31.06.15 – 02.06.15
I’d urge anyone and everyone to go to Slovenia as soon as they can, to experience it before it gets completely over run with tourists. There’s definitely a strong tourism industry, but you can tell it’s the kind of place that is going to attract more and more visitors each year, as an much more economic alternative to other picturesque places such as Austria and Switzerland.
After spending another fairly average night at the Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, the next morning we catch a 9.30am bus to Lake Bled, where we’ll be spending the next two nights. My expectations are quite high, as we’ve met a lot of people along the way who say it was stunning, as well as a few friends back home who’ve said the same thing.
Lake Bled is only about an hour away on the bus from the capital Ljubljana, so after getting off the bus and walking uphill a bit, we arrive at Castle Hostel just before 11am. The place seems cool, and super cheap as well –only €9.99 per night for a bed. They also have an amazing terrace; which gives you an amazing panoramic view across the town and rolling hills in the background –but unfortunately for us the weather today is quite overcast and chilly, so we can’t see too much. In a dorm is Simon from Perth as well, we do a Facebook search to see if we have mutual friends, but we don’t –which is surprising for Perth.
After relaxing and making lunch at the hostel, we decide to walk down to the famous lake. The weather has started lift, but there’s still enough cloud and mist around to make the lake seem even more magical. I’ve never seen water like it, and it’s so eerily still –the whole scene feels like it’s straight out of Harry Potter or Narnia. You can see straight to the bottom, and see schools of fish from metres away. You can walk the total circumference of the lake and it would take you about an hour and a half.
On the walk back to Castle Hostel, we decide to treat ourselves and sample the local sweet speciality, the cream cake. In theory it sounds delicious, vanilla cream topped with whipped cream and sandwiched between two layers of crispy, buttery pastry, but I honestly found it a little underwhelming! It was similar to an Aussie vanilla slice, but not really as good? It was difficult to eat and there was just too much cream –even though it is called a cream cake. At least we can say that tried it though, and it wasn’t bad by any means!
To walk off all the fatty cream we just consumed, later in the afternoon when the weather has near completely cleared up we walk the trail up towards the castle overlooking the town, lake and surrounds. A worker at our hostel recommended us not to pay the expensive entrance to the castle, but rather take a sharp right before the entrance and there is a small path leading uphill to another, equally as impressive, lookout spot –plus you don’t have to pay a cent. We hit a little bit of a snag when we arrived though, as it seems there is some construction work going on at the base of the castle, which means the small path has been blocked and cordoned off. In the spirit of adventure we stealthily dash under a small gap and make our way uphill. The path eventually finished and opens up into a natural viewing point, with unbelievable views across Bled. It was well worth saving some euros and sneaky through a construction site for.
Dinner tonight we ate at a local pizzeria Rustika, recommended to us by Castle Hostel, where we incidentally also get 10% off because of being guests, sweet. We were lucky enough to get possibly the best table of the outdoor area, in the corner overlooking the endless rooftops of the town. The pizzas were great too, a really big selection and much cheaper than buying a pizza in Milan where we just came from –only €7 on average for a big pizza.
Our next day in Bled is the big one. Probably our biggest spend on any activity throughout these two and a half months, but knowing all along that it would be worth it. We’re up at 7am to get ready to be picked up at 8am by Triglav Adventures, who are taking us on an Emerald River Tour. It costs €110 each, but it goes from 8am to 8pm and also includes white water rafting down the Soca River. So the day was truly jam-packed with countless driving, hiking, photo ops and more. We started off in Bled, hearing some it’s fairy tale myths to match the fairy tale landscapes, before heading up the mountains around narrow, winding roads; which our guide Luka seemed to know inside and out. Later on, we hiked –literally- along rock faces holding onto only a wire in order to reach the start of the Soca River. A small yet terrifyingly deep mouth awaited us, where crystal clear emerald water spilled out at our feet. Interestingly, the true source of this river is still not known, divers have gone down into the cave but still cannot find the origin.
I was slightly nervous about the white water rafting, but the sort of nervous I was before the caving in Budapest –I knew I’d end up doing it, but I somehow still manage to freak myself out. I’m just so afraid of falling out, hitting a rock, and then watching the raft float away, not being able to turn around to come and get me. Rational, no? Anyway, after stopping for lunch in quaint Bovec we’re well on our way to the rafting site. After donning an outfit rivalling the attractiveness of the caving get up, my wetsuit, helmet and I are ready to go. Also the fact that our instructor had a very, very thick accent did not do much to quell my fears as he went through all the safety instructions with many blank faces looking back at him.
The rafting turned out to be one of the biggest highlights of the day, and no one fell out, yay! The rapids (only level three) were not as scary as I imagined, and the parts where we weren’t in the rapids but floating peacefully along the river, gazing down at the crystal clear water and up at the mountains above us were surreal. My personal favourite was when our guide Enrico pulled us over onto some rocks, told us to get out, then went to flip the raft and told us we now had our own personal waterslide! At first we thought he was joking, but he was most definitely not. The next 20 minutes of sliding down and jumping off the raft into the water were so much fun, and suddenly I was very thankful for the dorky wetsuit because even with it on, the water still had a strong chill to it!
Another high point of the day was visiting a few different waterfalls, and even getting the chance to swim amongst one. Only a handful of us were brave enough though, as this time we didn’t have the luxury of wetsuits. It was worth it though, the chance to swim in the pristine and peaceful waters of Slovenia is not something I’m sure I’ll get to do again. Daniel was one step braver than me though, being only one of two people to jump from a bridge 12m high into the river below. Way too high for me!
The day ended with catching a car-train with a beer in hand, and then watching the sunset in Bohinjska Bistrica before being dropped back at our hostel, feeling completely exhausted and still shivering a bit from the cold waters. Considering we only had two days in Bled, I would hands down recommend doing this tour in order to maximise your time. The maximum number of people in your group will only be 16, so it’s also a really personable and intimate tour. The company is called Triglav Adventures, http://www.3glav-adventures.com/bovec.html
So while it was only another short stop, I’m happy with the time we spent in Bled. I only wish maybe we’d have booked a few more days so we could keep exploring! But alas not this time.
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