Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Vegan in Slovenia: Ljubljana and Beyond

If you've ever seen a picture of Lake Bled online you might be thinking "wow, there's no way that it can be as beautiful as it looks" but it can and it is! I was lucky enough to spend a few nights camping there before heading to the Punk Rock Holiday festival. I swam. I walked. I hiked. I took far too many photos. It was a blast. 

One of the best things about Lake Bled is that despite it being one of Europe's more popular, not to mention beautiful, tourist attractions it really wasn't all that busy. There's a super easy to navigate path running the whole circumference of the lake, about 6km, and then there are some more challenging trails just off of that.

Our campsite choice for this adventure was Camping Bled mainly because it's the only campsite in the area. It's fantastically located right by the lake though and there's a little jetty, a beach bar & cafe and a shop right there. The shop was stocked with a surprisingly large amount of vegan products including Joya yoghurts and milkshakes as well as soya milk, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, pulses, legumes, rice cakes etc. 

One afternoon we took one of the more challenging trails from the southwest corner of the lake up to the Osojnica viewpoint which was described in our copy of Lonely Planet as a short but steep climb which I almost agree with, it sure was steep but I'm not so sure about the short part. At times it was incredibly steep but there were more mellow patches and the the view down to the lake and the island makes it so worth it. On the route Nick and I took you caught glimpses of the lake the whole way up, it was wonderful.

I enjoyed a Clif bar when we stopped at the top! I'm addicted to the Crunchy Peanut Butter version, it's one of the only kinds I buy now because they can't confirm that their chocolate isn't sourced from child slaves in west Africa so that means no more choc chip for me. I was also super irritated to discover that the banana bread flavour contains chocolate chips because I really wanted to try it. I use The Food Empowerment Project's list to check out my chocolate and whilst I'm not perfect at only eating chocolate based things from the good list I am trying my hardest.

After our time exploring Lake Bled Nick and I headed to Slovenia's capital city Ljubljana to meet up with Tabitha, one of my BFF's, who we were going to the Punk Rock Holiday festival with. If you haven't checked out my blog post about that already you can read about the ups and downs of the fest' here

Despite being a capital city Ljubljana is one of the more peaceful places I've visited on this trip. Tabitha treated us to a couple of night's in an Air B&B because she's too nice and also because she cares more about being able to shower the morning before heading to a festival for five days than we do. When we drove into the city late-ish on a Saturday night I was sure that we must be in the wrong place or at least staying on the outskirts of town because whilst I wouldn't call the streets deserted they were so empty. It felt strange! 

Because I've taught her well Tabitha used the map function on Happy Cow when picking out the Air B&B (aren't vegan friends the best?) which meant that we were an easy ten minute walk from 100% vegan restaurant Nyama. We rocked up for breakfast and ordered smoothies and sandwiches which is a great way to begin any day especially because with your sandwich order you get not one but two sandwiches!

I went for a classic combo of Cheese and Ham whilst Nick went for a more breakfasty (or so he claims) Peanut Butter and Banana. These were such a great start to the day, I need to get my shit together and make breakfast sandwiches more often. Usually I'm not functional enough to make a sandwich until I've eaten which leaves me in a tough spot when it comes to the breakfast sandwich! One of the best things to do after such an epic breakfast is to head out and walk all over a new city so that's exactly what we did.

The streets were definitely busier that day as we made our way around the city's main tourist attractions but not a whole lot busier, not the kind of busy I've come to expect from a capital city in the height of summer. We explored the castle, made Tabitha take her first selfie, checked out numerous dragon based statues, drank radler (okay, that was only me), wrote postcards and walked through all of the city centre streets and over all of the city's bridges. We had a super fun afternoon.

Does every single city with a bridge have one of these now? I suspect so!

We decided that as we'd enjoyed the food, friendly service and convenient location so much at breakfast that we'd head back to Nyama for a late lunch. The great menu also factored into our decision making, we were so tempted by so many things when we were there at breakfast time that we kinda had to go back! I chose the carbonara because in my mind it is pretty much the perfect meal. Pasta, creamy sauce, faux ham and a few veggies for colour / decoration. 

It wasn't the best carbonara I've ever had, I use a helluva lot more cream in mine, but it was filling and tasty and I definitely enjoyed it. Nick also rated his curry and Tabitha her mushroom stroganoff with polenta both of which certainly looked great. After some maxing and relaxing at the Air B&B our stomachs started rumbling again and as we were situated within a reasonable distance of the city's main Loving Hut we headed there for some more food.

As it was late in the day they were out of a lot of the menu items we were excited about so we settled upon hot dogs and burgers. These didn't seem like the most exciting choices especially as we knew we'd be eating a whole lot of burgers over the next week but these are always solid options right?

Well lemme tell you that the cheeseburger was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. I've literally never been more pleased that a restaurant was out of everything I actually wanted to eat! I'm actually still upset that Nick and I were sharing both things and I only got to eat half of one of the best burgers in the world. I wouldn't recommend the hot dog because it comes with salad (nooooo!) and also I just told you that the cheeseburger is one of the best I've ever eaten so if you don't order it you're basically an idiot.

I decided to take a punt on dessert too as the burger thing had worked out so well and I choose something that I normally hate, tiramisu. My dessert nemesis! People are always shocked when I tell them that I hate tiramisu but I don't like coffee or rum or, normally, cream so it's not super surprising that this dessert is usually low down my must eat list. It also usually contains some kinda cream cheese which is a flavour that I hate in sweet food, like, seriously detest. Never make me cheesecake. I'm not kidding. Anyway, as I was on some kinda cheeseburger high I thought what the hell, let's give this one a whirl and holy wow. I thought that it was so perfect that I suspect you'd hate it if you like traditional tiramisu.

It was Speculoos Tiramisu (something else I also usually dislike... well, I like the biscuits themselves but strongly dislike the spread) and it was neither overly sweet nor cheesy. It was just a very light and airy whipped cream (I'd guess it was rice based) in-between two slices of speculoos flavoured cake topped with a mix of sweetened cocoa powder and speculoos crumbs. It was perfect. If I could have fitted in two I definitely would have.

As well as having the one of the best cheeseburgers ever and the only tiramisu I've ever liked this branch of LH has a fridge stocked with vegan meats and cheeses (get some VioLife slices and any of the frankly enormous Uzená sausages) and it's right by both the train and bus stations making it the perfect place to grab some take out if you're travelling around Europe by train.

After out brief sojourn in Ljubljana it was time to hit the road and head for Tolmin to spend a week hanging out in a field by a river listening to ear shatteringly loud punk rock. We were excited and raring to go but we needed to stock the van up with food just in case the festival's vegan options were lacking / expensive. We hit up the Mercator supermarket close to Ljubljana airport and found one of the best stocked selections of vegan food we'd seen in any European supermarket. 

As well as there being accidentally vegan items dotted all around the store there was also a huge refrigerated section full of vegetarian and vegan products. We loaded up a basket with crackers, tofu, seitan steaks, seitan burgers, freshly squeezed juices, chocolate puddings, soya yoghurts, garlic bake rolls (imagine a snackable garlic toast!), Manner wafers, Pom Bears, savoury spreads, margarine, peanut butter and even a brand of Radler made with vegan Union beer. As an aside I use the Vegaholic app to check out which types of alcohol are vegan - it has all of the info stored offline so you don't need a wifi connection or 3G to scope out the list. You can check out all of Barnivore's recommended app's here to find the right one for your device. 

As I mentioned already I wrote a whole blog post about Punk Rock Holiday but it was basically a whole week of watching bands, reading by the van, chowing down on ridiculously delicious tofu burgers and hanging with my homies. Good times. Mostly.

Read this book!

Beauty tip: Haven't washed your hair for five days? Throw on a bandana!

Whatever your reasons; punk rock, a love of beautiful scenery, a desire to explore a city that isn't stuffed full of tourists, I would highly recommend heading to Slovenia. It might be a small country but it's packed full of so much natural beauty that it's almost unbelievable. I kinda want to move there just so that I can wander around marvelling at how gorgeous everything is whilst eating tiramisu!


  1. I always think that I love tiramisu, then I remember that I hate things with coffee in them so actually and I don't like alcohol (unless it is in something cooked so the alcohol has been cooked out of it), so actually I don't love tiramisu. But by then it is too late and I am already eating it. I recently made a chai-based tiramisu and left out the alcohol, which still wouldn't be any good for you because it was full of Tofutti cream cheese, but which was much more to my tastes!

  2. I hate coffee (as in the hot beverage) but love coffee flavoured stuff. Glad you had an awesome burger, I love our two different Loving Huts here in Melbourne and am a little obsessed with Loving Hut menus around the world. But hotdog with salad, yikes.

  3. Looks like a great time! I tried to go to a Loving Hut once in Atlanta (Memphis doesn't have one), but we couldn't find it! Just drove around and around where it was supposed to be but didn't see it. Even called it for better directions and still couldn't locate. Oh well. Now, I know, if I do ever make it to one, to get the burger.

  4. Hehe "Joya Soya" made me giggle. I would love to visit Slovenia one day, it looks so beautiful.

  5. Thank you for the chocolate list link! Something to share at work!

  6. Everything about this post is amazing! I hope I get to see all these wonderful places one day, reading your blog is making me sooooo travel-hungry!

  7. Lake Bled looks stunning - we're hoping to go there next year, glad to see there's plenty of vegan goodness in the general vicinity!

  8. I'm so happy you are documenting all of this for us! I love reading your posts! This summer we went to Costa Rica for the first time and I felt super adventurous, perhaps in part due to reading all about how you and nick are so adventurous and being that way makes it so easy to have a better time. I blogged about it recently! I also am happy you told me about Food Empowerment Project's App to find out which chocolates are using irresponsibly sourced chocolate! It's such a big issue that people ignore! And thanks for the tip on the bandana ;) It'll come in handy for sure !

  9. Wow the food, view and mountains looks so damn good! I will visit Slovenia!


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