Great food, deadly treadlies and a beautiful gorge
Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
29Trip End Oct 28, 2009
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Out the front we found the bus and the driver and he said that he would normally leave from the other end of the airport, and that he would be leaving in 20 minutes, so we waited nearby.
After about 15 minutes he suddenly started putting people’s luggage on the bus so we got up to approach him. As fast as we stood up he had shut the luggage bay, got in the bus and started to drive off
So we trekked down to the other end of the airport, put our luggage on board and climbed on, making sure to give him the appropriate dirty look as we boarded.
At the bus station we needed to get the tram, which we found out the front. There was a tram waiting at the stop so I ran over and asked the driver if she was going to the train station. She gave me a very blank look then asked if anyone spoke English. Fortunately a young girl at the front of the tram did, and said that she was going to the train station too and we were on the right tram. I asked her where to get a ticket for the tram, to which she responded ‘you are in Croatia, you don’t need to worry’. Love it.
We got to the train station and purchased our tickets, we had half hour to spare so we went to find some dinner to get rid of the last of our Croatian money – again! We had just enough to get a Panini, a water and a yoghurt each so it was perfect
On the train I told Witek we had about an hour until we got to Bled. We caught the train at 6:15pm so I expected to be in Bled by 7:30pm at the latest. 7:30pm came and went and so when the conductor came around Witek asked him when we would get to Bled. We thought it was probably the next stop, but he laughed our foreign stupidity and showed us the timetable. We were due to arrive at 9:37pm!! Not sure how I got that wrong!
I started to get a bit concerned because we were staying at a family run hotel and I was pretty sure that the reception shut about 8pm. I tried to call them but I couldn’t get through for some reason, so I sent them an email from my phone and crossed my fingers they would see it. I asked them to call me or respond by email to let me know they had received the message.
About an hour later my phone rang, but it was from an Australian number so I ignored it. Afterwards I thought maybe it might have been the hotel and the number had been re-routed through Australia, because who would call from Australia at 3:30am their time?
I checked my emails again and still nothing, there was still no response when we arrived in Bled
We got off the train hoping that there would be a cab out the front of the station straight away, so we wouldn’t waste anymore time. We were looking around for the taxi stand when a man approached me and said ‘you must be Kim, I am Miha’. The man from the hotel had driven to the station to pick us up! He figured if he just sat at the hotel and waited for us to get a cab then he could be waiting a while, so he figured it was better for everyone if he just came and got us! We were so relieved and so happy! He was truly a lovely person.
At the hotel he showed us to our room and gave us all the information we needed. He told us there was a restaurant next door that was very good and open until 11pm so we could go there if we were hungry. We were hungry even though we ate, it was a small dinner and it was almost five hours ago now!
Our hotel was situated in a little cul-de-sac with two other small hotels. There were some other little side streets leading off of it with little apartments and houses too, but essentially it was a very quiet spot and had a very ‘country’ feel to it.
The hotel next door had a cosy little restaurant with two great waiters. We had no idea what to expect but the menu was great. Our eyes had grown bigger than our bellies again so we each had a soup and a main course. I had a bean soup which was delicious and Witek had mushroom soup which was also awesome.
The mains were just as good, I had a venison goulash and Witek a kind of dumpling dish. It wasn’t too expensive for what it was either, though I think that over time in Europe our perception of expensive is changing! Initially we would compare prices to what they would be in Australia but that gets too depressing. I think we’ve just accepted that Europe is expensive now and base our opinions on value comparing prices between European countries. The food we had here we would have paid 50-60 euro for in some places, but here it was 30 euro which included a large pint of beer each too. The best part was it was all fantastic!
Obviously after this we were off to bed after what had ended up being a huge day. We potted about for a bit with the TV and internet before tucking in our full bellies and going to sleep.
Day 2 – Friday 2nd October – We decided to get bikes today and go for a ride around the lake and then out to see this gorge that we had been told was very beautiful
After breakfast we went to the bike shed and got organised and set off. We stopped at the office of a tour company that did canyoning and white water rafting and things like that, just to check it out. Witek was keen to do canyoning but I couldn’t think of anything worse that jumping into freezing water! We left our decision for now though and we said we would decide at the end of the day.
We went for a ride around the lake and we wanted to also hire a row boat and go out to the island in the middle of the lake, but it seemed like all the hire places were shut today. It was still a gorgeous ride as it is coming into autumn here so all the leaves are starting to change colour and it just looks beautiful. It was a bit overcast but it was a comfortable day.
My problems with my bike started here. One of my pedals had cracked down the middle and kept coming loose. Witek fixed it for me as best he could but I had to be very careful not to put my foot on the wrong side of it or it would just fall loose again. It was a bit annoying but not worth going back to get it fixed
We stopped for lunch at a little pizzeria which was also very cheap – bonus! Again, we found ourselves watching a tennis match during lunch. This time a Polish girl was playing and she was doing all right. Unlike in Lucerne we did actually have things to do today so we didn’t repeat our performance from the Swiss restaurant! We left her to it and Googled the result later – she lost.
We set off for the gorge after this. I had read that there was a walking and bike path but I think we missed it somehow because the signs we followed took us on the road for most of the way.
Just over halfway there we were going up a hill and I tried to change to a lower gear than the low gear I was already in, when suddenly my chain just had enough and completely snapped! I was going nowhere!
We flipped the bike upside down and Witek started to fiddle with it. Using some stomping methods he did actually manage to get the chain back together, but then realised that he now couldn’t get it on the bike! He needed to put it together while it was on the bike, no stomping on it possible.
We had no tools and we needed to get the cover off using a screwdriver, fortunately I had an Aussie 5 cent piece in my purse that was the perfect size
We could hear noise coming from the house nearby so Witek suggested that I go and see if anyone there had some tools we could use. I walked up the driveway and found a few guys who looked like builders and a cement mixer. This had to be a good sign! I asked if anyone spoke English? No. I commenced hand signals like hammering and drilling but got nowhere. One of the guys signalled for me to follow him and he went in search of someone who I assume could speak English. Meanwhile Witek is yelling all these Polish words over the fence for different types of tools in the hope that one of them might get a hit and be the same in Slovenian! No luck.
Eventually I just signalled for this guy to follow me out to the road and I pointed at Witek and the upside down bike. Enough said! He sent one of the guys out with tools in hand and he and Witek go the chain back on and ready to go! Very happy, I was having these images go through my head of me rolling back in to town with hand firmly pressed on the brakes!
Off we went and I was so happy to have the bike fixed, I was very proud of Witek
We got to the top of this hill and were heading down the other side when I noticed a sign directing us to the right to get to the gorge. There was a car behind me so I slowed down and stuck my right hand out to indicate. At this exact moment my chain locked up, my front wheel stopped moving, and my back wheel lifted up and threw me straight over the handlebars!
You know when you fall and it happens really quickly, but it feels like it takes forever? That is what this was like, I felt like I flew through the air forever but it all took just a second!
I landed hand, elbow and chest first on the bitumen in front of me. Fortunately I had just put my jumper back on when we ‘fixed’ the chain (I now use that term loosely!) so that saved me any serious gashes to my arms. My hand was a bit of a mess though, and so was one of my elbows. The seat had also collected my inner thigh on its way through and that spot later would turn into a bruise consisting of a lovely rainbow of purples.
Still on the ground I determined I had no serious injury and so of course the laughter kicked in
Witek came and lifted the bike off of me and we collected a couple of pieces of bike that had scattered on the road before we finally got out of the way. We couldn’t stop laughing, it must have been an hilarious sight!
We had used all the tissues to clean the oil from the chain off of Witek’s hands so I had to clean up with a dirty tissue I found in my pocket, nice.
Witek insisted on riding my girl’s bike after he had fixed the chain as he was worried about it seizing up on me again. I didn’t want to ride his boys bike though and I argued unsuccessfully that he was no more protected from the consequences of dodgy chains than me! He wouldn’t have a bar of it so I had to ride the stupid boys bike, I guess it’s better than a death trap though
We recommenced our ride which was actually only another ten minutes or so, but it was all downhill so we took it VERY slowly! We didn’t want anymore chain accidents!
At the entrance to the gorge there is a ticket box and there was a man and woman, who seemed to be husband and wife, running it. They signalled quite badly to us where to leave our bikes and were obviously annoyed when we didn’t understand. We got it worked out eventually and bought our tickets.
We used the amenities before starting our walk. I needed to clean myself up properly and Witek needed to get all the oil off of his hands. The man from out the front was now down there cleaning the toilets and he waited out the front for us to finish. I saw him watching me so I made sure I only took one piece of paper towel as I know some places are a bit funny about how much you use. Witek didn’t think of this though and he was in a bit more mess than me so he took a good helping of towels. When he went back for a second lot, this guy literally dove on the towel dispenser shouting ‘no!’ Witek’s startled face was priceless!
Anyway, we finally head off on this walk through the gorge. It reminded me a lot of the rainforest in North Queensland, the scenery was probably some of the most beautiful we have seen in Europe. The little waterfalls along the creek looked like they could be plastered straight on the front of a postcard. We marvelled at the wooden walkways and bridges throughout the gorge that looked like they had been built many, many years ago yet were still standing strong. We watched the fish trying to swim upstream and managing only to stop from floating off in the current. It was just a peaceful and relaxing place to be and you could really just sit there all day and enjoy it.
We got to the end of the walkways and found a large waterfall which we had to go downstairs to view. It was pretty but I think the gorge itself was more beautiful.
As I said, we could have sat there all day but it was about 5pm by now and the last thing I wanted was to get stuck in the middle of the Slovenian countryside with a broken chain after dark, so we walked back to the entrance and collected our bikes for the trip back.
We walked out bikes back up the hill and then jumped on once we knew we would be safe! We were fortunate to stumble across the actual bike track on the way back so that cut our travel time substantially.
Back at our hotel we returned the death trap and the other bike, making sure we let the owner know about the standard of the equipment he was handing out
Back out our room I voiced my opinion on the weather and made a promise to Witek that we would plan a trip to the Blue Mountains with Donna and Josh to do canyoning very soon – in SUMMER! So Donna and Josh – you have been warned!!
He reluctantly agreed and we spent some time in our room just being lazy. I needed time to recover from my traumatic experience earlier that day after all! Witek got wrapped up in a movie on the MGM channel and I set myself up on the balcony with a glass of wine and potted around on the internet and did some blogging.
While on the internet I did some research on Trip Advisor on where to eat in Bled and actually found that the place next door that we had gone to last night was rated second in the town! We figured since we were on to a good thing and it was so close, may as well stick with it!
We got there at about 8:30pm and so it was still a bit busy and we had to wait a few minutes for a table, but they got us seated very quickly. Once again we experienced great service and fantastic food at a reasonable price. No complaints at all! And the best part was that once we were full of food, beer and wine, we only had about 100m to wander back to our room
After dinner I wanted to actually upload some of these I had been typing up on trains and planes so we went to the common room of the hotel so Witek could pot about on the hotel’s internet and I could use the WIFI at the same time on our lappy. They also had an ‘honesty bar’ where you could help yourself to the bar and just leave an IOU in the bar to be added to your room bill. Very good!
We stayed there until about 2am when we were finally struggling to stay awake and somehow managed to stagger back to our room and climb into bed.
Day 3 – Saturday 3rd October – We slept in today given our late night and completely missed breakfast. We didn’t leave our hotel until about 11:30am!
We decided to leave the deadly treadlies behind today and make our way on foot to the downhill summer toboggan, the castle and perhaps get hold of one of those rowboats! We figured it was Saturday so they should be up and running.
Seeing as we had missed breakfast we made our first stop one of the restaurants near the lake so that we could have a feed. We found a nice place serving lots of different foods as well as the famous Bled cake!
While we were in Bled there were signs everywhere inviting everyone to come to the lakeside restaurant on the 10th of October to celebrate the ten millionth Bled Cake. I have no idea how they propose that they kept track of this! But still, we thought it our duty to sample one while we were there so we ordered one to share for dessert.
When it came out we discovered that it was basically a vanilla slice with a slightly different pastry and a bit of cream. It was very yummy! I’m glad we gave it a go!
We walked up to the castle after lunch and once again we had a massive climb ahead of us. The castle is atop a hill overlooking the lake and the town and once we arrived at the street leading up to it we had at least a 400 metre climb uphill. It seemed to go forever! I kept hoping one of the cars going past would take pity on us and stop to offer a lift, but no such luck
Once at the castle we had a look at the view to decide if we wanted to pay the entrance fee to see the view from the top. It looked pretty good and I didn’t want to waste our climb so we decided to go in.
It was a pretty stock standard castle. Inside the gates there was a courtyard with a restaurant attached and also a museum. The view was pretty amazing though, that alone was worth the climb.
We ventured into the museum and we actually found it really interesting. We were on a bit of a time budget as we still wanted to do the tobogganing and the rowing, but we kept getting held up learning about the history of Bled! I never expected to like it so much! They had a lot of displays of ancient jewellery and tools and some stuff dated back tens of thousands of years.
We eventually dragged ourselves away and made our way out of the castle. On our way out however, we came across a sign saying ‘wine cellar’. Well, you know we just had to go in!
Inside we found a man who can only be described as a merry monk! Well, he wasn’t a real monk, he was a castle employee in monk’s clothing, but he was very funny! He couldn’t stop talking and joking. When he found out we were from Australia he exclaimed ‘Oh, Australia! I had another Australian here a while ago! You know this Jennifer Hawkins? She makes TV show? I felt very bad for her as she has no money and obviously a very poor girl, she couldn’t afford enough clothes
He proceeded to show us the wines that they had from the area and then showed us a couple of wines that you could put together yourself. He explained ‘I am a very lazy monk, you must fill the bottle with wine, put in the cork, put on the wax and label yourself. Then once you have done all this work, you must pay me!’
We got so caught up in his enthusiasm and good mood we decided to do it, so I did all the work, then we paid him! It was good fun! Believe it or not we still haven’t opened the bottle to I will have to let you know later what it is like.
It was time to find the summer tobogganing after this so we made our way downhill from the castle. As with most places we go we found a quicker way to get back than the way we got there, but nevermind!
All throughout the trip we have been seeing chestnuts on the ground and every time Witek sees them he tells me that they used to cook them and eat them in Poland and that we must try them one day
Well, today was our lucky day! Near the lake there was a man who had heated and was selling chestnuts by the bag. Of course we had to get some and though I was doubtful that they would taste any good, they actually did! Sort of like a big, soft, unsalted cashew is the best way I can describe it. Very tasty!
Chestnuts in hand we walked around the lake and found the summer tobogganing. They have a chairlift to take you to the top, and then they have little toboggans attached to a rail that takes you down the hill.
We bought our tickets and hopped on the chairlift, I was very brave once again! After all this flying and cable cars, chairlifts are no trouble at all anymore!
At the top we spent a minute to admire the view before we went and got in the toboggans. Witek went first because I assumed he would go much faster than me and I didn’t want to get in his way. They strapped him in and he was on his way.
My turn. They strapped me, my handbag and my monk wine into the toboggan and showed me the accelerator, and more importantly the brake, and I was off!
It starts off kind of slowly and then it takes a dive downhill, all along the way there are signs saying BRAKE and you do take notice.
The whole ride probably only lasts about a minute but it is great fun
We went and found a hire place for the rowboats after this to hire one to take out to the island. We paid the guy 13 euro for one hour and set off. It turned out that only one person could row, so of course that person was me. Nah! Witek did it! We would probably still be out there if it had been up to me! I did say in the beginning that we could swap halfway, but once we got going neither of us really wanted to stand up and move around in this little rowboat!
We did start hearing some watery noises halfway across which sounded a little like water entering the boat and had me strategising how I would swim to shore while keeping the camera above my head, but it was all ok!
Witek did a really good job of rowing while I navigated. I was very efficient and direct with my steering instructions! I needed to feel useful, he was working up a sweat while I just sat there! He had his back to the front of the boat so my directions were actually important.
It took us about twenty minutes to get out to the island though I am sure that it felt much longer to Witek!
At the island we parked the boat and climbed out. The island is only about 100 metres wide so it didn’t take very long to explore. There is a small coffee shop, a small gallery/museum and a church. The church is probably the most interesting. We looked in the window and checked it out but you had to pay to get in so we didn’t go inside. As mentioned previously we are somewhat over churches so paying to go in seemed a little silly.
One thing we did notice about this church was that people (tourists!) were able to ring the bell once inside. There was a rope hanging in the middle of the church and anyone can ring it at their leisure. On our way to the island I did think the clock bells were chiming a little too regularly! This explained it. Interestingly we never heard it from the ‘mainland’ so that must be why they let people do it – it would probably get quite annoying for the locals otherwise. Reminds me of Damme in Belgium where I actually saw at least five locals shut their windows before the clock chimed midday there!
We only had about half an hour to spare on the island as the guy had told us to be back by 6pm, so we got a light beer to share (yes, a light beer!) and an icecream each and sat on the balcony of the coffee shop to admire the view.
We rowed (Ok, Witek rowed) back to the mooring after this and we made it in fantastic time, very proud of him once again! We got out of the boat and said thanks to the guy. He was looking at his watch and then at us a little expectantly and I was a little curious as to why. The boats were 13 euro to hire for an hour and 8 euros for every hour or part thereof after that. We took the boat at about 4:40pm and he yelled at us as we pulled away to be back by 6pm. We understood that meant that since he shut at 6pm he couldn’t rent it out to anyone else and as we had already paid we could keep it the extra 20 minutes at no charge.
Apparently not, he wanted his extra 8 euros. This is about $15 Australian which I wasn’t about to give him for what ended up being an extra 15 minutes that we thought we had for free. I got my back up straight away as I am now used to having issues with people who don’t speak English. Yes, my fault not theirs, but it doesn’t make it any easier
Fortunately once I explained quite firmly that we would have had the boat back within an hour had he not told us to have it back by 6pm, he was apologetic and didn’t charge us. I felt a little bad though as it was obviously a misunderstanding so I hope he didn’t get in trouble.
We went for a bit of a walk after this to suss out other possible options for dinner and also to work out where and when to catch our bus to the train station in the morning. Our train to Vienna came at about 10am so we wanted to make sure we were organised.
We ran around from travel agent to bus station to travel agent trying to organise a bus or taxi without success. The bus either left at 7am or 11am because it was a Sunday, neither were an ideal option! Since it was so late neither of the travel agents we approached could organise taxis (a lot of travel agents are also taxi companies in Bled). We decided to go back to our hotel and see if our mate could organise a taxi for us instead.
Turned out to be no problem at all
We went back to our room to relax for a little bit again after this. We had decided to eat next door again seeing as we were on to such a good thing, so we weren’t in too much of a rush.
We wandered over there at about 8pm and again the tables were full. We were practically regulars by now so we were treated to a glass of some type of blueberry liqueur while we waited for a table this time. Both waiters chatted to us as they buzzed passed and promised us that we wouldn’t have to wait long.
They were right and we had a table within five or ten minutes. Once again we received fantastic service and on an even friendlier level now that we were familiar. These guys were fantastic and made sure we were looked after. Our glasses were never empty and our food arrived very promptly.
When we finished our meal our waiter asked if we wanted any dessert. We were both full so we asked for a flute of their local spirits to try
After we were done we realised we hadn’t seen our waiter for a while and that we were the only ones left in the restaurant. We waited a little longer then decided to venture out to the bar to see if we could settle our bill there.
Here we found our waiter busy cleaning up and talking to two German girls. We wandered over and asked if we could pay. While he organised our bill we got chatting with him and the two German girls. Once we paid we kept chatting and before we knew it the waiter was pouring us glass after glass of this blackberry liqueur for free! I think he was bored while he cleaned up behind the bar so as long as he kept pouring us all drinks we stayed and kept him entertained!
It turned out well though, these girls were really nice, they had been travelling around Slovenia and had some great stories. We stayed there at the bar for at least another hour or so chatting to the German girls and our waiter. It was actually really good fun
Day 4 – Sunday 5th October – We were up and ready for our taxi on time and actually had breakfast and found ourselves waiting for him before our pick up time! Very impressive!
Our driver was chatty and really nice and got us to the station with plenty of time. Lucky too! Once we got there we found that the ticket office didn’t open until 1pm seeing as it was Sunday! One of the locals told us we could get tickets on the train but I had no cash, only Visa and we assumed that they probably wouldn’t have Visa on the train.
We had half hour until our train arrived and so we set off up the street in search of an ATM. At the end of the street we found a couple of locals so I asked them for directions to a ‘Bankomat’ seeing as ‘ATM’ draws blank or confused stares in most of Europe
They directed us to the nearest bank which was fortunately only a few minutes away. I threw my card in and tried to take out money unsuccessfully three times before realising that this particular bank did not accept Visa! First time we ever came across this!
We noticed another couple behind us with backpacks and we figured they were in the same situation as us, so we let them know that they had better have Maestro cards. They didn’t. We left them to it and sped off on foot towards a supermarket we had seen earlier in the hope that they would let us take cash out on Visa (unlikely) or that they had an ATM there.
We were walking briskly when the guy from this couple overtook us at a RUN! We had backpacks on! It was warm! And he was RUNNING! Amazing.
Anyway, we all got to the supermarket and there was no ATM, we went to a register and asked about cash out on Visa and unsurprisingly they said ‘no’ but they did give us directions to another ATM on ‘the other side of the train station about 100 metres’
We all ran out (yes, even Witek and I) as we only had about 15 minutes left before our train came. At the station I said to Witek to drop his bag and follow the other guy to the ATM while I watched the bags. I figured that he was quicker with more endurance than me so it would work better that way.
I stood at the edge of the station on the road and alternately watched my watch and the road for signs of Witek. The time ticked over and we were down to ten minutes, seven, five, three, then with one minute to go and as the actual train pulled into the station I saw him! I looked at him and asked thumbs down or thumbs up? Thumbs down was his response!! But he signalled me to just get on the train so I grabbed as much luggage as I could and started running. He was right behind me and picked up the remaining luggage and we both climbed on as he explained that the second ATM was for the same bank and didn’t accept Visa either! We had to just get on the train and take our chances. I made sure we sat with our friends in the same situation though, in the hope that if there was trouble we would present a united front!
There was also another older couple from New Zealand we had got chatting to that said they would help us out if we got in trouble so that was comforting
While we sat with our new found friends in our cabin and waited for the inevitable arrival of the conductor, we got chatting. They were living in the UK, both from Brisbane. They knew each other in Brissy but it never became apparent throughout our journey whether they were actually a couple or not. They had an air of ‘we don’t really know what we are’ about them if you know what I mean?
The boys were both very sweaty from their run so I was very glad our leg on this train was only an hour – it could have got stinky otherwise!
Anyway, the conductor eventually arrived and asked for our tickets. We told him we didn’t have any and needed to buy them but that we didn’t have much cash, would he accept Visa?
We all held our breath and exhaled and the response came ‘yes’. It got even better. Turned out Witek and I could only buy our ticket to the next stop on this train and would have to buy the ticket to Vienna at the next station. Our fare to the next station? Five euro between us – which I easily covered with the coin in my purse! Turned out the boys had worked up a sweat for nothing! Nevermind, we weren’t to know!