Slovenia - the perfect introduction
There are times when reality doesn’t quite match expectation. It’s a trope well used of the dating site profile pic that veers just that bit too far into the overly flattering territory, so that when the couple finally meet disappointment is inevitable. In fact, I sometimes wonder how folks feel when visiting the Giant’s Causeway.They see the amazing sunset shots, the rugged beauty shown off to its sublime best, with that one person standing on the Triangle, alone and at one with nature. Then they arrive, on a cold, grey drizzly afternoon in October, rubbing shoulders with the thousands of other folks there too. “Worth seeing,” said a wit of days gone by, “but not worth going to see.” (I disagree, of course!)
But I can safely say our introduction to the wonderful country of Slovenia was not this way at all. We may well have had a 13 hour journey the day before, followed by a mere 4 hours sleep before the alarm clocks went for sunrise. But, as we drove around towards our first destination, the classic Lake Bled, the conditions could not have been more perfect.
Blue hour Bled
We walked out onto the boardwalk to the west of the Lake, a 150m long pathway out onto the surface of the Lake itself, or so it seemed. In the skies above to the west, the deep blues allowed the final brightest stars of night to just about hold on in the face of the retreating night. To the east, the band of orange was beginning to get a foothold, the first signs of the inevitable march of dawn, the light already beginning the paint the cirrus clouds and contrails in the most subtle of pastel pinks. In the still air above, the sound of birdsong gave the most wonderful natural surround sound experience, helping even more to immerse us in the scene.
As we looked over the Lake, far off in the distance were the majestic ragged peaks of the Slovenian Alps, still holding on to the last vestiges of their winter snow, proud guardians of the scene before us. Bled Castle to our right, sitting on top of a 100m precipitous vertical drop. The pine forested hills around the Lake. And there, the jewel in the heart of the Lake, was the iconic church on the island - Župnijska cerkev sv. Martina (the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria). Its steeple, still lit up, stood as a beacon in the middle of our view, a place of tranquillity for those who have made the pilgrimage to this spot.
And then, of course, there was the lake itself. There was not a breath of wind - sounds carried and echoed round for miles and miles. And that meant that the surface of the Lake was pristine and still. Perfect for that one thing we most longed for - reflections. Perfect mirror images of the trees, hills, mountains and skies, disturbed only momentarily by a ‘durlup’ sound as one of the many fish in the lake would break surface, before the light stillness in the air seemed to calm those ripples down once more, returning the lake to its mirrored best.
This was all we could have dreamed of. This was the perfect start to the trip, the most wonderful introduction to this incredible country.
Golden hour glories
And so, we busied ourselves in the most chilled and relaxing of ways, happily snapping away as blue hour slowly gave way to the the ever growing intensity of sunrise. The far off Alpine peaks started to brighten and take on more of a purple tinge. The details in the trees around the Lake started to appear as the light increased. But the sky - oh, the sky - burst into flames before us, the cirrus clouds that before had been pastel pink now glowed with a fiery orange intensity, the ripples of cloud creating waves of fire that arced across the sky. And, again, what happened above, happened below in the reflections of the Lake. The scene was truly remarkable and gloriously intense.
Side light splendour
As the intensity of sunrise light started to fade, I headed around to the southern edge of Lake Bled, hoping both to get the church and castle in different perspectives to each other and to catch some side light as the sun emerged above the top of the far off Alpine Ridge. The light grew brighter, but still managed to stay soft. As if being respectful to the be gentle scene on the Lake below, it seemed to drape itself, gossamer like, across the landscape, picking out details gently as if to say to us, “There you go! Did you notice that before?!”
A shaft of light came across the mountains behind, fanned between two distant peaks to the east and glistening brightly off the castle on the hill.
Then we reached the top of the hour, and the bells of the church started to ring out, a gentle sound that carried far across the stillness, adding - if that were even possible - to the idyllic nature of the whole scene.
As time went on, as more and more people got up to enjoy early morning around the Lake, the earlier moments where we got lost in a happy bubble of tranquillity slowly faded. The light was getting stronger, the hubbub around busier - the day was starting proper for most people.
But it was with full and satisfied hearts that we headed for a well earned breakfast in a restaurant overlooking the lake, a chance to relax, reflect on our morning, and have a bit of good old Irish craic as we sat around a wee table in a restaurant beside the lake of dreams.
We couldn’t have asked for a better start. Would our luck hold for the rest of the trip. Like all good adventures, of course the answer to that question is a resounding no! But you’ll have to wait for a future blog to find out how our characters were tested in the place of utter tranquillity...
How to get there
Drive around to the western edge of the Lake, following the signs to the camping area.
There is one car park here and it’s paid (3 euros per hour when we visited). It is not looked kindly upon if you park along the edge of the road in Slovenia, so use the car park!
Walk to the lakeside and follow the path to the right. You’ll soon come to the boardwalk. Follow it for the best views out over the lake.
When you’re finished there, walk around about another 500m or so until you find a picnic area. There, you get great views over the Lake with the church and castle positioned nicely with each other.