When I first considered visiting Slovenia in July, I wasn’t sold – I pictured shades of grey, a country behind (or not long free from) an iron curtain and an ugly native language. It was to be the end point of a 2,000km cycle adventure for Ben and four of his friends across Europe, finishing in the homeland of the revered cyclist, Jure Robic. The other girlfriends & I were charged with bringing the bike boxes over in return for a holiday (win win, right?!).
I never pictured alpine woods, rolling mountains and turquoise shores – it turns out Slovenia is more Swiss Alpine than Communist Berlin (and there’s nothing wrong with the latter – in fact, Berlin at New Year is an amazing place).
Lake Bled is situated in the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia, and adjoins (you guessed it) the town of Bled. Bled Castle stands above the lake on the north shore, and the Zaka Valley lies at the west end of the Lake.
Perhaps the most captivating part for me was Bled Island, known to locals as Blejski otok. I’d not long finished reading The Farm by Tom Rob Smith – an enthralling read marred by an anti-climatic finish – which, despite being set in Scandi Sweden, conjured up similar urges to glide across the sparkling water and explore the 17th century pilgrimage church which was nestled on the island.
There was a wedding taking place when we arrived – we bought ice creams and took in the frivolities with our feet dangling off the jetty.
After a heavy night celebrating the boys’ achievement, we wanted to kick back and snooze in the sunshine. Neither Ben nor I are sun worshippers – I’m terrible at laying on a beach on holiday. But there was something majestic and ‘just okay’ about this floating pontoon with a backdrop of the Alps, twinkling waters and impressive castles. I even got coaxed into jumping off at one point and swimming out onto another floating pontoon for a different perspective.
Circumnavigating the Lake takes around 2 hours – some crazy souls jog round it – and at the southerly end of the Lake there’s an activity park where you can hire paddleboards, indulge in the obligatory Bled cake or have a Thai massage in the outdoor air.
Our final day led us up the mountain for summer tobogganing – accessed by a chair lift on what, in the winter months, is usually a ski slope, you take the toboggan cars down a 520m track and speeds of up to 40kmh. I was a bit anxious, but it turned out to be brilliant fun (and not half as nerve-wracking for the chair lift newbie over here).
Slovenia – I massively underestimated you; I have no doubt we’ll be back again in the near future.