May 29, 2018
where Melania Trump is from, is a beautiful country. The history is similar to Croatia: Illyrians, Celtic, Roman settlements, then Slavs moved in when the Roman empire declined. The Franks conquered in 8th century, then Hapsburg empire. The Ottomans tried to conquer, then they were caught between the Austria-Venice tug of war for power. Then Napoleon came through.
Many people confuse Slovenia with Slovakia. Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and is bordered by Italy, Austria, & Croatia. Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia and the Czechs & Slovaks split up and now we have Slovakia. It is NE & two countries away from Slovenia.
We are here at Lake Bled, which is not far from the Austrian border, and the buildings look very Austrian. We are in the Julian Alps which is just an extension of the Alps. Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, and being mostly Catholic Slovenes, when they declared independence in 1991, there was just an 11-day war then treaties were signed. Our guide, Branko, is Slovenian, and he said the treaties were signed because there were much bigger problems south of here for the Yugoslav army to take care of. Slovenia is
part of the EU, and they use euros here.
Lake Bled has been a resort town for many years. It was the summer residence for the Royal family. Tito entertained many guests here: Indira Gandhi, Nikita Krushchev, Kim Il Sung, Raul Castro. The Island on the lake has a church and once had an 8th century Slavic pagan temple dedicated to the goddess of love & fertility. I did not visit the island, but I did alot of walking around the lake.
The Bled Castle on the hill was built around 1004 A.D. and was the seat of Austrian bishops who controlled Bled in the Middle Ages. Our group visited the castle, then went to Ljubljana (lyoob lyee AH nah), the capital of Slovenia. Some compare it to Salzburg. Historically it was on the trade route from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. Legends say Jason & the Argonauts founded Ljubljana when they stopped here for the winter & slayed a dragon, so the dragon is the city mascot and there is a beautiful Dragon Bridge. Napolean named it the capital of his Illyrian Province. During WWII the city was occupied by Italians then Nazis. The citizens fenced
off the city resisting the Nazis for 3 years.
The mayor has turned the downtown area into pedestrian streets during the day. Walks follow the Ljubljanica River on both sides with shops & restaurants. Bridges across the river are: Dragon Bridge, Lover's Bridge, Triple Bridge, Cobblers Bridge. On the Lover's Bridge, couple would put a lock on the bridge & throw the key into the river to show they had lasting love. Apparently youths would dive into the river & retrieve the keys. I don't know what they did with the keys or what happened if a couple broke up. The Triple Bridge had 1 part that was used for buggies, then cars & became too congested, so they added 2 pedestrian parts. The Cobblers Bridge was an area where cobblers fixed & sold shoes, but they aren't there any more.
There is a castle on the hill which I didn't have time to visit. The University is free for residents of Slovenia. The main market square sells fruit, vegetables, flowers.The cathedral has an interesting door that was made for Pope John Paul II's visit in 1996. There's alot to see here and unfortunately our group only had
3 hours. I walked around the river area, had lunch, & returned to the bus and back to Lake Bled.
We had a tremendous thunderstorm when we got back to Lake Bled. I went to the pools at the hotel - many pools & jacuzzis. When the rain let up I went to dinner, walked partway around the lake, and had some cream cake called kremna rezina which is made locally. It's a layer of cream & vanilla custard between sheets of crispy crust. I enjoyed this dessert while enjoying the sunset over the lake.
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