Closing My Last European Capital

You all know I am a country collector. But did you know I am also a capital collector?

This summer, while exploring Europe due to COVID*1984, I had just one remaining European capital to close. And I closed her. Do you know what her name is? Well, I’ll give you a hint. She is petite and she makes me want to go on a trip to a very scenic, beautiful lake.

So where are we headed on this potentially romantic European summer getaway? Read on, but first…

Boating update

After a brief 10-day visit to my native land of Germany, it was time to get back out on the high seas and as far away from harmless flu hysteria as possible.

The Lagoon 380 catamaran I had purchased recently was sitting at port in Sibenik, Croatia getting outfitted with a variety of new toys and trinkets. My plan for the catamaran is to charter it out to members of my Staatenlos community whenever I am not using it.

With everything, I had in mind the refurbishing and installation of all the new parts was going to take about a week.

For those of you who may be interested in chartering the boat someday, here are some of the things you can now find aboard the S.V. Staatenlos 🙂

First and foremost, the infamous pink flamingo:

It will see the seven seas 🙂

A Hoverstar Aquajet H2:

My underwater jetpack

An Aquatec Watermarker capable of producing 110 liters of water per hour:

Most expensive piece so far

A Meateor top heat grill, perfect for steaks:

Plant-based burgers only

A second fridge, a projector/outdoor cinema, a freezer, a washing machine, an underwater and airborne capable drone, reliable Google Fiber internet, additional solar panels, a new power inverter with 6 lithium batteries, tailor-suited Flexima mattresses, and much more. I think it would be difficult to find another Lagoon 380 that is so well equipped. Hopefully, some of you can try it soon and give me some feedback 🙂

Oh and one last thing, our sailing flag:

Sailing flag and other toys

I always liked the flag of Delaware. It says Liberty and Independence with a sailing ship and a man with a handful of beef in the background. Very appropriate for Staatenlos and slightly less controversial than our previous flag

Anyway, my boat and its shiny new toys wouldn’t be seaworthy for over a week, so I had some time to kill before the maiden voyage.

As it turned out, the only capital city in Europe that I hadn’t visited yet was sitting right in between Germany and the port in Croatia where the S.V. Staatenlos was being prepared.

Ljubljana, Slovenia: My Final European Capital

If you search Ljubljana on google, you’ll see that it is often called Europe’s most underrated capital city. It’s a slogan that could probably be applied to the entire country, and it’s easy to see why.

While Slovenia’s location is what makes it so special, it also means the small country tends to get overshadowed by its neighbors. The location gives it a blend of influence from the Slavic, Mediterranean, and Germanic worlds, but has to compete with them in “notoriety” so to speak.

For example, in the southern half of the country, Slovenia is bordered by Italy, Croatia, and the Adriatic Sea. Slovenia’s coastline is only about 46 kilometers and the only island in the country is in the middle of a lake. Squished between the less expensive Croatian coastline and the Hollywood certified Italian east coast, Slovenia’s seaside tends to get overlooked in the summer months.

The other countries Slovenia borders are Austria and Hungary. There’s a cheap bullet train with draught beer on tap that can take you from Vienna to Budapest in less than 3 hours so Ljubljana keeps itself fairly secluded for a Capital. Also, Ljubljana is pretty strict about selling alcohol after 9 in the evening so the big partying crowd either doesn’t visit or doesn’t typically stay very long.

Anyway, I was tempted to go party in one of those cities while I waited for the boat but ultimately decided against it. I was celebrating my 30th birthday in Vienna in a few weeks, and having visited every European capital by then seemed like a nice milestone to celebrate.

Plus, I was invited to participate in a conference called Citizen Circle that was taking place in Ljubljana that week. After 10 days in Germany, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to agree to speak at the event.

Painting the Town

I landed in Ljubljana on Friday afternoon the weekend before the conference. I set my bags down in my hotel and left to explore pretty quickly after arriving. There was a social event for the conference attendees planned that evening so I wanted to utilize all the time I could to see the city.

Ljubljana is a small city of about 300,000 that’s separated by an old town and a new town. The old town doesn’t allow cars and is compact and easy to find your way around so it’s a nice place to walk around.

Old town with Ljubljana Castle in the background

The river the city sits on is called the Ljubljanica River. If you look at a city map you can see it looks almost like a moat surrounding the old town and Ljubljana Castle. The town has what I would call a very “riverfront” culture, with tons of markets and cafes and people meeting and that sort of thing.

The buildings themselves look very Viennese due to a big earthquake that destroyed a lot of them in 1895 when Slovenia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When it was rebuilt, Vienna was used as a model.

The Slavic influence you can see in the people as opposed to the architecture.

I walked around for a couple of hours trying to decide what about them seemed Slavic before it was time to meet up with the fellow conference attendees for that social event. It was an early night for me. As I mentioned, Ljubljana has pretty strict laws about selling alcohol in the evening, so between that and COVID-1984 hysteria, there weren’t going to be too much partying for me.

Unfortunately, when it comes to wearing masks Slovenia leans into its Germanic roots much more so than its Slavic roots 😛

After being in Germany for a while I was used to it, but the corona regulations there made me appreciate being in Croatia afterward that much more.

Even the conference I was attending the next day was in a venue that required masks. I had forgotten how much work I had to do when I heard about the masks though so I decided to stay at the hotel to catch up on consulting calls.

If you need any proof that a lot can change in 24 hours, you should know that by Sunday afternoon I was voluntarily wearing a mask outdoors in the hot sun.

Not just a mask too, I was wearing full body armor.

This mask would probably be allowed in an airport in all of this nonsense 😛

Probably not the kind of mask you were thinking of, but probably just as effective against COVID-1984 as the paper muzzles somebody is making a fortune off somewhere.

Every year after the conference ends on Sunday, a group of attendees get together and go paintballing. While I wasn’t going to be “painting the town” in Vienna or Budapest, I was able to shoot paint at some fellow Citizen Circle members which I think is more fun 🙂

After a few hours and a lot of new bruises, I was taken back to Ljubljana for my final night.

It wasn’t quite sundown yet, so I decided to visit the famous Ljubljana Castle I mentioned. It sits on a hill right above the city above the old town so it was a perfect place to watch the sunset.

View from the castle

I think this is one of the best natural vantage points of any capital city in Europe. The hike isn’t too bad and the location gives you panoramic views of the entire valley.

In the distance, you can see the Julian Alps that protrude out of northeastern Italy across the top of Slovenia.

Very happy to have gotten to see this city, it’s very beautiful and if you like a quieter metropolitan life it’s perfect.

Lakes and Peaks of Slovenia

The next morning I woke up early to pick up my rental SUV from the local car agency. I had several days to explore Slovenia, so I figured with a car I’d be able to see as much as possible, starting in the northwest with the Julian Alps and famous Lake Bled.

I’ve actually been to Lake Bled once before with my father and brother, but even if you’ve been before it’s a really incredible place.

The only island in Slovenia

The lake is pristine, with clear water that is half ice melt half thermal springs and a little island in the middle with a 17th-century church built on top of it.

All around the lake, there are thick alpine forests and huge mountains and a castle called Bled Castle overlooking the whole area from a surrounding hill.

After a few quick pictures, I hopped back in the car to visit the highest peak in the Julian Alps, called Triglav.

Just at the base of the Triglav mountain peak is Slovenia’s largest lake called Lake Bohinj. Similarly to Lake Bled, it’s surrounded by high mountains on all sides which are reflected off of the pristine lake waters. It also is partially composed of ice-melt and thermal springs so in the summer you’ll find a lot of families swimming and vacationing on the beaches there.

The beaches of Lake Bohinj

Near the lake are some gondolas that take you all the way to the top of Triglav Peak. Other than having to wear a mask on the gondolas because they’re considered public transportation, it was a very scenic and relaxing way to see the highest peak of the alps.

Lake Bohinj from the gondola en route to Triglav Peak

Triglav selfie

I had a lot of distance left to cover that day so after a few pictures, I was back in the car and heading south.

Less than an hour from Lake Bohinj at the southern tip of the Triglav National Park is the Tolmin Gorge. At an average of 5-10 meters wide and 60 meters deep the Tolmin Gorge is one of the most visited natural attractions in Slovenia.

Much deeper than it looks

These types of gorges are a large part of how some of the caves I’ll tell you about soon are formed. The gorges are so deep and powerful underwater they carve out large caverns in their path.

Future cave

Anyway, continuing on south from Tolmin Gorge along the border between Italy and Slovenia you will find yourself driving parallel to the Soča River. In Italian it is known as the “Isonzo River” so for any World War I history buffs out there, this is the sight of the twelve Battles of Isonzo between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies.

For me, it was just the sight of this quaint little town called Kanal ob Soči.

With the sun falling in the sky and quite a bit of driving left to do, I just had a brief stop there to take a couple of pictures.

From there it was back on the road headed for the Slovenian coastal city of Piran.

Southern Slovenia

It was almost sunset by the time I reached Piran, but I still had just enough daylight to watch the gulls and surrounding cliffs in the final light of the day.

Adriatic sunset

With the little bit of light left, I went to check out the promenade by the water and take some pictures of the town at dusk.

Piran Promenade

By the time the sun disappeared, the full day of driving and hiking had started to catch up to me, so I found the Hotel Piran where I was staying and retired for the night.

I set my alarm the next day to give myself an hour to explore Piran by the day.

Piran by day

Much like the rest of Slovenia, it’s a city with a blend of cultures and influences that you can see reflected everywhere you look.

Town square

After touring the city a bit, I figured now that I was back on the Adriatic I should check out the marina to get ideas for the S.V. Staatenlos.

Sneaky AM boat check

With the Staatenlos in the process of installing a home movie theatre, none of these boats really stood out to me 😛

After checking out of the hotel, I set out to visit Slovenia’s most famous cave called Skocjan Caves. Skocjan is actually the largest known underground cavern in all of Europe, so I couldn’t wait to see it. The cavern is thousands of years old, having been explored originally by a Greek cartographer in the 2nd century BC.

It was formed by the Reka River, which disappears in a gorge near the entrance of the cave and reappears inside the cave itself for a total length of 38 kilometers below ground. If you follow the river far enough, eventually it pools into a massive underground lake called the Dead Lake. Even with a different name, it is quite an eerie feeling to be so far below ground looking at a massive black lake 😛

Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside the cave but I can’t recommend it highly enough. If ever there was a place on Earth that looked like the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings it’s the Skocjan Caves.

One downside was that in Slovenia, caves are considered “indoors” so you are forced to wear a mask. As reluctant as I am to ever wear a mask, Skocjan was definitely worth it.

From Skocjan I headed east to what is considered one of the largest temporary lakes in all of Europe called Lake Cerknica.

Cerknica is sometimes called an “intermittent lake” because it sits on porous limestone that drains into the Earth during the summer and autumn. During the winter, rain and snow cause the holes in the limestone to fill and begin the flood the plain with fresh water.

While I was there the lake was in one of its draining periods, but it was fun to walk around and imagine how big the lake can be during the “filling” seasons.

After Cerknica, I continued northeast on the highway to Slovenia’s second-biggest city called Maribor.

By the way, don’t be afraid to rent a car and spend some extra time on the road in Slovenia. No matter where you are in the country, you’re surrounded by lush green vegetation, tall mountains with rivers, and valleys that make for a pleasant drive.

On the way to Maribor, I had a quick stop in Logar Valley.

Storm moving in…


Logar Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Alps, but unfortunately, I arrived there right as a thunderstorm was brewing.

Calm before the storm

I took a detour off the highway in Logar to see if I could check out the Rinka Waterfall before the weather got too intense.

I had barely snapped this one picture before the lightning began to strike just 30 meters away from me.

There was no one around me who was taller than me, so I figured it would be wise to get back in the car and not stand out like a lightning rod on the hill anymore 😛

With the storm cutting my trip short a bit, I decided to make a stop in the town of Kamnik to have some lunch.

Kamnik is a medieval town about half an hour’s drive north of Ljubljana. It was originally established in the 11th century and served as a trading post on the road from Ljubljana to another Slovenian town called Celje.

One of the oldest towns in Slovenia

I made it to Maribor early in the evening and enjoyed my last Slovenian sunset.

The Siren Song of the S.V. Staatenlos…

The next day I had a short drive back to Ljubljana. My skipper Josh kept sending me pictures of the new equipment that the Staatenlos was being equipped with, so I was starting to get antsy about being back on the boat.

Unfortunately, the last piece of equipment the boat needed had been shipped to Austria instead of Croatia. With just a few days to figure out this dilemma before we set sail, I decided to ask my Facebook friends if anybody would be willing to deliver the part from Austria to Croatia in return for a few all-expense-paid days on the Catamaran. Oh, and if they could pick me up on the way that would be ideal 🙂

My friend Felix and his girlfriend agreed to do it, so I had arranged for them to pick me up in Ljubljana before we continued down to the Croatian port where my boat was waiting.

By the time I got to Ljubljana, I still had about five hours before Felix and his girlfriend would arrive. With that time I decided to take a bus to Postojna Cave.

Looks like a movie set


Postojna is another incredible cavern formation formed over millions of years by the Pivka River.

By the way, this cave has a train and railroad that takes you around 🙂

It’s famous for the intricate display of stalagmites and stalactites that adorn the cave as well as being home to one of my favorite animals, the olm.

Sneaky Olm

Olm’s are one of the largest troglodytes on the planet. If you still have no idea what it is, it’s basically just a cave-dwelling salamander. The fascinating part about them is that they can grow to be over 100 years old and can survive over 10 years without food. They are completely blind like a lot of cave-dwelling creatures but are still sensitive to light.

If they were a little more intimidating, it might make the consideration for my future coat of arms :P. For now, birds of prey and wolves are still at the top of the list.

I finished up at the cave and made it back to Ljubljana just as Felix and his girlfriend were arriving at the city.

From Ljubljana, we drove southeast to the Croatian border. As you know from my previous blogs, Croatia is remaining pretty sane in this hysteria, so getting through the border only took us about 10 minutes.

From there it was smooth sailing to Sibenik where my catamaran was waiting for its maiden voyage 🙂

Read all about it in the next installment of my Croatian Road (and sometimes Sea) Trip.

Until next time…