Euro Road Trip – Predjama Castle and Piran

It felt like the weather was changing when we left Ljubljana, but rather after light rain, the sun felt like it was going to break through – it didn’t quite though. It wasn’t far to drive to Predjama Castle from Ljubljana, taking around one-hour – and most of that was escaping the traffic from Ljubljana.

Predjama Castle

It was an enjoyable drive, taking us along some quieter country roads. There wasn’t much to see, but the scenery itself was enjoyable enough. It came as a surprise when we did eventually arrive, as I was expecting to be near some large mountain – but we were still in the same hills that we’d been driving through for the past 30-minutes. Amazingly, we parked for free right by the castle – probably a little lucky arriving later in the day, and towards the end of September.

I was once again surprised when I caught my first glimpse of the castle. I’d read the description that it was built into a cave, but I’d purposely avoided seeing images. The description is perfect, however I didn’t imagine it to look like this – I was expecting something far up in the mountains, and much smaller. It might sound like we were disappointed, but not at all. I was really amazed at the size and location of it – literally built into a large cave, and connected only by a small drawbridge.

We were too late to enter – again, might explain why parking was so simple – but we were able to freely wander around outside the gates. There were a few smaller caves below – which I read are possible to spelunk your way through (with a guide, of course).

I was also truly surprised to see the small stream below that was flowing into the mountain. I was expecting it to be leaving – and that the castle was tapping into that flow for water/sanitation.

But, really, the attraction was this beautiful castle, that to my novice eyes looked pretty well defended.

There was a distinct lack of free sleeping options between here and our next stop, Piran. That was until I broadened the search a little, and realised that with only a very minor detour, we could spend the night in Italy again! It wasn’t anything special, just a large car park in a small village in the hills above Trieste. It felt strangely nostalgic to be back in Italy – somehow the two-stroke scooters felt less annoying here, like it was part of the culture.

Day 179

The clouds cleared as we crossed into Italy last night, and the skies were still clear this morning – albeit with some ridiculously strong winds. It felt bizarre being back in the warmth and sunshine again. We were honestly both confused, like we’d been warped back in time to May/June, when we were sweating (and burning) every day. After more than a month in the north of Europe, with frequent cool temperatures and drizzle, it felt incredible.

Piran

It wasn’t far from the Italian border, and unsurprisingly, it very much felt like we were in Italy – which was both good and bad. It’d been quite some time since I had to navigate the roads of such a small and old town in a motorhome. I clipped mirrors with a delivery van, and he chased after us, telling me that we cracked his mirror. I apologised, but said I didn’t believe it, as we were travelling quite slow, plus our mirror pushes in quite easily. He called his boss, and it sounded like there was existing damage after all.

We parked in a large (and free out of season) car park 15-minute walk from the old town – thankfully we were able to walk along the coastline, rather than up and through the hills and narrow lanes. We still couldn’t get over how different it felt today with the change in weather. We felt lighter, more relaxed – and dare I say it, happier.

The seaside trail took us to the top of town, beside the commanding view from St. George’s church. The church is quite small, but they’ve used all the space they could find to fill the interior with decoration. It wasn’t possible to enter, so I just stuck the camera through the gated fence.

We looked down on the tight alleyways, the terracotta tiling, and the blue seas. It both felt familiar, and very strange and exotic to us. We took to the streets, getting lost in the winding lanes, with their cobblestones and staircases. It was definitely a city that grew organically without any planning or consideration to the future.

We were now starting to remember some of the more impressive cities we’d visited previously, like nearby Venice, places like Dolceaqua or Apricale in Liguria, or any of the amazing villages of the Cinque Terre and this suddenly felt a little less exciting.

It got a little prettier when we finally made it to the waterfront, where things opened up a little, and the buildings suddenly became colourful and vibrant.

I took the drone up for a quick flight, and then we really saw the beauty of this tiny little cluster squeezed in at the tip of this tiny peninsular.

I’d read that the town square was actually the old harbour that had been filled in to acquire a little more land! It was easily the most striking sight in town, fronted with perfectly coloured buildings and watched by a Venetian clock tower.

The water was exceptionally calm, and while the overused term ‘mirror-like’ may be overused (especially a by someone with a vocabulary as limited as mine) it was applicable. Even with the strong winds blowing, it felt like we were by a lake rather than next to the sea.

Even though we thought about cutting back on meals after a rather expensive lunch near Lake Bled, we still thought we’d try something local. It turned out that the food was essentially Italian – though at slightly higher prices… We visited Neptun, a tasty sounding recommendation from Lonely Planet. The fried fish was fresh and generous, and the pasta was as good as any we’d had in Italy, so even though it wasn’t ‘Eastern Europe’ cheap, at least it was tasty.

Our bodies aren’t acclimatised to this southern European weather, and after a few hours of sweating and attempting to avoid the sun, we were exhausted. We lost ourselves a few more times in the narrow lanes, then followed the coastal route back to where Gunter was waiting. As we passed by the people swimming in the clear blue waters, I was seriously regretting not packing my swimwear today.

This was the last stop in a short visit to Slovenia, and a long drive into Croatia was ahead of us. As with most countries, we couldn’t do all that we wanted to do – though this time it was mostly due to weather and the time of the year, rather than long distances since the country is so small! We had one last look along the layers of ridges that sank into coastline, then head inland to Plitvice Lakes.

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2 Comments

  1. I think you overused the word ‘overused’ in an attempt to disentangle yourself from the overused phrase ‘mirror-like’ when describing the calmness of the waters in Piran.

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