If you’re visiting Italy, you should also go visit Slovenia. Go on, it’s not that hard. Slovenia is a relatively modern country, thanks to the dissolution of Austria and Hungary in 1918. Slovenia borders Italy on the west, Croatia on the south and east, Hungary on the northeast, and Austria on the north. The two towns you must visit while you’re in this beautiful country are Lake Bled and Ljubljana, the country’s capital.
Lake Bled is located in the north-western part of Slovenia and if you don’t plan on staying in a hotel or hostel in town, your best bet is to set up a tent at Camping Bled. Camping Bled is one of the better quality-campsites we’ve stayed at during this trip. Although they get quite full during August, the campground is massive, so they generally always try to squeeze you in. It doesn’t hurt to send them an email though first. They seem to appreciate it when you mention it. There’s a little shop on-site that amazingly has everything you need to cook for yourself on your camping stove and all items are reasonably priced. However, the restaurant is also reasonably priced and the food is really good. You can get western meals here, including chicken and veggies or steak and veggies, which is a fresh change after all the pizza, pasta and focaccias you’ve probably just scoffed-down in Italy.
After a day of settling-in at the campsite, day-two should definitely be spent walking around the two-kilometer-wide lake. And just when you think you’ve got no energy left, you should hire a row-boat to visit the beautiful castle you saw on the walk, which is located on a small island in the middle of the lake.
Apparently the castle was built sometime in the 1100s and is basically a large island church. Row-boats cost about ten euro an hour and if you’re as strong as me you can get over to the island, climb the romantic-looking staircase, pounce around the church and be back in time to see the disappointment in the hire-guy’s face when he realizes he can’t sting you another ten. Good times!
At night there are some really good bars and pizza restaurants in town. Again, you can walk there from the campsite around the lake and it takes about twenty minutes. Well, twenty minutes for me. For you… maybe half-an-hour. But after a few drinks it’ll probably take you about forty minutes to stumble back and you’ll be lucky if you wake up dry.
There’s also Bled Castle that you can clamber up if you’re so inclined. It’s over one thousand years old. Lots of stairs but a great view. You might want to do this on the third day.
On day-four, or if you’re moving on, if you get a chance – a visit to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is also recommended. Ljubljana reminded me somewhat of Melbourne back home. Modern graffiti (cool murals and paintings, rather than the stupid “signing” crap) and art exhibits and a general sense that some cool underground creation is constantly taking place. Of course you’ve got the usual yuppie sections with nice bars and restaurants as well. The town is tidy but has an edge to it. Well worth a look. If you’ve got a car, it’s about an hour there and then back from the campsite. Or else, a train station is only five kilometers away and I’m sure if you ask reception, they’ll point you to the bus stop. Come on, I can’t do everything for you!
Rob Kaay is an Australian author & musician
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