Published on July 25th, 20174
Skipping Through the Balkans: #3 Slovenia – Lake Bled
First of all – let’s get one thing straight: That wondrous sunrise image above is NOT my photographic handiwork (yeah, in my DREAMS!) Rather, it is a CC0 Public Domain photo apparently snapped by a 52 yr. old lad from Germany by the name of Olle August W. (though Pixabay assures me “no attribution required”). Hat’s off to Olle – bravo!
Nosireee – my own best image of that iconic little island amid Lake Bled isn’t nearly so jaw-dropping:
But still… a nice way to start this post…
After a quick peek at Germany and Austria, it was time to head into the main squeeze of my marathon quest: a slice of the Balkan countries. But first, it might prove helpful to give you a glimpse of the overall geography I planned to skip through.
“The Balkan Peninsula, or the Balkans, is a peninsula and a cultural area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe with various and disputed borders. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea.”
It was difficult to find a map with a definitive array of “Balkan” countries. Some excluded Slovenia along with both Greece and Turkey (as the map above does), while some maps include all of these as part of “The Balkans”.
In any case, though I’d drooled over exploring Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, etc. (and came very close to heading through Albania and Macedonia en route to Turkey) suffice – even with 6 weeks, I had to necessarily shave off a bunch and pretty much settle for but a handful of the “Western Balkans” (including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzagovina, and Montenegro. I also allotted a goodly number of nights to explore Turkey which is sometimes included in the “Balkans”. But suffice: I started with Slovenia and… INSTANTLY fell in LOVE!
I also was ready to slow down a bit from the initial frenzied pace of Munich, Hallstatt and Salzburg. And furthermore – having learned my lesson (the hard way) in Hallstatt – you can bet that I thereafter made sure I pre-booked a room in advance of my next stop.
And for Lake Bled, I really lucked out: (Guest House Jožica) a great little private room just steps from the lake, with speedy wifi (the #1 must-have!), shared kitchen, a washing machine, and a lovely roof-top terrace with a view of the famous Lake Bled “castle”. All this for < 26€ per night (~$30).
Indeed, after a week on the lam, it was actually a pleasure to be able to wash out a few clothes and hang them to dry on the rooftop with a spectacular view of “The Castle”
And speaking of “The Castle”, I did trudge my way all the way up to it, and got some nice aerial views of the lake – including this sweet panorama:
Plus the (*thousand year old*) castle also offered a most interesting interactive historical print shop (said to be where the first-ever Slovenian book was printed in 1550) where – for a sum – you could print out your own page (with lead letters on handmade paper) on a reconstructed wooden Gutenberg press. I declined, but marveled at the process and took loads of pics.
Nearby, sits the much younger (1905), but nonetheless beautiful Parish Church of St. Martin – the interior of which contains a plethora of magnificent frescoes painted in 1930 by the Prešeren Award-winning artist Slavko Pengov. In the “Last Supper”, the artist represented Judas Iscariot using the figure of Lenin!
Naturally, I took a traditional “pletna” boat (which are hand-rowed by a generations-long line of “Pletnarstvos”) out to the famous island where I tip-toed up the 99 steps to the Lady of the Assumption church (built in 1465). And another afternoon I enjoyed a (most informative) free walking tour around the lake.
And you just KNEW I’d have to grab a geocache (or two) in Slovenia, yes? This one an easy find – cleverly hidden beneath the papers between 3 standing logs in the cozy lounge of the Triglav National Park (Slovenia’s *only* NP) information center.
And on my final night in Lake Bled, I treated myself to an authentic Slovenian dinner at one of the oldest restaurants in town.
Yummm – SAUERKRAUT!
Oh, and one short anecdotal “small world” story: Whilst shopping for groceries (btw, I so love to have access to a kitchen with my travel digs, so I have the option to cook for myself and not *have* to eat out every blessed meal when I’m on the trail)…
ANYWAY, whilst shopping for groceries at the nearby Bled shopping mart, I happened to be toting one of my beloved cloth purses, intricately hand-embroidered by the Hill Tribe lasses in Laos. As I waited to pay at the check-out stand, a youngish woman waiting behind me suddenly asked: “Where did you get that purse?” Turns out, she’s FROM Laos and thus easily recognized the unique stitchery!
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