International TravelThings I LoveThings You Should KnowWining/Dining


**This is the third in a series of posts.  Previous post is here.

What does “+” mean?  Shorthand for adding a plus 1 or additional stop, not on the original itinerary.  I like to call it “an audible,” and love having the ability to change course!  First, Bratislava.

The capital city of Slovakia is just an hour from Vienna, at the western boundary of the country. After leaving Vienna, one goes east or right for Bratislava or the other direction for Budapest.  Things are that close. It is a very pretty city located on the Danube seen below. Fortunately, the rain stopped in time for a walk to dinner in the older part of town (we are in a modern hotel on the waterfront).

Because one never knows who one might meet at dinner, we had a fun encounter with a young man who in a roundabout manner shared that he works in sports.  “Doing what?”  This ex-military person (and Black Belt) is an integral part of the security team traveling worldwide with an international sports icon.  My lips are further sealed, but my inquiring nature found out that he is indeed armed in certain countries and has needed to be so at times.

Above, the lovely area by the restaurant.  Below, tuna tartare (delish)

Originally our plan was for two nights.  Two factors interceded:  One night is sufficient; but, more importantly, a magnificent retreat in the Julian Alps was highly recommended to us, at least for a meal.  So why not spend a night instead.  And that’s how the “audible” came about.

The name is Chalet Sofija. It is just over the border into Slovenia and in it’s second year of existence, but more like years in the making.  Essentially an incredibly hospitable couple — Pope & Aleksandra — invite you into their home.  But what a home.   Miraculously built on top of a mountain, there are 5 beautiful suites, a spa and an outdoor pool.  Then there is the most inviting living room to enjoy after a sumptious dinner cooked (by Pope) in the open kitchen.  Every single detail, from the walk-in showers to the outdoor balconies, to the high-tech lighting, artwork, finishes is meticulously designed.  And the panoramic views are everywhere.

Getting to Chalet Sofiji is not for the faint of heart.  This is the road.

This view — from the terrace with the pool & spa

Our accommodations seen in next two photos.  Complete blackout shades operate from a tablet. 

Pope is a well-known restauranteur in Ljubjlana, who couldn’t envision retiring. Thus Chalet Sofija (named for his mother) came about.  The consummate hosts, along with their pup Tracy, cannot do enough for their guests.  Our 5-hour drive from Bratislava was worth every minute.  How fortunate to be able to deviate from the original itinerary with this incredible stay.

Above, master chef Pope has four simple but crucial steps to producing the most delicious steak ever.  (Room temperature meat; sizzling pan; short cooking time; transfer to hot cast iron plate to slice).  

The dinner below counterclockwise:  Classic Slovenian salad; crispy artichoke with a breaded/perfectly cooked egg on top;  the perfect red for dinner; risotto with hen & squash; that ribeye garnished with pear, walnut & balsamic.  Amazing.  

Below, Chef/Host Pope with his beloved Tracy in front of his wine collection.  He is a longtime sommelier.

Aleksandra waking up the strawberry beds in antipation of warmer weather.  Pope will plant a large vegetable & herb garden soon

In the underground garage — no worries about the car here!  

After departing the Chalet, it was on to the rest of our planned time in Slovenia.  Certainly seeing Lake Bled, a jewel in Slovenia, was a high priority.  Just 90 minutes from the Ljubljana where we next stayed (view from our hotel below), it is totally understandable why it is a must-see spot with a good bit of history. 

Dinner in Ljubljana was at Pope’s restaurant now operated by his son.  Golstina AS dishes below on the lighter side with salad, sea bass, the other bottle of Pinot from our hotel GM in Vienna and Panna Cotta with plum sauce.  

Two different views of gorgeous Lake Bled

After Lake Bled, we dipped a toe into Italy with a brief stop in Trieste.  It took us longer to find that miniscule parking place than it did to eat lunch.  But still a fun stop.

I did love this rental car — a Cupra Leon from Volkswagon.  It had barely any kilometers on it.  Fabulous navigation system, although I could live without the reminders.  “Drive in the center of the lane.”  “Take your foot off the pedal.” A bit nosy if you ask me, but a great and fun car to drive.

Next up — on to Belgrade, Serbia.



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