We drove through Bled on the way to Bohinj and it almost put us off visiting, a thirty minute crawl into the town and crowds of people shuffling around a lake. But everyone says, you should go to Bled, and all the pictures we’ve seen suggest it may be worth it so, once again, an early start is in order. We arrive by 8am to only a few tourists about. We munch on croissants as we stroll the easy 4km walk around the lake, sharing it mainly with locals, many jogging, some cycling.
Across the water from the town the castle sits high on a cliff, surveying all, and a small wooded island in the middle of the lake houses a pretty church, a small landing area beside it awaiting the gondolas stuffed with tourists that will soon arrive. A couple of swans strut their stuff, forgetting them were once ugly. They would make a perfect addition to a picture of the island church but they refuse to get in the front of Neil’s camera.
It’s very photogenic and I can understand why it is so popular. As always, Neil stops to take pictures and I amble along, greeting locals who have less time to linger than I, until he catches me up. With such stops, plus one for coffee, it takes us nearly two hours to get around. Back in town the coaches have arrived and the lakeside is teeming with smartphone toting tourists. We decide we’ve had enough and hot foot it out of town. Or we would, but there’s a long queue of traffic and, as we inch forward, a car smacks into the back of ours. There’s no serious damage, just a cracked bumper, and the driver admits fault immediately, is very apologetic, but because it’s a lease car we have to decline his offer of cash and file an insurance claim, which is just paperwork and hassle.
The mist this morning takes longer to lift and doesn’t disappear altogether, becoming cloud, which covers the distant mountains and lurks over the low hills threateningly. On the drive to Radovljica, an old town said to be as pretty as Bled but not as touristy, they turn dark and menacing. As we walk around the village square a few large spots of rain fall, almost sizzling as they hit the hot pavement, evaporating quickly, and the low rumbles that reverberate around the buildings don’t only come from my stomach. We head inside to a gingerbread shop and watch a young woman expertly icing little hearts. Intriguingly, they aren’t meant to be eaten – traditionally they were given as love tokens and, if eaten, it meant the love was not reciprocated. The idea is to keep it safe as a confirmation of your love. Apparently they last forever. Now I’m kind of romantic but, really? Seems like a waste of good gingerbread to me!
As we eat lunch the storm lands, the rain hammering down, bouncing off the outside tables and in through the windows. There’s a hiatus in service as all the wait staff run outside and frantically grab tablecloths and seat cushions, throwing them inside away from the deluge. The houses across the restaurant garden disappear into the cloud and the thunder seems to resonate through the roof above us. A lot of soggy tourists suddenly decide that lunch is a good idea. I can recommend it – we eat a Slovenian platter: three types of sausage, pork two ways (a steak and slow cooked shoulder, which melts in my mouth), two types of dumpling, a pile of potatoes (cooked in pork fat – heaven on a plate), a scoop of pickled turnip and a pile of sauerkraut. It’s delicious and filling, we can’t eat it all and I wonder if I’ll ever need food again. (There are no pictures as I draw the line at taking photos of my food.)
Back outside the
rain has stopped but the temperature is markedly lower and the tables outside
cafes are practically deserted. We’ve done Radovljica. It’s pretty enough, and
nowhere near as bad as Bled, but it’s also not a patch on some of the French
towns we visited. Seeking to avoid the horrific queues through Bled we ask at
the Information Centre for an alternative route. The helpful young woman
directs us on a road that is not marked, so tourists don’t know about it, so
it’s not that busy. The road
soon turns into a gravelled track, becoming tarmac for brief periods as it cuts
through tiny villages, then spits us out alongside the lake in Bled. We’ve
missed the queues but foot traffic has increased – crowds once more line the