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Eurotrip 2019

Our drive into Slovenia had us arriving into Bled just as the sun was going down. We had taken the scenic route for most of the drive from Hallstatt in Austria, until going up and down hills and hairpin bends got a bit much (spectacular scenery though!) and we jumped on the motorway for the last hour.

 

Getting on the motorway could have been a mistake though, because we discovered that Slovenia requires a vignette for driving – right after we had already crossed the border. Whoops! We got off the motorway to find one, which took us longer than I would like to admit, and then Google Maps decided to take us on a dirt road up and down a mountain for the last few kms of our trip. We crossed the most ricketty bridge ever, and I am sure Simon was seriously doubting my navigation abilities, but we made it safe and sound into the town of Bled.

Before going to check in to our B&B, we grabbed some dinner at Gostilna pri Planinco, a warm cosy pub that has been in operation since 1903. The walls of the pub were covered in number plates from cars from all around the world, even some from our little home state of South Australia. It was interesting to see how far and wide they had them from. We didn’t know anything about this pub, it was just close to where we had parked and was a great escape from the cold. The food was reasonable, but it was a little more expensive than I was expecting since I had heard Slovenia was cheaper than their northern neighbours. In hindsight, the area around Bled did not seem all that much different to me.

Gostilna pri Planinco

A small corner of Gostilna pri Planinco covered in number plates

Gostilna pri Planinco

Delicious traditional meal at Gostilna pri Planinco

 

In Bled we stayed at a fantastic B&B called Villa Mint&Lavender. We had a private double room with a shared bathroom. Some of the other rooms have their own bathroom, and the one other room we had to share with was vacant for all but one night, so we mostly had our own bathroom. I also think this was possibly the best shower of our trip. Our host was fantastic and provided us with so much information about places to visit in the area and things to do. She also provided a list of recommended places to eat in Bled and nearby towns. Breakfast was simple but delicious and there was plenty of free car parking. I loved having access to a seperate living room/kitchen so spend time in too rather than always being in the bedroom. We even had a house cat that loved to come and cuddle us!

Villa Mint Lavender View

The view from our accommodation was lovely

Villa Mint Lavender breakfast

Home made waffles for breakfast! On another day we had pancakes

We woke to sunshine! We had been having such a bad run with rain (in four weeks we had only had three days without rain) that it was so exciting to see sunshine. Where we’re staying is about twenty minutes walk from the lakefront, and thought we would take advantage of the sunshine and walk to the lake for a look around. Bled is a small town with it’s main tourist attractions being an island in the lake with a church on it, or Bled Castle. Neither attraction was calling me, so we just walked around the edge of the lake enjoying the scenery and the sun.

Bled Castle

Bled Castle sits high up above the lake and the rest of the town

Bled Island

The island in the middle of Lake Bled. Behind to the left is Bled castle. (And of course the obligatory scaffolding is showing on the island)

Just before lunch we went back and picked up our car and made our way to the nearby town of Radovljica for lunch. We picked a pub in town called Grajska Gostilnica which was on the list given to us by our B&B host. The food was absolutely delicious. I was really impressed. I did not record the name of the dish, but it was fish and potatoes in a creamy sauce. It was more Simon’s pick than mine, (we tend to share dishes so we can try more food) but I did not want to share this one!

Radovljica

The town of Radovljica with the sun shining on it

Grajska Gostilnica

The delicious fish dish at Grajska Gostilnica

Our B&B host had also recommeded a visit to the small town of Kropa, which is way off the tourist path. In fact we didn’t see a single other tourist there. This town is a traditional old village and a chance to see how Slovenia looked in the past. There is nothing “exciting” to do here, be it’s a good place for a walk to see a glimpse of the past.

Kropa

Some traditional buildings in the town of Kropa

Kropa

The main (only?) street of Kropa with the mountains rising up behind. Its the same on the opposite side of the road

Kropa

More traditional buildings with the stream flowing through town

 

The village is essentially one street through the bottom of a valley with a river running through it. Up on the sides of the hill on each side of the valley were two churches. We climbed up and explored one of them, but the other one looked a lot harder to get to so we admired it from afar.

We had an amazing scenic drive back to Bled. One of our favourite things to do when driving (and we have plennty of time) is to turn off the options of toll roads or highways on Google Maps. We then end up driving through picturesque little villages and backroads that might take up up hillsides with great views. We did this on the way back to Bled. Boy Slovenia is a beautiful country!

As we drove back to Bled and were to the other end of the lake from the main town centre, and we were thinking we might like to hike up the hill to a view point called Malo Osojnica I had seen mention of online. We missed the parking space, and as we drove past where the hike started, we glanced up at it and it looked almost vertical. We were both feeling a little tired so we looked at each other and both quickly changed our minds.

Instead we made our way to Vintgar Gorge. Our host had mentioned a nice, easy 1km walk along the gorge here. What she hadn’t mentioned was that it was not free! We were not at all impressed, firstly with the €5 parking fee, and then discovering we had to pay €10 each to walk on the path! I guess it seemed like a lot of money to basically go for a hike.

It was a nice walk, and ended up being 1.6km each way, on narrow walkways build by the side of the river. It was fine the way there, but on the way back we were met with tour groups coming the other way which made it hard to negotiate the path.

Vintgar Gorge

Walking in Vintgar Gorge really did feel like it was out in the wilderness at times

Vintgar Gorge

The narrowest part of the gorge ws only a metre or two wide

Vintgar Gorge

The walkway was narrow. Mostly it was okay, but when the tour groups came past it became very difficult

Vintgar Gorge

The minerals in the water cause this amzing blue-green colour

Vintgar Gorge

In some areas the water was wild and rushing

Vintgar Gorge

In some places the water was a pale, milky blue

Vintgar Gorge Waterfall

The waterfall itself was possibly the biggest disappointment. It was only a few metres high.

 

My favourite part of the walk was the number of different wildflowers to be found. With all the terrible weather, spring still hadn’t quite hit it’s full stride here, but I can just imagine what a few more days of sunshine would do to the whole area.

Vintgar Gorge Flowers

Just a few of the different wildflowers we saw as we walked

 

The walk culminates in a waterfall. Unfortunately its not very high, and I couldn’t help but compare this walk with the one from the previous day – the one in Hallstatt wins hands down! Oh, the scenery of Vintgar Gorge was lovely, but the cost and the crowds detract from it.

After a lot of walking we were ready for a rest, so went back to our B&B and took advantage of the kitchen, whipping up a quick pasta dish for dinner. I then got completely sucked in to doing to jigsaw puzzle that the host had laid out on a table for the guests to indulge in. I just love these sorts of challenges and thought this was a great idea for a guest house to offer.

After dinner we went out! It was Friday night and we though we should have a big night out on the town – at the laundromat! It’s one of those necessary evils of travelling for a decent amount of time and this trip we haven’t booked as many places with washing machines as we usually would. The laundromat in Bled was clean, cheap and had free wifi – definitely on the better end of the laundromat scale, if such a thing exists!

And the big achievement for the day – we did not get rained on! That’s the fourth day of our trip with no rain.

The next morning we decided to start with that hike up the hill to Malo Osojnica that we chose not to do the day before. We were fresh and ready to go, so no excuses about being tired this time.

It was a great walk up the hill. It was quite steep though. There were pretty much no signs, and in some places almost no path, others the path was obstructed by fallen trees, but just when we thought we had no idea where we were going, we finally found the view point over Lake Bled! We were able to look down and see that iconic view of the island in the middle of the lake with the church steeple standing tall in the middle of it.

Malo Osojnica Climb

Yes, there’s a path there somewhere

Malo Osojnica Obstacle

We we climbing over fallen trees and branches regularly along the walk

 

Unfortunately, as it had been all morning, it was drizzling with rain when we reached the top, so the view would have been better the previous day, but it was still worth the effort to get up there. All in all the hike took about 45 minutes to get up, but, as we were about to discover, we had not taken the path most people take.

Lake Bled from Malo Osojnica

Looking down over Lake Bled from Malo Osojnica lookout. I have seen some amazing photos from this place when it’s not raining.

 

We saw an alternative path down the front of the hill and decided to take that one down. It was much shorter, but a lot steeper. Still sort of a goat track, but at least there was a worn track, and only one or two trees to scramble over. We met a few people coming up as we were going down and they were all as surprised at the track as we were.

Malo Osojnica Stairs

We came down these steep stairs. I’m not sure if that was better or worse than going up them.

 

Next it was off to the nearby Lake Bohinj. We had been assured this was quite different to Bled. It is more of an adventure sport area, with rock climbing, white water rafting, kayaking etc all available in the town of Ribčev Las on the banks of the lake.

Learning to Kayak

Another of the adventure activities near Lake Bohinj – this was a learn to kayak class

 

We had lunch of pizza at a great outdoors place called Pod Skalco. As we ate we watched a group of goats housed in a small petting zoo right nearby. They were continuously escaping from their pen and running around trying to get food from anyone who would feed them.

Pod Skalco

We enjoyed our meal at this outdoor restaurant. To the left were some goats behaving badly, and to the right were some people learning to rock climb.

 

Apart from the lake and all the various adventure sports, the other main features of the area are the beautiful stone bridge and the Church of St John the Baptist. This church is one of the most photographed any where in Slovenia. It was built back around the year 1000AD, and now has four big frescoes on the outside walls, the earliest dating from about 1300AD. We wanted to go inside and have a look, but it seemed like they had something going on inside, so we thought it best not to intrude.

Church of St John the Baptist

The stone bridge and the Church of St John the Baptist

 

It had been recommended that during our visit we catch the boat to the other end of the lake then walk back, but we had to go and top up the parking ticket on our car and timed it really badly, missing the boat by a minute. We would have had to wait 90 minutes for the next boat – and I knew the rain was supposed to start properly around about then! For now the rain had stopped, so we hiked around the edge of the lake for as long as we dared before heading back.

Lake Bohinj

Views across Lake Bohinj. The small landing on the left is where the boat across the lake stops.

Lake Bohinj

Much of the area around Lake Bohinj in countryside.

 

At least this was an easy walk on a decent path, enjoying the scenery around the lake – then the drizzle started, and we high-tailed it back to the car to call it a day. This time we timed it perfectly, as the rain started to come down again properly just as we got to the car.

By the time we got back to our B&B, warmed up, cooked up some dinner and tortured myself for a while with the damn jigsaw (I love them really!), it was time to get the laptop all fired up to stream the final of Eurovision. We were madly cheering on Australia – but it was not to be and I’m okay with The Netherlands winning!

We were down to our last few days in Europe, and in the morning we were saying goodbye to Slovenia and were off to our favourite part of Austria for a few days R&R before the long flights home. It was a brief visit, but I know I want to return. There is so much natural beauty here in Slovenia, and we didn’t even get to Ljubliana which I have also heard so many good things about.

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