My partner and I had not long been together when one day he called me and said "Fancy going to Slovenia for a weekend?"
As this was the boy who had helped me embrace my adventurous side, the thought of a weekend somewhere different and unexpected really appealed to me and I jumped at the chance. So, we took ourselves to Lake Bled, Slovenia in February of 2016.
Lake Bled can be found in the Julian Alps in North Western Slovenia, around 35 miles from the capital, Ljubljana, and just a 2 hour flight from London Stanstead.
We arrived on a sunny but cold Saturday afternoon just as the festivities for Pust, (a Slovenian festival held around Shrove Tuesday to scare away the winter and welcome in the spring) were underway. Unknown to us, this is the one time of year where Slovenians do fancy dress. (We met a local on the way from the airport to our destination who told us a little about the local customs). However, what we were unprepared for was quite how much they do fancy dress during Pust. On our first little walk around Bled we happened on an event with children and their parents dressed up in all manner of fancy dress costumes. Literally every costume you can think of, from super heroes, to every day jobs was covered.
We took ourselves off for a few G&Ts and some Kremna rezina, a delicious traditional Bled cream cake and thought nothing more of the fancy dress costumes, (other than happening on a banana and a native American engaged in a rather intense conversation while popping back to our hotel before dinner). Later, whilst eating in a nearby restaurant we looked up to see that a group of jellyfish had wandered in. Like you do.
Mere minutes later we looked up again to see a group dressed as bumble bees and a beekeeper, followed closely by a couple of minions and a couple dressed as gypsies, one of whom rode in on a bike.
We couldn't believe what we were seeing. These weren't children but mostly middle aged adults! It was eccentricity on a level that we had never seen before. Slovenians are clearly very serious about scaring the winter away and having a great party while doing it!
The next day we embarked on a hike up to Bled Castle, a medieval castle which overlooks the lake and is the oldest castle in Slovenia. The walk up to the top was a seriously good workout, but useful for burning off the cream cake and last night's Veal Schnitzel (it was bigger than my head) and dumplings. The views of the lake and the surrounding area were stunning, and even Lee who suffers from a fear of heights was able to appreciate the stunning views.
Unfortunately as it was a Sunday we had missed our chance to take a boat trip out to the island in the centre of the lake and visit the 17th Century church dedicated to the Assumption of St Mary. The images of this church and the island it sits on form the most iconic images you will see for Lake Bled, so a note to tourists, visit on a weekday or Saturday to avoid disappointment. The church is frequently still used for weddings, and it is considered good luck for a groom to carry his bride up the steps to ring the bell and make a wish inside the church on their wedding day.
Our Sunday afternoon/evening brought a trip to a local pizza restaurant where we sampled the local Blueberry flavoured liquer, Borovničevec which (along with several gin and tonics) went down rather too easily and was more than a little moreish.
Sadly our trip to Slovenia came to an end on the Monday morning, but in the limited time we had to sample the delights of Bled, it gave us more than a taster of a fun and friendly place, with beautiful views, good food, and an eccentric character. Our 2 days only gave us the chance to scratch the surface, but from that alone, I would recommend this little town as a lovely little escape from life, and I will definitely be going back to claim my boat trip, and maybe my trip up the stairs to the church. ;)