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Published: September 19th 2009
After leaving the Bogan Balaton and the history of hermit dwelling monks, geysers and medieval settlements, it was a long day on the train over to Slovenia. This took 2 border checks, the first being when you enter Croatia from Hungary and the 2nd being exiting Croatia and entering Slovenia. At each checkpoint you are checked by an officla of the country left and then one from where you are going to, then the customs person (if you carry liquor or smokes), then finally the ticket person.......and this subsequently results in lengthy delays of 30 mins or more.
Luckily they must factor this delay in when arranging train schedules. There did seem to be a heck of a lot of trackworks going on during my voyage, and true to rumours of Croatian train delays, the Hungarian arival was 35 mins late and the Slovenia departure from Zagreb 20 mins late at leaving (it had come all the way from Belgrade in Serbia mind you!!). Arriving in Zagreb you are faced with another currency as they do not yet allow the Euro. So there are many exchange counters in the area, and I saw several dissatisified Western backpackers having their cards
rejected by the >ATm atz the station. I started to shop (snacks for long train ride ahead) but realised it would not work even with my cash card. It would not be worth the 5 koruna to use my card for so few purchases, and even more so as you cannot get cash out it to top you up! So delayed gratification it was, and there is no shortage of shops to self cater at or small bistros to get cheap eats in Euro currency once in Bled, the heart of the Slovenian Alps.
When composing the previous blog, I met some nice people from Brighton, UK who happenned to be here for a Veterinary conference and some serious hiking. Naturally we hooked up for part of the day, and determined that the weather could not stop us from tackling the various hikes and walks around the 6km circumferenced Bled lake. We drove to Lake Bohinji in the morning, about 30 mins away by car (strange being on the right hand side of the road!!). Mount Vogel, the original plan, was shrouded in mist so we chose a waterfall walk on the other side of the lake, the summit
of the mountain being just shy of 2000m. But weather hampered the walk beyond the 30 min mark, and with settling steady rain we got glimpse of the waterfall, indeed gushing, and made tracks back to a fairly humid and rain free Bohinji village. There were some particularly noisy cows with their bells resonating all over the valley when we returned. In fact bells on the cathedral on Bled lake sound every 15 mins, and when the tourist have made their way to the island by private punt or 10 euro row boat, they too ring the bell....so Bled pretty much bounces to the vibration of bell ringing!!! How tranquil, until it reaches saturation point.............
But that could not deter me from getting wet in the lake, even if technically it was off season (the humidty made me do it..), walking around it and seeing the castle high above Bled town. This was a good move to come here, thanks to some good recommendations. The Vila Gorenka accommodation has been perfect - very central, fairly economical at 23 euros nightly with shared bathroom - the rooms are a tad old but come with wonderful mountain views to tempt the
walking legs. And the owner is quite helpful, speaks reasonable English, and proud to show this area off. That is a "first" so far in Eastern Europe!
The day of departure I went to the "poor mans Plitvice" at Vintgar Gorge, 4km jog or walk from Bled town. This was a torrent of whitewater and mist after the heavy rain the previous night, and quite spectacular to experience, if a bit wet! Careful with camera equipment.... The route is through pretty village scenery, surrounded by the Julian Alp highlands. All very humid in mid September and hence lots of free growing apple trees and rampant kept gardens next to very old homes. Delightful!
The bus to Ljubljana left pretty much on time at 11.30am (hourly) and we arrived before 1pm to a hot cityscape and old town far from the countryside scenes of Bled. This city was heaving with students (University) and the town square by the river a nice place to rest weary legs between travel planning decisions. NOTE: The hardest part is getting the information and making the decisions the easier part!!
A reluctance it seems to communicate in English plus general aloofness so far of
the people has made this hard at times, although I have met some real gems worth their salt! And I am trying with all languages come across so far, it is just that the "stony facedness" gets to you sometimes....The market (open air) was good for top ups of Muscat grapes at 1 euro per kg, and typical locals selling their produce. Not to mention tourists, and construction, street šerformers, and students etc etc
Split choice to move onwards to Opatija and Croatia beyond, the next blog!
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