Bled is straight out of a fairy tale with a lake sitting as a foot rest for the tall Julian Alps, with a medieval castle hanging on its cliff side and a perfect gateway to the region that has so much to offer. The bus ride from Ljubljana to Bled was a mere one and a half hours and the tickets could be bought on the bus itself.
At Bled, one can choose to either walk or cycle around the 3.5 miles circumference of the lake, take a ride to the island, hike up the castle or to sit on a dock and dip your feet in water and feed the lake’s resident swans who are marked with token numbers on their feet (their passports)! Anywhere you go, the views here are postcard picture perfect.
In the Center of the lake, stands a tiny island which can be accessed by traditional Pletna boats, which are the very symbol of lake bled. The cost of the boats is about 12 Euros per person and while access to the island is free, the church on the island, which is the main attraction, has an additional charge of 6 euros. The church is a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess of love and fertility. The known tradition is for the man to carry his beloved (or whichever way u prefer) over 99 steps to reach the top to prove his love.
We skipped the island for shortage of time (and muscle power) and instead hiked up the hill to the castle. Our easy hike was rewarded by the stunning views of the Lake, the Island and the surrounding mountains cape. There was a little medieval fair which was organized for a school group at the base of the castle where an intro into castle life was given by spending time in the royal tents, eating char-grilled food while listening to the local songs of glory to the king (and the queen of course we all know how important she is after GOT) and by experiencing some first-hand swordsmanship. Nikhil and I joined the party for a while but left soon after as we realized that we were the only adults having so much fun at the kiddy carnival!
The view from the top of the castle is stunning and I assure you that you will take a zillion pictures of the valley and the little island from all the angles possible! After exhausting all our efforts into becoming first time pros at photography, we rewarded ourselves with some latte and a local delicacy called Kremna rezina which is a cream cake layered with vanilla custard between sheets of delicate crispy pastry. This cake is not to be missed while here and the fresh hints of vanilla with cream surely made my day.
The castle exhibits a blacksmith shop and printing press where local artisans proudly display their craft. Here lots of people, inspired by Game of Thrones, buy iron replicas of handmade dragon shaped candle holder, which if you believe the craftsman, flickers its tail and wings as the candle shines in the dark.
The Museum at the Castle gives a basic overview of Bled, its origins and also displays some artifacts from earlier times. Nothing spectacular!
After the hike and the beautiful walk around the lake, we set out on our adventure to the Vintgar Gorge. This picturesque mile long gorge is created by the river Ravdona cutting sharply through the forest sprouting into thousands of waterfalls and streams. We rented our bicycle from town and set out. The ride up is pretty easy. However, to our misfortune and thanks to confusing sign boards, the 2.5 mile and usually a 30 minutes bike ride turned out to be a two-hour fiasco, with me missing the sign boards, getting lost and actually hitting the highway on the countryside. Another biker came to my rescue and after biking for over 8 miles, directed me to my right path. I was only too relieved to be back with Nikhil, where after keeping all sign boards in sight, we set out towards the marvelous gorge. The gorge was worth all the trouble and rewarded us with its spectacular views. At the gorge, the water was so clear that you could easily see the fish, the plants and the stones underneath. A high stone footbridge sat over a dam and from where water gushed at high velocity into the river, which was a very refreshing experience.
On descending to Lake Bled, we had our Lunch at Pizzeria Rustika in the Old Town which offered our comfort food- wood fired pizza and fresh Union beer. The upper balcony set out great views and was a perfect way to end our day.
All in all, Lake bled and the surrounding area is very beautiful and a trip to Slovenia is incomplete without a visit here.
We learnt from the bike rental guy that one could head out to the Alps/ Triglav National Park for various adventure sports and also spend time at the beautiful Soca river valley and at Lake Bohinj, which we, for our unfortunate lack of knowledge, missed! My dear friend, Bhavita Modi, an avid traveller and a lawyer by profession, covered the beautiful Lake Bohinj, Piran and the Triglav region and has written a guest post which can be accessed at https://raaheinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/lake-bohinj-and-the-mighty-mountains-of-triglav/ .