Exploring Slovenia: Bled & Vintgar Gorge

For months, our friends and fellow Olmsted-ers have been telling us that we MUST go to Lake Bled.  Located in the Julian Alps about 30 minutes north of Ljubljana, the lake is stunning.  Bobby has been trying to convince me to move back or at least have a house in Europe when he retires for awhile now.  I hadn’t considered the idea seriously until I saw Lake Bled.  Spontaneously, I told him two or three times that I could live there; it’s that pretty. It is known for its island in the middle of the water that holds a beautiful church as well as a large cliff-side castle watching over the lake.  The town of Bled was a popular vacation spot for Yugoslavian rulers in the 1920s (when the area was still a part of Yugoslavian territory) and continues to be a popular Eastern European year-round tourist destination.  Our day at Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge (about 15 minutes away from the lake side) proved to be a wonderful autumn day!

There was a beautiful hike around the lake and every turn we took, there was an incredible view.  It’s no wonder that the World Rowing Championships are often held on Lake Bled!

View from Western side of the lake

View of the lake from the south side

In the summer, the area is popular with hikers, fishermen, and bikers and in the winter, it is a European ski destination.  Apparently, because of its rather mild climate, people suffering from arthritis often visit the lake and its spa resorts as well.  (We’ll have to remember that in the years to come!)

Mountain reflections

View from the southeast

Absolutely amazing view

The small island in the middle of the lake is home to Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church.  Legend has it, ringing the church’s bell is good luck.   Additionally, newly married grooms, according to local tradition, should carry their wives up the 99 stairs to the entrance while the wife remains silent.  It shows the strength of the man and the trust the wife has in her husband.  Ha!

Bobby, carry me up those stairs!

Bled Castle

After a walk around the lake and some typical Slovenian fare (okay, Bobby ordered curry, but that’s because he’s obsessed and orders it every time he sees it on a European menu) at a lakeside restaurant, we headed up the mountain to Vintgar Gorge, a popular hiking spot. The gorge is near a town called Zgornje Gorje (and people wonder why I can’t spell these Eastern European towns!) and is another beautiful Slovenian tourist destination.  The gorge is about a mile long and is flanked by 160 to 330 ft high canyon walls.  Carved out by the Radovna River, the gorge ends with the 43-foot Sum Falls (literally meaning “noisy falls”).  We can definitely attest to the noise factor, as it was impossible to hear each other in some parts of the hike.

Autumn in Vintgar Gorge

Bobby enjoying the fall weather

An incredible amount of water that moves really fast!

Vintgar Gorge

The water was incredibly loud

Narrowest part of the gorge

Most people hike the 1-mile gorge and then turn around and double back.  I was certain that I’d read online that a looping route existed (who wants to see the same thing twice, right?).  Strong in my convictions, we headed up the stairs from the gorge and ended up in a small farming village.  After walking along neighborhood streets for about 30 minutes (I was still convinced we could make it back to where we started), we “asked” an elderly Slovenian woman where the entrance to the gorge was.  We asked in very general terms, as we couldn’t verbally communicate at all; luckily she understood the word “Vintgar”, the name of the gorge!  With some wonderfully animated hand signs, we figured out we had to go back down the way we came, or walk for another three hours along a highway to get back to our car.  Theoretically, because Bobby will tell you I am generally the one with a better sense of direction, we COULD have made it back to our car.  We were indeed walking in the right direction, it just happens that there wasn’t another way to traverse the mountain to reach the gorge once again.  Oh well, we got some extra exercise and had some wonderful views of the Slovenian countryside!

Sometimes it’s not too bad to get “lost”, right?

The next day, we drove south of Ljubljana to another town called Postojna.  It is famous for “Postojnska Jama,” a 12.8 mile long cave.  3.3 miles of the caves can be explored by visitors, the longest stretch of caves open to the public in the world.  Tourists first came to the cave in 1819 and electric lights were added in 1884, before the capital city Ljubljana even had electricity!  Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos, so here are a few I pulled from the web.  It really is a cool experience, if you are ever in the area.

The cave’s signature “Brilliant” formation – second from right

The Concert Hall, known for its exceptional acoustics, has sufficient space for 10,000 people. Symphony orchestras and a variety of soloists perform here.

“Concert Hall”

The cave has mini stalactites hanging from the ceiling.  The formations are typically called hairs or straws, but we took the tour with the Italian language group and of course they call them spaghetti.  To each his own! :)

Hair/Straws/Spaghetti

Comments

  1. Wow! I spent Fall in eastern Czech Republic, such a gorgeous time of year. That lake is stunning, but I think the gorge is even more so! That water is so blue, it seems like something out of Lord of the Rings films no? Do they speak Slovenian there?

    • TheFlammias says:

      Yeah, it does look like something out of Lord of the Rings! And yes, they speak Slovenian, which we don’t understand a word of :)

Trackbacks