Lake Bled

Continuing on from the Bled Castle, we drove to the west side of the lake to where we could catch a boat to the monastery.  Near the north shore of the lake, I saw some more beautiful Slovenian scenery and I caught the photo above near the north shore.  On the western edge of the lake, we were able to take the photo below with the castle and the monastery in the photo with us.  As nice as the photos may look, they do not capture, in its entirety, the splendid beauty of this place.  Some of the lodges and hotels on the south shore the of the lake must be wonderful honeymoon and weekend retreats.  If I remember correctly, Austria is not too far behind these mountains…

While we were posing for photos on the lake shore, some ducks and a pair of swans came to inquire if we were carrying any food for them.  Sabina’s Mom had sent us with a few fresh loaves of her wonderful Slovenian dark bread.  A day or two earlier when I told her how much I liked it, she has been baking industriously to keep me in a full supply.  When I departed some days later, she sent me off with some “takeaway” bread and I fondly remember eating it in the airport in Rome as  I wrote (yet another) term paper for school.

As cute as the swans look, they were a bit aggressive.  I caught the video below as Sabina was lured by their beauty, later to be surprised by their assertiveness.

 

 

After we had our fill of photos and of the swans, we boarded our boat that would take us to the monastery island.

En route to the island, using Sabina as an interpreter, I chatted up our boat captain.  He has been rowing these boats to and from the monastery his whole life.  He said that his father and grandfather had this same trade and passed it to him.  We asked if his son was going to be an oarsman and he sadly said that “no,” he would not be.  It seems his son has other business ventures that he is interested in.  I asked if the man had grandsons and he said that he did.  I suggested to him that maybe one of his grandsons would be interested and he could pass the family trade to him.

As we neared the monastery, I captured this photo.  As I was saying earlier, the beauty of this place cannot be overstated.  The sapphire blue water and the images that it reflected of these forests and medieval buildings sparked a certain romance and magic that is rare in this world.  I looked at the beautiful colors, listened to the birds chirping and the water lapping against the side of the boat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming off the water.  Along the horizon, tall and beautiful alpine mountains climbed towards the sky.  I would like to come back some day and spend a week at this lake just relaxing, hiking and enjoying nature and the views.

Built six centuries ago, the Franciscan Monastery is in wonderful condition.  Its location on the island provides some of the best views of Bled and its castle perched up on the hillside.

I watched an episode on Lonely Planet (Globe Trekker) wherein Ian Wright sleeps in the former Yugoslavian President Joseph Tito’s bed.  Tito kept a residence on the lake and judging by the beauty of this place, I can understand why.  Ian paid a few extra bucks and was able to sleep not only in Tito’s room, but in his actual bed.  I’m not for sure if this is the Presidential Residence that is now serving as a hotel, but I think so.  If anyone can positively identify it as this building, please send an email or post a comment below.

The centerpiece of the island is the Church of the Assumption of Mary.  There are 99 steps to get from the lake to the church making for an interesting and beautiful climb.

Most of these shots are Sabina’s and my thanks to her for not only being a wonderful host, but also for letting me plagiarize her pics.  I hope these photos capture the essence of the monastery and its island.  If you ever make it to Slovenia, you must drop by and check it out.

And finally, a photo of me in front of the bell tower…


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Bled Castle

Next, Sabina took me to the beautiful Lake Bled.  I remember seeing Lake Bled on an episode of Globe Trekker (Lonely Planet).  Ian, the traveller host even slept in Joseph Tito’s Bed at his retreat, now a tourist hotel.  Located waaaay up towards the north of Slovenia on the border with Austria, Lake Bled is a glacial lake surrounded by beautiful woods and majestic mountains.

We brought brother Lojze along and he told me about the founding of Ljubljana by the Greek Mythological hero Jason & the Argonauts.  I guess while he was out roaming the world for the golden fleece, Jason dropped by this area and founded the city.  It has been since Junior High School that I studied Jason, I’ll have to look it up and do some reasearch…

While Lojze munched away on apples in the back seat, I shot some photos of the Slovenian countryside.  I suppose that it reminded me of northwest of Washington State, save for the Slovene language signs…

High up on a cliff above the pristine lake, Bled Castle has an amazing view of the lake and its island and monastery, of the town of Bled, and of the surrounding hills and mountains.  We drove straight to the castle and took the photo (below) later, when we were on the other side of the lake but I added it to this post as it shows the lofty location of the palace.

Before we headed up to the top of the castle hill, I shot this photo of Sabina and Lojze.  I was pretty excited to get up to the top to see the views.  Perhaps it’s that I love history, maybe it just seems very romantic or exotic to visit a castle, but I always feel quite enthusiastic to visit them.  And this one in particular as I had fallen in love with Bled after I had seen it on so many travel shows…

In the next photo, Lojze and I are coming up the trail to the castle with the town of Bled in the background.  When we came to the main gate I saw that it had a draw-bridge and a rampart gate above it with slits for arrows and an overhang that would allow soldiers to drop rocks or flaming objects on attackers.

Once we arrived at the top of the castle, I saw that it was more like a palace than a war fortress.  The grounds seemed to have all the amenities of a royal life; living areas, a nice patio with a stunning view of the lake and valley, a chapel, and a dining area.  We took our time and enjoyed the view and even had a cup of coffee (later post).

Looking towards the interior of the castle you can see the beautiful housing areas where the families lived.  This is really some choice real estate and I can imagine how nice it must have been to live here.  Now, both the chapel and the palace have been turned into museums, but we’ll also cover those in a later post.

Looking from the palace grounds towards the patio you can see the deck and its magnificent view of Bled and the lake.  Today, the patio serves as a cafe entertaining guests from around the world.  On this day, we were the only patrons, but I’m sure that in the summer time it is crowded with hundreds of tourists.

Out on the edge of the patio you can see the magnificent view of the town of Bled and the beautiful mountains beyond.  The architecture of the houses and churches certainly reminded me that I was in Europe rather than in, say, Colorado…

Looking towards the lake we can see the former President’s house and retreat.  Joseph Tito made took his weekend leaves here on the lake in the big white building in the photo below.  It has now been transformed into a hostel/hotel and you can pay some extra $ bucks to sleep in Tito’s actual bed.

Further up the lake, you can see the small island and its Monastery.  Later we would take a boat out to the monastery and capture some stunning photos of the castle.  The entire lake and its surrounding mountains and castle made a fairy tale like view that can only be appreciated when seen first hand.  I had to pinch myself repeatedly to make sure that this wasn’t a dream and that I was in fact in Bled high atop the castle overlooking the lake…


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Slovenia

Finally made it to Slvoenia.  This country has been on “the list” for quite some time.  Rewind about 11 years, back to 1996.  An ex-girlfriend and I were travelling in Greece, watching the sunset on the island of Santorini.  As we stood there, watching the sun set, two young women were taking photos of each other nearby.  I volunteered to take a photo of them, and they took a photo of us.  A quick snapshot turned into a conversation and soon we were exchanging addresses.  Over a decade later, we are still sending post cards to each other from our travels.

Sabina, one of the two girls, remained pretty faithful with the post cards.  For a few years it felt a bit like a competition, each of us sending cards from far away locations, almost tempting the other one to take on some more travel.  Invites to come visit to Slovenia came and past.  Really, its not too often that you happen to be passing through Slovenia.  But, I always kept it in the “plan” and thought that if I ever had a few days or a week, I’d drop by for a visit.

On that note; to fellow and perspective travellers: when on the road, if you meet friends, stay in touch.  With the advent of email and now even Facebook, it really is too easy to keep your travel friends in contact.  Sooner or later you’ll be passing through (or by) their country, or they to you.  It really is fun to catch up with old travel friends, show them your photos and tell them your travel stories, and to see and hear about theirs.  I have friends all over the world that invite me to come and visit…  if only I could find more time…

As I had said before, the original idea for this blog was to keep the friends and family “in the loop” in my travels; specifically, to “bring them along” while I travel.  So, some of the photos and stories may be a bit mundane, but the idea is for the friends and family to see and understand what I’ve seen.  To that end, the photo above was on final approach to Ljubljana (pronounced Lub-lee-yana, but everyone says it so fast that it sounds like Lub-yana).  So, now know everyone knows what the Slovene countryside just west of the capital looks like…  Please excuse the glare and dirt on the window – both out of my control – LOL.  The photo below was shot in the suburbs outside of Ljubjlana.  The country very much reminded me of Austria, as it should, as Austria is only about a 1/2 hour drive away.   Actually, I think the entire country of Slovenia is only an hour drive top to bottom, side to side.  It really is a beautiful country with pretty green farmland, low rolling hils, mountains on the horizon, and pretty Tudor looking European houses everywhere.

And what does one do when one first gets to Slovenia?  Apparantly, we have a drink!  Sounded great – especially after so many months in a “dry” (no alcohol) country.  It was nice to cut loose and have a good laugh over  a drink.  In the two photos below, Sabina (first photo – middle right) introduced me to her friends and we just had a great time talking and and laughing, oh, and drinking.

The bar was quite crowded and lively with activity.  It was a weekend, and it was rainy outside adding to the festive atmosphere inside.  Everyone was so friendly and they all made me feel right at home.

Enroute from one club to another, we saw the wreckage of the day.  The wine festival was going on all week and visitors from across the country, and from other countries, were visiting and participating.  While we never did make it to the festival (we were busy touring the “tourist” sites), I did see a map and it reminded me of a walking marathon with wine stops all along the way.  It seems that a designated path through and around town was walked by the participants who stopped and tasted wine all along the way.  Seriously, it was just one big party and everyone was having fun.  The photo below is what remained for the night time cleaning crew.

Before my sobriety failed me, I was cognizant enought to shoot this photo of Ljubljana from one of the bridges.  The pink building to the left is the famous Franciscan Cathedral built in the 1600′s.  Just to the right is one of the famous triple bridges.  Ljubljana was just a wonderful little jem of a city and I was really looking forward to touring around.

Shot some time after “oh-dark thirty” and after many beers and glasses of wine…


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