Ho…top of the shop, the most important thing. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM.
Two of the lucky few are free camping (technically just parking) in a little town called Ukanc, which is down a quiet little lane just to the side of lake Bohinj, lake Bled’s big brother. But before I introduce you to the most naturally beautiful lake I’ve ever seen, let me rewind a bit.
Leaving Vienna, the motorways just roll on effortlessly. Always a great view to look at, mountains, rivers and rolling hills covered in trees. An occasional, not too long 4th gear hill, but nothing too strenuous for Charlie’s engine. Then passed a seamless border between Austria and Slovenia, seamless other than it was time to dig deep and buy another vignette. This time the option was 7 or 30 days, optimistically, I opted for the 30 day ticket as I didn’t think 7 would be enough time to get across this beautiful country, class 2a, €30 thanks! €1 per day doesn’t sound so bad, let’s hope it’s worth it. We didn’t know too much about Slovenia or what to expect. With only 1 attraction on our list at the moment it may be time to put our feet up for a bit.
Sat-nav, who will not be argued with, insisted the route will be south to Graz, over the Austro-Slovak border to Maribor, then head west sling-shot past Ljubljana (I pronounce it Lub-el-jana, probably not correct), then north-west a bit to Bled, about 3 hour drive. After a 4 hour drive, I only drive at 80km/ph, (which = 30mpg, which=free beer, according to Jason Buckley). It was about 3 pm by this time, so pointless pulling onto a campsite at that time of day. We found a quiet spot on top of the hill near one of Bled’s railway stations, overlooking the lake (n46.36778 e14.08250). Tapped into the free WiFi from the local cafe/bar (it cost me a pint to get the WiFi code, which is 10x 7’s if you ever need it) to do a bit of research about the place and settled down for the night. Next morning, we pulled into Camping lake Bled 10 am sharp, may as well make the most of your time on a camp site, the washing bag was full so time to hit the hotpoint. Bedding striped, and all the washing hanging out within the hour, loads of time for a walk circuit of the lake.
I can easily see why thousands of tourists, from all over the world venture here every year. The place is stunning. From the (very adequate) campsite, a sealed tarmac path guides you around the lake, past subtlety secluded hotels, equally secluded private houses and cafes until you reach the town of Bled at the far end. A few craft stalls, a few small shops, (nothing too tatty) and a few ‘high-end’ cafe restaurants. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the views of the lake, the castle and the church on the island in the centre of the lake are unmatched. The beauty is in the simplicity of it. Underdeveloped and reasonably untainted. The town planners resisted the temptation of overselling and over-engineering the place, adding just enough to maintain functionality to the natural attraction. We spent 3 days in Bled, 1 night on the camp site, 2 wild. two circuits of the lake on foot, an hour out in a rowing boat to get up to the church on the island. If you come out of the camp site and turn right, after about 300m, row-boat hire was best value at €10, everywhere else seemed to be €15.
Close by the Vintgar Gorge, only relatively discovered by us bio-peds and rapidly transformed into a ‘top Slovenian tourist attraction’. I can’t complain at the €4 each entry fee after all the work they have done along the trail. We parked in a car park about a mile away in Zgornje Gorje, (n46.38150 e14.07000) the walk up and down the gorge was easy and very pleasant. I’ve still to identify the little slippery animals we spotted along the route but I’m guessing some kind of Salamander?
As I said at the top, we are sitting pretty in a free car park for the second night, next to Lake Bled’s big brother, Lake Bohinj (lake Bon-Jovi for ease, n46.27983 e13.829602 a blown-out hotel car park). Now, after waxing lyrical about how naturally perfect lake Bled is, is it possible I could convince you that Lake Bohinj is even more beautiful? (pass me a box of superlatives please).
Strip away the buildings, the hotels, the cafes, triple the amount of water, polish the mirror reflection, remove the island and church and there you have it, the perfect lake, surrounded by pines, tucked away in the Julian Alps. On the Bohinj’s south bank, a quiet road follows its edge, perfect for a 4 km cycle ride. On it’s north bank, a gravel track follows the periphery, occasionally dipping into the woods, a great little hike with some superb views. Only a canoe/kayak hire centre and a camp site break the trail of pure white gravel tracks around the sheer-mirror water lake. Stunningly, simplistically, beautiful. Sorry Bled, I think you’ve just been trounced!
Just time to squeeze in a 4km hike up to Sap Savicia waterfall, nothing too strenuous and €3 each to ‘preserve this natural site’. Waterfalls like this are around every other bend in Norway, no charge, here it’s €3 just to get a peek. Flaunt what you got, winter’s coming!
The original plan (Ha!) was to spend another week in Slovenia, chillax a bit in the sun etc. but the temperature has taken a nose-dive over the past few days, 5 at night, 13 by day, with rain also forecast, so, just like birds, it’s time to move south.
Camping Bled €22.80, n46.36112 e14.07812. Nice clean sanitary’s. Helpful staff, busy site.
Bled Jezero Train station, n46.36778 e14.08250 FREE. Quiet at night, noise at 06:00. Free WiFi from cafe (p/w 10×7’s)
Zgornje Gorje, n46.38150 e14.07000. Very Quiet car park, FREE and perfect for a walk down to the Vintgar George. The Gorge does have a car park, full length coaches get down there, but no sleeping over allowed.
Lake Bohinj, Ukanc car park. n46.27972 e13.82963 FREE also perfect for a hike up to Slap Savica Waterfall.
We’re on the way to Croatia…Enjoy the week-end. Wayne X
Bonus photo. What do you make of this Dad? …it’s ALL made of wood!