From Zagreb, Croatia we intended to board a train bound for Lake Bled, Slovenia. When we tried to purchase tickets, however, we found out that the border was closed to train travel due to the refugee crisis. Determined to get to Lake Bled that day, we boarded a bus to Ljubljana and then a train to the lake.
The long journey was worth the wait. Lake Bled is majestically beautiful. It is surrounded by dense forest and by some of the highest peaks of the Julian Alps. In the center of the lake sits Bled Island, home to the Assumption of Mary Church built in the 17th century. Many row out to the island to ring the bell at the church which is thought to be good luck.
To get a view of the lake we hiked up Mala Osojnica, a 685m high peak at the southwestern corner of the lake. The steep climb to the top was well worth the view!
Our awesome Airbnb host let us borrow bikes and we rode four kilometers northwest of the lake to hike the Vintgar Gorge. The Vintgar Gorge is a 1.6 kilometer hike on wooden boardwalks, initially built in 1893. The boardwalks are built along the sheer canyon walls and over the raging Radovna River.
Lake Bled is an easy drive to Triglav National Park, the only national park in Slovenia. The park features Mount Triglav, the highest peak in the Julian Alps at 2,864 meters. We spent the day hiking in the park towards the base of the mountain along the Soča River and into the forest. Once in the forest, we were excited to find tons of fungi!
From Mount Triglav, we drove to Vršič Pass, the highest mountain pass in Slovenia at 1,611 meters. The road was built in 1915 during World War I by Russian prisoners of war. The road features 50 hairpin switchbacks, 24 on the Kraniska Gora side and 26 on the Trenta side of the pass. Each turn is numbered.
Once over the pass, the road follows the vibrantly colored Soča River. Nicknamed “The Emerald Beauty,” the river was so stunning we often pulled over to stare in wonder at its brilliant color.
We didn’t think we could find a place more beautiful than Lake Bled, but we were wrong. Lake Bohinj, a glacial lake dammed by a moraine, is the largest natural lake in Slovenia. The lake is surrounded by charming villages that have remained faithful to traditional occupations like dairy herding and farming.
From our apartment in the village of Stara Fužina, we watched a woman herd her dairy cows home every evening around 6 pm. We heard the cow bells jingling in the distance and ran out to our balcony to see the cows on their way home through the village. See the video below!
On our walk around the lake, we spotted some edible Hawks wing mushrooms. As Dan was taking photos, I spotted an older gentleman with a mushroom basket. It turned out that he collected Hawks wing mushrooms and about ten other edible species around the lake. So awesome to meet another mushroom hunter!
From the base of the lake, we took the Vogel Cable Car which climbs over 1,000 meters in 3-4 minutes. The cable car ends at the Vogel Ski Center, a popular winter destination. We hiked the snow-free trails into the heart of the Julian Alps.
We left our mountain retreat and headed to Ljubljana, the capital and largest city in Slovenia. The best aspect of Ljubljana is that the city center is car-free, allowing visitors to peacefully stroll along the banks of the Ljubljanica River and through the beautiful Baroque buildings.
The extreme beauty of the Slovenia surprised us. Initially we were going to skip this area due to time constraints, but we are really glad we didn’t! Slovenia ended up being one of our favorite countries on our world tour.