Into the Alps (part 2)

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April 10th 2015
Published: April 10th 2015
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Simply the best day trip I've been on in Europe! I don't even know where to start, so I guess I'll give a recap of my day - but the views were spectacular EVERYWHERE, the food was great, and the people who accompanied me were good company. Plus, my feet never once hurt all day, and I think my blisters are virtually gone! I've included several pictures, which could really speak for themselves, as well as some panoramic shots that will scroll above this blog. Check those out if you question whether or not this place is awesome.

Our tour guide Sanjin picked me up at 8:30 this morning - I was the first, which meant I got to choose my seat. It was a minibus, and we gathered 7 more people for a full house. Our first stop was the quaint little town of Škofja Loka. There wasn't much to do, really, but walk around and see some of the old buildings on the square. Most of them dated to the 16th century. Already, we could tell that Sanjin was going to be a good guide, since he was loaded with information and knew the answers to people's question. We spent maybe half an hour there, but the castle isn't open, so we moved on to the major sights we were all looking forward to - nature!

We got to Lake Bled around 11AM, at which point we had free time to look around the lake and try the Bled Creme Cake. I was getting hungry, so he didn't have to tell me twice. It was pretty good, but at 3.60 € per slice, it's not a habit I'll be getting used to. One of the ladies on the tour joined me for the cake - a lady from Indonesia, but she got chocolate on top of hers. I really like chocolate, but I wanted to try the original. We talked for a few minutes before it was time to head back to the bus. None of us wanted to go up to Bled Castle - there are spectacular views, but if you go up there, you have to pay 9 € to get in, and none of us wanted that. So we had the free time around the lake.

Next up was a boat ride over to the island in the middle of the lake. The boat is called a pletna, and it's the only place in the world you'll find these boats. Our boatman was an affable fellow, and it only took about 10 minutes to get across. Once there, we had free time to explore the small island, the church, and/or the gift shop. Frankly, there weren't any bad views of the entire valley from the island. It was formed from a glacier during the last Ice Age, and it really is Mother Nature's gift to the world. I didn't go in the church, since they expected money for that, but I did meander about the island, just soaking up the views. This is part of the Julian Alps, which extends from northern Italy into Slovenia, in case you were wondering. At 1PM, we got back on the boat and returned to shore.

Our next stop was at Bohinj, a little town outside the Triglav National Park - the only national park in Slovenia. We stopped in at a restaurant, and of course, it was ethnic Slovenian food. Sanjin gave us an explanation of what the main courses were, and after deliberating, I tried the matevž, which is mashed potatoes and mashed beans (with probably onion bits and other things, including bacon!), together with the local handmade sausage. It was pretty tasty. And the mustard with the sausages was delicious too. They even brought out handmade bread, which was divine. On the way to lunch, we were talking about where we were from, and I told them about Georgia and Coca Cola. A couple of 20-something Slovenians who were on the trip with us told me that I had to try Cockta, the Yugoslavian Coke knock-off during the Communist days. So I had that with lunch. It was pretty awful, but I finished it. They even asked me what I thought, and I was honest. But when you come from the cradle of Coca-Cola, nothing else is quite the same.

After lunch, I was ready for a nap, but we got a hike instead. We made it inside the Triglav Park, where we searched for the magical waterfall. It's about a 20-minute hike from the parking lot, going at about a 30%!g(MISSING)rade. The Slovenian guys and I led the charge. We huffed and puffed a little, but I'm proud of my knee and my feet for not giving out or even making out like they were going to give out. Once we got up there, I was taking some pictures, and then Peter (I think) offered to take pictures of me with my camera. Sure. Not really my thing, but at least now I have photographic proof that I was there. The waterfall was decent - but if you've ever been to Iceland, it's possible to have waterfall fatigue. We dallied up there for a while, waiting for everyone to arrive and then catch their breath. The best views were actually of the valley below, with the river running between the peaks, especially the snow-capped peaks in the distance. But once it was time to go, the Slovenians and I again led the charge down the mountain. I think I worked all that creme cake and lunch off.

Our last stop was at the base of Lake Bohinj. It was pretty spectacular - seeing the waning sun and the Alpine peaks over this pristine "lake" (which is more the place where the river widens and slows down than a proper lake). Most of us didn't go too far - we had just scaled a good bit of mountain, after all. So we enjoyed the views and then we were gone. On the way back, we drove through the cutest little Alpine village, just to show us how little life has changed in this part of the world. After that, we were on our way back to Ljubljana.

This was easily my favorite day trip of this adventure so far - at least as far as trips that I didn't have to organize myself. The guide was great, the food was new but really good (and I'm a picky eater), and the scenery just couldn't be topped. There was an Australian retired couple with us, doing an 18-week trip, about half done. They also agreed that it was a fantastic excursion. If you're ever in Ljubljana, I highly recommend Roundabout Travel, and specifically this tour.

I'm pretty wiped out, as you can imagine. It's my last night in Slovenia, and that makes me sad. It's been my favorite country to visit so far, rivaling even Andorra. It just seems like life goes more slowly here than anywhere else, and stuff is cheaper. That's 2 things it's got that Andorra doesn't. Anyway, I've not yet bought my ticket to Croatia for tomorrow, but everyone says you just turn up at the station and buy one before you leave, since you can't get them online, and there's no discount for early purchase, and they're never full. I think I'm going to watch the newest episode of "Vikings" tonight before crashing. (As an aside, every website I checked said I would need to pay for or illegally download some program to watch my Amazon videos abroad, but I've not had a single problem with it. Netflix, on the other hand, "hasn't come to this part of the world yet." Bummer.)

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