25th – 28th February 2012
In this post I’ll need to speak a bit about getting to, and around, the resorts in Slovenia, and exactly where to go as the internet is somewhat lacking decent information on it. Slovenia is not the impoverished former-eastern-block ‘struggling to modernise’ country I expected – it’s already modernised and appears very prosperous, with awesome people, clean towns, nice new houses, good transport links made up of a new bus fleet. All this made it fairly easy to get to Bled.
There’s lots of reasons to visit Lake Bled, it’s beautiful for a start, and an outdoor activity hub for the Julian Alps, but with only one chairlift and two runs – it’s not the place for actual snowboarding, however it makes a nice base. Thankfully I knew that before I got here – have a look at the Piste Map below, and you’ll see that snowboarding in Bled is more a novelty. You can go night-skiing (if there’s snow), but you’re not going to spend the whole week going up one chairlift, and down two runs… well I wouldn’t.
I traveled to Lake Bled from Innsbruck in Austria by train – Innsbruck-Salzberg-Villach-‘Lesce Bled’ and then a 10 minute bus up to Bled. I bought the tickets when I turned up in Innsbruck in the late morning, which cost around €50, and it would take me to Lesce-Bled around 6pm. I missed the connecting bus by ten minutes, which meant waiting for an hour in Lesce… not a big deal as there’s a bar nearby, and the barmaid was a friendly local student and it was interesting speaking to her about Slovenia.
There are regular buses everyday to Bled from both Lesce-Bled if you arrived by train, or from Ljubljana if you choose to fly in, all operating from around 5am until 10pm. The train from Ljubljana to Lesce-Bled costs €5 and then the bus up to Bled is only €2. Fantastic. Traveling around Slovenia seems to be brilliantly easy, and cheap, whether by bus or train.
Obviously, Bled is famous for Lake Bled, one of the most beautiful spots in the Alps, with its Island in the middle, which is home to a church, and overlooked by Bled Castle. I arrived late on saturday and walked around the town and visited a few bars. After living in Scotland for years, the local Bled teenagers who were drinking by the lake and looking for a bar which would allow them in weren’t intimidating. There are lots of bars and nice restaurants, including a casino, although some of the locals treat the place with an amusing disdain which can only come from someone who has lived in a place all their lives.
I decided to have a much needed break from snowboarding on Sunday and had a relaxing day walking the 4 mile circuit around the lake, accompanied by families, couples, joggers and numerous dog-walkers.
I stopped at a cafe which happily served nothing but desserts and coffee, I tried the local Bled delicacy of “Kremsnita” which is like a vanilla slice – I could eat trays of the stuff! In the bars I asked various young locals if there are any traditional Slovenian restaurants where I could try some ‘real’ food. I got some funny looks and a few laughs and was told I should stick to pizza unless I wanted to eat boiled cabbage, or beans mixed with potatoes! Hopefully I’ll be back here in the summer time, and I look forward to finding this isn’t the case.
The other thing I was clearly researching, was where to go snowboarding. Happily I met a guy who openly admitted to being a freestyle skiing expert… and told me that there are loads of small Bled-type ski resorts in Slovenia with only a few lifts, but Vogel and Kranjska Gora were the places to go. There’s a daily bus down to Vogel, near to Bohinj, from Bled every morning around 8.30am, stopping at various hotels and used by Crystal Ski – its free with your lift pass, although as I was only going for the day I paid €10 return, which still pretty good – it takes less than an hour, and collects everyone at 4pm again.
I met two young Scottish couples on the bus who were all learning to ski. They would be traveling down to the football game later in the week, and were a good laugh. To be honest it was good to meet people from back home. We passed through the village of Bohinj, also home to a Lake, and I was amazed at the large new houses being built amongst the farm land, on the way to Vogel. Many of the houses seemed to be offering “free accommodation” – friendly Slovenians! Bohinj looked like an interesting place, another outdoors type of place, with some good hiking trails.
Vogel. Yeah it’s small, but it was also pretty fun! I’d snowboarded most, ok I’ll admit, all of the runs in Vogel and some tree-runs and the snow-park and a little bit of rock-solid off-piste snow, before midday… but as I said, I found Vogel to be quirkly and fun, and if it had some fresh snow (instead of the incredibly hard packed variety) the little hillocks and tree runs would have been a blast! Vogel is nice, and I know the two Scottish couples I met planned to be there learning all week, and were enjoying it. But anyone looking for the endless long runs of a large resort would be bored after a couple of days with only dozen of so runs. It’s a nice and cheap place to learn though, especially using Bled as a base – I was happy to spend the day there. The snow-park was actually surprisingly good for such a small resort, as were the guys who were using it! Would go back? Yeah, but maybe not for the whole week snowboarding, and I’d check on the snow conditions…
And make sure you don’t miss the bus back, as getting to Bled without it is difficult, or so I was told at the hotel. There’s usually a queue at the top cable-car station so don’t be late.
Back in Bled, I joined the Scottish couples I’d met, Mark and Jennifer, Graham and Morven, for dinner in what one of the barmaids in Bled had described as “the best food in town”… “Chilli” a Mexican restaurant! After some decent Mexican, and a few pints, we all called it a night, as they had to be up to ski in the morning, and I would be heading for Ljubljana to meet in with the Tartan Army.
I got a phone call in the morning from some friends to say they were on the train and would be passing Bled around lunch time, which was perfect as it gave me time to go up to Bled Castle for some last minute tourism. And I’m glad I did as Bled Castle is as fantastic as the views. There’s a cafe, restaurant and a nice little museum in the Castle, and I noticed that you can also get married at Vila Bled – not that I gave this much thought but the pictures did look pretty spectacular!
As I stood looking out over the clear mornings partially frozen lake, I could imagine the royalty of a different era standing admiring a not too different view. And it made me wonder if I’d prefer to look out on a white snow-covered winter, or a greener sun-baked summer Bled, both no doubt would be equally as impressive.
Slovenia’s Official Website – http://www.slovenia.info/
Bled’s Official Website – http://www.bled.si/en/
Vogel Ski Area – http://www.vogel.si/index-en.php
Bohinj (good for hiking trips, and where the Vogel resort is) – http://www.bohinj-info.com/en
Discover the Julian Alps – http://www.discoverjulianalps.si/default.asp?mid=en
Fun Rafting Adventure Sports Company – http://www.funrafting.com/
Amigo Adventure Sports Company – http://amigo.si/
Camping & Glamping in Bled for various budgets – http://www.camping-bled.com/
Vila Bled – http://www.vila-bled.com/