Lake Bled and Bled Castle.
On our first day, we took a stroll around the lake. Bled is a laid back town. People were having picnics, or sitting on the park benches, relaxing, reading books. Some were feeding ducks, or walking their dogs. The lake is relatively small, and according to the hostel-keeper where we stayed, the shore area is around 6 km only, can can be explored by foot.
Pletna to Bled Island.
Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church.
We took a rowboat (pletna) at 12 euros per person to get to Bled island, where the Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church stands. The island has 99 steps leading up to the church. We found out that it is a local tradition at weddings for the groom to carry his bride up the 99 steps. It is believed that doing so will result in a happy marriage. And that is why either the men are fit, or they choose small wives, one of our newfound local friend joked. Ringing the church bell is also believed to bring in good luck. My friends and I had some time to explore the island and the church before going back to town.
Autumn in Slovenia.
That night, we had pizza from a highly recommended local restaurant -- Pizzeria Rustika. I think it may have been the best pizza I have ever eaten! The toppings and vegetables were very fresh, the pizza fire roasted in a stone oven! It's very affordable too.
Pepperoni, cheese, and pepper!
During breakfast the following day, we met two nice ladies from Singapore who were also visiting Eastern Europe. They were actually based in the UK, but they were originally from Singapore. One of them amazingly lives on the same block as R! Small world. A little after breakfast, we left for hiking with some of our hostelmates. Our first destination was the Soteska Vintgar (Vintgar Gorge), a 1.6 km canyon, carved by the pristine Radovna River, and ends at the Sum Falls. We walked through the wooden pathways and bridges, with the rapids below us.
Great weather after the previous night's rain.
With our new friends!
After Vintgar Gorge, we hiked one of the hills along Lake Bled, for a good view of the lake and the island. We took the Ojstrica path. The ascent was a bit difficult for me, probably because I rarely hike at all. It rained the previous night, so navigating through the wet leaves and muddy ground was challenging, and the rocks leading up to the peak can also be slippery. But the view was well worth it! The panorama view of Bled was really stunning. In the distance, the view of the snow capped Karavanke Mountain ranges on the border between Slovenia and Austria was astonishing.
After enjoying the view, we headed down back to the hostel and said goodbye to everyone. We had late lunch at Rustika (again!) before hiking to the castle.
Lake Bled and Karavanke Mountain ranges behind. Stunning.
Bled Castle is one of the most prominent attractions of the town. It is built on a cliff overlooking Lake Bled. I have read that it is the oldest medieval castle in Slovenia.
On the way up to the castle, we saw one of our hostelmate walking with a tree branch and was all dirty. As in really dirty, with twigs on her hair and bits of gravel on her face and jacket. Alarmed, we asked her what happened, so she told us her crazy amazing story. She said, earlier that morning she went to the castle to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, she wasn't careful enough that her camera slipped and fell down the cliff. Since we had a hike that morning, she decided to come back for the camera later. Come afternoon, she went up again to the cliff to look for her camera. She said she climbed down the cliff to look for her camera, hence her appearance. How she went down the cliff, I have no idea, because it was really steep. When my friends and I were there, we tried to figure out where or how she got down, but there was no path at all, just a steep rock, leading to an instant broken back with one wrong footing. My goodness, if it were me, I would not even think about going down a cliff to retrieve my camera. I would just let it go. Maybe cry a bit, but I will NOT go down a cliff for a camera for I value my limbs. She said she had already been searching for some time and that she had already given up when she saw the branch. She thought she'd take it to help her walk back, and surprise, there just beside it was the camera. Unscathed! We were like, whoa, that's crazy. But amazing.
This is a great front row seat for a Slovenia sunset.
There is a path on the side of the castle which leads to the castle backdoor. There is a great unobstructed view of the lake, the church, and the hills behind it. We actually did the hike for that view, and not to enter the castle. We sat there for a while waiting for the sunset. "I live for moments like this" I remember telling myself as I sat there. I imagine myself backpacking for months to see more places like this, rather than being stuck in an office desk typing my life away. I remembered something I overheard in the hostel. Someone was explaining why she went backpacking the world immediately after graduating from university. "There's plenty of time to work for money for the rest of my life." Unfortunately, practicality dictates otherwise for me. For now, I am happy and content with slowly exploring the world at my own pace -- a few steps, a few weeks, a few cities at a time.
We went down from the castle hill, and walked back downtown. We went to Park Hotel where we tried the famous Bled Cream Cake. We tried 2 flavours -- original and chocolate. I liked both, but my ultimate favourite was the original one. It's like brazo de mercedes, but not too sweet. We then headed back to the hostel afterwards to pickup our stuff before heading to the train station to catch our overnight train to Salzburg, and then to Vienna.
Bled Cream Cake at the Park Hotel, Bled.
Catching our train to Salzburg! Goodbye, Bled.
PS. It was freezing that night, haha!