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Slovenia: Villages, Castles, Vineyards, Scenic Valleys and the Julian Alps 2021

Status: open

2 Sep – 19 Sep 2021

Overview

Slovenia: Villages, Castles, Vineyards, Scenic Valleys and the Julian Alps 2021
Tour Highlights

  • Assoc. Professor Adrian Jones, OAM leads this tour of little-known, extraordinarily diverse Slovenia. Adrian will be accompanied by Martin Muhek, who brings a profound knowledge of the Balkan region to ASA tours.
  • Enjoy 18 days travelling through Slovenia’s stunning natural landscapes including the soaring snow-capped peaks of the Julian Alps, the subterranean magic of Postojna and Skocjan caves, and the sparkling blue lakes and rivers.
  • Dine in some of Europe’s best and most youthful restaurants, where the produce is local and impeccably fresh, and where chefs are far less constrained by national traditions, blending Italian, German and Balkan influences. Highlights include elegant Vila Podvin; Otočec Castle, on an island in a picturesque lake; and one of the world’s top restaurants: Hiša Franko, in Kobarid.
  • Delve into the history of Slovenia’s graceful capital. Take in the panorama from medieval Ljubljana Castle and explore the city’s prehistoric and Roman past on a specially-arranged tour with a curator of the City Museum.
  • Study the work of Joze Plecnik, Slovenia’s renowned pioneer of 20th century modern architecture. In Ljubljana, view the National and University Library, the Central Market, Krizanke Summer Theatre and the picturesque riverside with the Triple Bridge and Cobbler’s Bridge.
  • Discover Slovenia’s pristine lakes: Lake Bled has a tiny Baroque chapel on a picturesque island and a castle looming above; by Lake Bohinj a forest-covered mountainside provides a cable car up Mount Vogel with spectacular views of the Julian Alps.
  • Visit Kobarid, site of the WWI Battle of Caporetto in 1917 – immortalised by Ernest Hemingway’s great novel A Call to Arms; and follow part of the historic trail along the emerald-green waters of the rampaging Soca river to view the Kozjak waterfall.
  • Explore the wine towns of the Vipava Valley, including the charming sandstone village of Goce; and visit Maribor, the Styrian capital of Eastern Slovenia, which boasts the oldest grapevine in the world.
  • Ramble through the Logar Valley, one of Europe’s most beautiful Alpine glacial valleys, home to rare flower species and the spectacular 90-metre Rinka Falls.
  • Explore Ptuj, Slovenia’s oldest town, featuring cobblestone alleys, ornate monasteries and a hilltop castle.
  • Emulate the Counts of Celje, the greatest local rivals of the Habsburgs, losing yourself in their splendid medieval castle, and then in their early-modern townhouses.
  • ‘Dock’ for 2 nights in Piran. One of the best-preserved historical centres on the Adriatic coast, it is encircled by 7th-century walls and is rich in Venetian architecture.
  • Venture into Croatia and explore its capital, Zagreb. Roman in foundation, Zagreb is distinguished by classic Austro-Hungarian architecture, old cobbled streets in the old town, café terraces and a dazzling variety of museums and galleries.

18-day Cultural Tour of Slovenia

Overnight Ljubljana (4 nights) • Bled (3 nights) • Kobarid (1 night) • Piran (2 nights) • Postojna (1 night) • Celje (3 nights) • Zagreb (3 nights)

Overview

This fertile, ‘foodie’ and oft-forgotten region fascinates. This is a land of plenty. Nowadays, the good life also has a young and creative bent here. Cultures and traditions have always fused in these border wonderlands; here they do not constrict as much as in heartlands. Blithe Slovenia, on the one hand, links cultures and geographies: Slav and Magyar, Germanic and Italian. Earnest Croatia, on the other hand, is a bulwark in the Balkans against the Balkans. In the consonant-rich Slovene language, these intersections are known as sticisce. Well-worn mountain passes and old Roman roads traverse these hinterlands: alpine and agricultural, forest and fluvial. The produce here is as fresh as the air, and as varied as the soils, the sympathies and the seasons. Here, where the Julian Alps untangle, you also reach the Pannonian far end of the eternal Eurasian plain.

Where are the crowds? Where’s the hubris? As the westernmost outposts of Slavic people in Europe, Slovenia and Croatia are also simply superb and unpretentious places to visit: verdant, lively, stylish, youthful and optimistic. Just three decades ago, the hinterland valleys, cultures and towns of Slovenia and Croatia coughed up Communism and dispensed with Yugoslavia; Slovenia with ease, Croatia amid pain. Communism and Yugoslav-dom were two (different) make-believes which Croats and Slovenes seldom abided – especially whenever it became clear that these fancies only served Serbs in Belgrade. Hinterland Croatia (so different from Dalmatia) and Slovenia are sticisce. No single culture dominates. Here all meet and all should thrive, albeit with troubling exceptions in the fifteenth and twentieth centuries. Croatia and Slovenia widen your wonder and renew your optimism. Take some roads less travelled.

Itinerary

Itinerary

This itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. The daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in museum opening hours, flight schedules etc. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

Ljubljana – 4 nights

Day 1: Thursday 2 September, Arrive Ljubljana
  • Airport transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
  • Orientation Meeting
  • Welcome Dinner, Hiša Kulinarike-Manna
Day 2: Friday 3 September, Ljubljana
  • Ljubljana Castle
  • Museum of Modern Art or Afternoon at leisure
  • Dinner at Monstera Bistro
Day 3: Saturday 4 September, Ljubljana
  • City Museum of Ljubljana (Mestni Muzej) and walking tour of Roman sites in the city centre
  • Lunch in the Balkan café in courtyard in the Krizanke: Gostilna Plecnikov Hram na Krizanke
  • Joze Plecnik’s House
  • Architectural tour of buildings designed by Joze Plecnik including the National and University Library
  • Evening performance (subject to performance schedule in 2021)
Day 4: Sunday 5 September, Ljubljana
  • National Museum of Slovenia
  • National Gallery of Slovenia
Day 1: Thursday 2 September, Arrive Ljubljana
  • Airport transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
  • Orientation Meeting
  • Welcome Dinner, Hiša Kulinarike-Manna

Our tour commences in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana. Participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight into Ljubljana will transfer by private coach to the uHotel in the heart of the beautiful small city. After checking into our hotel, time at leisure is followed by a Welcome Meeting. We will then head to Hiša Kulinarike-Manna restaurant in an elegant suburb, Krakovo, after an orientation stroll through the city, then along the Ljubljanica river, passing the triple bridge. Over the next four days, we return to other places in and around these districts, some linking us to the two millennia of art and history in this charming city, and others to the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) world of Joze Plecnik, Ljubljana’s famous architect, who lived nearby. (Overnight Ljubljana) D

Day 2: Friday 3 September, Ljubljana
  • Ljubljana Castle
  • Museum of Modern Art (Moderna galerija) (Optional visit) or Afternoon at leisure
  • Dinner at Monstera Bistro

District by district, we explore the history and culture, old and new, of this lively small city. Today starts with an exploration of the Central Market in Vodnik Square, adjacent to the Dragon bridge. We then take the cable car up to Ljubljana Castle, the heart of Slovenia, beloved by the seventeenth-century Johann Weickhard von Valvasor, a Habsburg Baron (Freiherr) and Enlightenment-era intellectual, whose interests and imagination we encounter in many sites in Slovenia. Using an audio guide, you can explore the museums in this castle at your own pace. The panoramic views of the city also introduce us to the distinct culture of Valvasor’s cherished Slovene borderland where ancient Roman, and old and current Slav, Italian (Veneto) and German (Habsburg) cultures blend. Lunchtime is at leisure – you may wish to visit the market square below, or the castle courtyard above. One option is a renowned restaurant in the Snipers’ Tower, but only if you want two grand meals on the same day! This afternoon you can decide either to visit the Museum of Modern Art (Moderna Galerija), explore Ljubljana by yourself, or rest in the hotel. The Modern Art museum charts the growing synchrony of Western and Slovene art agendas in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as well as the unfurling and unravelling of artistic expression under Communism. One glimpse of the unravelling comes as a precursor of the revolutions of 1989: Laibach (1982-), a once-banned Slovene anti-authoritarian rock band. We reconvene tonight for a degustation meal at Monstera Bistro, one of the best restaurants in Slovenia. (Overnight Ljubljana) BD

Day 3: Saturday 4 September, Ljubljana
  • City Museum of Ljubljana (Mestni Muzej) and walking tour of Roman sites in the city centre
  • Lunch in the Balkan café in courtyard in the Krizanke: Gostilna Plecnikov Hram na Krizanke
  • Joze Plecnik’s House
  • Architectural tour of buildings designed by Joze Plecnik including the National and University Library
  • Evening performance (subject to performance schedule in 2021)

Today we stay close to base, but go back in time. We centre today around the neighbourhood of the Križanke, an old church (1268) and hall (1228) complex associated with the Duke of Carinthia, Ulrich III von Spanheim, leading an Order of Teutonic Knights ruling Ljubljana till 1335. Each element of the Krizanke was later rebuilt, either in 1561 or 1715. The Krizanke now acts, as re-envisaged by Jozef Plecnik, as an Arts and Museums hub, and as a key summer venue of Ljubljana Festival. At the City Museum of Ljubljana (Mestni Muzej), we explore prehistory: a decorated wooden wheel (3200 BCE) and pile-dwelling villages (Ljubljansko Barje, 3000-1000 BCE), plus the Roman archaeology (Colonnia Iulia Emona), and the medieval, early-modern and modern history of the region. Then we lunch nearby, in simple Balkan style, in the Krizanke courtyard. The City Museum was once the Palace of the Habsburg Governor of Carniola, Protestant, Herbart VIII von Auersperg (Hervard Turjaski in Slovene). Born in Vienna in 1528, Auersperg was captured and beheaded by the Ottomans at Budačka in the Krajina (the Croat Military Frontier) facing Ottoman Bosnia on 22 September 1575. His widow also had to ransom their son and Auersperg’s decapitated head, paying 29,000 Habsburg ducats, money which built the Ferhat Pasa Mosque in Banja Luka in Bosnia.

Our other focus today shall be upon the extraordinary architectural heritage of twentieth-century architect Joze Plecnik, whose influence on the architectural landscape of Ljubljana has been compared to that of Gaudí upon Barcelona. We visit Plecnik’s charming suburban house, and tour his key city buildings, including the National and University Library. Subject to schedules in 2021, we expect to finish our day’s program mid-to-late afternoon, to rest and ready for an evening performance of music, dance or theatre. (Overnight Ljubljana) BL

Day 4: Sunday 5 September, Ljubljana
  • National Museum of Slovenia
  • National Gallery of Slovenia

Today we open our minds on the prehistory, migration history and flora and fauna of this varied and fertile region at the National Museum of Slovenia (Narodni Muzej Slovenij). A curator of Archaeology will discuss highlights including the 1995 find in the submerged Divje Babe cave near Cerkno, a Neanderthal bone flute (60,000 to 5000 BC) fashioned from the femur of a cave bear, an oak dug-out canoe (9th century BC) discovered in 1927, and Iron Age armours from Slovene sites at Stična, Vir and Gradisce. Migration history is glimpsed at displays of sites resembling King Arthur’s Tintagel at Ajdovski Gradec (5th to 6th century AD) and in displays tracing Slavs and their migrations.

A light lunch follows, at Gostilna Sestica, a classic Slovene restaurant serving traditional dishes.

In the afternoon, visiting the National Gallery of Slovenia, we’ll contrast the liveliness of the master painters and wood carvers active in 15th-century Slovenia with the Byzantine-like austere piety of their medieval predecessors. In other halls, traversing the 16th and 17th centuries, the Habsburg Baroque emerges with all its emotion and exuberance, and we’ll encounter the influence of Habsburg Flemish genre painting (Almanach). Other halls explore bourgeois life in the prospering Slovenia of the 19th century, culminating in a delightful series of works by local impressionists. Allow Ivana Kobilca’s Kofetarica of 1888 to prompt you to repose in the gallery café.

This evening we are at leisure. (Overnight Ljubljana) BL

Bled – 3 nights

Day 5: Monday 6 September, Ljubljana Pustal Skofja Loka Crngrob Bled
  • The Devil’s Bridge, Pustal
  • Skofja Loka Castle & Museum
  • Church of Annunciation, Crngrob
  • Fijaker (horse drawn carriage) around Lake Bled
Day 6: Tuesday 7 September, Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled
  • Pletna boat to Blejski Otok, Lake Bled
  • Cable Car to Mount Vogel, Lake Bohinj
  • Panoramic Boat along Lake Bohinj from Ukanc to Ribcev Laz, Lake Bohinj
  • Bled Castle
Day 7: Wednesday 8 September, Bled Trzic Kropa Radovljica Bled
  • Trzic Museum: Cobblery exhibition in the former dye house and tannery
  • Iron Forging Museum in Kropa
  • Light lunch at Gostilna pr’Kovac, Kropa
  • Medieval town of Radovljica
  • Dinner at Vila Podvin
Day 5: Monday 6 September, Ljubljana Pustal Skofja Loka Crngrob Bled
  • The Devil’s Bridge, Pustal
  • Skofja Loka Castle & Museum
  • Church of Annunciation, Crngrob
  • Fijaker (horse drawn carriage) around Lake Bled

Leaving Ljubljana, we journey northwest by bus towards the Julian Alps, meandering along the basin of the river Sava. We’ll meet the Sava River again at our tour’s end in Zagreb in Croatia, though the river goes on to join the Danube at Belgrade. Our day ends in Bled, a splendid resort town on a lovely lake, with an island enveloping a medieval church, not to overlook a medieval castle on an outcrop high above. While Bled Castle was an 11th-century fief of Bishops of Blixen, Bled only came into its own in the 19th-century as bourgeois and naturopaths, like Dr Arnold Rikli (1823-1906), craved genteel promenading or venturesome hiking and climbing in fresh-air alpine destinations. Bled was also a favourite destination for Josip Broz Tito (1892-1980), the Croatian leader of Communist Yugoslavia (1944-80). We opt to succumb at day’s end to gentility, not agility: a half-hour carriage ride (fijaker) around the lake. On the way to Bled, however, we tarry in the old town of Škofja Loka (i.e. “the Bishop of Freising’s Meadow”, a reference to an Imperial fief dating from 973 CE, no less). After coffee, a local guide from the Loski Musej at Škofja Loka leads us across the Devil’s Bridge over the river Sora to Puštal and the Baroque-era castle 600 metres above, and then leads us through the museum and the town, where we lunch. The guide also accompanies us to the Church of the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin (Marijino Oznanenje) at Crngrob, dating first from the 13th century, with some of the finest frescoes in Slovenia detailing the life of the Virgin Mary (late-13th-to-early-14th centuries) and then, Giotto-like (Slovene Goriška style), the Passion of Christ (late 14th-to-mid-15th centuries). (Overnight Bled) BLD

Day 6: Tuesday 7 September, Lake Bohinj and Lake Bled
  • Pletna boat to Blejski Otok, Lake Bled
  • Cable Car to Mount Vogel, Lake Bohinj
  • Panoramic Boat along Lake Bohinj from Ukanc to Ribcev Laz, Lake Bohinj
  • Bled Castle

Lazy days. Fine vistas. What could be better, on this day, after a hearty breakfast, than to be rowed in a covered pletna boat to the island (Blejski Otok) in the middle of Lake Bled? Once a pagan site—thereafter re-invented in a new national epic poem about the ancient loss of Slovene independence (Krst pri Savici or Baptism on the Savica, 1836) written by Slovenia’s first national poet, France Prešeren (1800-49). Soon enough, Blejski Otok lured Christian pilgrims seeking its little medieval Assumption Church. This is a favoured place in Slovenia to wed, provided you carry your betrothed up each every one of the 99 steps. Then we venture by bus deeper into the limestone range of the Julian Alps (Julijske Alpe; Prialpe Giuli), a bit closer now to Friulian Udine province in Italy than to Kärnten (Carinthia province) in Austria. We now take a cable car from Lake Bohinj to Mt Vogel (1846 m), where a vista of the entire Triglav National Park beckons, as capped by Mt Triglav (2864 m) across the lake and to the north. Returning after lunch in a panorama restaurant, we take a boat along Lake Bohinj going from Ukanc to Ribčev Laz, taking time to cross a bridge to visit the Romanesque-then-Gothic Church of St John the Baptist (Cerkev sv. Janeza Krstnika) at Ribčev Laz. Returning by bus, you can visit the castle at Bled (Blejski Grad), and thence opt to walk or to bus downhill to the hotel. (Overnight Bled) B

Day 7: Wednesday 8 September, Bled Trzic Kropa Radovljica Bled
  • Trzic Museum: Cobblery exhibition in the former dye house and tannery
  • Iron Forging Museum in Kropa
  • Light lunch at Gostilna pr’Kovac, Kropa
  • Medieval town of Radovljica
  • Dinner at Vila Podvin

Think thrift. Think small. Think hardy. The villages in the foothills of mountains and in the knots of their valleys in Upper Carniola (Gorenjska) near the border with Austria offer rare chances to savour the small places so often overlooked in tours that just go from capital to capital, with all their blarney to bluster. We’ll use our bus to venture into different valleys, each with its raging river, going to Tržič to consider shoes and leather, and to Kropa to forge iron, where we will lunch in a little inn, and then to Radovlijca to look for art in beehives and to explore a little market town. In the evening, we dine well in another country restaurant: chef Uroš Štefelin’s Vila Podvin, then return to Bled for the last time. (Overnight Bled) BLD

Kobarid – 1 night

Day 8: Thursday 9 September, Bled Vrsic Pass  Kobarid
  • Scenic journey across the Julian Alps through Triglav National Park via the Vrsic Pass (1611m)
  • Kozjak Waterfall
  • Dinner at Restaurant Hiša Franko
Day 8: Thursday 9 September, Bled Vrsic Pass  Kobarid
  • Scenic journey across the Julian Alps through Triglav National Park via the Vrsic Pass (1611m)
  • Kozjak Waterfall
  • Dinner at Restaurant Hiša Franko

Leaving Bled, we devote 4 hours to a mountain journey, going on and off the bus, to exploring northwest Slovenia’s Triglav National Park. We are now in the part closer to Italy, heading for Kobarid (Caporetto in Italian), once a battle front of the First World War, now a charming Slovene town with an Italian ‘feel’ where will dine in style and stay one night.

When Italy entered the war belatedly on the side of Britain and France in May 1915, the Italians found the going surprisingly tough attacking the Habsburg Empire all along the river Isonzo (Soča in Slovene; Sortig in German, Aesontius In Latin) from its Adriatic estuary to the tips of the Julian Alps. The Vršič Pass (1611m) and the Trenta Valley offer the best views of the tour. We will likely walk to the waterfall at Kozjak and traverse some old trenches and mini forts. Our route on and over the Vršič Pass was a Habsburg military re-supply route, built in part by Russian prisoners captured in Ukraine and Ruthenia. 300,000 soldiers perished here in 12 different battles, starting in June 1915, and ending in November 1917, when Habsburg forces finally broke through, and when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. Nonetheless, the war was still lost elsewhere in Flanders by November 1918. After settling in to our new hotel, we enjoy degustation at one of the world’s top restaurants: Hisa Franko at Kobarid.

Note: no porterage is available at the Kobarid hotel. The hotel has a lift.
Please note that while restaurant Hiša Franko will endeavour to cater for special dietary requests, this may not be possible in all cases. If this may be an issue for you, please speak with your ASA Travel Consultant. (Overnight Kobarid) BLD

Piran – 2 nights

Day 9: Friday 10 September, Kobarid Tolmin Gorges Sempas – SkocjanPiran
  • Guided walking tour of the Tolmin Gorges (1.5-2hrs, gravel trail and boardwalk)
  • Lunch at Milan Garbari’s farm, Malovscevo
  • UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Skocjan Caves
Day 10: Saturday 11 September, Piran – Lipica – Piran
  • Lipica Stud Farm: View the training of Lipizzan Horses & tour the stud farm
  • Afternoon at leisure in Piran
  • Tartini Festival: Evening performance (subject to performance schedule in 2021)
Day 9: Friday 10 September, Kobarid Tolmin Gorges SempasSkocjanPiran
  • Guided walking tour of the Tolmin Gorges (1.5-2hrs, gravel trail and boardwalk)
  • Lunch at Milan Garbari’s farm, Malovscevo
  • UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Skocjan Caves

We now head away from Kobarid and away from the mountains down through the Tolmin Gorges of the Isonzo river toward the delightful Adriatic port town of Piran, the birthplace of the Baroque composer Giuseppe Tartini. The sea air will greet us tonight and the next. Piran is just 60 km south of Trieste (Trst in Slovene; a Habsburg city till 1918, the only seaport in the Habsburg empire, then Italian from 1920-43, and then from 1947, and briefly Yugoslav from 1945 to 1947). Lovely little Piran dominates Slovenia’s tiny 20-kilometre stretch of Adriatic coast. But before we arrive there, we will today follow at first a First World War battle front, high in the mountains at Tolmin, aided by a local guide. Back on the bus, the mountains will eventually give way to rich agricultural land, where we will have a simple lunch on Milan Garbari’s farm, Malovščevo. Then the same mountains will also cleave under our feet into limestone caves, where we will explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Skocjan Cave. Our bus will then wheel westwards over other cave (karst) lands towards the sea. (Overnight Piran) BL

Day 10: Saturday 11 September, Piran – Lipica – Piran
  • Lipica Stud Farm: View the training of Lipizzan Horses & tour the stud farm
  • Afternoon at leisure in Piran
  • Tartini Festival: Evening performance (subject to performance schedule in 2021)

Rest and re-charge with an afternoon off. Time to relax in Adriatic seaside Piran with one firm engagement this day – a view of the training of Lipizzaner Horses on a stud near Piran – and another that’s probable – a Tartini Festival evening performance (but this is subject to the vagaries of the performance schedule in 2021) (Overnight Piran) B

Postojna – 1 night

Day 11: Sunday 12 September, Piran – Hrastovlje – Goce – Postojna – Predjama – Postojna
  • Church of the Holy Trinity with the famous Dance Macabre fresco, Hrastovlje
  • Lunch in the Stone Village of Goce
  • Postojna Cave
  • Castle of Predjama
Day 11: Sunday 12 September, Piran – Hrastovlje – Goce – Postojna – Predjama – Postojna
  • Church of the Holy Trinity with the famous Dance Macabre fresco, Hrastovlje
  • Lunch in the Stone Village of Goce
  • Postojna Cave
  • Castle of Predjama

Leaving Piran, we meander back towards the “real” Slovenia of stones and castles, wines and caves – the inland foothills, the fertile farms… and the stalactites. At first, we just go 40 km to a tiny fortified Church of the Holy Trinity (cerkev sv. Trojice) in Hrastovlje, a village not far from the border with Rijeka province in NW Croatia, there to observe not only the depth of fear of Ottoman invasion in the 15th and 16th centuries, but also a rare version of a subversive religious fresco known as ‘The Dance of Death’ (Die Totentanz in German, La danse macabre in French, Mrtvaški ples in Slovene), otherwise attested only in churches in the Baltic region, and once in a charnel house in early-15th-century Paris. We then lunch and tipple in the stone village of Goče, in the heart of the Vipava wine country, lands dear to Slovenia’s greatest Habsburg diplomat, Freiherr Sigismund von Herbestein (1486-1566), one of the few to meet an Ottoman Sultan and a Russian Grand Prince. After lunch we take the cave train at Postojna, then walk through mighty caverns. We overnight here. But a visit to the impregnable castle at Predjama (Predjamski Grad) still awaits. Predjama nestles inside a cliff. Only one siege worked, in 1484: a rebel Imperial Burgrave (Castellan), Erasmus von Lüg, was betrayed and killed when, according to local lore, Habsburg siege cannon were invited from within to be directed at the castle privy when Erasmus heeded the call of nature. Once a frontier between Aquileian (Alto Veneto) clerical-feudal and Habsburg spheres, Predjama was built in the 13th century, but what you see now dates from 16th century. If you thought your house renovations were complex, think again. (Overnight Postojna) BLD

Celje – 3 nights

Day 12: Monday 13 September, Postojna – Logar Valley – Celje
  • Guided walking tour of Logar Valley (Logarska dolina), one of the most beautiful alpine glacial valleys in Europe
Day 13: Tuesday 14 September, Celje
  • Regional Museum of Celje: ‘Princely Palace’. Guided tour with Curator, Dr Jure Krajsek: in situ remains of antique Celeia; Guided tour with Curator, Mr Damir Zeric: Counts of Celje exhibition
  • Celje Castle & Old Town: Guided tour with Mr Damir Zeric
  • Lunch at a local restaurant, Gostilna Francl
  • Regional Museum of Celje: ‘Old Counts’ Mansion’. Guided tour with Curator, Dr Jure Krajsek: in situ remains of antique Celeia; Guided tour with Curator, Ms Gabrijela Kovacic: Cultural History Collection and the Celje Ceiling
Day 14: Wednesday 15 September, Celje – Ptuj – Maribor – Celje
  • Ptuj Castle & Old Town
  • Walking tour of Maribor including wine-tasting and visit to the oldest vine house
Day 12: Monday 13 September, Postojna – Logar Valley – Celje
  • Guided walking tour of Logar Valley (Logarska dolina), one of the most beautiful alpine glacial valleys in Europe

Life’s a picnic, is it not – and especially in Slovenia? But what better site could there be for a picnic than an alpine meadow followed by a stroll to a waterfall? Is this a beer advert? Our bus leaves Postojna and heads off, eventually, for a three-night stay in Hotel Evropa in Celje, a Renaissance town in the Savinja (east-central Slovenia). We will dine tonight in the hotel’s restaurant. But first our picnic. From Postojna, we’ll skirt west of Ljubljana and cross our old path to Škofja Loka to journey north this time to the glacial (“U”-shaped) valley (Logarska dolina) just west of Solčava. We are within a yodel or a cooee of the Austrian border. These destinations, Celje and the Logarska valley, link because we are now in the Kamniško-Savinjske Alps, whose river Savinj (Saann in German) flows down from this glacial valley past Celje and Laško to the Sava river at Zidani Most. We then move in the afternoon from the alpine sublime to Celje’s fertile Balkan borderlands of pigs and grains, hops and grapes, beer and wine. Try the local brew: the Laško or the Simon Kukec. And why not karaoke in Slovene with the lyric about a Slovenian river (Reka) with the smooth Slovene modern-male equivalents of Almanach’s “Card Sharps (Kvatropirci)” whom we met in the National Gallery of Slovenia in Ljubljana (Overnight Celje) BL

Day 13: Tuesday 14 September, Celje
  • Regional Museum of Celje: ‘Princely Palace’. Guided tour with Curator, Dr Jure Krajsek: in situ remains of antique Celeia; Guided tour with Curator, Mr Damir Zeric: Counts of Celje exhibition
  • Celje Castle & Old Town: Guided tour with Mr Damir Zeric
  • Lunch at a local restaurant, Gostilna Francl
  • Regional Museum of Celje: ‘Old Counts’ Mansion’. Guided tour with Curator, Dr Jure Krajsek: in situ remains of antique Celeia; Guided tour with Curator, Ms Gabrijela Kovacic: Cultural History Collection and the Celje Ceiling

We spend all day in this charming town, the third largest in Slovenia, still with only 40,000 people. After the long era of barbarian migrations and invasions, the old Roman colonia of Celeia, in Noricum province, with its fertile hinterland, became medieval Celje guarded now by the incomparable castle (Stari Grad, late 14th century) of Counts of Žovnek-Celje (12th-to-15th centuries). This castle on the other side of the Savinj river enabled Counts of Celje to be thorns in Habsburg bouquets till 1456, projecting power over Croatia and making a big contribution to the failed Crusade at Nikopolis in 1396. Noble ladies of Celje—not least the beautiful Barbara of Celje (1392-1451), regent of Hungary and wife of a Holy Roman Emperor (1433-37), Sigismund of Luxembourg—often figured in dynastic marriages in adjacent Hungary and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, countering Habsburg claimants. Highlights of the city include visits, led by local museum experts, to the two parts of the regional museum (Pokrajinski Muzei), one being the Townhouse of the later Princes (Knežji Dvorec) with the rare survival of a Renaissance trompe d’oeil ceiling (Celjski Strop, 1600), and the other being the earlier 15th-century porticoed barracks and townhouse of the Counts (Stara Grofija) housing the archaeological and medieval-historical museum. We will first visit the Princes’ Townhouse, then bus to the Castle. We lunch in a restaurant in the hills, dating from 1895, half way back from the castle: Peter Zaveršek’s Gostilna Francl. We save the visits to the Old Counts’ Townhouse, which also hosted war crimes trials in July 1945, and the town centre for the afternoon. We pass the old prison, Stari Pisker; hundreds of hostages were shot here in 1942 in retaliation for Partisan resistance to the Wehrmacht’s rule over the country and this city: 11 April 1941 to 13 May 1945. (Overnight Celje) BL

Day 14: Wednesday 15 September, Celje – Ptuj – Maribor – Celje
  • Ptuj Castle & Old Town
  • Walking tour of Maribor including wine-tasting and visit to the oldest vine house

We venture today by bus through the Štajerska wine region for one hour from our base at Celje to the beautiful medieval city of Ptuj (a.k.a. Roman Poetovio), touring its castle, then lingering over a coffee and wandering the old town. Then we venture a half-hour further to Maribor, the second largest city in Slovenia: 100,000 people. We encounter a vine in Maribor city itself reputed, on good visual evidence, to be oldest live vine in Europe: at least 450 years. This is the vine outside “The Old Vine House”, where we quaff, lunch and learn heaps more about local wines. In this Štajerska wine region, we have entered a contested Magyar-German-Slav sphere at the western-most end of the Eurasian plain. This Podravska province of Slovenia follows the river Drava (Drau in German). Maribor is also important because it is a minor place in the history of the Second World War that nonetheless can tell us a great deal about the nature of that war. Akin to his views on Alsatians and on Sorbs-Lusatians-Wends in Saxony and Brandenburg, Adolf Hitler once pontificated in Maribor (his Marburg-an-der-Drau) on 26 April 1941 about the region as “das Windische”. Already having dismantled Sorb institutions in Germany, Hitler created a “Volksdeutsche” Drava Banovina in the Slovene Podravska, placing it in the Reich, banning signs and teaching in Slovene. Die Tagespost in Graz reported Hitler in Maribor saying: “Make this land German for me, as German as the rest of [Austrian] Styria (Machen Sie mir dieses Land deutsche, so deutsche, wie die Ubrige Steiermark)”. His SS “Fellowship of Native Germans (Heimatbund)” and “Resettlement Administration (VoMi Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle)” then had to settle German colonists (hard to find!) and to make Germans of Slovenes (hard to achieve!). Hitler backed these follies by enabling murder—random or targeted, deportation and forced labour, even separating children from suspect families in November 1942. As we enjoy the wine and the mix of cultures in this wonderful heritage region, we can still contemplate barbarous follies it had to endure, and indeed overcome, to achieve this convivial hospitality. (Overnight Celje) BL

Zagreb – 3 nights

Day 15: Thursday 16 September, Celje – Kostanjevica na Krki – Otocec – Zagreb
  • Kostanjevica na Krki, a small settlement on an island in the Krka river
  • Bozidar Jakac Art Museum, Cistercian Monastery Samostan Kostanjevica na Krki
  • Lunch at the 16th-century castle of Otocec
Day 16: Friday 17 September, Zagreb
  • Introductory walking tour of Zagreb
  • Croatian Museum of Naïve Art
  • Sculptor Ivan Mestrovic’s atelier
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Evening performance (subject to performance schedule in 2021)
Day 17: Saturday 18 September, Zagreb
  • Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, Croatian Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • Gallery of Modern Art
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Farewell Dinner at Dubravkin Put restaurant
Day 18: Sunday 19 September, Depart Zagreb
  • Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Day 15: Thursday 16 September, Celje – Kostanjevica na Krki – Otocec – Zagreb
  • Kostanjevica na Krki, a small settlement on an island in the Krka river
  • Bozidar Jakac Art Museum, Cistercian Monastery Samostan Kostanjevica na Krki
  • Lunch at the 16th-century castle of Otocec

We leave Celje today by bus for our final destination in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. We travel via southern Slovenia (lower Carniola; Dolenj). On the way, we lunch at the beautiful 16th-century castle of Otočec, the retirement home of choice of one the great leaders of the Habsburg resistance against Ottoman incursion: Ivan Lenković, the leader of a Cossack-like corps of counter-raiders, the wild free-booters who were known as the Uskoks of Senj. Otočec Castle and its elegant restaurant sit in a lovely forest surrounding an island in the Krka river. On the way, we explore a little heritage town on another island in the Krka river: Kostanjevica na Krki, dating from the mid-13th century. And before or after we reach Kostanjevica na Krki, and take a morning coffee break, we will encounter an even older Cistercian Monastery (Samostan) nearby, dating from the early-13th century, the prompt for the adjacent market town. Cistercians were a reformed Benedictine Order of muscular monks and colonisers who valued agricultural labour, and fine architecture. As in Transylvania, further east, they were invited here by Kings of Hungary to stabilise and colonise a wild region. Their extensive monastery complex was abandoned in 1785 at the order of the Habsburg Emperor, Joseph II, who began to dissolve the great monastic estates (der Klostersturm) in 1782, seizing revenues. The charming shell of the church and the imposing monastery complex now hosts one of the best art collections in Slovenia: the Božidar Jakac Art Museum. Highlights include the work of Anton (Tone) Kralj (1900-75). Settle into the bus after lunch, as we head to Zagreb, capital of Croatia, 50 km east of the border with Slovenia. Although Slovenia (1996) and Croatia (2003) are now EU member states, there are border checks leaving Slovenia and entering Croatia. We have to present passports; while Slovenia has been in Schengen since 2003, Croatia is still a suitor. We pass two mid-twelfth-century castles as we follow the mighty Sava River: Brestanica (Rajhenburg), and Brežice (Rann), sites where Nazi occupiers deported Slovenes in 1942-44. The end of the day finds us with free time at our new hotel in the heart of Zagreb, the Palace Hotel. (Overnight Zagreb) BL

Day 16: Friday 17 September, Zagreb
  • Introductory walking tour of Zagreb
  • Croatian Museum of Naïve Art
  • Sculptor Ivan Mestrovic’s atelier
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Evening performance (subject to performance schedule in 2021)

We walk the streets of Zagreb, a confident and relatively new Slavonic inland national city of 800,000 people. Most people who think they “know” Croatia really only know about coasts of Dalmatia, and their Venetian and classical Greco-Roman heritages. On this Adriatic coast, the Balkans sometimes seem an afterthought, even though they were key to the prosperity of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). Zagreb is like the Melbourne of Alfred Deakin: a Victorian-age city, commercial from the outset, national by conviction. Once two minor medieval towns, one upper, the other lower, each loathing each, Zagreb thrived only when it became the key gubernatorial post (Ban) in western Balkan parts of the Habsburg empire, at a time, after the Ausgleich of 1867, when Vienna was de-centralizing. [Ljubljana thrived likewise, but earlier at first (in the Enlightenment age of Valvasor, when Vienna was centralizing), and then later (in Plečnik’s Art Nouveaux times), and still more now (in EU times, as Slovenia edges Croatia in prosperity and Europhilia, and as Slovenia helps block Croatia’s admission to Schengen).] Led first by its Bans, later despite them, Zagreb became—in 1848-49, in 1918-19, in 1928-45, and in 1990-95—a centre shaping national “Illyrian” feeling resisting imperial domination—respectively: Magyar, Habsburg, Serb and Serb-Yugoslav. While the affinities of their South Slav native languages united Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, the anchors of national feeling and of resistance to empire for educated Serbs were Orthodox, Cyrillic and Byzantine, not Roman Catholic. And the sources and capitals of the oppressors they came to loathe also differed in the imaginations of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. The Serbs’ oppressors seemed based in Constantinople, and perhaps in Albania, Bulgaria and Bosnia; the Croats and Slovenes instead regarded Vienna equivocally, scarcely regarding Moscow or Constantinople (İstanbul). While our day concludes an evening performance (subject to the schedule), we have time today (mostly in the Upper Town Gornji Grad) to explore the unique “Croatian Museum of Naïve Art (Hrvatski Muzej Naivne Umetnosti)”. A highlight here is the rural national imagination of Ivan Generalić (1914-92). Nearby, we visit the atelier of the Europhile sculptor Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), an exile from Croatia in 1942, and from Yugoslavia from 1947. We lunch in an incomparable Croatian village cooking restuarant: Konoba Didov San. In the lower town, after lunch, after taking the steps or the funicular, we explore the Archaeological Museum, and its garden café, so close to our hotel. (Overnight Zagreb) BL

Day 17: Saturday 18 September, Zagreb
  • Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, Croatian Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • Gallery of Modern Art
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Farewell Dinner at Dubravkin Put restaurant

Apart from the farewell dinner this evening in the chef Priska Thuring’s stylish Dubravkin Put restaurant on the edge of the Upper Town (Gornji Grad), we do not have to venture far from the hotel today. One block one way is the Croatian Academy’s Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters (1880), and one block another way is the Gallery of Modern Art (Moderna Galerija, 1883)—and we are in the heart of cafe town. There’s free time after the morning spent in these two galleries, before we have to dress for dinner and maybe try a plum brandy (šljivovica in Croatian; slivovo žganje in Slovene) or a walnut brandy (orahovac; orehovo žganje). (Overnight Zagreb) BD

Day 18: Sunday 19 September, Depart Zagreb
  • Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour ends in Zagreb. If you are travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight you will be transferred to the airport. If not, you may take a taxi or arrange a transfer with ASA, or stay on to see more of this fascinating country. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Accommodation

Accommodation

18-day Cultural Tour of Slovenia

Accommodation is in 4-star hotels, in twin-share rooms with en suite bathroom. Each hotel is centrally located within the cities that we visit, and has been chosen as the best available. Rooms for single occupancy may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the Single Supplement.

  • Ljubljana (4 nights): 4-star uHotel – located in the heart of Ljubljana, with views of the medieval castle. www.uhcollection.si/uhotel
  • Bled (3 nights): 4-star Superior Rikli Balance Hotel – Sava Hotels & Resorts – recently renovated modern hotel, located in the centre of town, offers panoramic views of Lake Bled and the Julian Alps. www.sava-hotels-resorts.com
  • Kobarid (1 night): 4-star Hotel Hvala – a family-run hotel & restaurant located in the Soca Valley. www.hotelhvala.si
  • Piran (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Piran – featuring a sea front location in the historic town centre. hotel-piran.si
  • Postojna (1 night): 4-star Hotel Jama – renovated in 2016, the hotel is located in the Postojna Cave Park. www.postojnska-jama.eu
  • Celje (3 nights): 4-star Hotel Evropa – built in 1873, this historic hotel is located in the heart of the medieval town. hotel-evropa.si
  • Zagreb, Croatia (3 nights): 4-star Palace Hotel Zagreb – built in 1891, this traditional Art Nouveau hotel overlooks one of Zagreb’s beautiful parks. It is located in the city centre, a 5-minute walk from the main square. palace.hr

Note: hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a single-occupancy room throughout the tour. In most hotels, this will be a double/twin room for single occupancy. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book

Making a Tentative Reservation before the tour price has been published

ASA INTENTION TO TRAVEL APPLICATION FORM

Some ASA tours fill almost immediately. Don’t miss out! You can register your ‘Intention to Travel’ by completing this application and returning this to ASA with a AUD $100.00 per person deposit. Once the tour price has been published, the itinerary and ASA Reservation Application Form will be sent to you. From the time you receive the itinerary you will have two weeks to either:

  • Send us a completed ASA Reservation Application Form together with an additional deposit of AUD $400.00 per person. On receipt of this Reservation Application and deposit, ASA will process your booking and if approved, send you a tour confirmation. At this time your deposit of AUD $500.00 is subject to the tour’s Booking Conditions.

Or

  • CANCEL your Intention to Travel in writing. ASA will refund your AUD $100.00 per person deposit, less a $33.00 service fee (including GST).

Participation Criteria

To participate in an ASA tour, you must be reasonably fit, in good health and able to participate in all activities without assistance from Tour Leaders or other tour members. If you require assistance, a fit and able travel companion must undertake to accompany and assist you with all tasks for the duration of the whole tour. ASA’s ability to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your specific needs, your health and safety and the health and safety of other tour members, is of paramount importance to us. For this reason the ASA Reservation Application includes a Medical Information section. As a general guideline, you must be able to accomplish each of these activities without assistance or support:

  • walk and stand unassisted for at least 2-3 hours a day in hot, humid conditions
  • walk confidently on and over uneven surfaces
  • climb at least 3 flights of stairs
  • embark and disembark from ferries, buses and trains
  • walk up and down steep slopes
  • walk at a steady pace and no less than 1km every 15-20 minutes
  • organise, manage and carry your own luggage
  • follow and remember tour instructions
  • meet punctually at designated times and places
  • administer your own medication

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation is for sole occupancy throughout the tour. The number of spaces available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 18-day Cultural Tour of Slovenia involves:
  • Visiting some sites and towns (eg. Ptuj) that require walking up steps or uphill on uneven/cobbled streets. Cobbled streets can be very slippery during rain showers!
  • A moderate amount of walking during site visits and standing during museum and other site visits.
  • Visiting waterfalls, caves and gorges as indicated in the itinerary. It is recommended that you wear shoes with good grip and bring warm clothes; temperatures may be as low as 10 degrees (celsius) inside the cave.
  • Extensive coach travel, sometimes on winding mountain roads; road conditions are variable.
  • 4-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $TBA Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 30 September 2020

AUD $TBA Land Content Only

AUD $TBA Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with en suite bathroom in 4-star hotels
  • Lunches and evening meals indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals include bottled water only.
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA  ‘designated’ flights
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at 6 of the 7 hotels (not at airports). No porterage is available at the Kobarid hotel. The hotel has a lift.
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour handbook
  • Local guides
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Ljubljana, Zagreb-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if applicable)
Tour Map

Tour Map

Gallery
Terms & Conditions
Deposits

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA. ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies. ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider. ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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