Bled – Venice

I first heard about Lake Bled fairly recently – within the last year – but immediately knew I wanted to go one day. Two days ago, I got that chance, arriving in the small town of Bled in the early evening.

With my hostel located only a few minutes’ walk from the lake itself, I headed down almost immediately. It only takes around an hour and a half to walk around the whole thing – the circumference is a mere 6 km – so I figured I’d take the evening to stroll and have a dip. The route itself is easy, too, essentially a flat concrete path; far more forgiving than what I was expecting. Perhaps I should have done more research before coming here as I was hoping for a more rugged landscape, although I’m told the nearby Bohinjsko Lake offers this with a 14 km route. 

Lake Bled, however, is nonetheless stunning. The water is crystal clear and perfectly safe to swim in, and the lake is surrounded on all sides by towering mountains coated in thick forests. In its center sits a tiny island (the only island in the entire country of Slovenia), home to a small church, accessible only by boat. Or swimming, if you’re feeling up to it.

Dotted around the lake are restaurants and bars, as well as designated swimming areas that offer water sports and jetties to jump from. By the time I got back, the sun had long since set, making for some spectacular views of the castle that overlooks the water illuminated in the dark.

The next day, I decided to head up to the Vintgar Gorge, a 3 km walk from the town centre. It was drizzling slightly as I set off undeterred, but within fifteen minutes this shower had transformed in to one of the most active thunderstorms I’ve ever seen. It didn’t take long for me to become drenched to the bone despite my sturdy walking coat, and I spent the rest of the day squelching around in my sodden boots, feeling the quite unpleasant sensation of the water shifting between my toes as I walked.

The rain fell so thick and fast that it hurt as it struck my skin, and forked lightning played out across the dark sky as far as I could see. On a few occasions this struck trees on the nearby hillsides, with red sparks flying out as it did so. It was so intense that I wondered if I should be out in it, especially as I was carrying an umbrella to protect my camera from the downpour, but I continued on for another half an hour until the clouds eased off.

Reaching the Gorge took longer than anticipated (I got lost, again. Starting to sense a pattern…), but once I finally got there it I was not disappointed. It really is a hidden gem up in the Slovenian mountains – a narrow creak lined by steep cliffs, through which a turquoise blue river flows.

The rocks on either side are hugged by a wooden pathway, suspended a short distance above the water, that zig zags from side to side as you walk it. It’s a little rickety at times, slippery when wet and with the occasional gap in the planks, but it’s quite magical to look at and gives breathtaking views of the waterfalls it crosses. Along the walk, there are times when you can step down to the waters edge, and marvel at the countless cairns that are piled high here.

By the time I began the walk back to Bled, the sky had almost completely cleared, making for a very pretty journey through the meadows on my way downhill. This didn’t last long, though – the thunder soon clapped again, with my hostel temporarily losing power when it was struck by lightning. Thankfully I was already back by then, warm and dry and safe from the weather.

This stint in the peaceful town of Bled was exactly what I needed, even if my knee might think otherwise. I’ll be heading elsewhere for some more hiking shortly (as Bled was considerably less ‘wild’ than I’d hoped), but for now it’s on to Venice, a city I’ve always wanted to visit and one of the stops I’m more excited about on this journey.


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