Lake Bled, Slovenia

My Central European tour continues! (And by that I mean that I now resume the year-late summation of my Central European tour last January.)

From Salzburg, I took a train southeast to Lake Bled. The second I crossed the border, I could tell I was in a new country because the architecture changed abruptly. The food did, too, but I wouldn’t know that until I sat down at a homestyle restaurant by the train station, where I heard my first of many Phil Collins hits.

I ordered a potato and onion concoction that took both ingredients up a notch, probably due to being coated in some sort of fatty deliciousness. I also had a surprisingly interesting salad. I had eaten really, really well in Austria, and based on the fare in this unimposing railway restaurant, I knew I was going to eat really well in Slovenia, too.

Moving on. I took a connecting train to Lake Bled and in the railway station bar, they called me a taxi to the hotel. Like the food, the taxi-calling experience felt uniquely Slavic, as though I had not only crossed country borders but also cultural and political ones. I was now in the post-Communist former Yugoslavia, and it was apparent.

When I walked into the hotel lobby, a pan flute instrumental version of “Against All Odds” was playing on the radio. It was, in fact, against all odds: Phil Collins twice in an hour, in Slovenia of all places? I guessed that Slovenians must just really love him for much the same reason that Romanians really love Pepsi (according to my Romanian friends) — the Cold War chips of Western cultural influence fell where they may and persevered through the ages. (??)

From the hotel I took a taxi to Bled Castle, one of the country’s oldest, dating back to the 1000s.

The complex now houses a museum, wine cellar, and old fashioned printing shop.

It was fairly interesting to look around, but in all honesty the true draw for me was the stunning view.

By the time I walked down from the castle, it was dusk. I wended my way around the lake back to my hotel, where I ate dinner in their rustic dining room. For like the fourth day in a row, I had some sort of delicious sausage, but this time it was Slovenian instead of Austrian-style.

The next morning, I had breakfast at the hotel. As in Austria, I was plied with more food than is humanly possible to eat in one sitting, along with espresso with whipped cream. (I was overjoyed to discover that Austria, Slovenia, and Italy all have a tradition of dolloping fresh whipped cream into coffee, should you ask — and ask I did!)

Then the taxi picked me up to go back to the train station, but as per my negotiation with the driver the day before, we went the opposite way around the lake so that I could see the iconic church that sits on an island in the lake.

You can take a boat to the island to visit the church, but I didn’t have enough time — I was due in Ljubljana that afternoon. So I spent a few minutes staring at all the ridiculously overwrought beauty around me, and then I got back in the car, went to the train station, and headed south again, for the capital.

Just one more of the church for good measure. Head-spinning.

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