**Please note: The trip including travel was actually five days in total and the three days mentioned are the three full days spent exploring and doing activities.**
Half term. That little break for teachers and students to see them through to Christmas. My job requires me to still be ‘working’ over the half term in order to help look after those students whose home countries are too far to fly to for just a week. So we organise various activities to keep them entertained including trips to Prater for Halloween and an excursion to a nearby country for a few nights. Last year it was Budapest, this year it was Lake Bled in Slovenia. Whilst many people think I’m mad for willing living with thirty teenagers for my job, I actually really enjoy it (well, 90% of the time, teenagers are still teenagers after all!) Plus, it is trips like this that make it all worth it.
We packed up our stuff and on the 23rd October we made our way to Wien Hauptbahnhof to catch a train to Villach (approximately four hours) where we then caught an additional two trains; the first to Jesenice, Slovenia (about 35 minutes) and the second to Bled Jezero, Slovenia (about 15 minutes). We stayed in the Hotel Savica which is part of the Sava hotels and resorts group. It is approximately five minutes from the Lake and guests have access to the pool in the Hotel Golf directly across from it. We made very good use of this and gave many of the kids (and the adults!) something to do on the first evening as we had arrived quite late that afternoon. The buffet dinner was also provided in Hotel Golf and served a wide selection of foods ranging from different pasta dishes each night, fish, stews and a really amazing salad bar. For a group of teenagers, it satisfied even the fussy eaters!
The next morning and our first full day in Bled, we walked down to the Lake and took a trip across to the island on one of the traditional ‘Pletna’ boats. These boats are made by locals and date back to 1590.
It is operated by an Oarsmen who sails passengers out to one of Bled’s most famous tourist attractions. Situated on the island in the middle of Lake Bled is the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.
We decided not to go inside as it was a beautiful day and we chose to spend our hour (which is the amount of time given after the Pletna Oarsman drops you off) walking around the island, exploring little hidden gems and taking photos of the stunning scenery.
After hopping back on the boats and returning to the shore, we then hired bikes from the local information centre and from our hotel (we were a group of fourteen of various ages and heights so we had use both places to provide bikes that were suitable for everyone).
We then cycled most of the way around the lake. We stopped when the road turned from country path to main roads as there was just too many of us to keep track of everyone on the roads, plus with lack of helmets (apparently it’s just not a thing to provide them for anyone besides the youngest children) it just was not safe. However, the route we did take was a great path to cycle on; pretty flat and calm with only a few walkers to avoid. The view wasn’t half bad either. It was a great way to see the lake and take in the surroundings, plus some of the houses en route were absolute goals.
We then had lunch at the Grajska Plaza which is right on the shore and does amazing food. I highly recommend it to anyone taking a bike ride or walk and it is situated between both Bled Castle and the Church of St. Martin. After a day of walking, biking and exerting ourselves eating good food, we headed back to the hotel for another few hours at the pool (it has a slide okay?!)
For day two, we went to the Vintgar Gorge. From our hotel is was actually quite far so we hired taxis to take us to the start of the Gorge. To walk along the Gorge, it was 4EUR for an adult, 2EUR for 6-16 year olds and 80cent for children under 5. Take note that it is only open from April to November, however if you are going to be in the area during this time, it is so worth it.
As you walk along the wooden galleries you can pass waterfalls and whirlpools, and crystal blue green water. The route is approximately 3km long and takes roughly about an hour to walk the length of it and back, or longer if you spend ages trying to get photos that do it justice. Speaking of which, if you are a photography enthusiast, this is definitely a place to go. I’m super jealous of some of the amazing shots people have taken of the Vintagr Gorge. However they clearly know how to use their cameras properly, unlike me who was trying to test out the ‘waterfall’ setting on my camera but found that it didn’t work any time the camera moved (aka any time anyone walked past on the wooden galleries).
After the Gorge we conveniently took the same taxi to Bled Castle where we spent about an hour exploring its grounds and admiring the views 130 metres above the lake itself (what is it about this place and it’s stunning scenery). Many of the students wanted to take model like photos with the view of the lake in the background and had a great laugh in directing my attempt to do the same; “Rest your arm on your knee!” “Look into the distance!” “Smile but not too much!” “Stop looking so weird!” (Genuine request – the joys of working with teenagers…) But it turned out looking okay which I think says more about their ability to take photographs at a decent angle than my ability to model.
Entry to the castle is 10EUR for adults, 7EUR for students and 5EUR for children aged 14 years or younger. However, we chose to book a table in the restaurant for lunch in advance and therefore gained free entrance to the castle in doing so. Whilst this option might seem more expensive (average meal price is around 20 EUR), it’s cheaper than doing the castle and the restaurant separately if you want to have lunch or dinner there (plus the food is awesome which makes it doubly worth it!). After a late lunch it was time to walk back to the hotel and head to (you guessed it!) the pool.
The last full day spent in Slovenia we actually decided to explore outside of Bled. We caught a bus from the local bus station and headed up to Ljubljana (the capital) where we then caught an additional bus to Postojna to see the Postojna caves. The journey from Bled takes around two hours in total. Entering and exiting the caves is via a small train. There is then 1.5km walk which takes you round, over and through millions of years worth of cave formations.
Tickets to enter the cave costs approximately 25EUR for adults, 20EUR for students aged 16-25, 15EUR for children aged 6-15 and 1EUR for children up to 5 years. This is very popular with tourists and as one of the world’s largest accessible caves it is not hard to see why – it felt as if it went on forever. It is also home to the ‘Human Fish’ or the Proteus to refer to it by it’s proper name. A small salamander like creature with undeveloped eyes that can ‘apparently’ survive 14 years without eating was extremely entertaining to the smaller members of our group – especially the cuddly toy of it in the gift shop (which if you can imagine it as a long, flesh coloured creature with no eyes, you can understand why we were against the purchasing of a stuffed version…)
Getting back on the bus for an hour took us back to Ljubljana. A long day on busses and cave exploring, unfortunately did not leave too much time to see the capital, but I did manage to stride around the city centre quick enough to get some snapshots – plus I will definitely be back.
The rest of the evening was spent packing up for the journey back to Vienna the next day and I was actually pretty sad to be leaving. The amazing weather complete with a good mixture of activities and down time provided the perfect time off over the half term. I would seriously recommend a visit to Lake Bled, especially for anyone living in Austria (it’s not loo long a journey and the initial four hours can be spent relaxing on the train) and also to families. With access to activities such as biking, exploring “princess castles” and ending the day with a visit to the hotel pool, it provides enough to wear out the kids and the parents at the same time!
Links to all of the places we visited and stayed in have been highlighted throughout this post. Check them out when planning your trip to Lake Bled and Ljubljana.