. The intercity and local bus station is across the road from the train station.
Maribor train station with its colourful trains
Twin tower church in the town centre, Maribor
Fruit and vegetable market in the town centre, Maribor
Though Maribor has very good hotels, we decided to rent a studio apartment. Our previous experience of staying with a Slovenian family was so pleasurable and comfortable that we wanted to relive it again. Sure enough, this apartment too was very comfortable and our hostess was very friendly, efficient and welcoming. The studio room is part of her house and is decorated with lot of love and care. It had everything we needed for our three day stay. There were fresh vegetables and herbs from her garden. What more did we want!!
Entrance and garden to the apartment where we stayed, Maribor
The main attraction of the itinerary was a day trip to the Logar valley. Unfortunately, public transport to this glacier valley is scarce and infrequent. Visitors need to hire a car from either Maribor or Celje to reach the valley. Another problem is that both the towns are very small and there are few car hire firms. So it is recommended to plan and book a car beforehand, especially during the tourist season. Hertz and Sixt are two good car hire firms in both the towns.
We picked up our car early in the morning so that we could cover as much as possible during the day trip.
Despite seeing pictures on their website and reading rave reviews of other travelers, we were unprepared for the spectacular scenery of the Solcavsko valley and Kamnik Alps unfolding in front of our eyes. The road to Solcava winds around the high mountains on one side and the Savinja River on the other.
The Solcava panorama route is one the most scenic road journeys in Slovenia and starts from the Solcava village. There are three other entry points, two of which are from Austrian side of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps. It is built around a charming tale of a shepherd boy, Kristof who wanders around the area in search of his lost sheep. There are twenty stopovers; from where visitors can hike further into the valley and mountains or just take a break to enjoy and admire the breathtaking views. Robanov Kot, Logarska Dolina and Rinka falls, Matkov Kot and Podolseva are some of the areas where hiking, cycling, horse riding and even mountain biking is possible. Tourism is coupled with a very conscious effort to preserve the environment and ecology of the valley and mountains surrounding it. There aren’t any restaurants or hotels but the few highland farmhouses offer rooms for overnight stays and delicious local cuisine.
On way to Logar valley
Passing through a village
Since, we were on a day trip; it was not possible to take in the long hiking routes. We decided to go to the Logar valley Landscape Park and take the short hike to Rinka falls which is the source of Savinja River and is one of the highest waterfalls in Slovenia. The entrance to the valley is beautiful. There is a charge for taking the car inside. Hikers and bikers are allowed free. The meandering road through the green meadow leads to the thick forest pathway as one climbs higher.
The paved road leads to the foot of the falls and then there is a short hike up through the forest to the observation point for the waterfall.
The wooden refreshment and souvenir shop in front of the pathway to Rinka Falls
On the way back, we stopped to take a peek at the small church in Solcava. The village is really tiny but there is a Rinka Centre near the church which has detailed information and maps of the area.
A small but beautiful village church in Solcava
Pohorje is the ski resort in the mountain area of Maribor. It has mind boggling hiking and biking trails. Pohorje can be reached easily by city bus from the town centre. There is a cable car to the summit and the view of the town and surroundings are awesome.
Circling cable car to Pohorje
Map showing chair lifts and cable car connections to the higher reaches of Pohorje
Slovenia is a beautiful country and is endowed with amazing natural locales. It is seen to be believed and words are inadequate to describe the stunning panorama it has on offer for the visitors. I enjoy the peace and quiet of the Jura Alps, lakes, valleys and meadows which is not possible in other Alpine countries of Europe where hordes of tourists descend during the summer season. Moreover, the people are very discerning about preserving the environment, ecology, flora and fauna of their country which makes our stay all the more pleasant and tranquil. I promised myself to make a third visit to this wonderful and very picturesque country!
• It is better to rent studio apartments and stay in small towns or villages
• Rent a car is must to reach some of the awesome scenic areas as public transport is inadequate