There's something positively mystical about Lake Bled, tucked away in the Julian Alps in northwest Slovenia. Having just come from the capital city of Ljubljana, I'm already finding myself a little bit in love with this gem of a country, and Lake Bled only serves to solidify my infatuation.
I arrive in the quaint town of Bled via bus and make my way up to the Jazz Hostel, which is about a five minute walk from the main part of town. The second I arrive I'm greeted by the hostel's energetic owner, Jani. He immediately makes me feel at home and proves to be one of the highlights of my stay there. In addition to the welcoming atmosphere, the hostel is clean and well cared for. All in all, I'm quite happy with my choice of lodgings!
After getting settled in, I take a stroll down the hill to do some exploring. The lake itself is relatively small and you can easily do a lap of it in just over an hour by foot. A picturesque pathway winds its way around the lake and makes for a very pleasant stroll.
Positioned in the middle of Lake Bled is a minuscule island with a charming 17th century church perched on top of it. Tradition states that it's good luck for a groom to carry his new bride up the 98 stone steps and ring the church bell whilst making a wish (word of warning: do not attempt this maneuver after a heavy breakfast). Pletna boats (which resemble large gondolas) are available to take you to and from the island. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can rent your very own rowboat.
Situated atop the hillside next to the lake is Blejski Grad, otherwise known as Bled Castle. It's the oldest castle in Slovenia and also serves as one of Slovenia's most-visited tourist attractions. The hike up to the top can be a bit strenuous, but the spectacular views once you're up there are reward enough for your hard work.
If a weekend of lake-strolling and kremsnite consumption (Bled's signature dessert: a vanilla and custard cream cake) sounds too mellow for you, there's plenty to keep you occupied in the surrounding area. After reading several positive reviews, I opt for the 3glav Emerald River Adventure Tour. It's a full-on 12 hour day in which you hike, swim, and explore your way through the impressive Julian Alps and Triglav National Park.
The highlight of the tour is when we try our hands at white water rafting (a first but definitely not last for me) down the Soča River. Our rafting guide's name is Fabian, though his washboard abs and shaggy hair are more Fabio than anything. I have a feeling that all of the women in the group (and probably even some of the men) are smitten with him, until he suddenly insists on a safety drill and orders us all out of the raft and into the FREEZING river. As the icy chill of the water hits me in the chest and renders me unable to breathe for a good ten seconds, I make a mental note to never book a white water rafting trip in late September again.
At one point, we pull off to the side of the river, flip the raft upside down and use it as a makeshift slide. When my turn comes, I tentatively inch my way down the raft, gripping with my toes to keep myself from sliding down too quickly. Suddenly, I feel something around my ankle. With one foul swoop, Fabian latches onto my ankle, gives it a yank, and I go screaming headfirst into the water. Graceful it is not.
After our rafting excursion, we stop off in Most na Soči for the chance to hurl ourselves off a 40 foot (12 meter) bridge. This is as far as I get before utter panic sets in:
Our epic day of adventuring ends with a train ride through the mountains. Being the nerd I am, I find the novelty of sitting in a car which is perched atop a moving train to be utterly thrilling. At one point we go through a pitch-black tunnel for the duration of about 7 minutes, during which time my group attempts to silently switch seats with each other without our tour guide noticing. The result is a loud jumble of twisted legs and butting heads, but it's good fun nonetheless.
As our 12-hour day of adventure comes to a close, exhaustion hits and it's all we can do to eat dinner and make it up the hill to our hostel. Tomorrow I'll need to catch a bus back to Ljubljana and make my way home to London. I'll be sad to bid this place goodbye, but I'm sure I'll be back one day.
Yep, it's definitely love. ♥