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Report 866: Castles, Caves and Cablecars

By wendy lynn from California, U.S.A., Spring 2005

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Page 7 of 16: Bled and Lake Bohinj

photo by Wendy

Julia at Vintgar Gorge near Bled, Slovenia

We began our first full day in Slovenia. Before breakfast, Alex and Joe explored our surroundings. The tractors in the yard were a continuing source of joy and fascination, especially the one missing a wheel. They also went walking in the field where the horses and cows were grazing. Joe got shocked by the electric fence despite his best efforts.

Joe and Alex found the Psnak family mill a few kilometers down the road. The water in the stream was crystal clear and ran over a white limestone bed, giving it an amazingly turquoise hue. We would eventually see this phenomenon almost everywhere we visited in Slovenia, but it never grew old.

Breakfast was pretty good. Homemade smoked sausage, pickled bell peppers, some sort of red pepper relish, cheese, butter (two kinds), house honey, jam and a few other things. And, the kicker, Turkish coffee. So far, Slovenia definitely seemed to be a cross between Germanic and Slavic cultures.

After breakfast, off to Bled. The guidebooks really talked up this townís picturesque castle and lake. The lake has a small island where a Baroque church is located. First stop was the gradóBled Castle. Built upon a granite bluff, it was pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the weather was somewhat hazy and overcast, diminishing the views somewhat.

We and another tourist then hired a Slovenian guy to row us to the island. This whole episode was not so appealing as the rower made us wait for what seemed like a long time in the off chance that he might get another passenger. He didn't. Our guide didnít seem particularly happy to be there, but did make some effort to answer questions. We learned that Slovenia is famous for its rowers. Julia was pleased to make a positive connection with our fellow traveler, a talkative woman from Texas.

The island was quite beautiful, but it was small and there wasn't much to do there. It was heartening to see that the water clarity was excellent. The kids enjoyed ringing the bell in the Church on the island (the locals must get sick of this). We learned later from Tanja that they used to charge people just to put their feet on the island and then extra to ring the bell. I guess we could be grateful that the policy has changed. Bled was indeed quite pretty, but after the buildup and having just come from Salzburg, we felt that it didnít quite live up to our expectations.

Joe hit the closest Bankomat for tolars because it had become clear that in Bled, everything was a better deal if you pay in tolars. It was a bit offputting considering that Slovenia is officially in the EU, but it wasn't that much extra trouble.

After the island, we stopped at the place the Lonely Planet book recommended for lunch (Gostilna Pri Planicu). Perhaps we made a mistake ordering off the menu, but the place seemed to have become a little spoiled by an steady stream of tourists. Took us two hours to get out of there after an acceptable lunch of meat. Large platters of meat is a common meal in Slovenia it seems.

After Bled, we rushed to Lake Bohinj (before it got dark) to see the Savica Waterfalls. The signs warned that we would have to pay a toll to get in, but there was no one there to take our money. Not surprisingly, after we climbed what seemed like 10,000 steps to the waterfall, we found the gate closed! We are starting to question Lonely Planet which claimed that at this time of the year we had another hour before closing. The good part was supposed to be the cave from which the falls spring, which we couldnít see from our vantage. Nonetheless, the walk was pleasant, following the river with smaller falls here and there, and the main falls were pretty dramatic with the trademark turquoise water. Along the way, we saw only one other group hiking up while we were there and only a few more on our return. No groups of Nordic walkers here.

After, Alex and Mom played in a playground while Julia and Dad played in the rocks by the river. Julia stepped one foot in the water. Joe found a football but returned it to its rightful owner after risking his life to retrieve it.

Worthy of note were the forests nearby: not only for their stunning fall colors, but also for the giant granite boulders strewn about. Considering the sheer rock faces thousands of feet up on each side, we could imagine where they came from. We returned home with another view of Lake Bohinj, which was beautiful, but it was starting to get dark. We hit a drive-thru bakery on the way home and bought some cookies. (The kids didnít like them, but Joe sure did!)

For dinner we asked Tanja for a couple of smoked sausages and some bread to take up to our apartment. Alex cried when Joe cut off his sausage supply; we thought he might get sick from all of the fat and salt.

We ended the day feeling that we had seen a lot of interesting things, but that Slovenia was not everything we had hoped for in terms of being an unspoiled paradise.

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