Picture this – a crystal clear, blue freshwater lake; an island in the middle with a spier church on it; a cliff overhanging it with a medieval castle on top; and the stunning snow capped alps in the background… If that sounds like a mixture between heaven and a Disney movie, then you’re picturing my favourite place in the world correctly. As soon as I arrived back in Lake Bled this year, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I met up with a group of guys from the coach at a restaurant and tried some zlikrofi (a pasta dumpling filled with potato) with them, had a laugh and savoured the views of the water. After that, we walked around the lake together and hiked up to the castle, which luckily had free entry that night. Watching the sunset from the panoramic viewpoint of the castle walls, I felt a sense of happiness that was so intense that it was hard to describe.
The Emerald Adventure
The next day I woke up buzzing, as we were doing the Emerald Adventure with 3Glav Adventures. Last year when I’d backpacked solo with Busabout, I let the budget that I’d set for myself stop me from doing this activity. I’d later heard from numerous other travellers that it was one of their favourite days on their trip, and regretted missing out on ever since. We were greeted by our awesome guide Klavdij, who was equal parts fun and knowledgable (especially when I was being a nerd and picking his brains on the history of Slovenia). The squad were driven up into the Julian Alps along the Vrsic Pass, otherwise known as the ’Russian Road’, as it was built by Russian prisoners of war during WW1. Our first stop was a short hike to the expansive Vrsic mountain range where you could view the Austrian alps on one side, and look down on the Slovenian peaks and valleys below us.
Next on the agenda was a crashing waterfall; which fed its water straight from the mountains to the Soca river where everyone later went white water rafting. I literally gasped at our third stop, when I turned a corner and caught sight of the incredible clear blue Great Soca Gorge. We drove further into the Triglav National Park and stopped at the pale turquoise Soca river, then onwards to Kozjak waterfall. Here you can brave the icy cold and swim under the waterfall, then dry off in the sunlit field that you walk back to the van through. Towards the end of our adventure, we had the unique experience of riding a car train back through the mountains, through tunnels and past tiny villages. We topped off our 10-hour adventure off with a bright orange and fairyfloss purple sunset over the huge Lake Bohinj, which was like dessert after a filling day of adventure.
Boats, Cake And A Day On The Lake
The weather was turning it on for us on our third day in Lake Bled, so the squad hired a wooden paddle boat and rowed out to the island (the only natural island in Slovenia). Before we left, we got a takeaway Bled cake, made of layers of pastry, custard and cream, so we could eat it once we’d rowed over. The boys did all the work, so Faith and I just got to enjoy the scenery and crank the tunes. There are old Slovenian legends that say that if you manage to ring the bell at the top of the church three times, then you will have good luck. They also say that if you carry your lover all the way up the long staircase, then you will have a long and happy life together. I carried my Bled cake up there, so I’m hoping that the same rule applies…
Later that evening, the squad went to Ostarija Peglez’n and ate our Italian style meal overlooking the lake, with the sun beaming bright orange over the terracotta castle as it set. Once our bellies were full, we headed back to Jazz Hostel, where we laid on our balcony, looked at the bright starry sky and and laughed till our bellies hurt even more. We had loved the cities we’d been in, but as we are all outdoorsy people, I think all of us felt light and happy being in this naturally beautiful haven.
I Heart S-LOVE-enia
After starting our day off the right way, with Jazz Hostel’s famous waffles and hot buffet breakfast, Faith and I spent the morning of our last full day in Bled walking around the lake, swimming and relaxing at the ‘beach’ outside the camping grounds. The plan was to go to the nearby Vintgar Gorge, but unfortunately it was closed for restoration when we were there. In the afternoon, we headed up to watch the sunset from the viewpoint over the lake, which left me feeling simultaneously heavy and content at the thought of leaving my favourite place. After a relaxing traditional dinner at Babji Zob, we committed to making the most of our final morning in Bled, so we woke up at 4:30am to hike up to the viewpoint again for sunrise, which definitely didn’t disappoint.
Last year, I didn’t get a chance to go tobogganing down a slope used as a ski field in winter, so Faith and I raced around the lake to fit that in before the coach arrived to take us to Italy. We rode the cable car up and got sweeping views over the lake, before racing down on the little yellow toboggan at full speed. After sharing one last Bled Cake, we stopped at the iconic red heart by the lake to take a picture, which perfectly encapsulated how I feel about Bled after two visits that have left me feeling nothing but love for S-LOVE-enia.
The Recommended Hostel: Jazz Hostel, Lake Bled
Once you’ve stepped off the coach at Jazz Hostel, you’d be hard pressed to feel a warmer welcome anywhere else you go. Your first sight will be the owner, Jani, running out from reception to greet you with his huge smile, and he’ll continue going out of his way for you and making you feel welcome throughout your stay.
Jazz Hostel packs a punch, with a funky bar, modern rooms, a convenient location close to the lake and town, big family barbecue dinners, and one of the best breakfasts I’ve had – think, fruit, cereal, toast, eggs, bacon and even a waffle machine! Jani is such a great resource to give you local tips on places to visit, as well as awesome day trips to the stunning places Slovenia has to offer. This is definitely one of the beautiful locations that you’ll never want to leave!