lake bled

dober dan! i can’t believe i haven’t told you about the rest of my full week in slovenia yet. i spent four nights in ljubljana soaking in all of those good vibes and day tripping to a sweet cave and a fantastic little town on the adriatic sea. but it was time for (what i thought was going to be) some lake-side relaxation. for that, we headed north on a easy seventy minute bus ride to bled, slovenia.
bled, bled, bled. i had heard so much about you… maybe too much!

we arrived in early afternoon and pitched our tent at the campground. yeah, there’s likely only one campground. even if there’s another, this is the only one that matters. it’s a great site near the lake with good facilities (um, free wifi anywhere onsite!) nestled in a valley to the west of the lake, not so far from the train station bled jezero. but because we’re kind of crazy people, we like to bring our gear with us and camp on foot– no RV or car required (which always confuses the front desk people). half of why we camp is because we (i especially) adore being outdoors as much as possible in the summer. the other half is so we can afford to have other fancy things during the trip (coming up in the next post!).

so more on bled. bled is beautiful. it’s the most famous lake in slovenia and slovenia’s only lake with an island in the middle. which is actually a natural island, not man-made– it used to be the site of a slavic pagan temple in pre-medieval ages before the christians tore than down and built the church that’s there today. the other star feature of this lake area is a lovely castle on the hill that was built it, get this, the year 1005. with these sites and the julian alps in the background, the whole area is a bit of a photographer’s dream.

there’s a town, but it ain’t no hallstatt. in fact, just don’t compare this lake or town to hallstatt at all. (austria is magic!) that’s not to say i didn’t find it an enjoyable experience, but i’m going to be real with you. for some reason i thought my time in bled was going to be some sort of life-changing travel experience. and what it was was hanging out around a nice lake. it wasn’t the most beautiful lake i’ve ever seen, but it is a nice place to spend your time and bled is definitely worth a visit.

a leisurely wander on the path around the lake is a wonderful activity, and you might wonder about the island in the middle. it looks so quaint and adorable! there’s a church with 99 steps and a wishing bell! and there are rowboats and pletnas all over the place, the latter being a beautifully-crafted boat that comes with a centuries old tradition: the locals have been building these boats and taking people out to the lake on them for so long that it felt wrong to not participate in this custom. and fun fact: all pletna owners are part of a pletna union in which they pool together and split all of their earnings, so they don’t have to compete against one another. driven by a single standing oarsmen, for €12 per head, he’ll happily take you to the island for a half-hour stay. so i had to do it.

it was a lot of fun hanging out on the tiny island (i probably could’ve used thirty minutes more) but i should’ve realized the island thing is a huge tourist trap. i wanted to ring the wishing bell like everyone else, and realized it was located in the church that they were charging entry for. NO THANKS. really, people are paying €3 for the privilege to ring the wishing bell, and i was not down with that.

there is a really great gift shop (with a tiny post office to send postcards from the island), and ice-cream stand, and a lot of benches to enjoy the atmosphere…. but i think i would rather look at the island from afar.

(below, i’ve got 99 stairs and no problems)

the church containing the wishing bell i’ve called into question (below)

our days were pretty full taking great day-trips (which i’ll write about next time), so it wasn’t the lazy, relaxing sort of camping holiday like i had in hallstatt. we had no chairs or tables at our campsite (booo) but i did manage to have a picnic or two when the grass was actually dry. i think june is a bit of a rainy month in northern slovenia (however, go south and that’s a completely different story) so we definitely bore the brunt of a couple storms.

night two we knew a BIG storm was rolling in. to prepare, we secured the tent from 8:30pm on and prepared for the worst. what did happen was about five hours of pouring rain and thunderstorms. i’ve never heard thunder rumble so hard as i heard sleeping in a tent in a valley near the julian alps in bled, slovenia. obviously tents offer no noise protection, but thunder in a valley?! it gave a new meaning to “and the mountains echoed”, if you know what i mean. i had to put in ear-plugs. i am so happy to report that our tiny, cheap-ass little tent held up better than we ever could have expected: NO water got through. in the morning, we christened her “the rampart”. i’m so glad i actually like sleeping in a tent, ‘cause i think it easily could have been someone else’s worst nightmare.

a few of my favorite bled memories were watching world cup matches: one lake-side, and the other from a cozy pub with a fantastic castle view. slovenia and its visitors really seemed to care about the cup and it was fun to watch alongside such an international crowd.

i also loved my last night in bled experience: dining at a restaurant paul mccartney has visited and loved (that’s all i needed to know) followed by eating kremšnita (famous bled cream cake) on a lovely restaurant terrace below the castle at dusk.

it was when i most appreciated lake bled: when the sky dimmed and the hills turned to black, casting a dark shadow over the lake. it made me think of home in the san juan islands so much. so thank you, bled. you gave me warm, cozy feelings.