Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Slovenia - a fairytale country

I have just returned from a short trip to Slovenia, a country I have been dreaming about visiting for years. In spite of being so close to northeastern Italy where I come from, Slovenia is relatively unknown to most Italian tourists, who have already discovered the coasts of Croatia and regularly go to learn English and sunbathe in Malta, but apparently know nothing about this small Alpine country so close to home.
 
There were Italian tourists in Slovenia of course, but not an awful lot. Most people I talked to before my trip were bewildered by my choice. "Why on earth would you want to go to Slovenia?", "Didn't you mean Croatia?", "What's  there to see or do?".
 
I'll answer with a picture.
 

View of Lake Bled

Slovenia has lakes with pristine waters and landscapes  that seem to come straight out of a fairytale, amazing waterfalls and gorges, plenty of possibilities to do water sports and hiking, picturesque villages, caves, historic towns and more.
 
For my short trip I chose the lakes on the northwestern tip of Slovenia, close to the Italian and Austrian borders. Lake Bled is one of the major tourist attractions of the country, but the less-developed and quiet Lake Bohinj is  also worth visiting. The latter is part of Triglav National Park, whose peak also appears on the Slovenian national flag.
 
As for Slovenia itself, I found a country full of welcoming people, and very well organized to receive tourists willing to see the natural beauty that it offers. It's a Slavic country with a central European feel to it, but in spite of not being a huge fan of central Europe I fell for it!  

Bled

Bled is absolutely backpackers' central to Slovenia. There were plenty of Australian, British and American backpackers, to the point that I felt a bit weird, being one of the few non-native speakers of English in the hostel. The lake is stunning and ridiculously photogenic: incredibly azure waters, a 1000--year-old castle perched on a rock, and a lovely little island, actually the only island in all of Slovenia. It is exactly how I picture a fairytale country, where I would encounter Prince Charming and perhaps even the Evil Queen. In spite of the tourists, the scenery remains unspoilt because only one side of the lake has major buildings and tourist infrastructures, whereas in the rest only the occasional rowing centre or historical villa dots the landscape.

View of the island from the castle, Bled

 
You can reach the island via a boat trip that takes you all around the lake, then to the island and back (12 €), hire your own rowboat, or even swim to the island from the narrowest point (in that case you'll be walking around the island barefooted and bare-chested, which is a bit weird). I chose the first: it was a very relaxing trip and I took plenty of pictures. On the island you can visit the small museum, the church where you can pull the cord to ring the bell for good luck, and the clock tower (6€).

Rowing boat on Lake Bled
 
 
Back on the mainland, you can reach the lovely castle perched on the rock, either by car or on foot via a staircase. From the castle you have breath-taking views, as well as a museum on the history of the region, a restaurant, a forge, and a wine cellar where you can spill your own wine. The castle is open until late in the evening, but if you go there late-ish as I did some of the attractions will be closed, in spite of the fact that you'll still have to pay the 8€ admission price. The castle itself isn't mind-blowing, but I'm happy I took those pictures of the lake. If you are up to it, you can follow a path around the rock without paying the entrance fee, and you'll have one or two viewpoints, but mind that they are not as good as the ones in the courtyard of the castle.

Bled Castle (Blejski Grad in Slovenian)

Overall I found the attractions in Bled a bit overpriced. The food was as expensive as in Italy. Coffee and cappuccino as good as in Italy. The famous Bled cream cake (kremna rezina, apparently known with a thousand different names) is what in Italy we would call a "millesfoglie", layers of pastry with custard and whipped-cream filling, plus powdered sugar on top. The Smon patisserie on Grajska Cesta, close to the bus station, is said to be the best place to have it.

Wait for my next post on Lake Bohinj, Savica Waterfall and Vintgar Gorge! Feel free to leave a comment...


7 comments:

  1. Wow. This is totally on my list of places to visit now!

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  2. It's too bad everything was a bit expensive but WOW... that scenery?! Completely worth it in my opinion. Gorgeous pictures. I loved reading this.

    Happy travels :)

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    1. Relatively expensive. Coming from the north of Italy it wasn't a big change. Totally worth paying 1.30€ for a cappuccino, I agree.

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  3. Hi, Stefania, I enjoyed reading this post. The scenery is certainly magnificent and the Bled Castle has a splendid view of the area! The Bled cream cake sounds delicious, hopefully someday I will have the opportunity to visit and give it a try!

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  4. This area is really special to me and my wife as I proposed in a rowing boat on Lake Bled once. We try to go back often and absolutely love it there. Lucky you for living so close!

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    1. It is indeed a romantic place. I can't wait to go back!

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  5. Beautiful photos Stefania! I always wanted to go to Slovenia too, I even have a friend there which it might be an extra reason to finally book a ticket. One day maybe... Thanks for sharing!

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