A Day Trip To Lake Bled, Slovenia
If you have seen one photograph of Slovenia on the internet, it is possibly that iconic shot of Lake Bled. Easily one of the most picturesque and eye-bulgingly beautiful places on earth – This unassuming little lake lies nestled at the foot of the Julian Alps, near the border to Italy and Austria- It is well worth the small effort to get there.
Getting to Bled from Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana is easy as pie. In fact, you have two options: You can take the Bus or the Train. We took both because we can! After paying only 6€ each for a bus ticket, we jumped on a bus in the Ljubljana central station (these run every hour) and were treated to a leisurely drive through a few cute little small towns that actually made us lament not having driven ourselves, in order to stop and check them out. It took about an hour and 20 minutes to arrive in Bled, but the scenery on the way was so nice that the trip was over before we knew it. Bled is a small village that is connected to its sister village Lesce by a small 4-kilometre gap of road. The train station is in the Lesce side of this dual-village arrangement, so if you took the train then you need to take a bus, taxi or walk to the lake. More on this later…
The bus will drop you off either in the town centre of Bled, or if you stay on a little longer, it will drop you right against the shore. We walked out of the bus and were blown away by the beauty of the place. There is pictures and then there is being there. Nothing truly captures the scale of the mountains or the glittering emerald green/blue water of the lake as well as your own eyes.
Bled is A sprawling and calm lake. Much larger than the pictures make it look. It is ringed by the mountains and a thick forest tinted burnt orange and yellow by the fall colours. The lake is Guarded by a stern looking medieval castle perched atop a mountain and is capped with off its beautiful centrepiece – A small island in the very centre of the lake, where a small 16th-century church sits. Swans and ducks float about in the brightly coloured waters and the mountain air is fresh and oxygen-rich. It’s a fairytale book come to life.
There was a popular looking cafe right on the shore that looked like an obvious tourist trap, but the location was just too good and we were very hungry, so we stopped for lunch. Remember when you are in Bled to try the famous “Bled Cake”. You can find this dessert in almost every restaurant in Slovenia, but of course you want the real deal in Bled, right? Allegedly more than 12 million of these things have been eaten in Bled in the last 50 or so years!
As you can see; calling it a cake is a bit of a misnomer. It is actually a “cream cake” – A square slice of very firmly set, baked vanilla custard. With a smaller layer of thick vanilla whipped cream and topped with a thin and crispy layer of puff pastry, all dusted with half a tonne of icing sugar. A diet snack this is not. It is, however, delicious and one of the best cream cakes I have ever eaten.
We moved on and decided to hike up to the castle. There are a few paths that meander up the mountainside, or you can follow the road from the town proper. The castle is a very classical 17th century white and red affair, enclosed on one side by a Romanesque wall and towers and open to the lake on the other. It was under heavy restoration when we went there, with some sections closed off – but it is always nice to see these places getting some TLC. That said, the entry cost was outrageous. 10€ per person! I actually laughed in the face of the ticket seller when he told me, which elicited quite a scowl. I clearly was not the first person to do so. Still, I paid up and went inside as there was no way I had just climbed up this mountain for nothing.
The view from the balcony is simply unrivalled.
How on earth they managed to build this castle, sheer against the cliff side, boggles the mind. I dare not dwell on just how many men fell to their doom trying to build this precarious thing. The castle features a large museum, but at the time almost all of the exhibits had been removed and the interior was under more of the aforementioned renovations. Disappointing, but no great loss.
Heading back down we decided to walk a ring around the lake. The entire lake has a very well maintained path that circles it and you can even rent a bike or take the tourist “train” cart that comes by every so often if you are so inclined.
We walked on unmolested. Only passed by the occasional jogger or cyclist. A very quiet and relaxing stroll indeed. The locals we spoke to in Ljubljana claimed that Bled is very crowded in the summertime. Luckily for us, during the fall “off-season”, we had the lake almost to ourselves. Too cold for a swim, but still a wonderful walk.
We declined to take a boat out to the centre island to see the church. I have seen a nigh an uncountable amount of European churches in my lifetime and was not particularly interested in jumping onto a boat to see one more up close. Instead we walked the full ring around at a very leisurely pace, stopping to take photographs every 20 steps or so. This took about an hour and a half. Other than the scenery, we met some very friendly swans and that was about it. Tranquil and beautiful.
The Buses depart once every hour. We missed the bus by a paltry 5 minutes and decided that instead of standing around at the bus stop for an hour, we would walk from Bled to Lesce and catch the train for some variety. The walk between the two towns is also rather beautiful. We passed what is apparently Europe’s largest “Dino Park” with giant Dinosaur statues everywhere. It was, unfortunately, closed.
Lesce is even smaller than Bled and consists of about 4 streets. We walked into the empty train station to find the snoozing ticket seller who, once we politely woke him up, was very nice and spoke good English. Although the entire time we did business he was staring at us like we were the first customers he had seen in months. We hopped on the train as the sun was setting. A fairly standard central European affair, with small rooms rather than rows of seats. The journey back only took an hour.
Simply put; If you ever visit Slovenia you MUST visit Bled. This is not a suggestion or an idea – This is mandatory. It is one of the most beautiful and unique places in the entire world and to skip it would be traveller’s blasphemy.