Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well
tonight. At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place
on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and
will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a
happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.
I like this line from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So polite. So ominous. Anyway, BLED has nothing to do with Dracula. Except that he might have liked the name. Anyway, this is a travel story, which begins when I left Vienna for the fairytale wilds of Slovenia (pictured on the header of my blog)….
There comes a point when you get sick of looking at Famous Buildings, and at this point, I abandon Vienna and head for Bled in Slovenia. The start of this trip isn’t exactly auspicious: there’s a huge poo blocking the train toilet, and the elderly lady opposite has for some reason decided to sit with her enormous thighs open almost to the crotch, displaying record-breaking swathes of cellulite.
You know when you’ve left Austria for Slovenia. In Austria, the mountains are gorgeous, Sound of Music affairs, all the farms look like they’ve come off a kids’ farm set, and all the villages could win tidy towns competitions. As soon as you cross the border, the woods get wilder and messier, the train tracks are lined with market gardens, and the houses look more Wicked Witch than Goldilocks.
Slovenia is the most incredibly beautiful place I’ve ever been. How beautiful, you can see from my header bar, which is actually a photo I took of the Vintgar Gorge. My hostel (Jakelj in Selo) is half rubble – the owner was renovating – but HE is just as sweet as he could be (he shuttles you around, and offers you strong drink for free!). Funnily enough, he used to be a jackaroo in outback Australia!
On the first day I go for a ride up into the mountains, with a guide, to visit some orphan brown bears who were rescued as cubs. Apparently there are lots more in the forest. We pass a field full of young horses, which all gallop down to the fence to see what’s new, as horses do. “Wow, they’re beautiful!” I exclaim gushingly. “Uh huh. They’re being bred for meat,” replies my guide matter of factly. “They’re at their tastiest at about eight months.’ I later check this against a menu in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and there it is ‘Braised Foal’. Ms M comments later that this is no worse than eating cows, although no better – and I agree, reluctantly (neither of us eats cows either, as a rule).
The hostel has free bikes so me and a Dutch fraud lawyer set off towards the town of Bled. On the way there’s a statue of a Slovenian guy with his hands tied behind his back, about to be shot, and underneath a list of all the people from the area who were killed by the Nazis. It’s very moving.
We cycle to Vintgar Gorge, where you walk along beside the river to the 26 metre Sum waterfall, and then back. The river is crystal clear and oddly green, with coca-cola commercial grade waterfalls and HUGE fishes swimming in the depths, all rushing downstream (not the fish though) at an incredible volume. Here’s my take (cheap and easy camera!)..
and here’s someone else’s…MUCH better!
Lake Bled is a fairytale, an opal of a lake surrounded by dark-forested, snow-tipped mountains. On an island in the middle sits an old stone church. We row out there in a hired boat, but when we get close I jump in and swim the rest of the way. Interestingly, later over dinner we’re approached by a slightly manic American woman who had tried to swim off the shore (near the town) and had been told she had to pay a large fee. Ha ha. The bell of the church is always ringing, cause there’s a legend that if you swing off the bell chain, your wish will be granted. So I did (and wished that Mr F and Ms M would have long and happy lives).
Here is MY Lake Bled…
and here is the travel photographer’s Lake Bled, in this case much more accurate!
There can’t be anything much better in the world than sitting on the outside wall of a 13th century church in your swimsuit in the sun, dripping wet, swinging your bare feet and looking out over Lake Bled. Even Dracula would’ve cheered up.
Later…overheard from a group of young men, having dinner in the pub in (village): ‘The demise of the American empire has begun.’ Sorry folks. You heard it first from Slovenia.