Lake Bled, Slovenia
10.07.2007 16 °C
Internet has proved harder to come by in Lake Bled region - and to be honest, I did not seek it out (wasnt the kind of place where one is anxious to spend time playing with anything remotely electronic) - so this posting arrives perhaps a little later than I wished. It also seems I will have to cut short the second, less analytical posting promised from the few days I spent in Ljubliana. So, for those who want to know about nightlift in Slovenia, it must wait though im sure those who are curious are satisfied enough that I am finding time to go out and am willing to spend the Euro or Kuna to check out the scene, whether it be an outdoor jazz venue or a disco saturated with teenagers.
Again, Ljubliana is best enjoyed on a sunny afternoon, sitting river side in a cafe talking with friends, reading a paper and generally enjoying the serenity of the moment. But, there are a few worthwhile things that might keep you away from the cafes for at least a few hours. The castle is the natural first choice. It sits above the city, just above the river bend and offers fantastic views of the city. The museum isnt that special, but thats not why one goes up there, its to head to the top of the tower to look down on the city and to glance into the distance at the Snow dusted mountains of the Julian Alps. At the foot of the castle hill is a fantastic market open daily where one can pick up almost any food or clothing item desired, which is also flanked by St Nicholas Church, probably the best Ive seen in 3 weeks on road.
The hidden gem, where few tourists seemed to venture, was Tivoli park just west of the city center. The city is small, so we are talking no more than ten minutes from the main square. The first ring of the park is a fairly well manicured set of gardens, with walkways leading in numerous directions, each of which likely shares a common endpoint. What is more special though is the center of the park, a wooded hill - approaching mini mountain status - with hiking trails which, when trekking along, conceals not only the sight, but also the sound, of the bustling city below. It was hard to imagine any city having such hiking opportunities, albeit of no real difficulty, so close to a downtown setting. There is also a great, relatively isolated and thus empty, museum on contemporary Slovenian history that presents a few not so special exhibitions on life under Tito which I enjoyed, though doubt the average tourist would.
Now, to my Next Destination:
The last two nights were spent at Lake Bled, an incredibly picturesque lake in the foothills of the Julian Alps. Though its beauty is unquestioned, it is a little touristy at times for my taste. Who can blame the industrious folk who see fit to capitalize on the opportunity presented to them though - its not every day you find a lake situated so close to the mountains, with a castle overlooking it from high atop a mini-mountain and a mini-church positioned on an island that sits right in the middle of it. I promise, I found a chord and will get pictures soon. Anyway, among the better things I did in my time there was to trek 4km north to the Vintgar Gorge and take a day trip to slightly larger, and far more serene, Lake Bohinj which is about 20 miles deeper into the Alps and possesses greater natural beauty, albeit w/out like castle and churches. Still, it was a great place to hike - 3 hours around 3/4 of the lake - and get away from all of the tourists at Bled. Not to say Bled isnt worth the Journey, it definitely is, but if you are allergic to tourists there are better places out there. Thankfully the weather held out for most of my time there, only raining right at the end of it and the morning that I left. It is not a good place to spend time in the rain - unless you find a pub.
Today I left Slovenia - though somewhat disappointed I did not make it to Maribor or Ptuj in the Northeast - and am currently sitting in Zagreb. It is a much grimier city, more graffiti, and you can the changes as you move toward the heart of the Balkans. I have been here before - four nights in fact - and dont intend to spend much time here. Likely two nights, with most of the day spent on some trip elsewhere in the vicinity as I have yet to see much of the inland croatian area outside of the capital. It is my hope to post a similar posting on my way out to the first one I shared in Ljubliana and have my new 1000 page tome by Rebecca West - a Yugoslavian travel memoir from the forties - to help guide me in this pursuit. I cant believe I am towing this thing along with me - it literally weighs a kg. But it is one of, if not the, definitive piece on this region, and should be a great companion for the next few weeks.