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Adriatic Coast

There are several bustling beach towns along Slovenia's short Adriatic coast. Italianised Koper, only 21km (13mi) south of Trieste, Italy, was the capital of Istria under the Venetian Republic in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Old Town's medieval flavour lingers despite the surrounding industry, container ports and superhighways.Pretty Piran is a gem of Venetian Gothic architecture with narrow streets, which tend to be a mob scene at the height of summer. Its name derives from pyr - the Greek word for fire - referring to fires lit at Punta, the very tip of the peninsula, to guide ships to the port at Koper. Piran's long history dates back to the ancient Greeks, and well-preserved remnants of the medieval town walls still protect it to the east. The Maritime Museum, in a 17th century harbourside palace, has compelling exhibits on seafaring and salt-making, which have been important to Piran's development over the centuries.The nicest beach along the coast is nearby at Fiesa. From its clean sands and boat-restricted waters you can see Trieste's Miramare Castle.Piran is 17km (10.5mi) southwest of Koper, which in turn is 163km (101mi) southwest of Ljubljana. Bus service to both towns is frequent from Ljubljana and Trieste; buses also conveniently link all the coastal towns. A train also links Koper to Ljubljana.

 
Julian Alps

Adrenaline seekers in Slovenia head for three-headed Mt Triglav (2864m/9394ft), the country's highest peak. It presides over the Julian Alps, which cut across Slovenia's northwestern corner into Italy. The Alps are visited by hundreds of weekend warriors, not all of whom are on ambitious treks. Early Slavs believed the mountain to be the home of a three-headed deity who ruled the sky, the earth and the underworld. Since the days of the Habsburgs, the 'pilgrimage' to Triglav has been a confirmation of Slovenian identity. Today Triglav figures prominently on the national flag.Bled's quintessentially medieval castle was the seat of South Tyrolian bishops for over 800 years and was later used as a summer residence by the Yugoslav royal family. Set atop a steep cliff above Lake Bled, the castle has great views. A small museum within peeks into the area's history through a manly collection of swords and armour. On Bled Island, at the western end of the lake, is a white 15th century belfry with a 'bell of wishes'. It's said that anyone who rings the bell will get what they wish for; naturally everyone and their Slavic grandmother rings it over and over again. The land around Lake Bohinj, 30km (19mi) southwest of Bled, is undeveloped and exceedingly beautiful, with high mountains rising directly from a basin-shaped valley. The best routes up to Mt Triglav start from nearby Savica Waterfall and Stara Fuzina.Bled is 51km (32mi) northwest of Ljubljana and is well-served by both buses and trains.

 
Ljubljana

Ljubljana is a smaller Prague without the hordes of tourists. By far Slovenia's largest and most populous city, it feels like a clean, green, self-contented town rather than an industrious municipality of national importance.Ljubljana began as the Roman town of Emona, and legacies of the Roman presence remain throughout the city. The Habsburgs took control in the 14th century and later built many of the pale-coloured churches and mansions that earned the city the nickname 'White Ljubljana'. From 1809 to 1814, Ljubljana was the capital of the Illyrian Provinces, Napoleon's short-lived springboard to the eastern Adriatic. Despite the patina of imperial Austria, contemporary Ljubljana has a vibrant Slavic air all its own. The 35,000-something students who attend Ljubljana University keep the city young.Most of the city's sights are along the banks of the Ljubljana River. On the southwest side is the Municipal Museum, stocked with a collection of Roman artefacts, plus a scale model of Roman Emona and some terrific period furniture. Further northwest from it is the National Museum, which has the requisite prehistory, natural history and ethnography collections. The highlight is a Celtic situla, a kind of pail or urn, from the 6th century BC. Diagonally opposite is the Museum of Modern Art, where the International Biennial of Graphic Arts is held every other summer. More museums occupy the Old Town, which also features cafes, baroque churches and quaint bridges hidden in its maze of narrow streets. If looking at all this art incites the need for some R&R, head for peaceful Tivoli Park, in the northwestern quadrant of the city. A recreation centre within the park contains bowling alleys, tennis courts, swimming pools and a rollerskating rink.

 
Skocjan Caves

The large underground Skocjan Caves lie below the desolate land of the Karst region. Millions of years ago this area was covered by a deep sea which left a thick layer of limestone deposits. Visitors can pass through these spectacular deposits thanks to an artificial tunnel built in 1933. The tunnel passes through the Silent Cave, a dry branch of an underground canyon that stretches for half a kilometre (545yd). The first section, called Paradise, is filled with stalactites, stalagmites and flow stones; the second part, called Calvary, was once the river bed. Silent Cave ends at the cavern known as the Great Hall - a 120m (394ft) wide and 30m (98ft) high jungle of dripstones and deposits. The caves are home to 250 varieties of plants and five types of bats.The caves are within the village of Matavun, 110km (68mi) southwest of Ljubljana. There are frequent bus and train services via Divaca.


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