Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled is a glacial lake in the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia. The lake surrounds Bled Island, the only natural island in Slovenia. The island has several buildings, the main one being the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary built in the 15th century. The church has a 52-metre tower and there is a stairway with 99 steps leading up to the building.

Wanting to take in this picturesque town, we made the 2 1/2 drive from Pordenone. Travel Tip: When using the autostradas to cross from one country into another, be sure to get your vignette (sticker) to show that the road tax for using that country's roadways has been paid. You must display the sticker in your window. We did not know about this and so did not purchase an Austrian vignette at the last tollbooth before leaving Italy. Unfortunately for us, it resulted in a 120 euro fine.

Arriving in Bled, we were struck by the beauty of the blue lake with the Julian Alps as a backdrop and a Medieval castle standing high on a cliff above the lake. Deciding to take in the view from above, we headed to Bled Castle.

After a climb up a steep, cobbled walkway (wear flat shoes that grip because the cobbles are very slippery!), we reached the ticket window. Entering the castle, go to the left where there is bar and gelataria. Here you can ascend a staircase for a stunning, panaramic view of the lake and island. Directly below the castle is the Castle Bathing, a grassy beach with waterslide.

From here, you ascend up to another platform where the Castle Restaurant is located (the view comes with a high pricetag) and the Museum. A display proudly presents one of the most beautiful 6th century findings – a peacock-shaped brooch found at Pristava below the Bled Castle.The peacock is known to adorn the Garden of Eden and is often referred to as “the bird of paradise”, a symbol of life and wealth. The museum tells the history of Bled from the time of the first settlements to present day.

Next, wander down the steep ramp to the Wine Cellar and see a demonstration of bottling of wine from oak barrels. The visitor who fills a bottle as a souvenir, corks it and waxes it, is presented with a certificate.

Hungry and ready for some lunch, we descended from the cliff back to the lakeshore in search of a great lunch. The Panorama,, was an excellent choice! Not only does their terrace offer a spectacular view of the castle on the cliff and lake as you dine, they offer a selection of seafood and a mixture of Mediterranean and Slovenian cuisine. I highly recommend the Caesar salad, although unlike any Caesar salad I have had before. The lettuce was a mix of rocket, radicchio, and curly endive with prosciutto, olives, tomatoes, and a dressing that tasted much like the German sour cream dressing. I also had the mushroom soup, which came in a pastry cup as the bowl, as an accompaniment. It was outstanding!
There is much to do in Bled. Take a boat tour to the island (€12) on a pletna boat, a gondola like boat with 2 paddles, which includes 30 minutes to wander around the island or visit the Church of the Assumption. There are also many areas to put down your beach blanket and take a dip in the lake. You could also visit the Lectar Inn Museum which makes traditional Slovene gingerbread.