Thursday, 25 April 2019

3 Walks To Take in Slovenia

Greetings! Last month, my sister and I went on a guided tour to visit Croatia and Slovenia. Our itinerary included a day trip to historic Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I wrote about that picturesque and interesting day trip here.

Slovenia is a small country in south central Europe, with Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the east, and Croatia to the south. Slovenia's population is about two million. Its official language is Slovenian, and its currency is the euro.

Today I'm sharing three fun walks that visitors would enjoy in Slovenia. I'd allow at least half a day for each walk since there are lots to see. Feel free to pick one, or two, or all three. The first walk is an urban walk in Ljubljana (Slovenia's capital), and the next two are nature walks by the lakes. Will you join me?


Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. It is not to be confused with Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Ljubljana means beloved. The best buildings are in and around Ljubljana's finely preserved Old Town, along the Ljubljanica River, with bridges linking the two banks.

A good place to meet and start our walk is at Presernov Square by the bronze statue of France Peseren (1800-1849). From the statue, it's fun to watch the constant ebb and flow of people, or admire the architectural details of the buildings around it, such as the red Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, or Centromarkur, Ljubljana's oldest department store, marked by an Art Nouveau awning over the entrance. Click to enlarge the pictures.

Franciscan Church, Presernov Square, Triple Bridge

Running south from Presernov Square to the Old Town is the much celebrated Triple Bridge. The bridge was originally called Špital (Hospital) Bridge and was built as a single span in 1842. Between 1929 and 1932 architect Jože Plečnik added the two pedestrian side bridges, furnished all three with stone balustrades and lamps, and forced a name change. Stairways on each of the side bridges lead down to the poplar-lined terraces along the Ljubljanica River.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

After crossing the Triple Bridge, we're in the Old Town where some of the interesting landmarks include the Robba's Fountain (1751), and the Town Hall which we can visit for free. Exhibitions are occasionally held in the interior courtyard, like the lovely Pratneker's art exhibit that I discovered here.

Ljubljana Town Hall

Among several important religious buildings in Ljubljana's Old Town is the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, in baroque style, defined by its high dome and massive bell towers. The cathedral was designed by Andrea Pozzo in 1701. Its interiors are famous for frescoes by Quaglio, depicting miraculous moments in the life of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of all seafaring people. Worth a look are the bronze sculpted church doors, added for the 1996 visit of Pope John Paul II, whose image can be seen looking over the history of Slovene Christianity on the main doors.

Cathedral of St Nicholas' bronze sculpted doors

Adjacent to the Cathedral is the Market. Just north of the market, crossing the Ljubljanica River out of Old Town, is Dragon's Bridge, designed by Jurij Zaninovich and completed in 1901, with four fabulously sculpted dragons adorn each corner of the bridge.

Market in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Sculpted dragon at Dragon's Bridge, Ljubljana

Leaving the Old Town, we can walk uphill or take a funicular to reach Ljubljana Castle which overlooks the entire city. It’s free to ramble around the castle grounds, but you’ll have to pay to enter the Watchtower and the Chapel of St George, and to see the Slovenian History Exhibition, visit the Puppet Theatre, and take the Time Machine tour.

Ljubljana Castle, Slovenia

This discovery walk #1 gives an introduction to charming Ljubljana. The city is small and compact so one can see plenty of it with little effort. Aside from the various visually interesting and historic landmarks in the Old Town, what I enjoy is the vibrant, youthful, and relaxing atmosphere along the river. There are plenty of coffee bars and restaurants to take a break or linger until sundown and mingle with the locals.


From Ljubljana, it's an easy drive to Lake Bled. Bled is located 50km (31 miles) NW of Ljubljana, and Bohinj is 26km (16 miles) SW of Bled. It's doable to combine walk #2 and walk #3 on the same day. Click to enlarge the pictures.

Lake Bled is a lake fit for a fairy tale, complete with dramatically situated cliff-top castle, an island church, and wraparound mountain scenery.

Lake Bled and Bled Castle, Slovenia

Let's start from Bled Castle, located atop a sheer cliff, 138m (or 460 ft.) up. One can reach Bled Castle by foot (a 15 minute uphill walk) or 5 minute by car and a short climb up the final stretch. Bled Castle traces its history back to 1004. Today it houses a museum, a chapel, a historic wine cellar, a printing shop showing how printing was done in medieval times, a restaurant, and an ice cream shop.

Bled Castle, Slovenia

The views from the castle ramparts are magnificent: Mount Triglav (Three Heads) the highest peak of the Julian Alps on one side, Bled Island and Lake Bled in the middle, and the Karavanke mountain range on the other side.

Mount Triglav (Three Heads): The 2864m limestone peak has been a source of inspiration and an object of devotion for Slovenes for more than a millennium – it even appears on the country's flag. The early Slavs believed the mountain to be the home of a three-headed deity who ruled the sky, the earth and the underworld.

Mt. Triglav (Three Heads), Slovenia

Bled Island: As the only island in Slovenia, Bled Island forms a perfect centerpiece in Lake Bled. You can row (or be rowed) to Bled Island. On the island is the delightful Church of the Assumption, dedicated to both Mary the Virgin and Mary Magdalene. People from all over Slovenia come here to tie the knot on Saturdays. The tradition includes the groom carries the bride up the 99 stairs to the church.

Bled Island, Slovenia

Bled and Kavaranke Mountain Range, Slovenia

Going from Bled Castle down to the ground level, there is a lovely walking path and boardwalk along the shore of Lake Bled to enjoy its beauty. The surface of the water changes through the day, wearing its striking turquoise facade when the sun is brightest, and maturing to a silver-blue as dusk descends.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

The reward for walking the entire perimeter of Lake Bled (6km or 3.7 miles) is the famous local cream cake at a lakefront restaurant. I had the cream cake with a sweet wine as recommended by the waiter and it was divine!!!

Cream cake at Lake Bled, Slovenia

If you prefer a different dessert, the choices are staggering so no worries :)

Slovenian sweets by Lake Bled


As mentioned earlier, Bohinj is 26km (16 miles) SW of Bled. It's doable to combine visits to Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj on the same day, or do separate visits and stay longer at each. Click to enlarge the pictures.

Measuring over 4km (2.5 miles) long, Lake Bohinj is the largest permanent lake in Slovenia. Because it's inside Triglav National Park, it has been protected from development which has affected Bled, so there's no town on its shore.

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

The walk to the lake is flat, scenic, and tranquil. On a sunny day, a few kayaks are out on the lake. Spring flowers start to appear on the ground as some shown in the photo below.

Kayak on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Spring flowers, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Jezernica, the second shortest river in Slovenia, flows from Lake Bohinj, and after it joins the Mostnica river (100 metres from the bridge), it is called the Sava Bohinjka. The water is incredibly clear and the reflections of the surrounding scenery are stunning. It's easy to see why Slovenians love to come here to enjoy nature, relax, walk, hike, or swim.

Jezernica river, Bohinj, Slovenia

Scenery by Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

At the head of the lake, visible on the local flag, the Church of St. John the Baptist, is Bohinj's best-known man-made attraction, mostly built in 1520 and renowned for its interior frescoes.

Bohinj, Slovenia

Near the Bohinj green sign in the photo below is a statue of three Slovenian guides and an Austrian mountaineer who climbed from Bohinj to reach the Triglav summit in 1778. I find this story truly inspiring!

Bohinj, Slovenia

I enjoy the three walks in Slovenia very much. Each walk offers something unique. The capital city is charming. The mountains and the lakes are simply stunning. I look forward to returning to Slovenia and exploring other parts of this beautiful country.

Thank you for joining me. I'd love to hear your comments.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Day Trip to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Greetings! In March, my sister and I went on a guided tour to visit Croatia and Slovenia. Our itinerary included a day trip from Dubrovnik in Croatia to Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We knew little about Mostar and were curious to have an introduction to the city.

In this post, I'm sharing a few quick facts about Mostar, and the main sights that we explored during our walk in the historic centre of Mostar. On the day of our visit, the weather was unusually warm, with sunny skies, and the high temperature reached 24C (75F).

  • Mostar is located just inland from the Adriatic Coast, about two hours drive from Dubrovnik.
  • Mostar is on the banks of the River Neretva, in the Herzegovina region, in the south east part of Bosnia & Herzegovina.
  • The historic Old Town of Mostar was developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2005.


1. The Old Town: Under sunny skies, the historic Old Town of Mostar on the banks of the Neretva River looks picturesque with Islamic and medieval features. Some of the main mosques and their minarets dot the landscape. The walk through the historic Old Town is straightforward by following the cobble stoned main street. Sturdy shoes with good grips are essential as the stone surface is smooth and slippery.

Mostar and the Neretva River

2. Stari Most (or Old Bridge) - This striking single-arch stone bridge is the main attraction. The original bridge was built from 1557 to 1566 during the Ottoman Empire. It connects the left and right banks of the Neretva River. On the east bank, the semi-circular Tara Tower was used as a deposit for ammunitions in the Ottoman era and, today, houses the Museum of the Old Bridge. On the west bank, the Halebija Tower, was once the prison on its lower floors, and small barracks on its upper floors, also used as a look-out post.

Stari Most (Old Bridge), Mostar

The Old Bridge was destroyed in 1993 during the Yugoslav wars. After the wars ended, it was rebuilt with stone from the original quarry in the exact way it was built so long ago. The rebuilt works were finished in 2004. The ground surface of the bridge is steep, smooth, and slippery, with raised ridges. We were advised to use those raised ridges to step on.

3. Bridge Diving: One of the key activities of life in Mostar naturally revolves around its famous bridge: Bridge diving occurs mainly during the summer months, and involves trained professionals diving from the top of the Stari Most to entertain the crowds. The distance between the top of the bridge and the river below is about 20m, so bridge diving must only be undertaken by professionals or by tourists who have taken a training class beforehand.

My sister and I happened to be on the Stari Most when a local professional diver did a dive from the top of the bridge to the cold Neretva River below. Once he finished the dive, he swam to the rocks on the river bank and got out.

Mostar and the Neretva River

4. Building Architecture - The houses here reflect the Ottoman influence and Western medieval architectural features. There are a number of historic mosques and museums such as Nezir Aga Mosque, Tabacica Mosque, the Museum of the Old Bridge, or the Hamam Museum within short walking distance of each other.

Near Stari Most (or Old Bridge) there is a small ‘Don’t Forget’ Stone - This small stone serves as a gentle reminder of the civil war and the city's tragic past. While tourism has ensured that Mostar has been able to thrive since the war, not long ago it was under siege, and many of the locals living in the city today would have lost friends and family members.

Mostar medieval architecture

Colourful walls in Mostar

5. Kriva Cuprija (or Crooked Bridge) - For a smaller and less touristic version of the Stari Most, the Kriva Cuprija (or Crooked Bridge) is worth a visit. It is older than the Stari Most, and is thought to have been a test-run of sorts for the later construction of the larger and more famous bridge. It has only one arch so is relatively small, but still exemplifies typical Islamic architecture of the 16th century. The bridge was washed away by floods in the year 2000 but was rebuilt with aid from UNESCO a year later, and was relatively unscathed by the civil war.

Kriva Cuprija (Crooked Bridge), Mostar

6. The Market - In the heart of Mostar’s picturesque Old Town is its market. The market has a distinctly eastern feel, with stalls selling rugs, painted plates, copper items, and souvenirs. Some of the items, like the tea sets or lamps or jewel boxes, reminded me of the markets in Morocco. We were advised to be vigilante of pickpockets here.

Mostar stone walled houses and cobblestone street

Mostar Market

7. Mostar Peace Bell Tower - Constructed in 2000, the height of the bell tower is 107.2 m. Visitors can climb 370 steps or take a lift to the top. The Franciscan church below is a replacement for an 1866 basilica that was badly damaged during the war.

Mostar Peace Bell Tower

The walk in the historic Old Town of Mostar is not long. However, it takes a couple of hours to pause and see the main attractions. This does not include time spent in any of the mosque or museum, or other sights, or souvenir shopping.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to visit this part of the world during peace time, with my sister by my side, and on a beautiful, sunny day.

Thank you for travelling with me. I'd love to hear your comments. 

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Wellness Post #4: How I Keep My Mind Healthy

Welcome to the fourth Wellness link up of 2019! In case you missed my previous three Wellness posts, they are here: A Fresh Start, Icefest 2019, and Ice Breakers 2019. Feel free to join in on the fun with your recent or past wellness-related posts every second Wednesday of the month.

The optional prompt for April Wellness topic is Healthy Mind. In this post, I'm sharing how I keep my mind healthy. I look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions.


I think of my brain as a muscle that needs regular exercises to stay strong. However, the type, the quantity, and the frequency of stimuli for my brain need to be just right for me so my brain does not get overloaded. It's also necessary to have some calm time to relax my mind and to give space for new sensory experiences. I'm sharing how I keep my mind healthy, in alpha order, below.
  1. Get enough sleep daily - Sleep allows our mind and body to rest and recharge. As much as I love to be active during the day, I love my beauty sleep at night. Eight hours sounds good!

  2. Learn foreign languages and play word puzzles - I've been taking online French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo daily and playing word games as time permits. I enjoy learning languages and I've had opportunities to use French and Spanish in my travels.

  3. Listen to, or view the creative ideas of others - I listen to music recitals, view art works like this exhibit, and watch movies on a regular basis. I'm grateful to live in a multicultural city that supports the arts. The concerts and art exhibits that I go to are free to the public.

  4. Meditate daily - Sometimes I meditate in one chunk of fifteen minutes, sometimes I do 7-8 minutes in the morning and 7-8 minutes at bedtime. I focus on my breathing, inhale all the positives, and exhale anything that I don't want to take with me.

  5. Move daily - In addition to thinking exercises, I believe my brain benefits from a good physical workout that can help improve learning and memory. I walk daily, attend yoga class 2x/ week, do strengthening exercises in the gym 3x/ week, and swim laps 1x/ week. I'm consistent with my fitness activities because I value my good health.

  6. Read as widely as I can - This is to keep my brain sharp and to stay aware of what's happening around the world. This year I took on the Toronto Public Library's 2019 Reading Challenge and have been reading more widely than before. I'll do a check-in next week to see how I'm doing with the Reading Challenge. 

  7. Spend some time each day reading, writing, or doing something creative - I enjoy blogging, taking photos, creating photo collages, reading... to name a few. Meal planning and cooking are creative activities, too.

  8. Stay social - I balance my 'me' time and time for my family, friends, and neighbours. Plus blogging time to connect with bloggers and blog readers :)

  9. Take a trip to a place I've never been and learn about another culture - I always learn so much when I plan to go to a new-to-me place and when I travel. My most recent trip was to Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia in March.

  10. Visit nature on a regular basis - By walking on a trail, visiting the lake front, or exploring a park like this cool park. Sunrise or sunset is lovely to see every day.

The next Wellness link up will be on Wednesday, May 8. Optional prompt: The B.E.S.T. Care (BEST is for Breasts, Eyes, Skin, and Teeth). Hope you join in on the fun.

How do you keep your mind healthy? I'd love to hear your comments.
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Friday, 5 April 2019

Art Discovery in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Greetings! Last week when I was in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, I stumbled upon Gregor Pratneker's V Naravo art exhibit. His art works were displayed in an intimate courtyard at Ljubljana's beautiful City Hall which was open to the public.

I learned later that Pratneker (1973) was born in Maribor, Slovenia, where he currently lives and works. In 2012, he received an MA at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. He participates in numerous group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad.

Pratneker won several Slovenian awards, among them the Maribor Fine Artists Association Award for Best Painting in 2013 and in the same year the May Salon Award of the Union of Slovene Fine Artists Associations.

I was so impressed with his paintings, most of them are oil on canvas, with a nature or landscape theme. I took a number of photos, some close-ups, and some at a short distance to capture how the paintings are displayed on two levels of Ljubljana's City Hall. I grouped my photos by the main colours that I saw in the paintings as I didn't see the painting titles.



River in the Summer by Gregor Pratneker



What a pleasant surprise to discover Pratneker's beautiful art work! His exhibit was originally scheduled to end on March 13, however, it was extended to March 28, when I coincidentally was there in time to see it. This talented Slovenian artist's exhibit made my visit to Slovenia even more enjoyable and memorable.

I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, 1 April 2019

March Wrap-Up

Greetings! Welcome to April 1st and what a gorgeous, sunny spring day we have where I live today. March was a unique month since I spent part of it at home and part of it in Europe with my sister. We had an amazing trip visiting Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. I just returned home on the weekend and am now catching up with my blogging.

For readers who are new to my blog, this is my third monthly wrap-up in 2019. My January wrap-up is here, and my February wrap-up is here. I plan to write a wrap-up for each month so I can look back and see how well the year has turned out.

MARCH 2019


In March I viewed three colourful outdoor and indoor art exhibits in my home city, one indoor art exhibit in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and one outdoor art exhibit in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. There were also lots of beautiful art and architecture in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Sample photos of the indoor art exhibits that I visited are below.

Pratneker art exhibit in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Paintings and Blown Glass Arts in Toronto


I wrote three posts in March before my trip to wrap up February, and to share my outdoor walks to Canoe Landing Park and Ice Breakers 2019. I didn't blog while I was traveling in Europe :-).

My thanks to everyone who have left comments on my blog and those who linked up with the Wellness Wednesday on March 13. A friendly reminder that our next Wellness link up is on Wednesday April 10. Optional prompt is Healthy Mind.


I read eight terrific books written by authors from Canada, Croatia, France, Sweden, and the USA. Most of the books are literary award winners or international bestsellers and are good reads.

Books I read in March

  • Love Dishonor Marry Cherish Perish by David Rakoff, 113 pages. This is a novel in verse with witty words that weave the stories together.
  • The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, translated from the French Chanson Douce by Sam Taylor, 228 pages. Leila Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, which she won in 2016 for The Perfect Nanny. A journalist, she was born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981. She lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children. I enjoyed this book and picked up a second book, Adèle, by the same author from the Best Bets section in my local library.
  • Adèle by Leila Slimani, translated from the French Dans le Jardin de L'ogre by Sam Taylor, 216 pages. Leila Slimani won the La Mamounia Prize in 2014 for Adèle. The book tells the story of a woman afflicted by sexual addiction that loses control of her life due to her addiction. In this book cover, it states that the author is a frequent commentator for women's and human rights, and she is French president Emmanuel Macron's personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture.
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, translated from Swedish by Henning Koch, 295 pages. I've always meant to read this book and enjoyed reading it so much I couldn't put it down. I finished it in a day.
  • Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill, 262 pages. This book won the 2017 Giller Prize in Canada. The book is set in Toronto with locations familiar to me. The story is about a woman's doppelganger and mental health.
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, 90 pages. This science fiction novella won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novella and the 2015 Nebula Award for the same category.
  • 419 by Will Ferguson, 399 pages. This book won the 2012 Giller Prize in Canada. It's about the insidious Internet scam from Nigeria, and how the characters' lives intersect.
  • The Rough Guide to Croatia, 479 pages, written and researched by Jonathan Bousfield who lives in Zagreb, Croatia.


I attended three wonderful concerts at home before my trip:
    •    A Taste of Mardi Gras concert by Jordan Klapman, Gary Scriven, and Patrick Tevlin.
    •    Peace and Turmoil piano concert by Jialang Zhu.
    •    A classical piano concert by David Potvin.


In the first half of March, I met with one of my friends for a gym workout, and attended a fun social event that one of the yoga class participants organized to celebrate International Women's Day.

I spent the second half of March travelling with my sister. We had a wonderful time together in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Our tour package covered all breakfasts, and we were on our own for lunch and dinner so we tried different eateries in various towns and cities that we visited. There were plenty of food and drink choices to choose from, plus delicious desserts.


In March, I meditated fifteen minutes daily, walked forty-five minutes or more every day. While at home, I completed ten strength workouts in the gym, five yoga classes, and three swimming sessions. On our trip, my sister and I walked on average three hours a day for sightseeing. I love my outdoor walks and when I get to see colourful art displays on sunshiny days, I'm a happy person :)

Outdoor arts for my fit and fun walks


I continued with my daily French and Spanish lessons on Duolingo, and learned about Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia before and during my trip. The tour leader and local tour guides gave us a lot of information about the three countries that we visited.


I watched two movies with my neighbours in early March (Instant Family, Ralph Breaks the Internet), and two in-flight movies (Venom, A Simple Favor). They were entertaining.


My sister and I visited Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia on a guided tour. The trip was wonderful with several stops along the Adriatic Coast and two capital cities (Ljubljana in Slovenia and Zagreb in Croatia). We also made one stop in Mostar, in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

We lucked out with the group size (only twelve people), and the weather (mostly sunny days and only one cloudy day). Our itinerary was similar to the snapshot below. We had a good mix of guided time and free time to explore on our own. I plan to share my travel highlights and photos on my blog once I get my travel materials sorted out.

Adriatic Tour

Overall, March was a month full of new and fun experiences for me, both at home and abroad. I welcome April and look forward to enjoying the Spring season :)

How was your March? What good things happened? I'd love to hear your comments.