Come away with me in the night,
Come away with me,
And I will write you a song.
Come away with me and we’ll kiss on a mountaintop,
Come away with me,
And I’ll never stop loving you.
Sang Norah Jones as the bus rumbled through the Slovenian countryside from Ljubljana to Bled past lush green meadows with tall pine trees all around. Every few kilometres there would be a small village with a cluster of bungalows with sloping roofs and a pretty church. Every few minutes, I would identify a town I could live a month in.
Lake bled is a glacier lake nestled between the Julian alps. Fairytale like and blessed with natural beauty, this is one of the most popular destinations in Slovenia. And a great draw for me. Actually, the most important reason for me to visit Slovenia.
As soon as we arrived at Bled town, the sun was out in all its glory, the sky blue as blue could be and not one grey cloud was in the air. The air was crisp and cool and a glint of emerald could be seen through the trees as we walked the 10 minute walk down to the lake.
I was lost in my thoughts at this majestic sight, hubby thrilled that his decision to come to Bled was spot on, and we were all set to hop, skip and jump when a tiny voice piped up, “Mommy, I want to pee.” Deja vu to my last Europe trip where I went crazy looking for a loo in Paris while everyone else merrily saw a beautiful cathedral with a great view of Paris. Grrrrrr. The kid and her loo woes. This time was simpler, we snuck into a restaurant instead, and had “a free pee.”
1.5 happy gujjus and 1 shocked punju rushed to see the beautiful lake Bled. No number of googled pictures or blogs can prepare you for this beauty. It is truly stunning. The water is emerald-green at the edge and a deep blue in the center. All around are lush green mountains with tall trees stretching all around as far as the eye can see. Benches are placed all along the water front to sit and soak in the view or feed a duck or two. Swans and ducks swim lazily along the waters and then hop out onto land and walk coolly amongst excited tourists. Blue covered wooden pletna boats ferry people to the idyllic island in the centre of the lake.
We saw 2 pristine white swans at the lake shore and got very excited. I decided that we should sit near the swans for a picture perfect pic. So the kid and I plonked ourselves on the ground near the swans and smiled up at the hubby, when all of a sudden, I felt something nibble at my jeans. It was the swan, resenting my inclusion in the pic, pushing me away by trying to eat me. Thank God for the jeans or else……
We walked along the lakeside, enjoying the bright, sunny day and the 50 shades of green on display when the brat saw some mallard ducks and decided to run after them. She first tested the grounds and only when she was sure that they were more frightened than herself, did the mean thing chase them, waving her umbrella, till they squawked and flew away in terror.
Lake Bled has 2 main attractions, the charming little island with a church in the center and Bled Castle. As it was sunny, we chose to see the castle first. A steep climb through the trees, aided by free ice cream took us to the old castle.
Poised perfectly at the edge of a vertical cliff, this old stone castle provides the best possible views of the Bled area and in particular, the beautiful lake and its tiny island. Everywhere we turned, beyond the grass-green slopes, in the distance, we could see the ice capped Alps. Snow! Oh! What a stunning view!
All along the castle is a parapet that you can walk around, sit on or enjoy a picnic hamper; all of which we did. Surely, this was the most crowded place in all of Slovenia that we saw, but even the crowds blended in with the beauty. From our high viewpoint, we could see all the hotels and small villas lining the lake, the wooden pletnas, people stand-up paddle boating and all the trees around.
The charming little island in the center of the lake looked even more gorgeous if that were possible. The famous island church guarantees marital happiness if the groom carries his bride up the 99 steps to the church. On the other side, is the entire Bled town.
This was the brat’s favorite place of the day as she had her Veruca moment fulfilled at long last, the purchase of a custom-pounded brass coin with the logo of the bled castle on it. She’d been ogling it for ages and getting more and more desperate as she saw more and more “Verucas” obtaining it. It meant even more as she’d been whining constantly for a swan (till it almost amputated me) and ducks till we got up here and she changed tracks to a more acquirable focus.
The warm sun and the cool winds at this great height with miles of untouched natural beauty all around us tempted us to plonk ourselves up at the castle grounds for hours. Finally hunger struck and we hunted all of bled for a much-needed pizzeria, to find which we walked for ages. Eventually, our noses led us there, to a scrumptious lunch of pizza and salad.
Fully sated, we were set to hit the boat, only to see the rain. We rushed back into the restaurant and promptly donned all our warm gear plus rain coats. We walked back to the lake which now looked very very different indeed. The gloomy sky with grey clouds rushing in, the green-blue lake now grey, the lush green mountains a much duller grey green, didn’t detract from the beauty of the lake. The light mist settled over the lake just added to the romanticism. If anything, lake Bled had become prettier.
The white swans looked whiter as they happily swam in the drizzle on the lake. The crowds had dispersed. We walked around the lake from where we had great views of the castle perched high up and the village church nearby. The sounds of the gently lapping water, the church bells pealing, the swans cackling were the only ones to break the silence.
I could be in the middle of a love story. A princess in the impenetrable castle, a prince climbing the cliff side to meet his love, a church where they get married, the lake the route they take to reach the mountains on the other side to flee her opposing parents, the island where they are caught and he is killed. And then she kills herself, asking her father to build a church on the island in memory of their love.
“Why does it have to be a tragedy, mum? ” asks the kid. What else, I think. The mood of the moment and the place yields to one. I could sit on a wet bench for hours, a hot coffee in hand, looking out at this beautiful place, dreaming up stories. I could stop being 41 and be a small 12-year-old excited to see the Swan ruffling out her wet feathers. I could be 25 and walking hand in hand with the love of my life. I could be me as I am now, happy and lucky to be here in this little piece of heaven that God gave to Earth.
The boatmen are now parked along the lake shore. Their blue-covered boats beckon longingly to us. A man with a fully enclosed boat asks us if we’d like to go for a ride. For a moment I’m tempted. How romantic it is! A single boat out on the lake, me trailing my fingers in the water, the ducks swimming alongside us to give us company upto the little island with its charming church, but practicality takes over. It’s very very cold and will be even colder in the center of the lake, the rain is coming down heavier now and there are no boats out on the lake now. Sadly, I shake my head and move on. Another day, another time.
We walk along the lake slowly, hubby taking more pictures than me. Me, just soaking in the place. Small sights thrill us. Bled written in flowerbeds, a tacky red heart on a walk way into the water with the island as the back drop, purple flowers hanging off the veranda of a large hotel, all look more charming because the atmosphere is so.
Now that I look back, I remember how scared I had been that it would rain in Bled. How terribly foolishly so. It must rain in Bled because that is the beauty of this place.
P.S. The only regret I have about my visit to lake Bled is that I didn’t stay the night. Whenever I shall return, I shall certainly stay here.