After getting my driving license, it was unthinkable not to kidnap my friend Elodie for a road trip! Eventually, we hit the road! After brief planning (we just had in mind the destination) and the car kindly lent by my father, here we are on the way to Slovenia, an unrecognized country of the Balkans. We were going to Bled.
For six days we wandered around Italy and Slovenia. Here is a short description of our final journey:
- First day: Home to Toscolano Maderno on Lake Garda – 440 km – night at Promontorio campsite
- Second day: Toscolano Maderno to Bled – 420 km – nights at Guest House Mlino
- Third day: Discovering Bled
- Fourth day: Bled – Kranj – Ljubljana – Postojna – 100 km – overnight at Proteus Postojna Youth Hostel
- Fifth day: Postojna – Piran – Ranzanico (Italy) – 470 km – overnight at camping La Tartufaia
- Last day: Ranzanico back home – 390 km
In total, more than 2,000 kilometers were covered in order to discover a new culture and the incredible Slovenian people. Actually, there is an element of freedom when traveling by car that I had never experienced before (naturally, I had already done many road trips but never driving myself or not knowing where the following day would take me).
The spontaneity of being able to stop the vehicle wherever we wanted, to discover hidden or neglected jewels, off the beaten tracks, was probably worth getting lost or sleeping in a tent during violent storms.
Our main destination was to explore the famous Lake Bled, symbol and genuine national postcard of the country. You will find below all the information on this Slovenian emblem.
Around the lake
We checked in at our guesthouse at the end of the afternoon and then we decided to walk around the lake in order to get to know this natural jewel.
On paper, the 6-kilometre walk is easy and quickly covered, however, it was without counting on Elodie and I, being amazed by the beauty around us. Photo break after photo break, we had to immortalize the lake and its well-known island from all its angles.
This road follows the shores and alternates between developed pontoons, grassy beaches, more wooded areas and more urbanized ones. Many benches allow you to rest or to contemplate the stunning landscape of the alpine lake that surrounds the only island in the country.
We ended up our tour by taking a path through the forest, getting lost, and eventually arriving at Bled Castle, from where the view is said to be superb since it overlooks the lake. Nevertheless, the visit is not free (11 Euros or 9 for students) which did not motivate us to pay. Besides, the belvedere being intramural, we opted for the view the next day from the summits of Mala Osojnica and Ojstrica.
We concluded our stroll around the lake by discovering the village of Bled. It developed thanks to health tourism which makes it a Slovenia vacation destination.
Hence, the town is divided into two areas: the quieter neighborhood at the entrance of the town and the much more modern area with hotels. Actually, on the main avenue leading to the lake, there is an alignment of several dozens hotels ranging from congress hotels to guest houses. If you are looking for a higher standard, the palaces along the lake are much more pleasant but, ineluctably, at very high prices.
We chose a guest house outside this station and we did the right thing! By car, it is almost impossible to park in the city where you would have to pay quite a lot for the car park which is also off-centre.
Our hostel is located 2 kilometres from Bled on the bank. With free parking for guests of the restaurant and hostel, we were ideally situated to explore the surrounding area.
In fact, Bled is not very interesting unless you go there specifically to go to the casino or to enjoy delicious food in a gourmet restaurant. Despite this luxurious aspect, the town attracts a permanent influx of tourists from all social classes. The prices are therefore more expensive than in the rest of the country, but some addresses are worth a visit
Indeed, we ate in a restaurant very appreciated by travellers (we waited 20 minutes to eat there, not wanting to sink into the too touristy avenue). It was the Oštarija Peglez’n, where you have to taste their pastas which are directly served in the pan. Add to that a typical Slovenian beer (I recommend the Lasko one) and you will spend a very pleasant evening!
BLED ISLAND AND PLETNA RENTAL, ADVENTURE ON THE WATER
During our walk around the lake the day before, the island of Bled or “Blejski otok” in Slovenian fascinated us so much that an idea came to our mind… We wanted to reach it by swimming. We gave up that idea quickly and without regretting it when we soaked our feet in the water, certainly crystal clear, but somewhat too chilly, even in the middle of July.
Instead of swimming, there are two possibilities for those who would like to discover the island. The first is to rent a boat and wander around the lake as you wish. The other alternative is to take a “pletna”. This craft is to Bled what gondolas are to Venice, their traditional means of transport and its creation dates back to 1590. Having favoured this one (because rowing is tiring), the “pletnar” tells us that the trip would approximately take 10 minutes from our starting point (right in front of our guest house) and that he would leave us 40 minutes to explore the island before returning to the shore.
WHAT IS A PLETNA?
According to the information gathered on the official website of Bled, “the pletna is a wooden flat-bottom boat. It has a pointed bow and the stern widened with a step to enable passengers to enter. The boat is propelled with the special “stehrudder” technique where the oarsman is standing and rowing with two oars.”
The stroll on the lake was pleasant and our pletnar explained in broken English the particularities of the island. He also said that his profession is passed on from generation to generation, although, nowadays, many well-built young men are trained to practice that profession as a summer job.
We eventually landed at the foot of an imposing staircase. In the past, the island housed a sanctuary dedicated to a goddess of love, but nowadays, however, it is a majestic Gothic church which takes center stage (unfortunately under renovation during our visit) over Slovenia’s emblem.
To be perfectly honest, the island itself is not particularly interesting. In 5 minutes, the tour is done. Discovering this place on foot is the only free activity on the island. Indeed, to be able to access the church or its bell tower, 6 euros are required… that we paid. This allowed us to admire the view from the adjacent bell tower where inside information on the bell mechanism is nicely highlighted. As for the church, it is pretty and its golden altar is magnificent. In addition to the religious aspect, a local legend says that if the rope leading to the bell is pulled three times, a vow will be fulfilled. Moreover, there is a legend which takes place with that bell. According to the comments collected on Bled’s website, here is the story:
“Once upon a time there lived a young widow in the castle of Bled. Her husband was killed by robbers and his body was thrown into the lake. She was so inconsolable that she gathered all her gold and silver and cast a bell for the chapel on the island, in memory to her husband. But the bell didn’t arrive there. The bell, the boat and boatmen sank during a terrible storm. The desperate widow sold all her property after this accident. She offered the proceeds for the construction of a new church on the island. She left Bled and lived the rest of her life in Rome as a nun. After her death, the Pope had heard of her misfortune and of her good deeds during her life as a nun, so in memory to her, he decided to make a new bell. He said that anyone that rings the bell three times and believes in God, his or her wish would come true. Even today sometimes, on a dark night you can hear the sunken bell ringing from the depths of the lake.”
We rang the bell. Let’s just hope now, that our wishes will come true. The return trip in pletna is as calm as the outward journey and strolling on the clear waters of the lake is a real pleasure.
Osojnica and Ojstrica
These are the two best free observatories to admire an aerial view of Lake Bled. Ojstrica and Osojnica are two hills that dominate the western shore of the lake. After completing these two walks, you will be rewarded with a memorable view of the lake, the island, the castle and, in the background, the Karavanke mountains.
We had not really enquired about the starting point of the hike, so, from our guest house, we followed the signs (besides, the lake tour is very well signified). Eventually, we found the path number 6, which leads to the top of the Osojnica hill, actually named Velika Osojnica.
30 min? not really…
Without knowing it and without necessarily being difficult, we had just left for an hour of a very steep climb, which would shortly leave us out of breath. The itinerary crosses some passages that may be more technical, but which are very well fitted with railings, cables or even a steep staircase.
As the ascent progresses, hikers can enjoy beautiful views, between the trees, to lead to the point of view of Mala Osojnica. We caught our breath while admiring the lake, sitting on a bench.
We continued our way through the woods looking for lovely views, but we ended up getting lost (be careful with the number 6 that leads the way, it is written on trees and sometimes some signs are almost erased). After having found the right track, we eventually reached the Velika Osojnica summit. In the end, we were a little disappointed, since it is a simple opening from which the view over the Lake of Bled could be seen through a gap in the forest. However, the view is unquestionably spectacular and we could gradually get an idea of the dimensions of the lake.
Then, we wanted to reach Ojstrica, since the descent from the summit is a kind of a loop. We got lost again, thanks to the six numbers erased (bad faith, here we are). Despite this, we were lucky enough to come across an ibex, or perhaps was it just a deer… in itself, a nice encounter.
After a steep and muddy descent, we arrived at the starting point of the small climb to reach the summit of Ojstrica, which is a rock that rises above the trees. The access is more challenging since many people come directly from the campsite (that is the real starting point of the hike) just for this point of view.
A slightly steep climb took us, breathless, to the summit, but whether you are short of breath or not, the clearance on the Lake Bled will certainly take it away.
That place stole our hearts. Overlooking the lake, the panorama was so grandiose that we spent an hour contemplating the view (and incidentally taking pictures of all the visitors who passed by).
The real Slovenian postcard is right in front of your eyes!
Watch out! The entire path is slippery in bad weather. I also recommend wearing good shoes/baskets.
A taste of Bled
We couldn’t leave Bled without tasting its Kremšnita, a kind of delicious mille-feuille. It was at the place where it was created, in the oldest café of Bled, that we tasted it with a lovely view of the lake
It was in 1953 that pastry chef Ištvan Lukačević created this fabulous dessert in the pastry shop of Hotel Park in the resort of Bled after several years of unsuccessful attempts.
Since then, it has been a real culinary phenomenon given that, over the last 60 years, the hotel’s café has sold nearly 12 million Kremšnita. Using only natural products: flour, eggs, cream, sugar and butter, this cream cake contains no colourings, preservatives or other additives. This is the reason why it is made out every day, or even according to the peak periods, several times a day.
Dimensions 7x7x7 centimetres. The layers from bottom to top are as follows: puff pastry, custard, whipped cream, puff pastry and icing sugar: you are already mouth-watering.
It didn’t take me long to find this place enchanting, despite the number of visitors. We made our road trip specifically to visit Bled, but I was also amazed by other wonders of Slovenia.
Click here to discover another wonder of Bled’s surroundings!