I had been planning one big European adventure before moving back to America. Switzerland has been on my bucket list since I studied abroad in 2011. I had also recently become enamored with the beauty of Slovenia. It was obvious to me that these two countries were next on my “to-do” list. This trip was also my first European road trip, which added to the excitement. My fiancé Kuba and I rented a car and ended up driving 2,566 km (nearly 1,600 miles) throughout the 9-day trip. We visited Zurich, Lucerne, and Grindelwald in Switzerland and Ljubljana, Lake Bled, Postojna Caves, and Predjama Castle in Slovenia.
Although we only spent one day in Zurich, it was a great introduction to Switzerland. Because we explored Zurich on a Sunday, most of the shops were unfortunately closed (which we weren’t aware of before –oops!). But we did get to have a peaceful afternoon of exploring on foot. A few of my favorite spots in Zurich were Old Town and Lindenhofplatz, which provides a perfect scenic view of Zurich city.
Our next stop was Lucerne, Switzerland, about a 40-minute drive from Zurich. We stayed in Lucerne for 3 days. The small city was quite enchanting. From eclectic buildings to Old Town and Lake Lucerne, the city did not disappoint. On our first day in Lucerne, Kuba and I hopped on a lake cruise. It provided us with a nice introduction to the city and did not skimp on mountain views. More personal favorites of mine included: Old Town, Hof Church, and Chapel Bridge, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe. Lucerne is an extremely walkable city and can be done almost entirely on foot. The well-preserved Old Town took me back in time.
After enjoying a few laidback days in Lucerne, Kuba and I headed to the heart of the Swiss Alps. The village of Grindelwald is about an hour and a half drive from Lucerne. The short drive was a maze of twists, turns, and sudden drop-offs (needless to say, Kuba was our driver). Entering the Swiss Alps was nothing short of magical. Our quaint hotel, Hotel Blumisalp, felt as if it was smack dab in the center of the Alps. Although a bit outside Grindelwald’s center, the old hotel had an authentic vibe and unbeatable views. After settling into our hotel, Kuba and I caught a bus to the center of Grindelwald where we purchased our tickets for the Grindelwald-First lift up to the First summit. The gondola ride to the very top took approx. 25 minutes (with options to get off at three different stops). Being moderately afraid of heights, I have to say that the gondola ride was a bit daunting. Once we finally reached the top, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The Alps were nothing short of extraordinary. We were so high up that it felt as if you could reach out and touch the mountaintop.
After enjoying an outdoor lunch, Kuba and I headed for a 6km hike to Bachalpsee Lake. During my research prior to the trip, this hike was described as “easy”. The hike had many hills and twists that proved to be more challenging than we’d initially thought. We ended up stopping on more than one occasion to rest and were glad that we’d brought a giant bottle of water. Although it was definitely not an easy stroll, the reward at the end was more than worth the pain in my thighs. Once we finally reached the glacial lake of Bachalpsee, our efforts had paid off. The gorgeous lake reflected the Swiss Alps and the scene nearly took my breath away. There were few people around and cows roaming about, all adding to the surreal experience. We lingered a bit and took in the view for about 20 minutes before returning to First and catching the last gondola ride of the day back to the village. Although we only spent 24 hours in the village of Grindelwald, it’s a special memory that I won’t soon forget.
After a long night’s sleep, we awoke the next morning and geared up for an 8 and a half hour drive to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Once we finally made it safely to Slovenia’s capital city, we spent the evening and entire next day exploring the small city of Ljubljana. Another walkable city, Kuba and I spent most of our time exploring Old Town, Triple Bridge, and Ljubljana Castle. We even took part in a guided tour of the history of Ljubljana Castle and were greeted with characters in costume. The castle tower also provides an awesome panoramic view of the city. Ljubljana is very green and the Old Town is car-free, making it super easy to stroll about. This often overlooked capital city, in my opinion, is well worth the visit.
The final part of our trip consisted of a few day trips from Ljubljana. Firstly, we made our way to the famous Lake Bled, Slovenia. Although the weather refused to cooperate with us on that particular day, Lake Bled’s beauty was undeniable despite the gloomy rain. Kuba and I took a small boat to the island in the middle of the lake to see the castle. We climbed the 99 steps up to the castle and paid a small fee to enter. The views were incredible and we even got to sign our names in the castle guestbook. Although we had originally planned on checking out Vintgar Gorge afterward, the rain proved to be a huge damper on our plans (pun intended). Instead, Kuba and I called it a day and returned to Ljubljana to relax at our Airbnb apartment.
The final day of our trip brought us to Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle in Slovenia. The Postojna Caves has a railway system inside that you can ride, bringing you to the beginning of a guided walking tour. A train ride in a cave? Yes, please! Throughout the tour, we entered a series of tunnels and passages as we admired stalactites and stalagmites. After our 90-minute guided cave tour, we took a shuttle bus to Predjama Castle (about 10-15 minutes away). Predjama Castle is the oldest castle cave in the world. Kuba and I followed an audioguide tour throughout the castle to learn about its history and check out the views from the top. We spent about an hour and a half touring the inside and making our way up and down many steps. By the end of the day, we were happy and exhausted and felt accomplished. This marked the end of our 9-day trip and we were eager to sleep in our own bed again. This road trip took a ton of planning and research, and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.