A Travellerspoint blog


Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj

Lakes, churches, tits, rain, castles and weddings

View Slovenia and Croatia Wanderer 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Having set the alarm for 06:00 to watch – and photograph – the sunrise, I check the weather out of the window. The rain has (temporarily) stopped, but there is no sign of the sun so I crawl back to bed for another hour or two.


After breakfast, the four of us jump in our car and go for a drive of the area, starting with a circumnavigation of the lake. I am sad to report that the weather looks equally dreary from the other side.


Heading for Bohinj – as recommended by our friend Mel – we stop at the picturesque church of Bitjne for a few photos. This is exactly how I imagined the Slovenian Alps to look like.


At Lake Bohinj we park up and go for a stroll. The area is picture perfect, with an old stone bridge and a church, green forests and clear, clear water in the lake.




So clear, in fact, that you can see masses of fish shoaling right under the bridge!


I get to meet Bert and Ernie, Eddie's little 'mascots' who travel with them and get photographed wherever they go.


Church of the Holy Spirit by the Lake
Further along the lake we spot a small church and go to investigate.


The door is locked so we walk around the outside, taking some pictures. Soon a young girl appears (presumably from a house close by) with a key, and without a word, unlocks the church door so we can visit the interior.


Built in 1743, the frescoes date from 1885 and were only discovered during restoration in 1981.


I tend to agree with Mel, that Bohinj is prettier than Bled. It is more natural, being used more for recreation – hiking, cycling, fishing – than tourism.


Church of St John the Baptist
Having listened to Homer and Eddie rave about how beautiful the little church by the bridge is inside, I decide to stop and take a look for myself when we pass by there again on the return journey to Bled.


Apparently it is one of the most photographed churches in Slovenia!


The church is thought to have been built in the late 10th century, although it has been added to several times since. The external frescoes were added between 1300 and 1900 and depict St Christopher.


St Christopher is the patron saint of all traveller, and in the old days it was believed that you would die on the day you gazed upon an image of the saint.


The inside is indeed very beautiful, with the walls covered in colourful paintings – in fact I am very impressed how much colour has been retained.


We take a different route back to Bled, choosing a small country lane through cute villages and stunning scenery.


These hay drying frames are unique to Slovenia and were originally made of wood. The region is very prone to lightning storms, and in order to not lose their frame as well as the hay itself in the event of a strike, more modern concrete shelters were built.


I spot a beautiful little church, and beg David to stop. Apparently it is the same church I photographed earlier. Oh.


We get a little lost and end up going in circles for a short while, when I spot another pretty little church I want to photograph..... Yes, you guessed it, the same one. Maybe the Bohinj church isn't the most photographed church after all.

At a high point on the road, we stop to take some photos, and Homer has a Sound of Music moment, singing “The Hills are Alive” and getting all dizzy with the excitement.


The video is absolutely rubbish, but it gives you an idea of what happened.

Later Homer spots his very first tit! Having been jealous of me posting pictures on Facebook of my tits for some time, he was hoping to see a Blue Tit on this trip. Unfortunately he had to make do with a Coal Tit. But.... a tit is a tit; beggars can't be choosers.


We arrive back at the guest house in time for lunch. By this stage it is raining heavily again. Pouring rain. The restaurant is busy so we sit outside under the awning. It is now bucketing down outside and a wind is getting up. The people sitting at the table nearest the edge of the awning are getting quite wet, so get up and take their food inside. I am feeling quite cold by now, but brave it out.

Another crap video - I think I'll stick to still photos in future.

The rain is now pissing down and it's blowing a gale. We are sitting around 20 metres inside the roof, but still getting wet as the rain is now horizontal. Eddie compares the weather to the tropical storms they get in Miami - without the temperatures. We go inside while we wait for our food to arrive.

All the tables inside are taken with a large Korean tour group. We have seen dozens and dozens of these groups here in Bled – they arrive in a large bus at the lake, pile into boats for their 20 minute ride to the island and back, then straight into the restaurant for a pre-ordered meal consisting of soup, schnitzel and apple strudel. They usually eat the soup and some of the strudel, but the majority of them leave the schnitzel almost untouched.

There are several bikers standing around too, waiting for a table, and as soon as the tour group leaves, we can all fit in.

We are pleased to see they have plenty of the Blejska kremna rezina today.


But first, some real food – clockwise from top left: buckwheat dumplings stuffed with cottage cheese in a mushroom sauce; vegetable lasagne; spaghetti Bolognaise; pasta in a gorgonzola sauce.


And then for the piece de resistance:

cue drum roll

......... the famous and elusive cream slice!

Ta da!


And, yes, it is totally worth waiting for: light, creamy and not too sweet. Mmm

Bled Castle
As it is still raining, we go for a little nap after lunch. When we wake I am surprised to look out of the window and find that the sun is shining. We grab Homer and Eddie and head for the castle on the hill.


All the web sites I looked at before coming here talked about the long, steep climb to the castle from the town – none of them mentioned that you could drive to the top of the hill where there is a small car park. From there a short but very steep path takes you to the castle.


Bled Castle is obviously the place to get married, as we see not one but two weddings here – one of them much more fancy and colourful than the other; with guests dressed in traditional costumes and a live group performing.




What a difference a few hours makes – look at the weather now!


The lake is a stunning shade of aquamarine, and the view from the castle terrace is breathtaking.





We hang around for ages, taking photos and chatting to people. Homer is devastated as his 70-200mm lens is no longer communicating with the camera body. That is the sort of stuff I have nightmares about.

Dinner at Murca Restaurant
For dinner tonight we go to a restaurant recommended by the Tourist Office. When David – as the designated driver - orders a bottle of Coke Zero, the waiter suggests a whisky might be more appropriate. After bringing all our drinks, he later returns with a “whisky for the driver”


David takes one sniff and exclaims “Ooh, that's strong” and proceeds to take a sip from the glass. It is of course only juice with ice cubes in a whisky glass. That's what I like, a waiter who not only speaks perfect English, but also has a great sense of humour.

Always one to order something unusual and local from the menu, I choose the wild boar with creamed potato and a sauce with plums and lavender.


The boys have a mixed grill with buckwheat and cabbage.


Back at the hotel we have a night cap in the bar before bed time, in the form of a local schnapps. That really is strong!


Posted by Grete Howard 08:33 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

Rovinj - Bled

Crossing into Slovenia

sunny 19 °C
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Between the late night revellers, the church bells and the early morning seagulls, I had a dreadful night's sleep. We are up early this morning to explore Rovinj before most tourists wake up.


The light is very different this morning.

The seagulls that woke me at 04:30 this morning, are now following a fishing trawler.


The old town of Rovinj is built on a small peninsula, with the Church of St Euphemia at the top of a small hill. A number of steps lead up to the church, through narrow alleyways meandering between tall, ramshackle but quaint buildings. I am finding Rovinj much more agreeable today - probably because of the lack of other tourists and souvenir sellers.


The town is just beginning to stir, with a smattering of dog-walkers, delivery men and cafés setting up to serve breakfast.


And cats.


From the top there is a great view over the harbour and the mainland.




The Church of St Euphemia
At the top of the hill stands the Church of St Euphemia from 1736, and you can see it from many angles as you climb the steps. As the largest baroque building in Istria, it represents the period during the 18th century when Rovinj was the most populous town in the area.


St Euphemia is the patron saint of Rovinj’s who was tortured for her Christian faith by Emperor Diocletian before being thrown to the lions in AD 304. She may even have walked on those very stones we stepped on in Pule yesterday.


Modelled on the belfry of St Mark’s in Venice, the 60m bell tower is topped by a copper statue of St Euphemia, which shows the direction of the wind by turning on a spindle.


Coming back down we decide to take the cobbled, sloping road (!) rather than the steps, to save any strain on my poorly knee.


I can't believe, however, that a small van just came up this road to set up a sales store in the car park at the top! There must be another (secret) route up, surely.


The cobbles under foot are shiny from many years of wear and tear, which worries me somewhat – one slip could ruin the rest of my trip!


The Balbi Arch is all that remains of the old town walls and marks the start of the old Venetian city – or rather the end of it for us, as we arrive back at the marina end of Rovinj.


Time for breakfast.




Time to check out and roll our cases down the cobbled streets to the nearest vehicular access point, where I sit on a bench waiting for David to collect the car.



We are heading north along the coast this morning; and while the original plan was to make several stops in various villages along the way; because of my knee and ankle injuries, we go straight to Slovenia instead.


Crossing the border is easy, and we make a small detour out into Sečovlje Salina Nature Park - a wetlands area which is said to have some good bird watching, large scale salt production and various hiking paths. Really? All we see was one small pile of salt, a large, luxury marina and five sparrows. Perhaps we are in the wrong place...


Lake Bled

As soon as we arrive at the guest house in Lake Bled, we spot our friends Homer and Eddie from Miami, who we will be travelling with for the rest of this trip. We join them for a beer and a late lunch.


Homer and Ed's Mixed Grill

Despite the dreary and persistent drizzle, we go for a walk along the lake shore.



We watch a few hardy souls go out in the Pletna Boats, and try to take a few moody photos without getting too wet.





Eventually we submit and exchange the wet walk for a beer in the bar and later some dinner.


I order local sausages with cabbage – they are very tasty but with some rather large chunks of fat in them. I try not to look while I am eating, as although I can't taste it, the sight of the fat puts me off. The cabbage is lovely though – I love cabbage!


David has the tuna fish steak and Homer chooses a schnitzel.



Having heard about the Blejska kremna rezina – the famous cream slice from Bled – we all want to try it. Shock, horror: they have run out! Instead we try Prekmurska gibanica - another local cake which is full of dried fruit and nuts, and stuffed with cottage cheese.


I have a Cheese Štruklji – a kind of doughy strudel filled with cottage cheese.


David, as usual, sticks with his favourite – apple strudel.


Guest House Mlino
By the time we have finished eating the weather has cleared up some, so we venture down to the lake again for some more photos. Our Guest House Mlino is literally just across the road from the lake, so we are easily positioned to take in the sights on the lake.



The Pletna Boats
These are traditional boats that are unique to Bled. The origin of the Pletna boats dates back to 1590 and being a “Pletnarrstvo” - Pletna oarsman - is a respected profession handed down from generation to generation.


The boat is propelled with the special "stehrudder" technique where the oarsman is standing and rowing with two oars.


It is said that the Pletna boat gained its name after its roof which was once wickered. Another explanation claims that the name comes from the German word "plateboot", meaning flat-bottom boat.



As the “Blue Hour” approaches an eerie mist descends, hovering just above the surface of the lake, giving the scene a mystical hue and a fairytale atmosphere.




As the light fades, out come the tripods as Homer and I set up our cameras to capture the scenes around the lake on a timed exposure before retiring for the night.



Posted by Grete Howard 01:54 Archived in Slovenia Comments (2)

Slovenia and Croatia Wanderer

Just three days at home before another adventure

View Slovenia and Croatia Wanderer 2015 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Our latest trip is (re)visiting some parts of the Balkans – a tour around Slovenia and Croatia.


When we get to Heathrow it shocks us just how expensive “Duty Free” is within EU. A bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum – which costs around £17 in our local Tesco – is £24 at the “Duty Free” shop at Heathrow. Gulp.

It takes forever to load the plane, especially as four passengers are travelling in wheelchairs. Having damaged the ham string in my left knee and sprained the navicular in my right ankle, I am sporting a walking stick (borrowed from my dad) and am offered special assistance for boarding, which I decline. By the time the plane actually leaves, we are already half an hour behind schedule.

The man sitting behind me seems to have mistaken his tray table as a drum kit, but he fortunately stops when the drinks and “meal” arrive. I say “meal”, as that is what it is advertised as on my ticket.


Reality is, however, very different to expectations. The “meal” consists of five green olives and five small cubes of cheese in olive oil; with a small packet of seven tasty but very dry pretzels. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.


Picking up the hire car from the airport is easy. Fill in a form, hand over credit card for deposit, check drivers licence and the keys are handed over. The car is parked just a few yards outside the terminal building. We're on our way!

As it is a late night arrival, we have booked a hotel near the airport for tonight. The receptionist surprises me by speaking fluent Swedish when we check in. Despite being late, there is still time for a glass of the (very expensive) Captain before bed.

The trip has begun.

Posted by Grete Howard 02:13 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

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