Today is the perfect day to explore some of the sights of Slovenia outside of the capital. Emily and I are lucky enough to get the last spots on a full day trip with Slovenia Explorer, a local tour company. Our guide for the day, Roman, picks us up at the hostel and we settle in for an hours’ drive to the magnificent Lake Bled. It is a peaceful serene lake; its turquoise water glowing in the sunshine. There is a small island in the middle of the lake, a medieval castle high up on a rocky cliff on one side, and the Julian Alps off in the distance.
The first thing we do is hop on a traditional pletna boat to visit Bled Island. Pletna boats are unique to Lake Bled and feature one strong guy rowing the boat with two massive oars.
Some may say this is a tourist trap, but it is included in the tour package so I enjoy floating along the calm waters and taking in the scenery all around me. As we arrive at the island, a bunch of swans crowd the boat, hoping for a snack.
In front of us are 99 stone steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church; tradition says that if you are to be married here, the groom must carry his bride up these steps! It’s all about good luck.
Despite its ridiculously high entrance fee (around $8), we enter the church because we want to ring the famous Bled bell. Again, all about good luck! There’s a long, heavy rope that is to be pulled 3 times – you can’t really see the bell…it’s high up in the ceiling. There is a whack of tourists inside and I’m distracted when it’s my turn to ring the bell. So guess what? I forget to make a wish! What a waste hahaha. Fun Fact: the story behind the Bell – a young widow had it made to honor her husband. But it sank in the lake during a storm and never made it to the church. The pope sent over another sacred bell, so whomever rings it gives honor to the Virgin Mary and their wish may come true! The church is tiny, decorated in white with a gold altar.
There is a tower beside the church, and we climb up hoping for some good views. But the windows are cloudy, so that’s a no. Back down the steps and back onto the boat, waving goodbye to our swan buddies.
Roman now takes us to the other side of the lake and we walk up to Bled Castle, the one that’s perched up on the cliff – it is the oldest castle in all of Slovenia.
The views from up here are spectacular. Seriously, you cannot take a bad picture of Lake Bled!
There’s not much to do here; a small museum that I skip and a printing house where you can experience the traditional manual printing press. Sounds boring, but it’s actually pretty cool. And what’s the best thing to do up at the castle? Grab a slice of the famous Bled cream cake-vanilla cream and custard topped with puff pastry – delicious!!
If you’re not pressed for time, you can rent a bike to navigate the lake surroundings or maybe hike up to the best lookout point, Osojnica.
Roman then drops us off lakeside, and we have half an hour to just chill and take a short walk along the shore.
We see a young couple taking wedding photos; it’s a beautiful place to do so! Back to Ljubljana for lunch. I’m not sure of the name of the place we go to, but the food is great- 3 course meal and wine for $20. And the male servers have a bit of fun with us, complete with a couple of shots of rakija and lots of flirtation. After lunch we drive over to Predjama castle, which is a castle in a cave!
It was built in the cave to make it less accessible to enemies. It has been destroyed and rebuilt over the years, but the current one has been around since the 1500’s. We wander through with Roman as our guide, and the rooms are done up to look as they would back in the day…complete with creepy mannequins. At the back of the castle is a hidden passageway that leads to an exit out of the top of the cliff. This is to provide an escape route, or for supplies to come in at a time of siege. Also, if you Google “haunted castles”, this one comes up every time and it’s been called extremely haunted. Yikes! Overall, a cool sight to see….it looks like a storybook painting.
Our last stop of the day is the Postojna Caves. It is the most visited cave in the country; but luckily they can accommodate. We hop on a train for a 5km ride that takes us deep into the cave system. There are even chandeliers in some parts, making it a beautiful sight. We arrive at our destination and the cave expert guy takes us around and gives us info….it is like being on another planet.
The air is a bit chilly and damp, as you’d expect in a cave. This cave system was carved by the Pivka River over millions of years and it is around 24km long! At one point, they turn out the lights and we are left standing in the pitch black..the faint sound of dripping water is one of the only sounds….so cool. The cave has a lot of biodiversity and this is where the human fish live…also known as the olm. It’s like a salamander and is called the human fish because of its fleshy color.
The olm is completely aquatic and completely blind – but that’s not a big deal when you live in a dark cave! It is said to be the offspring of dragons; not sure about that but you can view these tiny weird creatures in a special tank in the caves. They can live for 100 years and can go 8 years without food. A trip to Slovenia is not complete without a trip to Postojna!
After this long but fantastic day, Emily and I wander back into town to meet a friend of hers that is also visiting Slovenia. We pick a place to have pizza and beer, sitting alongside the Ljubljanica River. The autumn evening air is crisp and fresh and it’s the perfect ending to my time in Slovenia.