Seagulls collect on the shore.
Rising in the middle of the lake is a tiny island graced by a
small church with a high spire, from which a massive bell peals each
hour and irregularly in between. Completing the fairy-tale picture,
an immense 12th-century castle looms over the lake on the far shore,
clinging to a high cliff. The small town of Bled was full of tourists
from Austria, Germany and England.
We drove to the Hotel Vila Bled, the local member of the exclusive
Relais & Chateaux chain. The hotel was halfway around the lake from
the town, a stately mansion set on the lake behind a large formal
garden. The hotel grounds were endless, scattered with lounge chairs
for sunning, sleeping and reading. From the hotel, it was a short
walk to the lake. It was blissful.In the following days, we explored,
renting bicycles in town to ride around the lake. Roka and Karen swam
in the lake after our morning jogs. The lake was warm, fed by the hot
springs that lured wealthy 19th-century Europeans to Bled. Bruce, who
hates any water colder than 80 degrees, declined to participate.
Vila Bled has a small fleet of rowboats for use by hotel guests.
We rowed to Bled Island, where visitors can pull the huge rope that
rings the bell in the church steeple and into town to sample Bled's
famous cream cake, an overly-sweet vanilla and whipped cream
Despite threatening skies and a few downpours, we hiked for hours
in the mountains, reaching the highest peak with the grandest view
over the lake.
In the drizzle, we visited Bled castle, a perfect castle with all
the childhood fairy tale accessories -- ramparts, a tower, moats and
a tiny chapel.
English is spoken here
English is spoken nearly everywhere and not just by those who deal
with tourists. Locals normally speak with a perfect American accent
-- a result of watching American television programs. Most Slovenes
are also fluent in German, Italian and Croatian. They don't expect
their visitors to speak Slovenian, for good reason. The language is