Bled

23 – 25/09/2016

Bled is a popular gateway town to the Triglav National Park. Situated on a serene lake at the foothills of the Julian Alps, Bled reminded me a bit of Queenstown in New Zealand. Like Queenstown, there are plenty of outdoor adventure activities to throw yourself into.

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Bled is approximately an hour and a half from Ljubljana by bus. Tickets cost about 6€ one way, but I was later told by a few fellow travellers that it’s cheaper to buy them directly form the bus driver. On the bus down, I bumped into Kara and Nate from the food tour, and met fellow Perthite, Jaimi. She’d just spent six months in Kraków, working as a pub crawl guide, and was now travelling around Europe before heading back home.

After checking-in at Castle Hostel 1004, Jaimi and I went to Vintgar Gorge. The guy at the hostel reception said it would take 3.5 – 4 hours to walk to the gorge, walk the length of the gorge, and then back to Bled via the forest walk. We managed to do it in 2.5 hours, easily, including frequent photo stops and brief moment of getting lost in the forest. It took approximately 30 – 40 minutes to walk from Bled to the gorge, passing through the small village of Podhom.

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It was a beautiful day, so we were both in singlet tops and shorts. I could’ve done with a thin jacket though. The temperature suddenly dropped once we started walking down through the gorge. It went from warm and mild to cool and chilly within a few steps. You can’t swim in the gorge, but one of the guys at the hostel told us that he and his friends have a little tradition of jumping into the gorge every year on the first of May, to mark the start of the summer season.

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They had a festival by the lakefront while I was there, called Taste Bled, which showcased local food and wine. Jaimi and I headed there for dinner the first night. I had the pan fried trout with vegetables and potatoes, and “Granny’s mushroom soup”. That was hands down the best mushroom soup I’ve ever had. After an easy evening stroll along the lake, we went back to the hostel. We both needed an early night.

Following another recommendation from Em and Dan (I feel like I’m reliving their holiday!), I had booked to do the Emerald River Adventure with 3glav Adventures. Our guide for the day was Klavdij. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember who. We had a group of seven – four Brits (Luke and Lucy from Northern England, and Neil and Dave from London), Christie from San Fran, and Ivan from Croatia. The day started with several small hikes. It’s a shame that the clouds didn’t fully lift until closer to midday, because they obscured our views on our first two hikes.

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Triglav (Mountain) = Three Peaks.

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The lucky goat.

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We made a few more stops before lunch, to see the source of the Soča River and the Soča Ravine. We needed to make our way along a narrow ledge to get to the source. We met a beautiful dog on our way – Tila. She was with another small group of adventurers, and was a lot more confident with managing the ledge than we all were. After meeting her, I now really want a dog to adventure and hike with.

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The source of the Soča River.

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The Soča Ravine.

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Tila!

After lunch, Neil, Dave and I got ready to go white water rafting down the Soča River. I was pretty nervous. I’d never been white water rafting. I thought we’d be on single or double kayaks. I, for sure, was going to capsize. My nerves were calmed right down though when I saw us all walking towards one big inflatable raft. After donning our sleeveless wetsuits, Eric, our rafting guide, quickly ran through the pertinent safety information and rafting directions. The rapids were a grade three. More than suitable for newbies like me. I think we were all newbies, except for Neil and Dave. We made a few stops downstream to jump out and have a swim. The water was pretty refreshing. At one point, Eric told us all to get out of the raft and started pulling it up onto a rock. He then flipped it over and ta-da! We had a small water slide. That hour or so was definitely the highlight of the day for me.

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Suited up.

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Our next stop was a waterfall that we could swim in. Klavdij tried to reassure us that the water would be a little warmer than the Soča River. I knew it wwas going to bloody freezing. We didn’t have any wetsuits this time. It was beyond refreshing. It was icey. I think my body went into shock for a moment.

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I was straight out of there after this photo was taken.

We must’ve travelled a distance throughout the day because we made our way back to Bled via a car train. It was a nice way to end our 12-hour day adventure. Cruising along at what felt like a snail’s pace, enjoying the stunning scenery, and sipping a few Laško beers.

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The gang.

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The Brits and I decided to head out on the town that night. Klavidj said it would be a decent night out because it was a Saturday. It turned out to be a great night! And a late one. Late for me anyway. I didn’t end up getting back to the hostel until after three o’clock.

My body clock woke me up at 8 o’clock on the dot. I wasn’t feeling too great. Pretty sluggish. But I’d made plans for my last day in Bled. So I dragged myself out of bed, packed my bags, checked out, and slowly made my way around the lake. Slowly being the operative word. Near the rowing club, pretty much on the opposite side of the castle, there are pathways up to two viewpoints. I hiked up to the lower one (Ojstrica). It took approximately 15 – 20 minutes from the lake. At the time, it felt like the steepest and most tiring climb. But it helped sweating out a little bit of the residual alcohol. Plus, the view was so spectacular. You could see the entire lake, with the church on the small island in the middle, and the Julian Alps in the distance.

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View from Ojstrica.

Before jumping on the bus back to Ljubljana, I stopped at Scariscina Zima to try the famous Bled cream cake. It’s basically vanilla custard and whipped cream sandwiched between crispy filo pastry. They make it in large slabs and you get a huge square. Everyone I’d met and spoken to had raved about it. Honestly, I thought it was pretty average. It’s nice enough. But I wouldn’t say it’s amazing.

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I had a great time in Bled. The weather was spot on. The scenery was beyond stunning. The people I’d met were good value. I really wish I had a few more days. It charmed me quickly. There’s a lot more to do in and around this little lake town than I initially thought. I would’ve liked to have tried canyoning, and made a day trip to Lake Bohinj. It’s so close to Bled, and I’ve been told it’s the preferred lake amongst the locals. Less touristy. In hindsight, I should’ve spent more time in Bled and less time in Ljubljana. No matter though. I will definitely be making a weekend visit back to this picturesque town. Maybe even in the winter.

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