8 hours in Bled

Posted on
Jul 14, 2009
3
Posted in: City Guide

I usually like to do “24 hours in … ” posts for the cities that I visit for only a day – but I want to abundantly clear on this point: We did not spend 24 hours in Bled. We didn’t even spend 12 hours in Bled. We spent, not counting the nearly 8 hours of driving, about 8 hours in Bled. We did this for two reasons:

  1. My husband, as I have noted before, is absolutely insane and impractical when it comes to travel.
  2. There are certain people in your life for whom you would travel ridiculous distances to see, if only for a few hours. You would do this, despite the fact that at home, they live 20 minutes away from you.

For the record, here they both are:

I ... yeah. I got nothing.

I … yeah. I got nothing.

So, naturally, both of these lunatics feature prominently in my trip to Bled (which transpired in April, and which, yes, I am only getting around to writing about now). And they might be why, even though we were only there for 8 hours, I love Bled more than I can possibly say. It was gorgeous and wonderful and relaxing and fun, as opposed to yet another country who’s geographic location sort of escapes me, even though dad showed it to me several times on the map, and I nodded and said I knew exactly where we were going, which was a vicious, vicious lie.

We were in Germany for Rand’s work – and when we found out Vanessa was just a few short countries away, in Slovenia, during that same time, we had to swing round and visit her, practicality be damned. Our trip began shockingly early in the morning, near Iffeldorf, which is about 40 minutes outside of Munich, and where my father lives.

Dad seemed cheerier than normal, probably because he was getting rid of us for the day, but still got brownie points for spending time with us. I don’t actually have a photo of my dad smiling, because that would be like getting a picture of Bigfoot eating the Easter Bunny while Santa looked on, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

We left at around 7:30, and we arrived in Bled sometime around 11:30am. Our directions were obtained by printing out a bunch of instructions from Google maps, then ignoring most of them because they were in direct opposition to the road signs we saw. We didn’t quite get lost, but we did have that panic that comes from wondering who is right: the internet, or the real world? One day, some sort of death match will determine a winner.

In the meantime, the drive was quite pretty:

Hotel Vila Bled, where Vanessa was staying, used to be the Prime Minister’s palace. Apparently the guy was understated and subtle:

Slovenians have 1,000 words for “capitalist dog” and not a single one for “swanky”.

Oh, and here’s her room reflected in the light cover. Notice the huge terrace on the right:

Also, you can see my tummy.

Also, you can see my tummy.

Since it wasn’t quite the right season, Bled was pretty empty, despite the already-lovely weather. Vanessa seemed to be the only person staying at her hotel, which is alternately awesome and kind of creepy. On the one hand, everyone is overly attentive and knows your name. On the other hand, everyone is overly attentive and knows your name.

It certainly made it easy to find Vanessa and take an awkward self-portrait with her.

Notice how everyone looks normal and a little frazzled, and Rand looks like Gregory Peck?

I would also like to take a moment to note how, in every single photo everyone looks normal, while my husband goes around looking like Gregory Peck. Seriously:

“The Gregory Peck and Rand” would be a good name for a British pub.

It would be nice if in at least some of these photos he looked a little travel worn and jaundiced, but he never does. It’s kind of annoying. Anyway, back to the trip …

After locating the Hotel Vila Bled’s only guest, we headed to lunch. Everyone , including the writers of the Lonely Planet guide for Slovenia, recommended this place:

I can only assume that none of them actually ate there. Since the forces of crazy far outweighed those of frugality on this trip, we ended up ordering half the menu, including two items specifically recommended by Lonely Planet. One was the goulash, which I must admit, was the most edible thing on the menu, and the other was this hamburger-looking thing located on the far right of the photo below.

Do not order the hamburger-looking thing. It’s huge. Seriously, it’s like the size of my head. And kinda bland. Also, please forgo the fried cheese. That was not a good idea, either. As the for the rest, it wasn’t that bad, but we ordered kind of terribly. Note how nearly everything on the table is fried, with the exception of the “mixed salad”. Like all salads in Europe, it rather inexplicably contains both beans and corn. I can only assume it is because Europeans like to be constipated, and thus include colon-clogging starches and legumes even in their salads.

Had we to do it all over again, I would have stuck with very regional dishes, like the goulash and the fried chicken cutlet into which Rand is cutting. I would have abandoned all hope of procuring any vegetables, which seem impossible to find in Europe outside of Italy. At least the prices were pretty damn reasonable. I think we ended up spending about $60 for three of us, including wine and soda.

Now sufficiently bloated, we headed out to explore the town. Bled is situated around a lake, sort of like a less-sexy, post-Soviet version of Como, Italy (swap out George Clooney with Yakov Smirnoff, and you’re halfway there).

We headed to Bled Castle first, which I can safely file in my “Holy crap, I didn’t think places like this existed” travel folder. Seriously. It’s a castle. On top of a cliff. With mountains behind it. If it were pink and filled with candy and unicorns, it would have been my childhood dream come true.

We parked the car in a church parking lot (you can see the spire on the right side of the photo) which I’m pretty sure was illegal and freaked me out. However, Rand and Vanessa and their laissez faire attitudes won out, and they managed to convince me that nothing would happen to the car. They were right, which kind relieved and pissed me off. I hate being wrong. I like not being towed.  From there, we hiked up to the castle. It took roughly 20 minutes, and looks worse than it is:

Seriously, we made it up in sandals and converse, so don’t be too alarmed. It was a little slippery, and I imagine if you go earlier in the season, the mud might be a problem.

Along the way, we passed a little platform that looked like it needed a statue standing atop it. So I made Vanessa and Rand pose:

Vanessa is way better at being a statue than Rand.

Vanessa is way better at being a statue than Rand.

There wasn’t too much to see inside the castle – it was visciously looted about 100 years ago, making the items they have left on display – old teacups, plates, a few pieces of clothing – even more depressing. That aside, the view from the top was worth the climb:

The church, located conveniently in the middle of Lake Bled.

I just threw this last photo in here to make you lovelorn types barf a little bit.

You likely won’t spend more than a few hours up there, but there is a restaurant at the top, should you get hungry. I cannot vouch for it in any way, shape, or form. According to Trip Advisor, it’s a little pricey and not all that great.

We then headed back down to the shore, where we caught a gondola across Lake Bled to Church Island (which, as you may have guessed, has a church on it. Apparently creative names are not the Slovenians forte).

It was a round trip fee of 12 euros each – I’m pretty sure we could have negotiated for less, but Rand and Vanessa hate haggling. Besides, the gondalier was adorable. I didn’t take a photo of him, because I didn’t want to seem creepy, so you’ll have to take my word for it. He totally looked like the kid from “American Beauty.” He explained to us that the tradition in Bled is for grooms to carry their new brides up the 100 steps leading to the church. If you make it all the way up without stopping, you’ll be guaranteed to have a long and happy marriage.

You can sort of see how friggin steep and treacherous the steps are.

In a lot of ways, it makes sense. I mean, if your wife is morbidly obese and you’re incredibly slender, then the discrepancy in your eating habits is probably going to cause a lot of marital strife. You won’t be able to carry her up the stairs, and you won’t have a long happy marriage. It’s really brilliant …

But I’m clearly stalling. Sigh. Without further ado, my husband carrying my fat ass up the stairs:

And just for the record, he totally booked it, and made it without stopping. There were some Italian guys at the top who cheered when reached the top, telling a winded Rand that he’d be fine. When I explained that I weighed a lot for my size, one of them shouted, “Mine’s heavier!” and the others laughed and agreed. It was awesome. If you are the one being carried, I highly recommend it. Rand’s opinion may differ.

The church itself is not unlike many others in Europe: pretty, gilded, and filled with Italians. There’s a bell that you are supposed to ring three times, and supposedly your prayers will be answered.

I prayed for smaller thighs. Two months later, I had to give these jeans to Vanessa because they were way too tight. Fucking broken bell.

I followed the instructions exactly. I didnt try climbing up the bell and I wasnt entirely monochromatic. I dont know what happened.

I followed the instructions exactly. I didn’t try climbing up the rope and I’m not entirely yellow. Maybe I needed a flesh-colored dress?

By now our hour was up and we were scheduled to meet our gondalier down at the bottom. I conceived of a totally brilliant scam by which he would abandon us, and another gondalier would force us to pay him double to get back to the mainland. That didn’t happen, obviously. He was at the bottom of the steps, as cute as when we had left him. But dude, if Bled were in Italy instead of Slovenia …

When we got back to shore, we walked around a bit before heading to Vila Preseren for dinner. The food was a very hearty attempt at haute cuisine, but they didn’t quite succeed (note: Caprese salad should not include stewed zucchini). Still, it wasn’t bad, and besides, we were able to sit here:

Of course, we eventually got too cold and had to go inside, but still.

Of course, we eventually got too cold and had to go inside, but still.

They got an A for effort, at least. They even tried to use foams (hence the orange stuff):

The aforementioned Caprese salad. Hiding underneath the fresh mozerella? Cooked veggies. Oh, Slovenia: You are so close to Italy and yet SO DAMN FAR.

The aforementioned “Caprese” salad. Hiding underneath the fresh mozerella? Cooked veggies. Oh, Slovenia: You are so close to Italy and yet SO DAMN FAR.

I love looking into its beady little eyes.

I love looking into its beady little eyes.

Rand and Vanessa’s pastas were also pretty decent, though Vanessa noted that her best meal in Bled had been at her hotel’s restaurant. And according to nearly every review, anywhere, Okarina, an Indian restaurant, is the best place in town. We nearly went for lunch, but elected to try regional cuisine, instead. We are fools.

However, dessert, which is a local specialty, was awesome. We headed to the Park Hotel, where the Kremna rezina was first invented. Supposedly this isn’t the best place in town to get the dessert (which is essentially a custard, puff pastry, and whipped cream napoleon), but we found it to be awesome, nonetheless. The hotel has several restaurants all clustered together, and all of them serve the same dessert.

Pardon the bad lighting. This was taken in haste, as we had already started eating it.

Pardon the bad lighting. This was taken in haste, as we had already started eating it.

By the time we were done, it was nearly 8pm. We hastily said goodbye to Vanessa (“I’ll see you next week at your house!”) and booked it out of town. We had four hours of driving ahead of us, and we hadn’t slept much the night before, so I was freaked. In retrospect, we should have planned a little more carefully. So for the record, DO NOT GO TO SLOVENIA FOR A DAY TRIP. You will be ass tired driving home, which is never good.

Still, since I like nothing more than mixed messages, I have to say, the day, including the drive there and back, was wonderful. We invented the most assinine word games on the ride back, and I found myself, yet again, shaking my head at my husband’s insanity. No one in their right mind goes to Slovenia for 8 hours. Which, I suppose, is exactly why we did it.

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  • Yuliya

    Found your blog through TIME’s 50 best websites of 2011 and I love it!

    This weekend, I swore off returning to Europe for a few years because I was thoroughly convinced that I’d seen everything worthwhile and needed to branch out to new continents but after reading this, I somehow am mentally planning a small jaunt to Slovenia…

  • Marty

    Bled. Absolutely best town name ever. Hands down.

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