It was coming up to the end of the year and I badly needed a break from work and a short holiday. I started thinking of where I’d like to go. I wanted to go somewhere in Europe or Africa but didn’t know exactly where. What I did know though, was that I had a craving to get to the mountains. Living in Holland these past eleven or so years, with the country being so flat, I really missed seeing high mountain peaks, preferably snow covered ones. So I checked out a few mountain destinations on the internet and one search came up with a choice of four mountain holidays, such as France, Switzerland, Germany and Slovenia.
Since I started traveling in 1996, I’d backpacked practically all over Europe on my own and had been to Germany, France and Switzerland but hadn’t had the chance to explore Slovenia. The town in Slovenia that was advertised, was a cute little village at the base of the Julian Alps, called Lake Bled. It looked so picturesque on the internet, like a fairytale adventure, waiting to be discovered.”Mmm, interesting”, I thought. So I plumped for Slovenia, bought myself a “Rough Guide:Slovenia” book and started reading up on it.
I’m an independent traveller and like to book everything myself: the flights, accommodation, transport, day excursions etc. For one thing, it normally works out cheaper than booking a package holiday and secondly, I love the excitement of doing all the research myself, finding out what the cheapest flights are, booking the most suitable accommodation etc. It’s all part of the adventure! It was also the first time that I had used the internet to help me choose where I wanted to go on holiday.
So I decided to head off for ten days and the flight from Amsterdam with Adria Airways, was on the morning of the 29th September. I got up early and made for the airport. Man was it busy! The queue to go through the baggage check was unreal: it was snaking back out through the front door! The flight left on time and we landed at about 12.10pm. The weather in Slovenia, luckily was beautiful. I had contacted the Pension where I was staying and asked them if they could pick me up from the airport(Ljubljana) as I didn’t have a car. So they said yes. Dietmar, the owner of Pension Mayer was there to pick me up but when I came out into arrivals, he didn’t have his board up, with my name on it, so I waited a while. Ten minutes later, as I was about to phone the Pension, Dietmar was holding up the board, we introduced ourselves and off we went back to Lake Bled in his car, which only took about 30 minutes to drive.
The Pension Mayer is really nice and my room was too. In previous email correspondence, Dietmar warned me that my room was an eaves room and that it was pretty small, so I wasn’t expecting much. It was lovely though, with lots of room, a double bed and an ensuite bathroom, with a bath. Having the bath is a real luxury, as in Amsterdam, not many of the apartments there have baths, only shower units. So I was delighted! www.mayer-sp.si
He advised me to try and see the Castle and take the trip out on the Lake that day, because of the good weather. I unpacked my stuff and headed down towards the Lake. I called into the tourist office to ask about excursions. I was hoping that I might be able to take a few day excursions with groups but as it was in between seasons, they were only doing day trips with groups of a minimum of six people or more. I was a bit disappointed and decided then that I would have to do it on my own with public transport. That’s one thing I would recommend though, is that if you come here on your own, out of season, it’s a lot easier to do day trips with your own car.
I wanted to do the Pletna boat ride, from the shore of the lake, out to the island, where you go into the Church there and ring the bell and make a wish on it. The legend of the wishing bell is about a young widow who lived at Bled Castle and mourned her husband who was killed by brigands. She had a bell cast for the chapel on Bled Island. When the bell was being transported to the island, a storm caused the boat to overturn, the boatmen drowned and the bell sank to the bottom of the lake. The young widow, even more devastated, decided to go to Rome and enter a convent. After she died, the Pope donated another bell for the chapel on the island. The legend has it that those who ring the bell and make a wish, will see their wish come true.
The boat ride takes half an hour and it was a beautiful day, made even nicer by the guy who was rowing us…..he had a lovely smile, with cute dimples! There were ten of us on the boat. I got talking to this woman who was from Ljubljana. It was a nice trip, slow and peaceful and the lake is so green and clean. As we got off the boat, this woman said to me “I heard you’re Irish and live in Amsterdam”. I said “Yes, where are you from?”. As it turned out, she was Irish too and also living in Amsterdam but visiting her Slovenian partner here. It’s a small world! We got talking for a while, walked into the church, rang the bell, made a wish and got talking some more. On a daily basis, there is a continual relay of pletna boats that go from the shore to Bled Island, which is crowned by the Church of the Assumption. This church has some beautiful frescoes that are well worth seeing. There is also the remains of a pre-Romanesque chapel and a Slavic cemetery. We only had half an hour on the island. It was lovely there and the view, once you make it up the steep steps, was lovely too. We got back on the boat and were back on the shore by 4pm.
I took a wander around the town with Trina, the Irish woman and her partner Yolanda and we ended up at one of the terraces of the hotels, sitting having Bled cake(cake with a layer of custard, cream in the middle and a layer of pastry on the top) and coffees in the evening sunshine. It was so nice. We all left at about 6.30pm and I headed to Gostilna Planincu for dinner. This is a great restaurant/cafe, really cosy, with great food but I must warn you, the portions are big!