Bled, Slovenia was meant to be a less hectic stop on our trip, to give us a chance to recharge. The setting couldn't be better, with the clear lake set in the lush mountains and a penzion (inn) with the feeling of a small Alpine resort.
More pictures are on the Bled page.
Our trip to Bled started with a night train, and for this particular leg, we ended up with a private pair of bunks. There were a bunch of kids on the car, too, but the conductor only had to remind them once or twice when they started getting noisy. The kids weren't very organized in the morning, however, and were rushing to get out of the cabins and off the train, with everyone else waiting behind them.
Our train arrived in Zagreb where we looked for our next train. We did manage to find it with several minutes to spare, and settled in to watch the Slovenian countryside go by on our way to Bled. We went through the Ljubljana stop, so we got to see what it looked like, knowing we'd be there in a couple days.
The first order of business when we got off the train in Bled was to get some currency (euros). That proved to be more problematic than we had hoped, since in other countries we were able to just pull cash from an ATM (Bankomat). The ATM near the train station didn't like either of our cards, so we ended up going to a teller to exchange dollars, since we needed to take the bus. Once we got to the actual town of Bled, we found another ATM which was willing to give us cash, so we were fine after that.
At least we were fine as long as cash was concerned. We had a rough map of the city, and we knew where we were going, but weren't exactly sure where we had gotten off the bus. The map didn't seem to match reality, until we realized we had gotten off a stop early (a good thing, as it turns out). We started going towards where we were going to spend the night, but once again the map didn't seem to really match the streets we were seeing. After doing some educated guessing as to where we needed to go, we found our place and checked in. We got settled, and headed back into the town.
We went down towards the lake and found the Tourist Information office to get maps and other brochures. Next came a trip to the grocery store to get a picnic lunch, then we went to the shore. We wanted to see if we could get a ride on a pletna (flat-bottomed boat) to go to Otok (the island in the middle of Lake Bled). We knew they would have to wait until there were several people before taking the boat out, so we found a bench and ate our lunch.
After lunch, we saw several people approach, but no one seemed to want to go to the island. We spoke with one of the boatsmen and he said they'd take the boat out with at least seven people, but that we could go out right away on a motorboat. We opted to wait around.
One group of seven people approached the boats and started asking about going to the island. We were ready to pounce! However, after hearing it'd be 12€ each, they started hemming and hawing. They moved on after hanging around the dock for quite a while. We decided to give up and try again in the morning, so we started walking the 3.5 miles around the lake,
When we got part way around the lake, we took a detour and climbed up to Bled Castle. As we got higher, we started to catch up to that same group of seven tourists, and they were acting like a bunch of, well, young tourists. We paused to take in the view to let them get a head start in the castle.
We had picked up a discount coupon for the castle at the Tourist Information Center, but the woman selling tickets looked as if she had never seen it before. We weren't sure if she was going to accept it, but eventually she did.
We could see the whole lake from the castle, but we had to look almost straight down to see the shore closest to us. We also went into the museum and poked our heads into the wine cellar and the replica Gutenberg printing press.
After climbing back down from the castle, we continued our way around the lake. We saw several other plenta docks as we worked our way around, and the last one had a tour bus next to it, offloading a bunch of tourists onto the boats. The oarsman asked if we also wanted to get on, but we decided we'd rather find some dinner and call it a day.
Once we got back to our room, we decided to check out the common room's wireless access. After giving it a few tries (and the proprietor rebooting the router) we got online for the first time this trip, so Melody was able to get through some email and I was able to post some pictures. We went to dinner and being the internet junkies we are, went back online before retiring for the night.
The next morning after a great breakfast (provided with the room) we made a beeline to the plenta dock and saw five other people in the boat. We boarded, and after a few minutes our oarsman pushed off. It's amazing how much he was able to propel the boat with each stroke. During the summer he said he would make three or four trips to the island (keeping in mind there are lots of boats), but on that day he said he might get one more trip, but maybe not.
After getting to the island, we climbed up to the church and took a quick look around. A group of Japanese tourists were there ringing the wishing bell, and after they were done, Melody gave it a ring for good luck.
We took the plenta back to the shore, ate lunch, then walked up towards Vila Bled, which used to be the summer residence for Tito and his family. It was turned into a hotel and restaurant in 1984, and this picture is of the ivied entry gate.
A few minutes away was a Dali exhbit, part of which consisted of 105 lithographs (from the original gouaches) of his illustrations for Biblia Sacra. The other part of the exhibition was his 100 illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy.
An interesting addition to the Divine Comedy portion was showing how each print was built up of several dozen layers of ink. The top prints showed the actual layers, and the bottom prints how each layer added to the print.
One thing we didn't do was the Luge Ride (Polento Sankanje), which rather than looking like an actual luge, seemed to be more of a sled ride. Of course, the only reason we didn't do it was because the ride was closed…
Bled is well known for kremšnita, a cake made of layers of puff pastry around vanilla custard and whipped cream. We had to try some, and did so at the Park Hotel, which says it invented the cake in 1953.
That night we once again settled in to get our internet fix, but unfortunately we were having connection problems. Melody finally got connected, and I ended up finding a good signal by standing at the reception counter. I did try moving back to the common area, but things got really slow, so standing up it was. After it got dark, a man rolling a suitcase behind him came up and I told him I thought the proprietor was gone for the night, but he said he was looking for the Hotel (we were in the Penzion), which was across the way. He was glad to see it, mentioning it was a lot of work just to find the Penzion. I guess it didn't occur to him it would be strange to find someone else speaking with an American accent, but we did feel for him; we had a hard enough time finding the place when it was daylight.
The next morning we headed to the bus stop made our way to the train station, and were on our way to Ljubljana.