Slovenia – A Winter Wonderland. That I Had to Leave, Fast.

train Ljubljana to Zagreb
Train from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Zagreb, Croatia was one of the most scenic I have ever been on.

Ya know, I see a lot of stuff. The unpublished photos now filling up my SD cards would make most travel bloggers blush. Every day, I take photos. There is so much in the last six months I haven’t written about, or shown you. This post is a great example of the sights that would have been lost in the depths of my cluttered mind, forever. The photos would remain on an SD card at the bottom of a drawer. If I owned a drawer.

A couple of days ago, I traveled from Moncalvo, Italy, through to Zagreb Croatia. Passing over the entire country of Slovenia, from West to East, involved a car, five different trains, a bus, and a taxi. The bus was due to a train tunnel being under repair. That moment when you’re on a train in a foreign country – with nobody speaking your language – and the conductor indicates to get off the train and onto a bus. Well, those moments of pure unscheduled unknown, are what I love about travel. Keeps you on your toes.


graffiti train Slovenia
Quick stop at Divaca, Slovenia. Cute kids are getting a lesson on how to paint a train.
This is what most of Slovenia looked like.
This is what most of Slovenia looked like.

The Slovenian part of the journey was one of the most scenic train rides I have ever been on. A pure winter wonderland, interrupted only by a two hour stop in the capital city of Ljuljana. Which is a bit of a fairy-tale city in itself, on first impressions. Phillipa and I grabbed some lunch, had a coffee, took some photos on the streets, then hopped onto another graffiti covered train bound for Zagreb.

Slovenia is an absolutely spectacular looking country. Unfortunately due to the Schengen Zone visa, I had to leave the Euro-zone in a hurry. Most visitors to Europe get a three month, non-extendable visa. This isn’t long enough for travellers who want to see Europe.

In days gone by, Visas issued by each country individually meant that European travellers could buy an old Volkswagen bus, and meander around the continent for as long as they wished. Not anymore. The new rule is, come to Europe for three months, and then get out. Hippies, Europe is not for you.

Slovenia, you looked amazing, but your membership of the Eurozone prevented me from exploring you. I don’t want to paint with a broad brush here, but to me, the whole Eurozone thing is an entirely failed experiment, and needs to end. Since when has centralisation of power and finance been a good thing?


ljubljana street photography
Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. I asked permission for this shot – I’m always a bit timid in a new country.
ljubljana street photography
Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Downtown Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Downtown Ljubljana, Slovenia.
ljubljana street photography 2
Lots of graffiti on the cobblestone streets of downtown Ljubljana, always a good sign. Nice hats as well.
Graffiti train - Ljubljana Slovenia
Almost every train I saw in Slovenia was covered with graffiti. And, I saw a lot of trains. Ljubljana central train station.
train ljubljana zagreb
Caught a reflection of Phillipa, mesmerised by the scenery between Ljubljana and Zagreb.

click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article


Now that I’m here in Croatia, it’s time to slow down a bit. I’ve got at least two weeks in Zagreb. I’ll stay longer if I’m enjoying life. So far, I’m loving it. I used Wimdu to book an apartment, it’s the first time I’ve ever used a service like that. The apartment is great. It was kind of weird – the owner turns up, says “so here’s the apartment, here’s the keys, and see you later. Call me if there’s any problems”. Better than a hotel, in my opinion.

Don’t consider this an advert, I’ll update my experience in two weeks. But, I can see myself using apartment booking services like these more often from now on.

If this post seems a little “stream of consciousness”, it’s because it is.

I rushed it.


BTW, I would love to send you the next dispatch, posted from some-where random around this planet (and you'll soon find out why YOMADIC email followers are my favourite followers):

32 thoughts on “Slovenia – A Winter Wonderland. That I Had to Leave, Fast.

  1. If countries got back to their currencies they’d be more affordable. But getting out of Eurozone doesn’t mean that. Britain is part of EU but their pound is killing my travel plans.

    1. It’s a huge debate to be had Ele, and I think more European countries should engage in the discussion. Not just to make things more affordable, although I certainly wouldn’t complain if they were.

  2. Hi Nate,

    Yup you should post more often if you get the chance. Know what you mean though- I’ve still not looked over my New York and Bruges pics from last year properly and that was months ago.

    Slovenia is one of those countries on my doorstep that I’ve never considered – may be because a few in that are have a bit if a rep for racism? Which isn’t great for me!

    Actually I’ve oft thought that it would be interesting to have a travel blog Fri diff perspectives as many seem to have a particular profile + so don’t encounter issues that minority travellers may face.

    Re the SD card. I’m wondering if I might return to Jpegs. I know everybody goes on about Raw but to be honest it takes up a lot if room and I’m not into HDR or anything so not sure if its worth the hassle.

    Slovenia looks beautiful btw.

    1. Hey Iesha…

      Yeah, that’s the thing. I find that when I look at my old photos, I think what a shame it is that I didn’t publish them – for myself, and for my readers. As for racism, I can’t comment – but one observation, I noticed a lot of Asian people, which is pretty rare in this part of the world. So maybe the reputation isn’t true?

      I’ve stuck to JPG’s. I completely understand the advantages of RAW, but for me as well, it’s not worth the hassle. I see my photos as somewhat “disposable”, I don’t have a lot of interest in heavy post-processing of HDR, so JPG’s just makes life that little bit easier (and faster).

      Slovenia was beautiful.

      PS, still looking into a London visit.

      1. Cool re London,

        I’m thinking you’ll like East London. Can do a little wander around Hackney + Dalston? Good for photos and v diff to the zone 1 stuff you hate so much. Could do Brick Lane and White chapel which is good if you like Indian food. Let me know when you are coming + I’ll get my thinking cap on.

    2. Lesha,

      Slovenian people are not at all racist, in fact they are probably the most accommodating people in Europe.

  3. I’ve been hearing a lot of travel bloggers rave about Slovenia in general and Ljubljana specifically of late. It’s a place we’d love to hit when we drag ourselves out of Asia and make it to Europe, but as you point out, that ridiculous 90-day Schengen visa is a huge pain in the ass. I suppose it makes it easier for Europeans to travel about the continent, but for foreigners, it really makes it difficult to travel slowly, especially given the whole requirement that you must leave the area for 90-days before re-entering as well. Wouldn’t be so bad if you could just pop over to the UK for a week or so, but alas, that simply won’t do.

    Looking to hearing your thoughts on Croatia! Hopefully it’s a bit warmer than Slovenia?

    1. Cheers Steph… it really is a pain in the ass, and the sad thing is, some countries must miss out on a lot of tourism because of the time limit. Croatia, so far, is fantastic…. and with a forecast of -12c today, not exactly warm ;)

  4. Before you make political statements, you better learn the difference between the EU and the Eurozone first. Also, If Yugoslavia had been part of the EU 20 years ago, we would not have seen the horrible bloodshed in that region. Maybe you should have travelled there back then – that would have changed your mind about centralized power!

    1. Hello Goetz, firstly, this is my blog, I can make any political statements I wish.

      I understand the difference between the EU and the Eurozone. This is not a politically charged article, it is simply the opinion of a traveller facing visa issues, you are reading too much into things. In the context of this article, it is the Schengen zone/area that I am mostly referring to.

      Possibly you have misunderstood my comment – I suggested that centralised power is never a good idea – as with Yugoslavia, it never seems to do the people any good. I think we are agreeing on this point.

      In any case, suggesting that membership of the EU means a lack of bloodshed, well, I don’t agree with you on that point.

  5. Looks nice. I have to say that I am pleased to have found your blog. I especially enjoyed your posts on Iran, very fascinating. I live in sort of a small town in Central California and I live my travel dreams vicariously through you and a few others. I hope to take off and travel down the road after kids graduate… Anyway, very nice job you do. I sit at breakfast each morning reading about your travels and wonder what if…

    1. Hey Kevin, that’s a really nice thing to say, I really appreciate it. Good luck with your future plans, but central California is not such a bad place to hang out in the meantime, right?

  6. Nate, you are from down under, hence, I don’t blame you for not being on top of the intricacies of Europe. But if you have issues with Schengen as a traveller then you should write about the Schengen area and not bring the Eurozone into play that has nothing to do with your problems.

    Also, I think YOU are naive to believe that the EU would have allowed any major war to happen within its borders. And as to centralized power, do you want to go back to the Middle Ages when each major town basically was its own state in Europe? Happy travelling in such a world!

    1. Thank you for assuming that Australians could not possibly understand the intricacies of Europe.

      That aside, you are correct, I should be more specific in mentioning the Schengen area – however, I have found that even citizens of Europe are mostly not aware of what exactly this zone is. There is a large overlap between the Eurozone and the Schengen zone, hence my possibly sloppy use of the terms. People do not understand the difference between the EU and the Eurozone, the Schengen area even less so.

      An example of every major town basically being it’s own state, is possibly Switzerland. Ironically, they are the most peaceful nation of Europe.

      In any case, I welcome your discussion, you have your opinion on centralised power structures, and I have mine.

      PS, I have travelled through Europe pre-EU. This is my fourth visit to Europe, I have family that live in the EU.

  7. Nate, as it happens, I live in Switzerland (Zurich) and I can assure you that every major town is not its own state, but its own Kanton. And a Kanton is nothing else than a Region in Italy or a Bundesland in Germany, i.e the first-level administrative division of the state. Also, Switzerland only became peaceful once the independent states agreed to give up power and create the Swiss “Eidgenossenschaft”.

    Finally, I agree that a lot of people don’t know the difference between the EU, the Euro and Schengen. And unfortunately, these are the simpletons who usually think that the unification of Europe is a bad thing…

    Anyway, have a good WE!

    1. Thanks Goetz for the clarification. I think you can be proud of Switzerland, for you have achieved with the Kanton system. I hope to have more engaging discussions with you in the future, I have definitely learned something today. I’m not sure I would call the people “simpletons” who are against unification – there are pros and cons that require further debate. In any case, have a good weekend yourself.

      I hope to get to Switzerland sooner or later.

  8. Hey Nate. Slovenia looks great but I bet you’re missing Italy already. I’m keen to explore eastern Europe if only because I’m assuming it’s a lot cheaper than traveling through western Europe. I’ve seen Berlin and Istanbul but nothing in between.
    It looks pretty cold there though which is great if you’re after those winter scene pics. If you were here in Cape Town all you’d be taking shots of are beaches, wine farms and mountains. Boring….

  9. Nate, these photos are awesome. I shoot a lot like yourself and I love the perspective of the train as well as the photo looking across the bridge. Slovenia looks gorgeous through your lens. Btw, being a graffiti lover, I think you would dig one of my latest posts of all the awesome graffiti in Wellington. Cheers mate!

  10. I agree that the whole Schengen restriction dealio sucks. Especially in this case, when it meant you weren’t able to explore Slovenia at all. Because it IS an amazing and beautiful country – one of my favorites, in fact!

    1. Hi Amanda, nice to hear from you. I was thinking last night, they could just change the Schengen visa to 6 months, that would be a really simple way to improve things. Perhaps then, I would have got to see more of Slovenia, a country that so many people seem to love. Oh well, next time.

  11. Wowza, love this comment stream. Better than TV and cannot wait to see what happens when you get deeper into the Balkans.

    Anyway, I’ve was dealing with this unfair reality of only having 90 days in Europe for years before I was lucky enough to get a residence permit for school. Now that I’m finished though it’s going to be a bit tricky to keep it but will try my damn hardest as there is nothing sweeter than breezing through customs and not having to count days.

    ON THE OTHER HAND… I probably wouldn’t have gone to Ukraine for a month back in 2009 if I weren’t forced to leave the Schengen and honestly my life would have been completely different given my history with the country (you know I went back there to live for 5 months). Perhaps the same will happen to you somewhere in the Balkans.

    Side note – Yomadic is becoming a true force to be reckoned with. Like a fierce lion that was finally released from its remote, Australian cage. Super impressed. Keep up the amazingness and as always, safe travels x

    1. I know exactly what you’re saying Larissa – the fact is, without that Schengen restriction, I may have never come to the Balkans. I’ve always wanted to come here – but it was the visa flexibility that sealed the deal. I didn’t realise you were in the Ukraine for five months! That speaks volumes about the Ukraine, I will have to get there soon.

      Also, I really appreciate your compliments – I’m a fan of the blonde-gypsy as well – let’s takeover!

      1. G’day Nate
        I live in Melbourne and intend visiting Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro with my partner for about 3 or 4 weeks in October 2013 then fly out of Tirana. We have decided not to hire a car due to the complications and the travellers tales of trains has left me wondering if we can successfully drift down using buses? My preference is for trains, something we used extensively while wandering around Europe some years ago. You seem to have a wealth of knowledge regarding the area so I am interested in your view of what is best?

        1. G’day Rob…. trains are available on certain routes – easy and relatively cheap – such as Ljubljana to Zagreb, and Zagreb to Split… once you get to Montenegro (it sounds like you’re planning on heading along the coast), there are no trains. Albania? Trains? None. But, all of these areas have a lot of buses – you can get the whole way using buses, no problem. Buses within Albania can be a little “challenging” but since you are leaving via Tirana, this won’t be an issue.

          So yes, in summary – some trains, plenty of buses! Have fun mate, sounds like a nice journey.

  12. Hello Nate,
    Very interesting photos and opinions. I live in Zagreb but I’m away now, so it’s nice to see it again, and through the eyes of a foreigner. I don’t think the length of stay problem you face as anything to do with centralized power: for example, EU nationals who are visiting the US as tourists are limited to a non renewable, 3-month stay, which is not enough either. Maybe you are just used to different rules in Australia!

  13. The Schegen Agreement gets me every time! They are trying to catch illegal workers, which makes sense, but is annoying for us “hippie travellers”.

    I was almost deported for working in France for 4 months, but I managed to get around it by being employed with a UK-based company. I’ve done a lot of research on it and learned a lot from other backpackers. I’d love to share my knowledge with you – please check out my blog post and let me know what you think:

    Happy travels!

  14. Hi Nate,
    Looks like you are having a ball, shame you had to speed through one of my favourite countries, it is a fantastic place, my best place is Bled, an absolute fairytale place. The Croatian coast is an absolute dream too; in summer that is. Keep on clicking ;0)))

  15. Thank you Nate for your post about Slovenia. My home country by the way ;) Anyways, I am doing a blog analysis for my school and I am more than happy to found your blog :)

    Very happy about good experience as well and maybe a bit dissapointed about this whole Eu-Schnegen-visa debate/discussion. All those sentences could be used for praised my beautiful country as it really is :)



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