You’re going to love Lake Bled
Don’t lose your head in Bled. It’s basically the Slovenian version of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Ok, I may have made this saying up, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Bled, a quiet lakeside resort town in the incredibly beautiful Slovenian countryside might make you start reconsidering things and questioning basic things. Things like quitting and moving to Lake Bled to start a hot air balloon company for example. Or how much capital is needed to start a ferry company in Slovenia. Lake Bled has this effect on visitors, especially first timers due to the natural splendor of the area and the almost unbelievable picturesque beauty from so many vantage points. Maybe you shouldn’t go if you don’t want to change your life goals, but isn’t it better to at least try?
Lake Bled has long been a destination for tourists. In the 1800s, British and German tourists visited the natural springs and baths on grand tours of Europe. Many of the hotels still maintain the grandeur of this age as well as the air conditioning (as in none). Say what you want about Victorian tourists, but at least they knew how to have baller breakfasts and picnics. Since then, tourism took a hit during the Yugoslavian days when closed borders led to tourism only from the surrounding Balkan nations. Marshal Tito himself enjoyed a dip in the lake. Since the fall of communist Yugoslavia and the Balkan wars which barely touched this area, tourism has resumed, but the area can still has a quiet undiscovered feel. It’s time to visit now before Slovenia becomes the next Croatia. And it will, because this area is gorgeous and has tons to do. Here’s how to make the perfect visit to Lake Bled.
Rise with the Sun – Or beat it over the castle that overlooks the lake from a cliff on a hot air balloon ride. Taking off from a field behind the castle, you’ll rise slowly above it as the wind carries you across the lake. Feel free to shout down to the fisherman and few tourists who are actually out this early. You’ll get the best view of the lake around from above and maybe even skim the serene waters once or twice. At the end of the tour, you might pass over some of the farmhouses surrounding the lake and even celebrate with a champagne toast, the traditional mark of a successful balloon flight since the inaugural one in the 1800s.
Power up like a machine-a with some Kremina Rezina – At the Park Hotel, you can try a slice of this spongy, sugary sweet dish while overlooking the lake from the terrace. Pair it with some coffee to really power up for an adventurous day touring the lake. This dish, the national dish of Slovenia, combines the sweetness of a torte with the soft moistness of a shortcake. Head out early enough and the terrace restaurant will feel like your own private veranda before the crowds hit.
Summit Bled Castle – Start a walk around the lake with a visit to Bled Castle. You’ve already seen it from the air, but now it’s time to climb the hills and take a walk on the rampart walls. Through the trees you’ll spot the island church in the middle of the lake and probably the ferry boats being paddled out. Take a rest on the walls before heading back down.
Circumnavigate the Lake – The loop around the lake makes for a perfect day tour. It’s short enough to make it around fairly quickly, even with a few stops and detours like the castle. You’ll pass palatial manor houses on the water and several spots to hop on a paddle board or canoe if you so desire. From the route, you’ll find several unique and stunning views of the entirety of the lake and the church in the middle of it that pop up as you round turns.
Take a Hike – For even better views, ones rivaling even those from the balloon ride, head up the trail to Mala Osojnica, an overlook in the woods above the lake with perfect views overlooking the whole lake, castle, and church. The hand-rowed ferry boats create abstract patterns in the lake’s waters, improving the picture perfect nature of the view. The hike up can be strenuous, especially after rain when the mud can be treacherous, but the view makes the effort worthwhile.
Take a ferry to the church – No visit to Bled is complete without a trip out to the church in the middle of the lake on the ferry. A short ride out gets you to the steps that rise from the lake and take you right into the chapel. Every picture of Bled captures this church, so it’s only right to get up close during your visit.
Stop for a beer in a lounge chair – There are few things more relaxing and refreshing than an ice cold light lager beer after physical exertion on a hot summer day. Stop around the Plentna area which has several hotels and restaurants near the ferry jetty that have chairs right on the lake. The Slovenian national beer, like most national beers, is a fairly benign lager that won’t stand up to a craft brew, but after the walk and hike, it sure does hit the spot. Sitting and whiling away the day while taking in the lake isn’t a bad way to pass the time.
Take a rest and recover at Grand Hotel Toplice – If you stayed here, you’d be home already. This Victorian era hotel actually feels a bit like the Grand Budapest Hotel with a turn of the century (the last one) vibe and lots of wood and gold. The bellboys even dress similarly. If you can score the top room, a balcony overlooking the lake with lounge chairs and incredible views await you. Use this time to take advantage while the sun sets. Even if you can’t get a room with a view, you can enjoy the great spa, naturally heated to a balmy 0-something degrees by the springs. If that’s a bit cold for you, hop in the sauna for a schvitz. The breakfast here also comes with a great view from the ballroom.
Hit the town across the street at Ostarija Peglez’n – After all the walking around the lake, a short walk to dinner might be called for. Head just across the street to this seafood restaurant where inside you can enjoy some fishing kitsch or a great outside meal on the patio. You won’t get Great Lake views, but you’ll get the lake breeze and some awesome fish or shellfish. Try the huge prawns or stuffed squid that are famous in this region. A bit (or a ton) of garlic and butter certainly don’t hurt. And be sure to wash everything down with some of the incredible local wine. Both red and white are awesome from Slovenia’s wine regions.
Or, try Indian-Slovenian fusion at Okarina – A match made in heaven, seafood, meat, and Indian spices. At this fusion spot just off the downtown drag – or what resembles one by the lake – you’ll find an incredible mix of the powerful flavors. Think venison with vindaloo and prawns Madras and you won’t be far off. For some reason the spicy minerally wine of Slovenia works great with these flavors too. For something a bit different, Okarina is just the place.
Lake Bled may not be the craziest party town or have a rowdy nightlife, but this quiet resort is absolutely perfect to combine activity, adventure, gastronomy, and some relaxing. A detour to this scenic and picturesque little town around the lake is well worth it just to sit and watch the world go by. Sometimes we could use a little fuel and we could all use a little change. Those words are as true today as the day when the immortal poets Smash Mouth first sang them. Yup, what a concept.