Chomping into the local delicacy of an impossibly rich vanilla and cream pastry (called kremna rezina) and a steaming black coffee on a vivid sun-drenched morning, it is difficult to imagine a more sublime place to be than at a café at medieval Bled Castle. Perched precipitously on a bare rock face, this ancient but uninteresting castle overlooks the glittering turquoise glacial Lake Bled with its fairy-tale island church, and glorious snow-capped alpine vista.
This touristy village in the very north of Slovenia, a pocket-sized country wedged between Austria, Croatia and Italy swells with neighbouring European travellers. Officially over 1000 years old (having celebrated its millennium in 2004), Bled like all of Slovenia has a vibrancy and energy in its youthful population and in the progress this tiny nation has made in the last decade.
Most popular is a visit to Bled Island and the Church of the Assumption. Walk past the hotels in Bled lining the lake to catch a squat gondola-like craft called a pletna, propelled by a local poleman. As you stride up the 99 steps from the dock, spare a thought for grooms who are expected to carry their wife up to the church to show they are fit for marriage. Enchantingly, the wife is meant to remain silent for the journey.
The church bell almost constantly chimes from its tower, echoing across the lake. Local legend dictates that those who ring the bell will have their wishes come true. Clearly many superstitious folks visit Bled!!
Around Bled are lush fields, growing feed for the harsh winter months. Note the unique fence-like structures used as hayracks to dry the grasses for storage.
An excellent half-day hike from Bled is through Vintgar Gorge where a boardwalk hugs the rock wall, weaving back and forth across the raging river and tumbling water below. The gorge finishes a kilometre and a half down the boardwalk with the impressive Šum Waterfall which holds the delightfully alliterative name of Slap Šum in Slovene.