I don’t know how I ended up in Slovenia. It didn’t exist on my radar nor did I have any idea what was there. Simply through a series of off hand remarks from friends with visiting intentions, to the sporadic images gracing blogs and the allure of ‘cheap’ as the budget dwindles did I find myself bound here, or in the general direction at least; (a series of incorrect train bookings and midnight panic somehow got me on the right track and most stunning train ride from Vienna eventually). Dare I say, my Tasmanian expectations for lakes are quite high, and I tentatively believed such exclamations of beauty that were thrown regarding Bled. They all manifested as truth, Lake Bled is picture perfect and a stunning escape from the cities that provide the regular backpacker trail, and grow increasingly exhausting.
Slovenia forms a part of the Balkan countries. It didn’t fit any of the stereotypes my mind had drummed up; the population unwaveringly friendly and with fantastic English it’s a very easy place to be (I was however right in assuming the meat heavy, veg unfriendly diet).
Bled can be found in northwestern Slovenia. A small town, more frequently populated by tourists than locals, it does adhere to the ‘touristy’ stereotype. It does however provide pure bliss, with fresh air and endless mountains the only real downside is the very real danger of getting stuck here a few days to long.
The obvious attraction is the lake. Stretching over 1.45km2 it makes for and easy 90 minute walk around. The water remains seemingly untouched, with crystal clear clarity proving far too inviting to not swim, even in the chilly autumn temperatures. It’s undoubtably the reason 1 week on I’m suffering (and annoying the hell out of my dorm room friends) from an unshakeable cold. It was worth it. The autumn dances colour across the surrounding mountains, as green turns to yellow, and yellow turns to brown. Undoubtably this lake would prove spectacular year round but I can’t shake the feeling that autumn is when it’s in full glory.
Within the lake sits Bled Island, a small treasure home to The Church of Assumption; a church on a hill on the island in the lake, (it’s almost as if they did not wish people to actually make it to church..) You can get here various ways, none better than teaming up with a young hunk to row you and your girl crew there and back (and for only €12 split 4 ways it also provides the most economical). You can also join one of the ferry boats that take a group over, giving you 30 minutes on the island to explore. Summer lends itself to the option of swimming and a cool winter opens up the option of walking across the frozen lake.
Only a short distance away do you find Vintgar Gorge, an aqua blue ribbon running through the surrounding walls of rock. It’s a stunning 1.6km trail along boardwalk wrapped around the gorge walls finishing at the Šum Falls, a small but impressive waterfall. Again, I can’t compare again any other time of year but autumn throws off some spectacular colour contrasts.
In the surrounding region you’ll find alpine mountains, charming villages and the worthy day trip to Lake Bohinj, Slovenia’s largest glacial lake. It’s a beautiful and easy hike around, and either an easy hike to the Savika Waterfall, or a slightly more calf defining hike up the various mountain trails.
Aside from this grab a bike and cycle some of the most outstanding roads around. Mountain after mountain, village after village. After all the (rudely uncommon exercise) grab a slice of the famed ‘Bled Cake’ to get some energy back in.