Sunday, May 05, 2013


My train trip south from Vienna began as a repeat of a journey I made almost exactly 5 years ago. There is some pretty mountain scenery for the first few hours.

After 5 hours in comfortable first class with coffee and later a sandwich and juice on crockery and in a glass served at my seat (however only some nibblies were free), I arrive at Villach where in 2008 I turned back north for Salzburg. This time I wandered in a pretty Austrian town for nearly 2 hours

before continuing on another train for about an hour including a long tunnel under the Jura Alps into Slovenia. There were no customs formalities as Slovenia was the first of the old communist countries to join the EU.

I met a couple from Boise, Idaho in my compartment. We discovered we were going to the same B&B but their travel agent had arranged for them to change trains, waiting an hour, to arrive at a station only slightly closer but nearly 2 hours later. The train conductor was happy for them to stay on the same train with me and we shared a taxi the 4km to the B&B rather than catch the bus as I had planned. They then invited me to join them for dinner so a very happy coincidence.

Bled is a very pretty town with a castle up on the hill

 and a monastery on an island in the centre of the lake.

There was still some snow on the hills. I stayed 2 nights but should have made it 3. 

In order to see everything in one day, I estimated I walked about 17 km.

 I began with a gentle walk around the lake and a climb up to the castle. This is described as 6.5 km with a climb of 150 metres. There were beautiful views from the castle and a small museum and gallery as well as a demonstration of medieval printing.

Back in the town I had a coffee and obtained a map for my afternoon activity. I walked 4 km  out of town gradually rising 110 metres to the Vintgar gorge. The walk through the gorge is 1600 metres each way and was quite stunning. Besides the photo below,

I have uploaded a short video presentation to youtube

After a bottle of sprite and a banana taken at breakfast, I returned the 4 km (thankfully downhill) to the lake and took a gondola ride across to the island. While sitting in the boat was pleasant, I was very stiff when I had to get out. There was 30 minutes on the island but like most people I did not pay the 3 euros to enter the monastery but did climb the small hill.  A glance through a window showed it was just one more of the many Baroque churches found in this region of Europe. The 12 euros for the boat ride was enough and I was glad to buy an ice cream, only 1 euro, when we got back to Bled. I must admit, even after a short rest, going down the hill from my B&B to a restaurant was hard that night.

Thursday was showery, I cannot expect perfect weather for 7 weeks and have been very lucky until now.  I caught a bus about 50 km to the capital city Ljubljana. It was another public holiday (both May 1 and 2) and with the poor weather, just enough rain to be a nuisance, the small city was rather dismal. I found my way around the old city with quaint buildings and a river through the centre

 and paid for the funicular to go up to another castle. I did climb the stairs to the top of the tower but the views of distant hills were very misty. 

However Friday was completely different weather, sunny with a cool wind in the morning and fairly hot out of the wind by midday. I walked in the Tivoli park but it was not very interesting, nice trees but few flowers  and so went back to the old town.  The dragon

 is the symbol of the city and there are 4 on each corner of the Dragon bridge. Sunny skies allowed better photos of the many interesting buildings

 I walked back up to the castle and took some photos from the ramparts but did not pay to go up the tower again as I could see there was still cloud over the hills.
Instead I followed a guide book, purchased online, which suggested ending with lunch at a small tavern slightly out of the town. It was a real find. There were set courses and, while the menu was only in Slovenian, the waitress made a good attempt at translating into English although her pancakes was actually an omelette. I had a beef and noodle soup, the omelette with cottage cheese and wild garlic, a green salad (it seems common here for you to mix your own dressings as they bring bottles of oil and vinegars to the table) and finally a dessert as well as a glass of wine and a small tip for just 10 euros (Au or US$13, NZ$16). I do not usually have so much for lunch but it was very pleasant sitting in the shade of a tree in a very quiet part of the city.

English speakers are so lucky. I heard the waitress attempting to explain in English to other customers who were speaking other languages, I guess not Slovenian. Everywhere you go these days, you usually find people speaking some English and many announcements and signs are also in English.

I then made my way back to collect my luggage and walk to the station. Another train trip of 2 and half hours followed the Sava River partly through a deep gorge to Zagreb.

This time there were customs as I am now in Croatia.


Fran said...

What an adventure- truly lovely. Thanks for sharing!

Birdie said...

I'm enjoying the ride!