About the Photo Above: Bled Island and Bled Castle
The word picturesque hardly does justice to the beauty of Bled, Slovenia with its castle on a hill overlooking a reflective lake cradling an island in the middle upon which sits a story-book church. Swans swim the lake and wildlife runs through the surrounding forests which are set in front of snow capped mountains. Yep, I managed to catch it all in this photo (you have to look hard for the swans and wildlife!).
Where is Slovenia?
Like so many other geographically challenged Americans, prior to 2016 I had no idea where Slovenia was. I had made a friend Rok from Slovenia while in Guatemala, but all I knew was he was from a country near Croatia; perhaps part of the problem was I didn’t know where Croatia was located (other than a coastal country). So, know that I’m in the know, I’ll tell you: Slovenia (and Croatia) are located just east of Italy (Italy sort of wraps around it) and south of Austria/Germany. For those graphically minded, check out the little map I made which maps my journey starting in Austria, through a few countries with two stops in Slovenia and continuing on into Italy. For those who enjoy history, Slovenia has passed back and merged many times with other countries like Germany, Hungary, and Croatia. You might have heard of Slovenia by its previous name of Yugoslavia.
When I first heard of Bled, I thought it might be a place where Count Dracula lived, a place of blood, bleeding, and lots of bats (bled, being the past tense of “to bleed”). On a stormy, overcast day, one might imagine Dracula here due to fairytale castles, forests, and jagged mountains. So, yep, it is much as I thought it might be, only in sunlight which obviously would scare away all the vampires making it safe for tourists. I should mention that vampires, Dracula, etc. are thought to come from a district in Romania (which does sound a lot like Slovenia). From wikipedia: “A small island in the middle of the lake is home to Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church; visitors frequently ring its bell for good luck. Human traces from prehistory have been found on the island. Before the church was built, there was a temple consecrated to Živa, the Slavic goddess of love and fertility. One can get to the island on a traditional flat-bottomed wooden boat (Slovene: pletna). The island on Lake Bled has 99 steps. A local tradition at weddings is for the husband to carry his new bride up these steps, during which the bride must remain silent.” I walked around the lake, soaking up the view of the island and church from all angles; it was quite wonderful!
Vintgar Gorge (just outside Bled)
I spent a few hours walking out to the gorge just north of Bled and about 40 minutes wandering down the wood bridges built along the canyon walls. This is a must-see activity if you visit the area (photos below).
Don’t get me started; I’m not sure I can help you with the pronunciation of this city. You almost have to hear it to get it right. Here we go… say “libby-ahh-na.” Ok, that wasn’t so bad. Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia, and like so many capitals, it was stunningly beautiful (I’m running out of superlative adjectives now for describing beautiful cities). The most important thing about Ljubljana is ice cream! Well, and of course it has a big castle, lots of amazing churches, and yes, a big canal right through the middle of it all. In other words, another amazing place to see that looks fabulous day and night. Check out the pics below!
What to Eat in Slovenia:
I love trying new foods from different cultures. In Bled, I had to try cevapcici which was a kind of turkish-style pita filled with sausages, lettuce, tomatoes and two sauces. The guy serving it also put a green onion on top indicating I should just take bites of it while eating the cevapcici. It tasted quite good and much as you might imagine sausages in a pita might taste. The cost was 4.50 euros (about $5).
Costs in Budapest
Hostel: $10-13/night (shared dorm)
Food: typically $5 to $9 meal for lunch or dinner
Transportation: I didn’t use any public transportation in Slovenia (lots of walking)