Some places simply make a little tourist go head over heels for it. On this trip that one place was Slovenia, and especially the first destination there, the Lake Bled area. Slovenia was the one country we almost decided to skip on this trip in order to leave more time to the previous ones. All I can say is thank god we did not do that. As I mentioned earlier, Slovenia was definitely my favorite one of all the four countries we visited. That little, green, and overwhelmingly beautiful country, that is still unknown to the masses, was the last country of our little tour, and the country where we headed to from Vienna. The very first positive feelings about the country I did get already while traveling there once we changed trains in Villach. If the train that we travelled with on the Austrian side was one of those brand new ones, the one we hopped on in Villach was anything but. Before you start thinking of the negative things, stop right there. I’m not talking of the old, smelly, broken seat-type of old train, but more of the kind that you’d expect to see on a 50’s movie. Clean, comfortable, but old. And with very much of this indescribable character. After spending an hour admiring the Slovenian scenery, the little villages and the hills rising above the misty clouds through this train’s windows, we finally arrived to the Lesce Bled station.
The train station lies some 5kms away from the Bled town. Busses do run every now and then between the station and the town, but we decided to skip the waiting and hopped on a taxi. Upon arrival to the hotel, we were delighted to hear that we had, yet again, gotten a free upgrade to a suite. Most often on our trips, we book all the hotels through hotels.com where for every 10 nights, you do get one for free. We have used these reward-nights twice within a year, in Bangkok last winter and now here in Bled, and coincidence or not, on both occasions we have been upgraded. This for sure is a trend I’d love to see continuing.
Our hotel was located just meters from the lake, so once opening the balcony door, a spectacular view opened right in front of our eyes. With a single glimpse we were able to see the lake, the church in the middle of it, as well as the castle on top of a high hill right by the lake. The iconic view of the lake with a little church in the middle of it is probably surprisingly familiar to many, even though not many realize it is from Slovenia, let alone form Bled. Unfortunately the weather was not the best one during our visit, so the picturesque view was slightly less spectacular from what it would’ve been on a sunny day. In theory, everything there is to see in Bled was seen once entering the balcony – the lake, the castle and the church. In this case a hastier person might say “that’s it, what’s the next destination?”.
Despite the clouds, not too bad a view to be seen the first thing you wake up, i’d say.
We had little more than a day booked for the stay in Bled, and also had a good idea of how to spend the time. The first couple of hours were, however, spent over a long lunch for our own convenience. It was pouring with rain and everything we had planned on doing in Bled required being outdoors. Naturally, we had not been prepared with rainproof clothing. It was such a pity that the only destination on our trip that included nothing else but outdoor activities, was also the only one where it rained most of the time. Oh well, as this was probably the biggest “setback” on our trip, I can’t really even complain, especially as we still managed to do almost everything we wanted in there. After the rain eased off, we headed to the path around the lake. The lake is a rather small one, it is only 5kms around it, so one can easily stroll around it in an hour or so. Also, the castle by the lake can be reached with only a 20 minute walk.
At first we thought we’d just walk around the lake, but once walking on the path, we spotted a sign to the castle, stating it is only 15 minutes climb up the stairs. After a weighing the options for around half a second, we decided to make a little detour and check out the views from Castle as well. It ended up taking less than 10 minutes of brisk climbing up the stairs before we were admiring the views. It would’ve been possible to visit the castle on the inside as well, but this time, with a slight overdose of all the castles we had visited in all other cities, we decided to skip this one and continued our way down back to the lakeside path. With some refreshment-breaks included, the tour around the lake took us a few hours and qualified as a really nice evening walk. The path is mainly wide and tarmac-covered, so it can easily be done with a bicycle in case you are in a rush. There are a few restaurants and terraces along the route, as well as a rowing center and a little beach for swimming, so on a nice summer day the whole day can easily be spent walking around the lake.
On the second day, we headed out to the nature, with a visit to the Vintgar Gorge (I will write more about the gorge later), where we spent the whole morning. On the afternoon we had planned on a little rowing trip to see the little church in the lake a little closer. However, once coming back from Vintgar, it started to rain once again, so this idea was soon ditched. Instead, we hopped on a bus towards Ljubljana a little earlier than planned.
What I loved most about Bled, and eventually about all of Slovenia, was how green the nature was. I mean, I do come from Finland, a country with thousands of lakes and endless forests, but it still struck me. Maybe it was partially because we had just visited four big cities, so the contrast was huge after that, but somehow you immediately felt at ease and relaxed once you arrived to the country. Bled itself is a tiny village and a really relaxed one too, so all the anxiety caused by the constant hassle and buzz, caused by lots of people and traffic quickly eased off. I did fall in love with the place hard enough to say that I could easily see myself going there again anytime. Of course, this goes for the whole country, as Ljubljana did not let us down after the high expectations we had formed based on Bled. So yes, if you ask me, Slovenia is so far one of my favorites in Europe at the moment.
Also, I must say that since Bled is only an hour away from Ljubljana, it is definitely a well recommended place to visit, even on only a day trip if an overnight stay is not an option. In just one day it is easily possible to experience the best of Bled, and if you have more time, it is only a bonus.