|LAKE BLED, SLOVENIA|
I believe it was the photo of Lake Bled with its picturesque island, Gothic church, and the Bled Castle, perched on a cliff directly above, that really made me want to travel 6,000 miles across the world to visit Slovenia. I didn't even realize at the time that Lake Bohinj, just a short drive or hike away, is even more majestic.
Both are a little over an hour north of Ljubljana, where we were based for seven nights. We chose two separate days to visit, making sure the weather forecast was good. We walked around Lake Bled and along one side of Lake Bohinj. The walks were gentle and as beautiful as they get. They were good vintage traveler walks, not many hills and plenty of benches along the way. May is a good time to travel because most of the tourists haven't shown up yet, the days are long, and the weather is mild (rain is always a risk).
|BLED CREAM CAKE|
PARK HOTEL CAFE
Our first side trip to Lake Bled was an easy bus ride from Ljubljana with a scenic view from the front seat. Upon arrival, we walked down to start our 3.5 mile hike circling the lake. It was one of the prettiest among the many vintage walks on our month-long journey to Europe. I loved the mountain fresh air and the lush green forests and views of the snow-peaked Alps. We stopped along the way to take photos and appreciate the lake views from different perspectives. Ending at the Park Cafe which overlooks the lake, and claims to serve the best Bled Cream Cake. It was scrumptious and well-deserved after our long walk. This vanilla and custard-cream cake is popular in several central-European countries. It is commonly associated with Bled in Slovenia where they have been baking it at the Park Hotel since 1953.
When we were heading out, we stopped at the tourist information only to be informed that Lake Bohinj is even prettier than Lake Bled. With good weather in the forecast, we were on our way to Lake Bohinj the following day.
Bohinj is an extra thirty minutes by bus from Bled and is worth the trip even if just for the scenic bus ride along the Sava River and views of the quaint villages, mountain pastures and meadows. Lake Bohinj, with steep mountains projecting straight up from the edges, is located in the Triglav National Park, and is even more serene and natural than Lake Bled. We rode the cable car to the top of Mount Vogel for a panoramic view of the surrounding Julian Alps and Mount Triglav (9,400 ft.), the highest peak in Slovenia. It is also a good starting point for hiking trails, including the Bohinj cheese trail which offers samples of the traditionally made cheese to hikers starting late June.
After the ride down, we walked along the side of the lake for 2.5 miles. It was peaceful and we could see fish in the clear water. There was just one small rowboat carrying a few tourists on the lake, and it was so quiet that we could hear their voices. When we arrived in the uncrowded village of Ribcev Laz at the southwest end of the lake, we found a restaurant where we enjoyed a plate of fresh local cheese, warm homemade bread, and freshly turned butter. It was a fine ending to another unforgettable day in the mountains.