I wonder how often people step back from their daily routine, work, family, friends or travel and reflect on where their at. I have to say I'm guilty of not doing so too often, we get caught up in just keeping going, one day to the next. Last week I was trying to make plans for a side trip from visiting my friend in Leipzig and frustrated with bus routes and [too many] options, I almost gave up on the idea of traveling to Slovenia, but something in the back of my mind kept pushing me. A few days later I arrived in Lake Bled late at night, after a day of buses, tired but happy. It wasn't really until the next day though, walking around the lake that I had one of those "oh, shit" moments, I was here and it was gorgeous. I don't know how many times this picturesque little town showed up on my radar over the past year, but I took a moment to appreciate having taken that beautiful image on my Instagram and making it a reality.
Lake Bled, for those who don't know, is about an hour northwest of Ljubjuana, the capital of Slovenia, and rapidly growing in popularity with tourists. Whenever I visit a place like this (Hallstat Austria, Sapa Vietnam, El Nido Palawan) I'm immediately drawn in and could see myself living there, but then I wonder, "Would I really want to see thousands of tourists traipsing through my city everyday?". Part of me says yes, pick one of these beautiful towns (or find an untouched one) and open up shop, a cute bnb on the hill? sign me up! That's evidently what the owner of my guesthouse had done, three different in fact, but none of which I would recommend.
For my first day in Bled I had the simple plan of walking around the lake, probably the number one activity with most visitors, but understandably so. The view from every side of the lake is just a little bit different, and all of them are breathtaking. I don't know the last time I was in the middle of so much blue, the lake offered an ombre of teals and blues, while the sky sparkled with just a few puffy white clouds, offering some relief from the sun. I traveled around the lake counterclockwise from Bled, stopped on a grassy hill and read for about an hour and watched some fisherman catch an enormous carp. About halfway around the lake I came to signs for Mala Osojnica and assuming this was the viewpoint my hostel owner had recommended decided to check it out.
The sign at the bottom said it was a 30 minute hike which sounded easy enough, but as I so often do, I had underestimated this thing. The first 5 minutes was steep stairs cut into the hillside, followed by winding paths snaking their way up, still at a pretty steep grade. I looked up at one point to see a couple high above me, on what appeared to be a cliff and realized that's where I was headed. The path up was definitely much more strenuous than I had expected, but that meant it would be worth it. Along the way there were a few dicey areas, not recommended for those afraid of heights, ropes and banisters to hang onto, and then there was the extremely steep, like it felt like I should be crawling up it, staircase of 88 metal steps. Had I done any bit of research I would have known this was to be expected, but I chose to do this hike on a complete whim.
Once I reached the top though all was forgotten, especially the fact I'd have to go back down, as the view of the lake and town of Bled from above was breathtaking. There were only a few other couples at the top with me, which was good as there is not too much space up there, a few benches to rest on and a signboard pointing out everything visible from the lookout. I stayed at the top for some time, taking pictures, catching my breath, and admiring the view, before deciding (prompted by my stomachs rumbling) to head back down. There was a path continuing beyond the viewpoint, and had I packed more snacks I probably would have explored, but chose instead to head back to the lake and find something to eat.
Opposite the shoreline near the town of Bled, swimming is allowed along the west side of the lake, and you'll find groups posted up between the tree lines here and there. A popular swimming spot is near Velika Zaka a small beach area also is home to a mercator which means easily accessible beverages and snacks. I hadn't actually planned on swimming, so continued a bit further and stopped at the Regatni center for coffee. My first day in Bled was only half over, but I could already tell I had no desire to leave. I need to remember on my travels going forward, skip the big cities and find the nearest accessible small town gem because they're always high on my list of favorite places.