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Slovenia – a pocket-sized unassuming jewel of swirling mist, vast mountain backdrops and fairytale castles

Written on Tuesday 3rd January (on journey home) and then Wednesday 4th January (at home). If you’re curious – or just plain nosy – there are a couple more pics on my Instagram account….

Emma and I are at this moment, sat in Ljubljana airport home-bound and less talkative than usual. Well, maybe that’s not so accurate. We’re doing that thing where she dozes and I blog. It’s always a pleasant surprise that it works so well. There’s even the added bonus that every so often, I can pick her brain about something. Sometimes she’ll say “You’ve forgotten to mention blah” and these days even adds: You can put that in your blog” or “Don’t you dare say that in your blog” !! It’s good.

I should probably start with why we ended up here. We wanted to be away for New Year. And I wanted to be in the mountains. It was just an unsuppressable urge which I couldn’t swipe to one side, despite already being totally spoilt by Indonesia and Kenya already this year. I wanted the space and the fresh air and a grounding sense of magnificence to remind me how beautiful this world is and where I am in it. I thought it would be the perfect start to a brand fresh, new year. And I was right.

A photographer had told me about Bled yonks ago and I’d written it down as somewhere I needed to come to. As a vague New Year’s mountain plan formed from the murky mirage in my head, Bled gave it some substance and all of a sudden I knew it had to be here. So to Slovenia we came.

As I flew in from Montenegro the sun was setting over the mountains, giving their jagged tops a dusty orange glow, a warming welcome from a new land.

The chap sorting out the minibus transfers shrugs at me at first, looking slightly bemused (I don’t think it’s me now that I’ve realised it’s more just a national Slovenian thing) telling me I’ll have to wait until the next bus fills up, but then immediately sorts out his mate to take me straight to the hotel door.

I take a bath because I can, chill out and get dressed/pile on the layers) and plunge out into the dark night. Emma’s not arriving until much later so I need to source food, having had a croissant for breakfast at the airport in Rome and not much else.

The minute you exit the hotel lobby the cold air envelopes you and hurries you along to your destination: we won’t be standing still for too long here. The nice taxi driver man had pointed out the road to town, so I head in that direction and as soon as I round the corner, am attracted like a moth to the stunning lights of Presernov Trg (Preseren Square).

A couple of evenings later, we realise that – what we thought was a quite incredible Christmas light display of planets and constellations – actually has a nucleus at it’s centre …complete with what are… definitely (as we squint and look closer) little sperms. Easy to mistake for… well, drunk flying comets I guess.


“Wow, they’ve really put sperm in the Christmas light’s display”

On closer incredulous inspection, we realise that we’re not just of warped mind: what we thought were two ringed-surrounded planets are actually a fibreglass man and a fiberglass woman diving towards each other, edged in blue fairy lights. It’s a comment on the wonder of creation in suspended lights in Ljubljana’s most famous square.


Of course. (To the right of the tree: the yellow blob with purpley-disc-shaped-planets either side… if you look very closely you can see the squiggly things!!). Behind all of it and high up above Mestni Trg (Town Square) you can see the blue lights of Ljubljana Castle. An actual floating castle…!

After coo’ing at the lights, and spending half an hour exploring the tightly packed food and mulled wine stalls either side of the River Ljubljanica, I manage to find a cash machine and eventually settle (too much choice)  on a thoroughly meaty dinner of a steamed bread roll which is the size of my face with seven or eight beef koftas inside, chilli sauce and onions.

Despite my best hungry (almost hangry efforts) I am defeated after eating a third of the roll and about six of the kebabs, which – when you consider most people are sharing – is actually pretty good going. I nosh through it stood at a table among families and chatter, in front of the huge pink town Franciskanska cerkev (Franciscan church) before furnishing myself with mulled wine and going up the short fight of steps myself to see what everyone else is doing or looking at. But from up here, I still don’t know so I head home. It’s super cold and another mulled wine in the reception of City Hotel Ljubljana seems like a most excellent idea. So here I sit, getting warmly drunk, awaiting Emma’s arrival.

She rocks up about 11.30. By this point I’ve given up on trying to sober myself up. (The cunning plan was to – finally – do my blog about Kenya, which I’m still only mid-way through. But I end up giving up at about 10.30 in favour of trying to search out a bar chair that is a little bit comfortable. In the meantime, the nice bar lady has fed me hot water, a slice of lime pie and a fresh lemonade (I requested freshly squeezed orange juice but her face was not impressed so I conceded to the proffered alternative. It does actally hit the spot, as I continue to cough and splutter and continue to blow my nose so many times that it starts to look like a/ it has dinosaur scales b/ it might fall off. (Emma takes to warning me not to die, later on).

It’s fab to see her but as soon as we’ve had a post-Christmas wave and hug, I tell her we need to get out, now or never. We retrace my steps, get her an kebab stuffed stottie too, furnish ourselves with more mulled wine and head home to fill each other in on respective Christmas’. I’m feeling thoroughly, mulled-wine-eye-glazed by the time we get to bed.

We scrape ourselves up just in time for breakfast (not a pretty sight), then take the opportunity to make ourselves look human again, wrap up and head into the now daylight filled town. It’s still cold cold cold but the city centre is just as charming in sun streaked daylight.

The main (ground level) focal point of Llubljana is the river with little patio-heater-warmed-street cafes adorning each side. There are four main bridges: Tromostovje bridge (Triple bridge – from the square, city to old town), Cevljarski most (Shoemaker’s bridge), Mesarski most (Butcher’s bridge) & Zmajski bridge (Dragon bridge – which we kind of nearly forgot about.. but search out to walk across on our last day, because of course the dragons will wag their tails at us, being such lily white pure hearted maidens).

First though, we sit next to the waterside and a waiter with a face of reliable unexpression takes our order and simply nods when we ask for blankets, delivering them with the same nonchalance. In case you ever go to Ljubljana, don’t worry about the waiter welcome (or not!), instead look for the tables with over-head patio heaters and blankets. The ones with knee heaters don’t quite live up to their potential. The thing to drink here is really really strong coffee, with whipped cream on top. So that sorts us right out and then we decide it’s time to climb up to the castle.

We’ve both got long (good for the temperature), heeled (not good for walking up) boots on.. but off we go, rounding a cold shadowy corner, before starting the ascent. I’m coughing and wheezing with my cold and Emma has to actually push me up a fair bit of it, even though her boots have actual heels on them as opposed to my more practical wedges (wont be running for a while…).

It’s kind of an odd view that presents itself as we make our way up. As the town spreads out below, we realise that its not all pretty pink buildings and turreted roofs. There are loads of unflinching square, plain white building, and the fairy-tale shaped ones are much fewer and further between than we’d realised. The mountains behind are magnificent through, whatever way you look at it.


We reach the top – after a little mid-way point breather for my poor exhausted lungs – and pay to go into the castle. Part because we’re there, part because we’re curious, but – honestly – mostly because it means that we can get a photo of Emma in the square window of the turret looking like a captured maiden. Some rather puzzled tourists wait for her to finish, she joins me at the bottom again and we’re back down to the town in search of food. Notice a pattern?


There’s a tiny little place with a condensation sweat lined window (= warm), so we head in and are chuffed to get verification of our instincts: it has a 4.5 TripAdvisor rating. We settle for carniolan sausage with mild-semi-grainy-mustard, grated horseradish with a golden oval bread roll (two paper plates) and a salty burek, which is kind of like a lose and lazy Pre-Raphaelite version of a spring roll with a relaxed outer layer, stuffed with hot saurkraut and bacon.


“Lekker lekker lekker lekker” sings Emma (her favourite Dutch word. “Tasty”. Apparently you have to say it at least four times. Emma’s rules).

It’s warmed us a little but it is still baltic outside, so we keep moving and wander past the riverside market on the East bank. The honey-whisky stall holder spots us coming and offers us a sample, which of course we take. Next we try the chilli version which is sweet and hot and cuts through my lungs and nostrils in cold-defying blast.

“We’ll take four!” Seriously. They’re small but even so. Yep he spotted us a mile off!

Further down, having decided my peak-type cap isn’t quite cutting it and try on about sixty of the pineapple shaped pompom hats, finally deciding on one: still makes my head look like a pineapple but if you look closely it has orange flecks to match my coat). I discover that Emma hasn’t heard the pen-apple-pinapple-pen YouTube phenomenon yet so that story is lost on her, which is probably a good thing: her brain’s a devil for an ear-worm.

It gets too bone-chilling for shopping as the sun sinks, so we head home for a snooze.


That evening we discover the true wonder of a river-side bar table with blankets and overhead patio heaters, whilst drinking prosecco (5 euros for two!!) in front of the light adorned castle above us (erm, eah so the castle is cropped off the photo above). Definitely a good conclusion to the day. Along with a couple of mulled wines of course, after which we stumble into a bit of live music on stage in Park Zvezda and Kongreshi Trg (Congress Square).

The band’s got a brilliant live horn section with a baritone sax player (unusual!), a trumpeter and another tenor/alto sax player all wrapped up with hats and finger-less gloves. The singer, is loving it in his little paunch hugging black jumper, his glasses steaming up every time he sings into the microphone. We’re entertained as long as our mulled wine lasts, then retreat to the warm yellow lights of our hotel.


It’s Dragon Bridge the next day. We decide climbing up on their backs to do a Daenerys Queen of Dragons photo might not be so wise, given the freezing cold river below n ‘all. So we perfect our funny ‘Eeek it’s a dragon’ selfies from solid ground instead.

Another bridge with padlocks girding it’s sides, invites us to cross back to the other side. We figure the padlocks are definitely a romance thing. Emma:

“Maybe we should do “Emma & ?” and “Dawn & ?”.


But we have tea instead. Another river-fringing cafe, to sit in waiting for the feeling to come back into our toes. We take the opportunity to peruse the books handed to us by a young Hare Krishna man just now and decide that it’s amazing that this group of people with faces awash with peace and happiness, make their way through such depthy text. I read just a paragraph (left the books back at the last hotel so I can’t share with you too – which isn’t exactly a disaster).

“I’m lost already” says Emma. We leave their welcoming ‘hare hare’ chant where it is though, weaving it’s way through memories of our two days in Ljubljana.


Next stop Bled. We get there mid-afternoon and find a taxi to take us and our cases to the other side of the lake, and Vila Bled. This place could just be the most well-located hotel in the whole lake-hugging town. On the way the driver points out the best cocktail place and the best restaurant for local food (very close to our hotel)….he may well be a mind-reader.


Really, the only reason we ended up here is because I didn’t get my arse in gear quickly enough before we came and we’d therefore left it too late to get into places for just one night. So Emma searched Vila Bled out, as pretty much our only option (she thanks me for being totally useless later…).

There’s a plush red carpet up to the door and a huge sphere of a chandelier (the kind that kills people in James Bond films) in reception. We clock the grand piano and original art as a man with aristocratic shoulders pads past us to the spa in his bathrobe, like its the most normal thing in the world. #theruffianshavearrived.

We haven’t eaten any lunch and decide we should probably wait now until dinner. Which may be risky as the receptionist can’t get through to a single one of the restaurants and imparts that the entire menu of catering establishments of Bled may be fully booked, you know.. with it being New Year’s Eve and everything. Oops.

Oh well, we’ll worry about out bellies later. Things to explore! Our room for one: very beige but a suite no less, with a reception room (!) to stride through before you get to the bedroom and a call-button for waitress/room service. At least we think that’s what it’s for but then this was built in the early twentieth century by the Yugoslav Royal Family to be their summer mansion and was later used by Tito as a retreat and base for entertaining world leaders , before becoming a (luxury) hotel in 1984 (source: Berlitz Slovenia pocket guide), so who knows!


Having relieved ourselves of our cases we explore before it gets too dark. There’s a whole row of arches at the front of the hotel through which (at ground level) you can see the castle, the island and then the town of Bled in turn. Its totally and utterly stunning, but we’ve left out coats in the room so we last about three minutes in dropping temperatures, before heading back through the ajar balcony door and down the stairs.


On the second floor there’s, what I think can only be described as, a Ballroom. But it’s odd in that it has a post-modern take on chandelier’s on the ceiling. The lights are actually wide strips of multiple bulbs Dali’esque in their various sizes and arrangement and they stretch from one side of the room (where the long windows are) to the other, where there is an epic maybe 15 foot, 80 foot long mural of workers raising the flag of the revolution, you know the kind of thing. It’s pretty damn impressive and Emma even threatens to get out her Salsa shoes. We also spy the boat which we find out later departs from the hotel jetty at certain times of the day “in case you might like to visit the island tomorrow”….well.

Time for a drink.

We make our way down to the ground floor bar and try to be better behaved but nobody’s around and there’s a very romantically lit snug and a grand piano for Emma to tinker on. So, you know… we tinker (#badlybehaveguests).


Eventually we can’t wait any longer and search out the bar man who looks bemused (another one) about our request for a gin and tonic (me) and a prosecco (Emma) at the early hour 4.30pm. It’s New Year’s eve – c’mon!!

As our bellies are probably now cavernous pits that can’t deal with more alcohol we do the sensible thing, stave off the hunger have a nap (I’m starting to get the hang of this napping lark). We figure, if worse comes to worst later on the food front, we will take our chances with  some ‘snack food’. Receptionist:

“Yes there will be snack food – or pizza” *carefully draws on the free map* here”. Okay. We’re not going to starve.

As it turns out though, we can’t resist the world’s most expensive canned nuts (4 euros…whaaaat?!) and tuck first into the pistachios. Too much shell with those bad boys (3 euros of shell?) and then peanuts (freeze-dried?). We then snooze, interrupted only by (practice?) fireworks at 6pm and my sudden fear that we’ve overslept and missed it all.

We layer up with thermals, agreeing that my horrendous white ones – which I think I’ve maybe had since I was doing school ski trips at the age of 16 – are not helping my cause. With anything.

But” I defend myself “I only wear them when it’s very cold

…and when there’s a gold-sealed guarantee nobody will get to see them. Well other than now and Emma, who might be the only human who’s had to deal with such a travesty. Her poor eyes.

And so, the great Bled New Year’s food hunt begins. We set out. It’s -10. Suddenly the magnitude of the potential disaster of no food on New Year’s eve seems to increase. The restaurant that the receptionist couldn’t get through to earlier (and the taxi man pointed out on the way:“best food in Bled”) looks so cosy and welcoming that we decide to give it a go. An extremely polite waiter tells us that he’s had a cancellation and can accommodate us. We almost Snoopy-skip with joy. It smells amazing.

As we pull up our seats he asked (to Emma):

“Would you like a glass of champagne”

Dimples appear, eyes light up:  “That would be wonderful, thank you!”

He pours us a glass each, It’s the colour of light amber, with just the right amount of bubbles, sweetness and lingering over your taste buds. It’s the most delicious champagne I’ve ever tasted. Little known fact: the wine made in Slovenia is so good that most of it never reaches the export market. This and the next glass of deep lusty recommended red rounds up the point. We are happy bunnies.

Things do take a little while to cook here though (its okay we’re not hungry or anything…!). The Slovenian reaction, answer and solution to fast food – is slow food. Exactly what you might expect. Takes maybe four times longer than your average but tastes a million times better. You could easily go out at 7pm and not be done eating until midnight.

The Sova steak (house specialty) arrives therefore, when we’re already tipsy. But even if we weren’t, you’d still be astounded by this plate. It’s a work of art. Fist thick, perfectly cooked, steak, slivers of pepper rolled truffle delicately balancing on it’s top, procuitto corseting it’s middle, accompanied by a delicious (black pepper?) jus and then little balls of perfectly whipped and rounded potatoes at intervals to it’s side, all of different sizes.

One’s topped with a carrot, another’s got a piece of (normal) broccoli, another’s got a sprig of that broccoli that looks like it’s been put through a pasta maker by Gaudi. It’s a gob-smacking plate. My initial thought about asking for a steak knife dissolves as my standard one gently slides the first morsel. Melt in your mouth delicious.


It’s only later – after our second/finale meal here and Emma’s second Sova steak (!) – that we realise they’ve done the plate to look like Bled: the steak in the middle is the island, with a double layered truffle of castle on top; the carrot is the tall illuminated Christmas tree you can see on the shore from our hotel; the broccoli bits are the spires of the various other-world-pretty-churches dotted around. Utter culinary genius. Why it doesn’t have Michelin stars I don’t know: it should have three (in my humble foodie opinion). Still, at least you know now: if you ever go to Slovenia, go to Bled and it would be most wise to make Sova your restaurant of choice for the entire trip.

It’s about 11.30 as we leave, after a sock-warming shot of the local pear liquor that has the same breath-steeling abilities as ouzo and pocheen. 40% bracket. It turns out to the perfect fuel to get around half the lake to town. We follow the music.
A realisation occurs as we make our way towards the sounds of activity and fun: everything we’ve heard – apart from the calm church bells ebbing across the water, one church toll echoing another – every song we’ve heard is from when we were growing up. So late eighties to nineties.

As our time in Bled continues, it becomes apparent that it’s more than just a haphazard quirk. Long unheard (in public places anyway) classics from our era keep on trickling out from everywhere we go: Savage Garden and Sinead O’Connor in the MacDonalds in Ljubljana (where we nipped to the loo before the bus ride to Bled); Bryan Adams, Phil Colins and Celine Dion (and Tammy Wynette – okay so she’s earlier but a splash of country colour is good in any scenario) at the restaurant; right now we’re heading in the direction of a torrent of Christina & Enrique, Chesney Hawkes and… the Macarena (“Really?!” ..errrr …yup) and ohhh, here’s Coton Eyed Joe just in case you weren’t sure about how complete the Bled-easy-listening-time-warp truly is; in ‘Devil Bar’ later it’s more Savage Garden, the Lighthouse Family and – of course – Michael Jackson (very forgiveable in all scenarios).

It’s enough though, to make you wonder if the entire town has decided that this New Year’s Eve holiday it will be an acoustic blackout: they’ve all agreed they’ll play tracks only from the years between 1985 to 1995. We don’t mind. Emma might go as “definitely approving“.

It continues: tomorrow when we’re at the top of the mountains at Vogel after the cable car, it’s Wet Wet Wet ‘I Feel It In My Fingers’, Extreme ‘More Than Words Can Say’, Sinead O’Connor ‘Nothing Compares’, The Beats ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ and Starship ‘We Built This City on Rock N’Roll’. Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ is ebbing out of the last corner Cafe before the hotel as we walk home on our final night… and even when we’re in the Park Hotel Cafe eating Bled cream cake, we get Survivor ‘Eye of the Tiger’; Britney ‘Baby One More Time’, The Cranberries and No Doubt (Quick aside: this last spot is by all accounts the place to sample the famous Bled cream cake – a national treasure bordered top and bottom by feather light flaky pastry and filled with the lightest whipped cream and gentle yellow custard #lekkerlekkerlekkerlekker. Although, I think (but don’t tell anyone Slovenian) I might prefer the freshly cooked, non cream decked, Portugese Custard Tarts which you can get just down the road from where I used to work at the RNIB in Kings Cross. Our secret.)

So – following the (90s) music, we end up in a bar next to the lake where we get drinks loaded with about a tonne of ice, in case our hands weren’t cold enough, before the fireworks begin. Seven and a half minutes worth (time info courtesy of tomorrow’s brilliant taxi driver) but also doubled up and reflected back by a silky midnight lake. As the twin fireworks do their spectacular thing, to the right al the while is the castle, lined in yellow and floating above us and fairytale shaped punctuating the dark in various other colours. It’s a shame that the enchanting conical hats of the medieval style castle are not lit. It must be awkward..or maybe just plain dangerous to put any up. So Bled’s most distinctive feature looks like it might be square and blunt in the dark, when it’s actually much prettier. Either way, the fireworks were fab.

Once they’re all done, we turn on our heels in search of more fun and are drawn towards the pumping sounds of ‘Devil Bar’ (90s) music (of course). It’s burning hot in there like the name suggests, so we strip off our million layers, perch on a couple of borrowed bar stools one level up where we can see what’s going on and people watch. And buy ourselves prosecco.

The first table next to us has three boys sat at it, all of them looking fairly bored, like they were forced to come out together due to some old vestiges of school friendship which disappeared long ago. Ergo, they’re glued to their phones. The far table has another group of (better looking, also young) guys who seem to be enjoying each other’s company much more and the middle table has a family all dressed in Christmas jumpers. I imagine they’re sweating profusely because, well… let’s just say the jumpers aren’t the only layer they’re wearing. I know, I’m going to burn in Hell… oh wait… (haha).

A couple of guys are messing around on the dance floor and the next thing we know we’re chatting to them. An unusual merry band: one is here with his wife (who’s 17 weeks pregnant we’re later informed!), the other two are related to the couple but not each other so much, through work and living arrangements. They decided to come away to Slovenia over breakfast one morning. Seems as good a reason as any. They ask “Why Slovenia?” back to us: “Dawn wanted to be in the mountains”. The Aussie one – who now lives b#etween London and Amsterdam – gets more prosecco, as the TV one who takes the mick out of Emma’s shoulder shaking laugh.

We cheers and exchange ‘must do’ advice on Bled/Ljubljana. Them: “Go up to the castle but don’t bother with the restaurant, there’s only two tables with window views; don’t bother with the island – there’s nothing there really”. Us “Sample the honey chilli whisky at the market and look out for the sperm in the Christmas lights” LOL).

They’ve been drinking since early afternoon though and after a couple of bottles of water it’s definitely time to depart. They offer to walk us home, which – given that it’s about half an hour away and the fact it’s -10,  seems very chivalrous but not particularly wise; especially  – as we point out – they’ll have to come all the way back here again. I do keep laboring the point but they’re 1/ gents 2/ intrigued to see where we’re staying, so we quick-march a toe- thawing stomp around the lake’s edge.


It turns out that they’ve walked the 6km circumference of the lake previously and when they realise we’re in Vila Bled:

“No way. You’re not staying here?!”

We do explain the ‘only reason is because Dawn didn’t get her arse in gear’ thing, but yeah we have to admit it’s pretty damn amazing. We try to look sober’ish and bashfully say hello to the receptionist (#badlybehavedguests) before taking the stairs so we can show them the ballroom. They’re as impressed as we were so next thing we know we’re doing two little clam-footed waltzes up and down it’s length. Had to be done. Tea and coffee our reception room (!)  and the chatter goes on til about 4am when tiredness kicks us and we kick them out. They’re off to Ljubljana at 10 tomorrow after all.
By some sort of magic, we manage to lever out of bed the next morning just before 10 ourselves, and somehow get the best table of the breakfast room.

When I turn my head to the left whilst waiting for a freshly cooked omelette, I can see the church on the island and the castle in the background through a perfectly placed arch. We toast our Bucks Fizz’s and declare that this might be our best ever first day of any single new year (so far).

“Is it wrong to be so smug?”


But we are anyway.


“We did good!”. Grin. (This morning and the one of waking up on a houseboat in Kalimantan at dawn, surrounded by the sounds of monkeys and tropical birds). Yeah, some good mornings this year.


Once we’ve done our own little Vila Bled photoshoot, our taxi lady (the brilliant one, because she tells us we need to visit Lake Bohinj the next day:“but the gorge is closed, so instead go up the cable car to see the Julian mountains”) delivers us to the door of Hotel Astoria. We can’t check in yet, says yet another bemused receptionist.

“Maybe it’s because we’ve got a double bed?”

“Hmm, maybe.”

“That’s okay – I’m proud to be with you”.

Ha! So on that note we go out for coffee at a little place perched on the side of Lake Bled (of course) with the castle in the background (what else?!).

We debate whether it’s best to walk around the water’s perimetre, or climb up to the castle. We only have time for one, as tomorrow is now Lake Bohinj. We decide to climb after recalling the advice from our pals last night.

It’s not the easiest castle to get to, which seems fair. It’s literally balanced almost precariously, atop a mountain/hill/mount/outcrop (there’s probably a word ???) meaning it looks more like a giant version of the best sandcastle you made when you were a kid: edges up straight vertical, creating the impression that any surrounding land sand has been swept away by a strong and greedy wave.


Unlike the one in Ljubljana which has been modernised this is a proper castle. It has a draw bridge, battlements and stone windows you could shoot arrows out of, turrets, flags, a wine cellars….and the most incredible view you’ve ever seen.



We have a little wander around and swap cameras (or mostly cameras on phones actually) with other tourists, and then Emma suggests wine on the little podium overlooking the lake.

This may have been her best ever idea. She gets red, I get white. She hoiks over two chairs (it’s okay – I still have the cold and we’ve decided that she’s the masculine one in this relationship anyway as she always gets asked about wine, the bill and other such important things).


And so we settle in for an hour or so.

I’m not sure I’ve ever sipped a glass of wine in a more stunning place. The mist (or it could be steam – thermal lake) gathers and makes lazy swirls to the right of the island church. You can see the three fifths of the lake’s perimetre when you cast your eyes to the horizon they’re filled with mountains.


This is what was pulling me here. You can’t help but feel the beauty of the world and your tiny wonderful place in it. It’ll be a good place to keep as a minds-eye-anchor, if/when the rest of the year theatens to slosh us around and about, up and down.

Eventually we decide we should let someone else have a go, pay up, drag the chairs back and head back down the cliff for a snooze (standard), followed by massages. All included in the hotel package along with the spa! We have a nice dinner at Vila Adja (not bad but Sova wins hands down).

Next day – and our final full day here – we’re up at 7 so we can get to Lake Bohinj and Triglav National Park and see the Julian Alps before the sun gets too high.

The bus driver drops us in what looks like it might be the middle of nowhere…or…Narnia. Everything is closed and lined with snow. And – slightly worryingly – the other couple we were with, got off the bus, then got back on again asking to be taken further on. (I read in my little guide book later that protected indigenous animals to this national park include the golden eagle, lynx and brown bear! If we had known this, we might have spent less time messing around.)

But here we are so we mouch down to the lake.


I’d been trying to capture a photo the mist suspended metres above the water on the jiggly bus – to no avail – but now it doesn’t matter.

This is ….the… most… beautiful… place.

And the light is gorgeous: it’s got that a young and rosy morning glow to it. Underneath, its gaze the water is completely still – a perfect mirror, that won’t talk back or rub you in the face with the fairest of them all. The impeccably dressed evergreen trees are so green they’re almost black, and the ones that drop behind are like ghosts of those before, each behind another misted curtain. It’s a frozen, still and silent world, oblivious of us, in a deep enchanted sleep.


And we’re two little imposters taking advantage of it’s slumbers: cheeky voyeurs, peeking in – and jumping up and down on – a world that’s blissfully unaware of it’s burgeoning beauty.


Once we’ve finally secured the above jumping shot after about erm, forty attempts, using my carefully balanced camera and 15 second delay function, we get the 10.30am cable car to the top of the Vogel ski resort. Our brilliant taxi lady had warned we needed to we get photos of lake-side, before going through the turnstile barrier to the resort. She’s so right – that’s definitely the better view.


But despite our height and how widely the valley folds out before us, we just can’t beat Lake Behinj. So we slurp down hot cacao with whipped cream and homemade fruit tea and Emma learns 1/ that More Than Words was indeed sung by Extreme (my DJ brain still works sometimes!) and 2/ that breach birth means bum-first “OH MY GODDDD – how is that possible?!”. Our conversations would be pretty funny to overhear, yeah.

We venture out of the cafe to watch some snowboarders and skiers going up down up down on the one slope which has been dressed with some pretend snow (you’d be gutted if you had come here for the slopes!), then make our way back down the mountain in a cable care stuffed full of people who’d come up here for lunch. Back on the bus we’ve got snoozy heads Looking forward to our hotel Spa visit next.

It turns out that here in Slovenia…and in lots of places in the world… spa’s should be done naked – no swim wear allowed. There is also option of a sheet to wear, so – of course – we take this. We go into the jacuzzi first and mentally prepare ourselves, then careful engineer under-towel bikini-removal before entering the first sauna. It’s the least hot one, and has mentol so is great for my coldy chest but it’s definitely too hot to be wrapped in three layers of sheet and I can’t bear it (Emma is much better with hear than me with heat – we established this in Kalimantan). I lose the sheet – it’s too much and anyway it’s just us. The cold shower is trickier though and whilst Emma manages to engineer things I end up having a shower opposite a man with..well you know (teehee!). I know. I’m a total child. It takes all of my powers of self-control not to giggle like a naughty school girl.

Steam room next, and there is a couple having a chat in Slovenian about who knows what: maybe what happened at work that day. We can only stand it (the heat and our bashfulness) for a couple of minutes, so after three minutes we give up and I decide to brave the plunge pool – which is outside (and it’s below -10 in terms of air temperature). I nearly slip on the icy edges but put a foot in first and plunge down…. gasp, remember to breathe.

**** me!!!

And I reemerge from the icy 5 foot deep pool. Emma clamps a hand on my arm as we head back down the corridor to the showers:

“You’re freezing!!”

“I kinda like it!”

It certainly makes you remember you’re alive. Another sauna and another plunge pool neck-deep before gasping and rushing back to my sheet and Emma who’s giggling her head off. Not something you do every day.

Post sauna-plunge-pool-slump, we head to the bar for a beer and a red wine and wonder why the only other people in the bar – a group of guys (plus a woman) who’re sat a few tables away, keep looking over with bemused looks (always bemused looks) on their faces.

Low and behold the next morning, as we’re about to head home, I step out onto the balcony for the first time and realise – after standing on the terrace for 5 seconds – that you can see the entire spa from the bedrooms.. (and we were there it was all lit up at night, like a beacon) and errrr there’s the outdoor plunge pool…! Hmmm. Just another sight to behold in Slovenia (!!!!).

As I sit at home finishing this blog I suspect the shock of everything plunge-pool will melt. But I hope that our moments on that snow-iced jetty at the side of Lake Bohinj will stay frozen and with us forever: being encapsulated for a moment inside an enchanted snow globe, surrounded by the best of Slovenia’s swirling mists and mysterious secrets.


One Comment Post a comment
  1. Angela Nalliah #

    Brilliant writings and ramblings, in the nicest sense if the word, again

    January 7, 2017

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