Friday, September 2, 2016

A Hidden Gem called Slovenia

Once upon a time there lived a sad girl in a faraway village hidden by the mountains and very dense clouds. She hadn’t seen the sun in a very long time. Every day she would wake up with a heavy heart, and go to bed at night with unshed tears.
And then one day, she packed a bag and set onto find Neverland.
Slovenia, is my Neverland.
Having reached the third leg of our exciting Europe trip, we were already a tad upset that our vacation days were now numbered. With Heavy bags and heavy hearts, we were let off by the bus from Ljubljana at quite a distance from our stay at Bled. For some reason, people in Bled have dreamlike houses, with rose bushes, and hanging plants and the most picturesque balconies. We were already jabbering about how pretty ever darned thing was. But, you just know your time at a place would be amazing, when random people catch you staring at their house, and wave at you, with an excited “Hi” from their window.
That was our first observation – Slovenians were a super nice bunch, welcoming, charming and warm. And we loved it.
Our hostel was just five minutes away from Lake Bled on foot, and it didn’t take us much time to freshen up and head towards something we hadn’t expected would be right out of a photograph.
Lake Bled
Lake Bled, is a lake in the Julian Alps, and the entire water body surrounds the pretty Bled island. It is a beautiful (for lack of better words,) walk around the entire lake that can be managed in a couple of hours. But I bet you won’t. 
It is simply that breathtaking. The lush greens, the earthy browns of the surrounding mountains, the aquamarine waters, and that little island in the midst of it. This is right out of a dream of a place where you would hope to retire after you have lived out your years of toil and sweat.
And while you are at it, do not forget to swim in it. That was our highlight. Jump into the lake (freezing waters) and take a few relaxed laps. It’s the whole idea that comes in your mind as your read this – that crystal clear water, a warm sun, people calmly fishing by the banks, or some swimming inside the lake, along with the ducks – Bled is exactly a perfect vacation; away from the din of life, from the rush of traffic, or worries. It was just day 1, and Slovenia had managed to win us over totally. We knew we would be coming back to escape again, or just to hide away from the world, someday.
Incidentally, The World Rowing Championships in 1979, 1989 and 2011 were held at Lake Bled.
As the sun set on the dazzling pristine lake, we made our way back to the hostel. An acute observation that needs to be mentioned here, is how safe the entire Bled town is. We were not only assured of this by the locals, we personally felt safe too. The banks of the lake light up with music and lamps, and an infectious festive mood sets in after dusk hours. All around the Bled and surrounding areas there are numerous monuments like the Bled castle, and other churches which add dimension to the captivating landscapes
Unimaginable bliss, a detached quietude and a place where everyone, even strangers greet you with a smile – Bled stole away our hearts. Even as I write this piece, I can transport myself to that beauty and find solace.
Lake Bohinj

Another mystical, and an even larger lake, called Bohinj, is a bus ride away from Bled. Roughly about 3 times the size of Lake Bled, it is the largest lake in Slovenia and located within the Bohinj Valley of the Julian Alps. A haven for hikers, swimmers and people who just want to be lost in the wild beauty of the place, Bohinj too, turned out to be much more than our expectations. Even the fishes were friendly, hovering around our feet, as we soaked in the cold waters of the endless lake. 

Savica Waterfall
Another bus ride took us to the majestic Savica Waterfall – whose beauty I will deign to not describe. I would falter miserably with my words, adjectives and emotions. I will let my pictures do the talking. It is quite a climb to reach the viewpoint of the fall – rough cut steps hewn out of the rocks in the greenest of woods, it makes you feel like you are following the trail of a mysterious fae, who leaves behind a magical route of sunlight blending in various shades of green, mixed in with the soft sounds of the forest. It tests your endurance, sure, but it is worth it.

Our concluding feat was a 3 km ride uphill to the Vintgar Gorge. Given our fitness level was well below the lower limit, we struggled as we rode our bikes up to the parking area of the gorge. But we were pretty confident that Slovenia wouldn’t fail us at all.
Vintgar Gorge
 The entire enigmatic gorge measures around 1.6-kilometer and is carved by the Radovna River, which has created many erosive features such as pools and rapids. A wooden observation walkway has been constructed along the gorge for public access. I will urge visitors to walk the entire bridge, to view the mesmerizing green waters fall and rise, create pools and silent streams all along the way. It is truly a magical experience. A couple of fellow travelers were mad enough to venture a dip into the freezing water. Even though I loved swimming in any water body I could get my hands on, I avoided to jump into the river, given my aforementioned friends had turned all shades of red in the sheer cold waters.
Slovenia, in itself is a little place tucked in the map of Europe, neighbouring its more famous cousin, Croatia. Consequently, at times, the number of people frequenting places like Bled might turn out to be favorably less. And if you are looking to get away, Slovenia is the place to be. The whole country has a greeting card vibe to it – pretty sloped rooftops, flowered balconies, majestic mountains, and sparkling streams, the best of hiking trails, and peaceful roads to bike on. I know i sounds too good to be true. We had thought so too. But it was just as I had seen in pictures when I had googled Bled in my browser. I would say it turned out to be even more beautiful. We were fortunate to be in Bled, during their music festival, which added flavor to our already seduced minds. Live music, food stalls, chattering people, sun baked streets and fresh trout from the lake. Need I say anymore?
If Europe is on your agenda, I would plead with you to make some room for Slovenia. It will surprise you, and entrance you. Almost to an extent that you wouldn’t want to leave till you have had your fill of the peace that the place exudes. It is more than the pristine beauty of the place, it is the laidback, warm charm of the it all and its Kremsnita (cream cake) that touches you.
The sad girl found her little cottage by the lake, or so she tells me. A little wooden thing, just off Bled, and also a job in the nearest bar where the music is always good, and their music system even better. She isn’t sad anymore. She is alive.

That is what Slovenia managed to do to me. Make me alive, give me my element back, of the dreamy nature loving loner spirit that I used to be. Untainted by economy debates, and business dilemma. Who knows? Maybe someday, I’ll find my cottage by the lake too.