Chilling by the lake

Trip Start Jul 23, 2007
Trip End Aug 23, 2007

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Exhausted, I dozed on the bus on the way Bled, arriving an hour and a half later. I decide to go in search of private accommodation instead of staying in the hostel near the bus station, so walk down to the tourist information centre, who promptly tell me 'Bled is full'. I do wish people wouldn't say that, it sounds so definitive that there isn't even a single room anywhere available in the whole town. Needless to say, I eventally hear about a B&B a bit further around the lake, which is perfect. I get a single room (much better than a dorm as I lost one of my earplugs on the train to Zagreb), and a big continental breakfast every morning for 26 euros. I'd set my limit at 25, but I think I can stretch an extra 60p. In the evening I go into town to research all the different activities you can do here- canyoning, paragliding and horse riding all appeal. I didn't realise that Bled is the main rowing lake in Slovenia, so not only do they hold national and international events here, but there are people out on the lake every morning and evening- I want to go rowing again! There are several agencies in town, I don't really know the differences between them, but end up booking an hours horse riding for tomorrow afternoon- I hope the weather holds out! I go in search of dinner, a particular fish restaurant in mind, but am disappointed to find the prices are back up Croatia-style, so settle for peanuts and muesli in my room.

The next morning is overcast and chilly, so I don jeans and a jumper, not realising how hot it would get later! At the last minute I decide to catch the bus to the Vintgar Gorge, a natural gorge discovered at the end of the 19th Century. It's beautiful and very like Northern Europe, with wooden walkways constructed around the side of the gorge so you can walk right down the middle. Again, beautiful but packed. There were 5 coach loads of people there, along with various cars, and I found myself pushing pasts clusters of Italians. But once I got past a group of people and could almost pretend I was there alone, it was great. At the end of the gorge, I decide to follow a sign uphill to a village, to see if I can find a way back to Bled, but decide against it as I don't have a map or even an incling of which direction it is! I do manage to show a German family the way back down to the gorge however, who had found the small entrance a bit tricky to find, so feel my hike up was not in vain.

I walked down to look at supposedly a great waterfall, but it was more of a drizzle because it was the summer! As I came back up, I spotted some signs for Bled, so decided to walk back rather than catch the bus back from the other side of the gorge. Along the way, I met an elderly English couple, who were doing the same walk and had instructions. As it happened, it was very well signposted, but it was nice to talk to someone while I walked! Even though it was only a 20 minute hike to the nearest village, it was through Triglav National Park, so I feel I've done as much hiking as I can in the NP considering I only have flip flops! I left the couple when we reached the first village, and walked for about 45 minutes down a hill through Alpine villages and past high corn fields back to Bled- I could definitely have been in Austria or Switzerland! The sun had come out by then, and was getting very hot. Somewhat regretting the jeans at this point. The road entered Bled near the castle, so I climbed the steep hill up there. I didn't realise until I was coming back down quite how high above the lake I must have already been- I only had to climb about 5 minutes, but if I had been walking up from the lake it would have taken me at least 20minutes, so I'd definitely recommend my route!

As my reward for my morning hikes, I bought the traditional Slovenian Cream cake that Bled is famous for, and sat with incredible panoramic views over the lake and the mountains of Slovenia. Probably the most expensive place I could have bought it, but it was worth it for the view! Bled castle is really nice, they've kept it a lot more traditional than Ljubliana, although they charge you to get in.

They have a printing works with a replica of Gutenberg's original printing press. Not quite sure why, as he was in Germany at the time, but apparently the castle is from the same time period, so they thought it'd make a nice addition! I had a bit of a chat with the guide working there, as I knew so much about Gutenberg (ahem) from last year at uni. They also had a wine cellar, with a man dressed up as a monk (?!) who let me try some of the wines. Very nice, but I thought i'd be paying a premium for buying from the castle, so he told me the wines actually come from a place near Nova Gorica, where I have to go to get to Venice anyway, so I might try and get some then. I walked down the very very steep hill to the lake, past all the weary people hiking up, and joined the other holiday makers strolling around the lake in the sunshine.

It takes probably a couple of hours to walk round the lake, all on well maintained paths or roads. Ocassionally a horsedrawn carriage will glide past you, but rarely do you see a car. It was warm enough for people to swim in the lake, and several were swimmng to 'the only island in Slovenia' in the centre. I never made it in the end, as I had to get back for horse riding, and the rest of my time in Bled was too cold, but it looked nice from the banks of the lake. One problem I had when leaving was the location of the train station. It is on the far East side, an hours walk from the main centre, and nearly the opposite side of the lake from where I was staying. As I was passing, I climbed up to see how far it was. Taxi it is, then.

I got back to my room just in time to change and trot (no pun intended) up to the activity agency in town where I was being picked up for horse riding. Despite arriving a few minutes late, and well out of breath, I still had to wait a while until the guide came to pick me up and took me to the stables just outside of town. It was just a Scottish girl and me on the hour long horse ride, which took us through the Slovenian countryside, under some very low branches, and past huge corn fields as the sun set over the hills. At my request (and because the Scottish girl was quite good), we tried to canter- I think I need a bit more practice! I was bumping all over the place and as always, my horse was a bit reluctant to get going. Trotting was OK and cantering was fun but I'm glad we didn't do it all the way! Back at the activity agency, I asked for a recommendation of where to go for dinner, but when I arrived there, it seemed like it was THE place to recommend... packed, I was left hovering by the door, no mention of 'how can I help' or 'you'll have to wait for a table' even. I think the staff were understandably stressed with all the people! Eventually I sat down to wait in the bar, having been told that I couldn't eat there, and someone came over to take my order. I picked some random Croatian dish off the menu (no translation) and crossed my fingers... turned out to be goulash and new potatoes, which was perfect as just as I was eating, the heavens opened outside and the rain battered down. Now I was in a bit of a pickle. I had worn my one pair of non-flip flop shoes to go horseriding, but they really aren't suited for wet weather! Hand-made, with the stiches coming apart on the soles, they would be soaked through in minutes. So I decided the best option would be to go bare foot. Walking back through Bled, who knows what the holiday-makers thought, sitting in their posh restaurant overlooking the lake, as a strange girl walks along the road, splashing in the puddles, barefoot, icecream in hand.
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