Approaching Slovenia in the midday heat, we set our sights on driving to lake Bled, one of the most popular destinations in Slovenia. We were a bit apprehensive as we had found in Italy all of the main tourist attractions had been particularly busy. We don’t cope especially well in busy places, but as with Venice we knew once we’d seen it we could retreat to somewhere a little more sedate.
Approaching the border, little did we realise that you needed a Vignette. Luckily, the signs brought this to our attention and a quick google confirmed our suspicions. Because of the type of van we have, we had to get the most expensive Vignette, at 60 euro for one month. 60 euro’s doesnt sound a lot, but on our limited budget its a big expense. We just hoped at the time that we’d done the right thing getting one for a month. On the plus side, unlike Italy and France where you had toll roads, the Vignette means you do not pay for the road tolls.
One thing that our travel assistant (google) had told us is that upon entering Slovenia a) pull over and buy a vignette straight away as you can get a heavy fine and b) be prepared to be pulled over by the police. Well, we had achieved the first bit and set off on our journey. No sooner had we pulled out flashing lights appeared from an unmarked car and it signalled us to pull over. You never need worry when you’ve done nothing wrong, but in that moment your mind does think… have I got everything that they need to check.
Fortunately before setting out I’d organised our pack together for each country in order that we were prepared for such eventualities. Unfortunately, I had distributed each document to the far reaches of the van. So, upon the request for passports, I had to dig those out, then the V5 document, that was somewhere else. The police officer, as polite as can be must have been baffled by the array of locations our paperwork was kept. Maybe next time we should keep it in one place? He returned and bid us on our way. Off into Slovenia we departed.
Arriving in Bled on a warm Sunday evening, it was everything we had expected although it was a little busy for our liking. That said, unlike some of the lakes in Italy where we’d struggled to walk down by the lakeside, Bled has a beautiful walking path around its entirety. We drove round the entire Lake looking for somewhere free to stop, but everywhere was paid parking. Add to that multiple signs stating no overnight parking put us off winging it. We did (for a change) have a backup plan, in the form that Bled not only has a campsite (an expensive luxury and not really an option for us on our budget) and a Motorhome area (24h parking for 10 euro). Parking our van up in the Motorhome Park in bled (no facilities unfortunately), Chief, Han and I decided to explore Bled at night. It didn’t disappoint.
The lake is small, but perfectly formed, with a small island in the middle. Quite tired from our day, we decided to take a short stroll down towards the bottom of the castle. Along the way, we passed a beautiful restaurant/bar that looked out onto the lakeside near the foot of the castle. Soft music wafted through the air from two enthusiastic musicians, it was creating quite the romantic air for those dining and drinking in the restaurant.
As Han and I are now full on van dwellers, our attire didn’t quite fit the scene. Equally, I am sure that the guests didn’t appreciate us singing and making gestures to the song they were playing from the Lion King, but that’s OK, were happy and having fun. Han said to me “I bet it would be really nice to sit and have a glass of wine listening to the music”… my immediate response was to take in deep breath and say “sounds expensive”… I am told that this isn’t a particularly romantic thing to say. I redeemed myself however by purchasing two excellent cakes from the bakery, proclaiming I’ve sourced us some of the infamous Bled cake. After all, we are from Yorkshire and people from Yorkshire are comprised of at least 5% cake.
It’s fair to say that on our travels, Chief attracts a lot of attention everywhere we go. He has one of those faces that makes you want to ruffle his hair and say hello. Chief used to be quite nervous around people he didnt know, but as time goes on, the effect vanlife is having on him is quite obvious. He’s become more and more laid back and whilst he still doesnt like crowds, hes happier amongst other people and dogs. This is lucky because we are asked constantly if people can say hello to him. Bled seemed to have taken the biscuit so far though, as tourists were wanting pictures of Chief and one even posed for a photo with him. Taking it in his stride, he abliged and even shook the ladies hand with his paw, but not before he took a quick peek in her bag to see if she had any treats. He knows how to work his audience…
Having had a long day travelling, we headed for an earlyish night in order that we could make the most of the next day. As we had parking for the full 24 hours, it gave us the freedom to head straight down to the shore the next day. It was a Monday now and the weekend hullabaloo had gone, it was still busy, but there was a lot more space for us to explore. We decided to follow the entire path around the lake, with Chief indulging in the occasional dip and swim in the lake.
The path is nicely paved and was full of people taking a gentle stroll around the lakeside. We’d decided to climb to two points on our walk which veered off from the main path. The first of which was a woodland path up towards a viewpoint called Ojstrica.
Most of the tourist information photos of Bled and the island on Bled look to have been taken from here. A steep, but short climb (30 mins or so) brings you out to a clearing in the woods with beautiful view out onto the lake, with an equally enticing view of the mountains in the distance. We relaxed here for a little while finding some shade and letting Chief have a drink/rest. He’s acclimatised well to the heat, but its important that we make sure he has a proper rest and drink during his walks. After all, we still had another half of the lake to go and a climb to the Castle.
Reaching around the other side we ascended to the Castle. We’d heard that there was a secret path to the back of the castle that you could access for free where there was a beautiful view. Looking over the lake, it showed you a narrower, more alpine view. Its fair to say we prefered the Ojstrica view, but it was worth the trip up nevertheless. As we so often find, we meet people along the way and get chatting. Chief acting as icebreaker, we got chatting to an American traveller from California and we swapped tips on where we’d both been. It’s so often in these moments when you meet like minded people that you hear about the gems that are not always so well publicised in the tourist guides.
With the weather being hot and our parking running out, we headed for Vintgar Gorge in search of some shade and to explore the gorge. You have to pay to visit, about €5 pp, Chief got in free, but it’s worth is as they’ve built the walkway into the side of the gorge, giving you a unique perspective. Our photos don’t do it justice as per usual. It was interesting (we’ve seen a few gorges now) but critically it was super cool and reprieve from the burning midday sun. We’re so spoilt every day seeing beautiful things on our travels, it can feel unfair at times to single out certain things we’ve seen.
That night we returned to Bled to spend one more night and to do a little food shopping. It’s was at this point we discovered that the cake we’d had the night before wasn’t Bled cake and that I wasn’t as romantic as I’d proclaimed…