road trips, Slovenia

Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part eight

As we got closer to the Slovenian border, the skies grew cloudier and rain threatened. We slowed down to a crawl at the border, as border agents stamped our passports and Slovenian officials wanted to know where we were going, and if we were vaccinated. Earlier that day, when Bill and I had stopped at a Croatian rest stop, I had suggested that we eat lunch. I knew it was early for Bill, but I also knew that Bill has a terrible habit of not stopping for lunch until I become a raving lunatic. In fact, I had even laughed at him and teased him about his habit of waiting until 2:00pm to stop, and that’s when a lot of places stop lunch service.

There was a time, long ago, when I used to regularly skip meals on purpose. It was when I was a lot younger, more resilient, and body image conscious. I’d get kind of bitchy in those days, too, but I could physically handle it better than I can today. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, when I get hungry, I really need to eat. If I don’t eat, I get very cranky and ill tempered. Then, after a period of severe bitchiness, I start to get fearful and confused. It’s uncomfortable for me, and very unpleasant for anyone who has to be around me.

Sure enough, as we crept into Slovenia and were stuck in a single lane, my mood took a steep dive. The skies darkened even more and it started to drizzle, as Europe had changed to standard time the day before. Bill decided to drive into the city of Novo Mesto to see if we could find a restaurant. Of course, it happened to be All Saints Day, which is a holiday in many European countries, particularly the ones that are heavily Catholic, which Slovenia is. The exit he randomly chose took us past a large pharmaceutical factory and into a city center that appeared to be undergoing massive reconstruction. Wherever we were, we didn’t find any open restaurants there.

Bill pulled off at another exit, went into a gas station and came out with a Coke, a candy bar, and an ice cream bar. Sure enough, it was almost 2:00pm. I was really pissed, and let him know… but then sighed and ate the ice cream bar, which brought my blood sugar up high enough so I was no longer frothing at the mouth.

The rain got harder as we turned northwest and headed toward Lake Bled. We were familiar with the road, having traveled it in May 2016. This time, it was dark, cloudy, and wet. I smirked as we passed a campy looking place called Dinopark Bled, which was freshly closed for the season and offered a dinosaur park for kids. They also had a restaurant. I don’t know what they served there… Brontosaurus Burgers? Who knows?

Soon, we were headed into Bled itself, which was as pretty as I remembered it, even with the clouds and rain. We passed the hotel, Vila Bled, where we stayed in May 2016. It had once served as Tito’s presidential palace. Now, it’s a four star hotel that is decidedly old school. I found myself wishing we could pull off and check in there, since I was still hungry and crabby, though not quite as much as I was before I ate ice cream for lunch. I know I should probably carry food with me. I did do that on the way out of Slovenia.

Then we turned toward Lake Bohinj, an area we had missed during our first visit to Slovenia. Despite my irritable mood, I could not help but marvel at how incredibly gorgeous the area was. I thought Lake Bled was beautiful. Bled is charming and gracious, and well appointed with shops, hotels, and restaurants, even in the off season.

But Lake Bohinj and its environs are wild, rugged, splendid… everywhere I looked, there were striking fall colors on the black Julian Alps, and waterfalls EVERYWHERE. They seemed to spurt out all over the place. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that as incredibly awe inspiring as Switzerland is, it has nothing on Slovenia, or the Triglav National Park, which is Slovenia’s only national park. Slovenia is also much cheaper than Switzerland is, and you don’t have to buy a vignette for the whole year to use its high speed highways. Vignettes in Slovenia can be purchased for a week at a time.

We got closer to Lake Bohinj, which is very different than Lake Bled is. For one thing, it’s much larger. It doesn’t have a walkway that surrounds it, nor is it surrounded by hotels or restaurants, although the area near it is plenty touristy. The lake itself is majestic, quiet, and incredibly gorgeous. It’s a paradise for hikers, rock climbers, mountaineers, kayakers, canoeists, or anyone else who just loves wildlife and wild surroundings. And in November, it’s practically deserted. There are few restaurants open, so we almost got the sense of having the whole place to ourselves.

We booked four nights at a house called Villa Stare, which was affiliated with a small hotel in an area called Ukanc. When we arrived, it wasn’t clear where we should go. We found our way into what turned out to be where the reception and breakfast room was. We did book breakfast there every morning, which turned out to be a wise decision, since there weren’t any open stores or bakeries near the house, although there were a couple of small grocery stores in town.

The proprietor greeted us and welcomed us into the manor, which sort of screamed 1986… yet it was large, comfortable, and warm. It looked like it was once home to a family with children, as there were little painted designs on the windows in the kids’ rooms and the master bathroom. The master bathroom, by the way, was something else. It had a balcony, and a wall of windows that looked into the woods. There was a large jetted tub that was big enough for two. It looked a bit old– 80s or early 90s era, and I only say this because my parents had one in the 80s, as did the house we rented when we lived in Georgia. The marble shower had six jets on the walls that would spray water from the sides. There were his and hers sinks and a bidet, too.

The master bedroom was humongous, with a huge bed, built in cabinets, a walk in closet, and a large balcony, which faced the lake, about two hundred meters away. The property was surrounded by huge, imposing mountains, covered in trees of different colors, and marked with waterfalls. I counted three from the kids’ rooms, which also had a shared balcony.

The downstairs had a sitting room with a fireplace, a living room area with a TV, a guest toilet, and a fully equipped kitchen. There was also a terrace. We didn’t really use the kitchen, because there was a rather threatening notice there threatening charges if we didn’t clean well enough. Remembering our painful experience with our ex landlady near Stuttgart, we decided not to risk it. Same went for the fireplace, but we really didn’t need it anyway, since the house stayed warm with regular heating. We hung out in the bedroom more than anywhere else.

The proprietor gave us a list of restaurants, although a lot of them were closed, including a pizzeria that had just closed for the off season the day prior to our arrival. When I mentioned wanting wine, he said he’d bring us four bottles and we could pay for the ones we drank. We drank and enjoyed all four, bringing one back with us to Germany. They were all good choices. Bill later found a pizzeria a little bit further into town and that was enough to soothe the savage beast until the next morning.

In spite of my comments about the mauve 80s vibe in the house, we really enjoyed our stay there. It’s a beautiful home, and we were very comfortable, even if it did feel like we were somewhat in a time warp. But then, we had a similar experience staying at Vila Bled in 2016, so there you go.

Stay tuned for part nine.


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