Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Slovenian Underworld - Skocjan Caves

Our next plan of action was to head to Croatia, with a stop at the Škocjan Caves in Slovenia on the way. We'd read up a bit and found that we should catch the 10am tour. It was about a 2 hour drive from Bled, so we were off early.

We named our GPS Gina, and Gina and Meghan didn't get along too well. I was driving, Gina was navigating, and we got a little lost back near Ljubljana and had to recalculate. We parked in the lot of the caves at 9:59, ran to the ticket window, and promised we'd run to catch the tour group that had just left.

They were already down the road and almost out of sight, but we sprinted and caught up. Large group of older people, so we had a good chance.

We had a loooong introduction to the caves and I don't remember much about it, except that it's a UNESCO World Heritage site. There's also a river that runs through it that was low while we were there, but can get incredibly high up. A group of Germans took off first, with their guide, and the English folks trailed behind with our guide.

It's pretty dark and hard to take photos, plus they ask you not to, but I took a couple. These little pools are naturally formed by the water.

It is very big and we are very small.

The path out of there is quite beautiful.  It's definitely worth a stop at these caves. I think there are others in the region, but this is one of the largest underground cave systems in the world.

I didn't get enough funiculars on this trip, but this was one. We booked it back to the car and kept driving towards Croatia.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Dreamy Lake Bled - Slovenia

Oh, Lake Bled! I could stare at it all day. You've likely seen the picturesque photos, and you're about to see a lot more below. It's a natural glacier-formed lake, and it's prettier in person than the postcard.

We planned to spend a couple nights here, since the town is a great jumping off point for other nature activities. When I come back to Slovenia, I plan to spend more time here near the Julian Alps. It's just beautiful.

We left Ljubljana and jumped onto the great highway towards Bled. This is an easy country to drive in. We took a couple side roads to explore the surrounding villages, which all have beautiful churches that drew me in.

We got into town and found our guesthouse with a parking spot (hooray!) and ventured out for some food. Pizza, pizza, everywhere, so that's what we had. Then to the lake for a looong walk around and up to the castle on the hill.  It really is magical. And it was hot.

We found the path up the hill to the castle. You can drive up a road behind it if you want, but we opted for the workout way. 

View from the top, where we met an Aussie guy and his mum. They took a nice photo of us.

Through the castle grounds and over to the non-lake side of things. 

They have a few shops in the castle, one that does printing press things. We chatted with the guy who works there for a bit. Asking why everyone speaks such excellent English, and what the tipping protocol is here.

There's a museum with creepy figures in it.

But pretty flowers.

Time to descend and make our way all the way around the lake, I think it's about three and a half miles? Sorry for the church on an island photo overload. There were lots of people out swimming in various areas of the lake.

Things we noticed during our walk - shirts are optional, speedos are required, and everyone changes into their swimsuits on the side of the lake while sorta draping a towel around themselves, but it's no big deal if some of your bits hang out while you're swapping into your swimming gear.

We headed back home and stopped in the market for some breakfast food for the next day. Didn't realize we needed to weigh and bar code our own fruit. Kinda tough in Slovenian, but the cashier was nice enough to do it for us.

The view from our balcony. We showered and changed clothes before heading out for dinner.

Also, how does one shower in this thing with a slanted roof, no curtain, and only a handheld showerhead? I really hate those things. This stressed me out. 

We walked back across town towards the castle to find some burek place, which was unsuccessful, but we did meet a nice guy named Corey from DC, and we found a nice place and split a couple appetizers, which was plenty of food and delicious. So much cheese. I'm not complaining.

Crappy night photo of the castle.

The next morning we headed up to some other beautiful spots near Lake Bled. First up, Vintgar Gorge. It was a little chilly, and I was cold in shorts, but thankfully it warmed up. My advice - go early! We arrived when the parking area was mostly empty, when we left, it was beyond full. It's beautiful here and worth a visit. 

We found these rock formations and Meghan's convinced that Slovenian elves made them. Cause this is exactly the kind of place where elves would live in the surrounding little caves.

We also ran into the Spanish ladies from the rental car place. Seems like they're doing fine in the car and having a good time.

After the gorge, we drove 45 minutes or so to Lake Bohinj. 

Ran into another group of Spanish ladies near the Church of St John. I was eavesdropping a bit and laughed at something they said. Then I offered in Spanish to take a group photo. They said - ah, we knew you spoke Spanish because you laughed. It was cute.

This church was built around the year 1440.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a cafe near the lake (paninis, if you must know), then headed back to Bled. This place is another easy jumping off point to go further into Triglav National Park, and I would definitely do that with more time. But we wanted to boat and swim in Bled, so back we went. 

Quick change into bathing suits, then off to boat rental. Meghan's in a rowing club, so she was in charge of getting us to the island. The church there is old, of course, and has been through a couple earthquakes.

Our little boat.

We really, really wanted to stand up paddle board, but it turns out they outlawed rentals just the week before! If you owned one already you could use it, but for some reason they shut down the rentals. Something about only wanting natural materials in the lake? Wooden boats are okay, paddle boards are not. Bummer.

After a couple hours in the boat, the wind picked up and we went to shore. Lay out and swimming time! This was the view, and it was just lovely. Finally we hopped into the water. Slightly cold at first, but I had to get over it and get in. And it's awesome. This view? So good. 

After a good bit of sun, we headed home again to clean up and have dinner. Such a lovely neighborhood.

We went to a pizza place around the corner, but I opted for Slovenian food.

Our waiter was cute and attentive, and finally we had the famous Bled cream cake.

I came home and Facetimed my parents for my dad's 60th birthday, then it was off to bed and getting ready for another adventure towards Croatia. 

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