Bled
 

Like Ljubljana, our time in Bled was marked by near-constant rainfall. But also like Ljubljana, we didn’t let that stop us from doing anything. Bled is a small country town located about an hour north of the capital, not far from the Austrian border. It’s near the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park, so there is tons of natural beauty around - hiking is big in the summer, skiing in the winter. The town is built around a large lake and has become a ridiculously popular tourist destination - I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of photos on Instagram of the small island in the middle of the lake. I’m here to tell you it’s totally worth the hype, even if you don’t have aspirational social media goals. 

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We got mixed reactions from a lot of people in Ljubljana when we told them of our plans to visit Bled. Some people said it was great, but others declared it too touristy - I got a haircut in Ljubljana and my stylist told me the mayor of Bled actually said that Slovenians shouldn’t visit because they want to accommodate more international tourists! To me that’s just insane and offensive, and because of that (and our general grievances with ultra-touristy places, as I’m sure you’ve noticed in past blog posts) we were both preeeeetty apprehensive. But we found a really good deal on a highly rated hostel, so we decided to take the risk figuring we could always lay low, avoid town, and just do a bunch of hiking.

Happily, we didn’t have to worry much about Bled being overly touristy. I think we went at exactly the right time of year: mid-September is decidedly post-season in Bled, because crowds flock there during summer months (with a small uptick during Christmastime). Autumn in Slovenia is typically marked by relentless rain and lower temperatures, which is just not the best weather in which to frolic around a resort town. But that meant there were almost no crowds, which is a gigantic plus for antisocial types like us. There were still a fair amount of people in town and the occasional tour bus at one end of the lake, but it was pretty sparse overall. Because of that, we felt like we definitely got to experience the best Bled has to offer without feeling overwhelmed.

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Bled is so, so ridiculously beautiful. Honestly, all of Slovenia is jaw-droopingly gorgeous. And the rainy weather imparts a special kind of magic on the whole place, giving it a Pacific Northwest vibe. With all misty fog curling over the trees and the mountains stretching out in every direction, the Twin Peaks theme was stuck in my head literally the entire time we were there. After the rain broke in the afternoons, the mountains would peek out from in between layers of clouds and rainbows would inevitably appear overhead. It was somehow magical and ominous all at the same time, and it’s worth a trip just to see the beautifully varied landscapes around the area. 

We love spending time outdoors, and Bled is a natural hotspot for adventure tourism. You can pretty much do anything your heart desires - rafting, canyoning, paragliding, paddleboarding, you name it and someone in Bled will rent you the equipment. For us, since the weather wasn’t cooperating we decided to just stick to activities that involved keeping our two feet on the ground, which is to say we just hiked a ton. Everyone here is so active, it inspired us to get up and do stuff every single day, which was definitely a very healthy, positive influence. 

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There are plenty of hiking opportunities in and around Bled. You can easily walk around the lake in less than two hours, which is how we oriented ourselves on our first day. There’s also a great uphill trail leading off of the lake that brings you up to a lookout point, from which you can take the ever-popular ‘gram of the lake with the island and the castle in the background. But the best hikes are located outside of town, and on our hostel owner’s recommendation we spent a day exploring the area around the Vintnar Gorge. 

The hike began on the road just behind our hostel. We meandered our way out of Bled and through small clusters of homes too small to be considered villages, pressing on toward the gorge. Despite the misty rain, it was a beautiful walk through vast expanses of grassland and eventually into the forest, where we ran into few other people. Near the gorge we passed by a majestic waterfall, where we tried to get a couple’s pic, but the guy who took our photo never actually pressed the shutter button and we were too embarrassed to ask for another try (plus the waterfall was spraying a LOT of water on us). Oh well…at least we got some photos of the actual waterfall, right?

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The gorge itself is really amazing because there are walkways set up all alongside it, so you don’t just pass overhead and look down - you actually get to wander through. Because of all the rain, everything was ridiculously lush and vibrant green. Even the water was kind of green, which brought back memories of St. Paddy’s Day in Chicago, though this was a slightly different experience. Admission to the gorge cost 5 Euro/person, but it seems like we didn’t need to pay. We ended up walking all the way through, entering on the waterfall side and exiting near the parking lot on the opposite end, and no one ever examined our tickets. If we had entered and exited from the same side, it’s possible someone would have checked our tickets, and I’m not gonna tell you to break the law, but I think it’s easy to get away with not purchasing admission if you arrive on foot like we did and just pass through. 

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It was good to be active again - apart from a few days here and there, we really haven’t done much physical activity for the past month. Our first several weeks of travel involved a LOT of walking - we mostly walk (as opposed to public transit or cabs) in every city we visit, easily logging 15+ kms in an average touring day. And of course we did a ton of actual hiking in Poland. But ever since Greece we’ve been a little lazier. Of course we still walk everywhere, but not to quite the same extent as before. I think our bodies are just a little worn out. Unfortunately, laziness coupled with the aggressive amounts of food and wine we’ve been consuming means we’ve regained a lot of the weight we initially lost after the first couple months. Not to mention the fact that we’ve lost some of the conditioning we so desperately need for our upcoming Nepal trek. 

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For those reasons, it felt wonderful to be back in the great outdoors. Nature has a way of calming you, restoring mental clarity and rejuvenating your body and soul. It feels good to move, and it feels great to do it in a place as beautiful as Slovenia - rain or shine.