Having seen Ljubljana, it was time to venture outside the city limits.
Just 40km from Ljubljana is Lake Bled, an Alpine postcard of a destination. In the middle of the lake is an island, with a church, which is THE go-to wedding destination in Slovenia, apparently. Friends of ours were married there a couple of years ago.
There is a bus every hour from the main bus/train station in Ljubljana to Bled. The weather was a bit iffy when we were in Ljubljana, but on our last full day in the city we took a chance and took the bus to Bled, defying the rain.
The township of Bled is at one end of the lake, overlooked by a castle perched high on a rocky bluff. Beneath the castle walls, at lakeside level, is a very pretty church.
You can charter a local covered boat to take you out to the island, or you can hire a boat and row yourself out there. It is a half-hour row from Bled town, but there is a small train constantly circling the lake, so you can hop off the train where the shoreline is closest to the island, and hire a boat there. Then it is only a 10-minute row to reach the island.
It didn’t take Tom long to work out which end of the oars was which, and we were headed for the island! It danced around the lake quite confusingly, sometimes off the port bow and sometimes off the starboard, but we pinned it down toward the end of the trip, and finally managed to bump against the dock.
The rain held off for the whole trip across the lake, despite looming grey thunderheads and ominous rumbles.
When you reach the island, you are faced with the traditional climb of 150 steps to reach the level of the buildings.
From the top, the view back toward Bled town is even more beautiful, if such a thing is possible.
The church, aside from its stunning location, is pretty much just a church. They wanted us to pay 6 Euro to go inside (can you spell “tourist trap”?), so we declined.
We managed to get a decent picture of the level of gilding inside the church, though, through a large glass window, which has been conveniently inserted in the rear wall of the church.
We further defied the rumbling clouds by walking along the path around the island closer to the water level, which was pretty in itself, and also offered spectacular views every time the bushes parted to let us see the lake beyond. We could tell the clouds were weak in their conviction, because they kept parting to allow shafts of sunlight to illuminate the mountain tops.
Our final discovery was an ivy-covered shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the dock at the far end of the island from the main dock, which is where the stairs go up.
We paid our respects to Mary, complimented her on the shade of blue she had selected, and continued around the island to find our little boat still waiting for us.
There were light sprinkles of rain interspersed with flashed of sunlight as we zigzagged back across the lake, averaging a course approximately toward the man who rented out the boats.
It was lightly misting with rain as we walked back from the boat hire to the train stop, so we stopped in at the camping ground cafe for a hot chocolate and some shelter while we waited for the train.
We wrapped up our trip to Bled with a slice of the world-famous Bled cream cake (picture a vanilla slice with a thick layer of whipped cream on top of the custard between the layers of pastry). We had seen it around in other countries, and been told it was traditional there, but apparently Bled claims to have invented it.
Whether or not the claim is true, the cream cake was delicious!
And before we knew it, we were back on the bus, heading for Ljubljana. After a chilly wait at the bus stop, the warmth of the air conditioning was very welcome. Winter is coming …