For once it wasn’t too hard to get up, and after a proper powerful shower we headed down to the basement breakfast buffet. On offer at Rooms and Apartments Jana were a solid selection of breads, coffee, teas, hams, pastries, cereals and even a few hot items. Whilst it was not the nicest breakfast room in the world and the Nespresso machine refused to work which is never a good thing early doors, the food was tasty setting us up well for the day ahead. It was certainly not bad for 4 Euro each.
After breakfast the owner dropped us back at the airport in her BMW and we were able to see the beautiful mountain landscape in all its glory.
Arriving at the airport we suffered a brief moment of confusion due to the bus time table at the bus stop and the one shown on Google Maps both being wrong. Luckily we ended up on the 10:05 bus to Lake Bled exactly as planned. The bus was comfortable and clean with plenty of space. The journey along the motorway was picturesque without being spectacular and we made good time until departing the motorway as we got close to Bled. The narrow road towards the lake was no match for the traffic snake that had developed and our worst fears of tourist overcrowding looked to be realised as we crawled past the rather frighting for all the wrong reasons Dino Park…
In the end we pulled into Bled Bus Station about 10-15 minutes late. After grabbing our bags from the luggage storage it was a short walk via the lake to our hotel.
Arriving at the lake we were lost for words, it was not just beautiful, it was the fairy tale we’d been promised by guidebooks, websites and pretty much any other resource you could find.
With the sun already beating down hard we were glad that it was only a short walk uphill from the lake to our hotel. Our accommodation for the next two nights, Penzion Kaps was situated on a small square opposite the deceptively large Rikli Balance Hotel (named after Arnold Rikli, the Swiss healer who founded a health resort in Bled in the 19th century which helped make Bled the tourist attraction it is today) and a few other similar sized Penzions and properties to ours which gave the square a rather pleasant, homely feel.
Room: Double Room
As we had arrived early we were only allowed to drop our bags in the room as it was still in the process of being cleaned. The service at Penzion Kaps felt very welcoming and the hotel had a nice finish to it which was better than I was expecting considering the price range for properties in the Bled area during peak season.
We had come up with a simple plan for the day: get one of the traditional Pletna boats out to Bled Island in the middle of the lake, take lunch afterwards, enjoy a casual walk around the lake and finish up with a visit Bled Castle. We quickly found a free Pletna and whilst it was expensive at 15 Euro per person, the boats are rowed by hand and it can’t be easy to row a boat full of tourists day in day out, especially in the blazing summer sun (though I can’t imagine they get much custom for the remainder of the year). It was a calm boat ride, but unfortunately with us being last to board we did not manage the best view, in fact I was rather scared of having my head taken off with an oar! The scenery was stunning and we got decent views of Bled castle on the voyage out.
Bled Island itself is tiny and there’s next to nothing specific to see on it other than a small church. It was only after we had a walk around we found the true worth of taking the boat trip, the amazing view back to the shore line, framed by the mountains and forests.
Before long we were headed back on the boat, this time with seats nearer the front allowing us to take some better pictures. Photography opportunities were not the only bonus from our improved spot, we also improved our eavesdropping opportunities by overhearing some Americans who had managed to snag the prime seats in both directions. Apparently one chap had near wine steward (I said wine steward, not bar steward before you say anything) knowledge of Slovenian wine as he knew the one place in Austin, Texas (and for that matter most probably the entire USA seeing how scarce Slovenian wine is) that sells the stuff. Other than that, it seemed that parent/child trips to Europe, especially those featuring a return to the ‘motherland’ wherever that may be to trace back the family lineage were particularly popular.
By the time we returned to shore we were pretty hungry and with our guidebook having flown back to London ahead of us we were stuck with Google Reviews and Trip Advisor for support. Whilst both can be valuable resources I find them better as a final confirmation as opposed to a starting point. Whilst it might be unfair to call all the reviewers naive, I do recall a couple of historical concerns, for example when Cote was named the best French restaurant in London and a small basic sandwich shop, Walthshaws (now closed down) was rated the best place in Whitstable for lunch with reviews befitting a Michelin starred extravaganza. Oh and the thing where someone got a fake restaurant serving frozen food a 5 star rating!
After some debate we ended up at Restaurant Arbor, it looked worryingly quiet for a 4+ star Google reviews rated place, but the menu items online looked decent and the views of Lake Bled and Bled Castle from the terrace were rather nice. The only concern (which actually seemed to be a common occurrence) were the lack of menus with prices on display. In the end we pulled one from a vacant table and as the prices looked OK, we settled down and as soon became the norm the waitress looking after us spoke good English.
The one good thing about lunch was the ice cold Slovenian Union Beer. The rest that followed was slightly less satisfying. I ordered the Carniolian Sausage with mustard and garlic bread. Anne-So took the venison goulash. The food took a reasonable amount of time to arrive. Whilst our lunch was perfectly pleasant and the portion size was generous to say the least, it was also a touch disappointing. Anne-So swore her venison was actually lamb and my garlic bread tasted like a Tesco Value 3 for a Pound job. Looking back it was an unremarkable meal in a tourist restaurant (and we got the feeling that finding somewhere in Bled that was not a tourist restaurant would be near impossible). Anyway, we’ve had much worse food, service and ambience whilst paying more money for the privilege and besides we’d come to Bled for the beautiful scenery and not for the food.
After all that hearty mountain food we needed a walk and luckily for us we had a beautiful lake to explore! We took the slow route round Lake Bled taking in every last moment of beauty we could find. From the luxurious summer houses to that one little spot of sand where every last family did their best sardine impression crammed and squeezed together. We loved the beautiful turquoise water, the shade from the trees and those brief moments alone. The reports of Bled being over crowded with tourists in summer were thankfully more myth than legend.
After making our way round about three quarters of the lake we spotted a sign for Bled Castle sticking out amongst the trees. We thought that this would be a shadier and more pleasant route providing respite from the baking 30+ degree temperatures. Well, we were right about the shade and not much else. What followed was a treacherous route up dry and slippery gravel paths. Thank goodness I had my trainers on as we met at least one casualty wearing flip flops sporting some rather unfortunate cuts and grazes on her legs. We wound our way up hill till we finally spotted the castle. Then we found that the entrance from our little path was closed off with with a gate which forced us to backtrack down the hill around the castle and then back up the main path through the car park. In short our shady route was probably not worth the detour.
Ever so slightly fatigued we arrived at Bled Castle and paid our admission. For 11 Euro each it was probably not worth the money as there was not that much to see. We did enjoy an overpriced soft drink each with a free serving of absolutely spectacular views. There was a museum or two with moderately interesting exhibits about the history of Bled and a live performance dance of a man going up through the ranks of society as a knight. If I could plan our trip again I would have booked the tasting menu at the restaurant which comes with free entry to the castle and treated it as a blow out dinner. We finished up our castle visit with a trip to the Castle Printing Works and Art Gallery. The group of English school girls that followed in behind us found the works particularly amusing! (I’m trying to think of a SFW way to describe the art for you and I 100% cannot). Sadly the Castle Wine Cellar had closed for the day by the time we found it…
We took the slow walk down from Bled Castle and headed back towards the lake. Anne-So had been looking up places for us to eat and found a Bled blog suggesting we try Trip Advisor’s best rated pizza restaurant. As we made our way through the immaculate streets of Bled we found ourselves slap bang in backpacker district and it would be these fun backpackers that supplied us with our dinner entertainment.
Anyway, we arrived at Pizzeria Rustika to find it rammed so we had a short wait in the queue before getting a table. The place seemed pleasant enough and the menu offered up a huge selection of pizzas. At least there were plenty of locally themed toppings to try and due to Slovenia bordering with Italy we didn’t feel so bad having Pizza for dinner. I think we were lucky that we ordered quickly and managed to do a good job of catching the eye of the wait staff. Other tables were not so lucky, with those who had come before us getting their food/drinks/bill significantly later than we did. I ordered a deliciously refreshing pint of beer and we picked our pizzas doing a 50/50 split. I remember trying the 3glav and Anne-So the Olivia. The pizzas were OK and were certainly crisper than the anaemic look they are giving off in our photos.
There was one gentleman in the vicinity of our table that stood out to me. There’s a risk that I’m maybe blurring him with a film or a TV show, but he did seem to be that typical English speaking back packer heading from hostel to hostel, bar to bar with one drunken tale too many to tell. Hopefully he didn’t end find himself in London and going on to test out a new immersive video game! Maybe one day I will take some time out and live that simple life for a few months. I always wondered if it would be a romantic adventure that exists in its own bubble of time or just a drunken blur of bars, beds and backpack. He certainly talked it up well from his table nearby but I can’t say I was jealous of his drinking exploits.
We settled up at the Pizzeria and made the perfect twilight walk back to our hotel, past the church and around the lake. We loved Lake Bled so much. What a perfect day!