Tuesday afternoon, we decided to go to Lake Bled to see if we could find some lunch. There were some places open, but we were flummoxed because at that point, we hadn’t found the large public parking lot in Bled. I’m not sorry we went, though, because I got more beautiful photos. And then, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes from Ukanc at Lake Bohinj, where our rental house was, we found lunch at Gostilnica Štrudl, a cute little eatery in the touristy town of Bohinjska Bistrica. This restaurant offers local specialties– real “stick to your ribs” food, with lots of beans, cabbage, sausages, and potatoes. We coupled lunch with a couple of excellent locally made craft beers. I loved the dark beer. Should have brought some home! It also has apartments for rent, and sells locally produced gins, jams, and liqueurs. Below are some photos from our Tuesday outing.
I was glad to be able to get a few sunny shots of Lake Bled, even though we were passing in the car. We later found the public parking lot for Bled, so we came back on Thursday.
And then we found lunch, which stuck with us for the rest of the day. If only I’d had this lunch before we left Croatia!
There appeared to be several open restaurants in the Bohinjska Bistrica area. That’s also where the Aquapark Bohinj is. We decided not to visit there, mainly because of some poor reviews and concerns about sickness (the reviews mentioned that it wasn’t very clean). But, if we’d wanted to, we also could have gone bowling. We decided to go back to the house and finish watching The Crown instead, as the weather was getting crummy.
Unfortunately, Wednesday, we didn’t do much of anything because of high winds and rain. We did take a short drive, though, and I got some more photos. And we also found where the entrance to Mostnica Gorge is, as well as a few more eateries. One didn’t open until 4:00pm, and the other didn’t open until 1:00pm, so we ate leftover pizza and drank local wines.
Fortunately, even in inclement weather, Slovenia is so beautiful… it’s hard to be bored there. There’s always something to see, even if the weather makes being active more difficult. And the lack of crowds, especially during COVID-19 times is especially appealing.
Friday morning, we woke up to fog and chilly weather. On Thursday night, I had turned on The Crown, Netflix’s series about the British Royal Family. I had seen all of the episodes, but Bill hadn’t, so we quickly got hooked. While we ate breakfast, we watched another episode of The Crown as we made our plans for our time in Croatia. In retrospect, we should have made more of an effort to make plans before we got to Croatia, but I think COVID and the uncertainty of what might happen at any border, kind of made of reluctant to book ahead.
I knew we definitely wanted to see the lakes, but it wasn’t possible for us to visit on Friday. Visitors can purchase tickets online at least 24 hours in advance or at the gate on the day of the visit– but tickets can only be bought on site if the tickets haven’t already sold out. We had already tried to buy tickets for the Krka River National Park and found them sold out online, which is why we didn’t also visit there during our trip. In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t buy tickets for the other park. I’ll explain why in the next post.
So we decided to take a drive, eat lunch in a restaurant, and have a look around. That wasn’t a bad compromise, as there were a lot of leaves changing color. There are also some sites nearby that, if we had been more curious, we might have stopped and looked at. I was content to enjoy very fresh trout, likely from the lakes, which I could see were brimming with fish.
First, we had to find a restaurant that was open. We stopped at one place, but Bill said he didn’t have any Kuna, which is the Croatian currency. Although Croatia is a very card friendly place, we found our in Wels, Austria that not every place takes credit cards. The Greek restaurant where we ate was a cash only establishment. So Bill decided to look for an ATM, only to find TWO of them at the first restaurant and at the place next to it. We ended up eating at Plitvice Holiday Resort, which had a huge menu, friendly service, and it looked like a lot of lodging options, particularly for active types.
The cheerful blonde waitress spoke excellent English and happily brought us a couple of Croatian beers while we decided on lunch. For me, it was easy… I was having trout. Bill decided to have pork skewers. Unfortunately, both dishes came with mushrooms in the garnishes. I noticed that the Croatians are very fond of mushrooms, which is not fun for a person with mycophobia. The restaurant at the resort got mixed reviews, but we had a good experience there. We also enjoyed watching the Croatians at a neighboring table. The wine was flowing very freely, even though it was early afternoon.
After lunch, we kept driving for awhile, checking out the beautiful scenery and interesting scenes in what was once a socialist country that most Americans couldn’t visit. Having lived in the former Soviet Union, I am kind of fascinated by Eastern Europe, especially when there are still signs of the past. Slovenia doesn’t look at all like it was once part of Yugoslavia. It’s very westernized. But Croatia still has some reminders of the past. As you can see from the photos below, I concentrated mostly on the natural beauty of the region.
It was almost dark when we got back to the house. It was chilly and the wind was blowing. We were almost out of wood, so Bill went over to the caretaker’s house to ask where the wood was. He ended up getting invited over for homemade brandy. He called me, and I went over to the caretaker’s house. We sat outside, drank brandy, and talked. It turned out brandy was the only spirit the caretaker, name of Duje, would drink. He told us he had once been a pilot for Yugoslavia, and had flown all over the world to places in Africa and South America. He met his wife in Belgrade, and they eventually moved to Korenica, where they’ve been since 1968.
Duje showed us some of his hunting trophies, as well as the chickens he keeps. He has a couple of dogs, a small black one that had a house in his front yard, and a larger black one who was penned up near the chickens. We saw the bigger dog frolicking in the field behind the house one morning. I felt a little sorry for him. He seemed lonely.
Duje’s wife, whom he called “Babba”, was adorable. She brought out cookies and made Turkish coffee for us. At one point, Duje shouted for her attention. He muttered that she doesn’t hear so well anymore. But she does make a hell of a fire. After we visited, she came back to the house with us, helped Bill gather wood, and made us another roaring fire in the fireplace! We got back to watching The Crown and enjoyed Croatian wines and snacks, since lunch filled us up. Maybe we should have tried to do more on Friday, but there’s something to be said for resting and soaking up the atmosphere… especially since Saturday was the opposite of restful!
I love how, on our travels, we somehow always manage to meet interesting people. When we lived near Stuttgart, we heard many stories from Greeks who had prestigious careers before they came to Germany and opened Greek restaurants. Our old friend, the late “Mad Scientist” in Entringen, had been an engineer in Canada before love brought him to Germany. And the proprietor at the Greek restaurant at the Sportsplatz in our old town of Jettingen had been a pilot for Lufthansa. He had a Korean wife. Probably met her in his flying days… but who knows?
Anyway, Duje and his wife are now country folks who are lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of Croatia. We were glad to meet them and share brandy with them. We probably would not have had that experience at a hotel in a bigger town.
Stay tuned for part six, which will feature beautiful photos… and many complaints about my aging and aching body.
We had no plans at all for Saturday. It was rainy and chilly, though, so we figured people would probably be hanging out in the spa area. We decided to take a drive instead. I can’t even tell you exactly where we went. Bill just got on the road, heading north, and we drove through several nice, picturesque towns. At one point, I was enchanted by the sight of rushing water, so we stopped so I could get some pictures. We eventually turned around when we got to the town of Rastatt, which looked to be pretty decent sized.
After a couple of hours of good music and conversation, we headed back toward Obertal. It had started to rain and it was time for lunch. Despite all of the eating we did on Friday, we were hungry. I decided that I really wanted to stop at the Forellenhof Buhlbach, a restaurant owned by Hotel Bareiss.
If you are a food lover, you might know the Bareiss because it is where Baiersbronn’s other Michelin Three Star restaurant is. That restaurant, also known as Bareiss, is led by Clauss-Peter Lumpp, who has been working there for decades. I read about Chef Lumpp in that amazing New York Times Magazine article about Baiersbronn I posted at the beginning of this series. Now that I’m looking at the hotel’s Web site, I’m thinking that maybe if we go back, we should look into staying there!
In any case, we had driven up to the Forellenhof Buhlbach restaurant earlier in the day, so I got a good photo of it before the crowds showed up. It’s only open from 11:30 until 5:30 every day, and it’s a popular place that specializes in serving fresh trout. Reservations are not accepted. When we arrived, the place was pretty full and there was a line to get in. Since we didn’t have anything else to do, we decided to stick around. That was a good decision. Our wait was only about ten minutes and the meal was outstanding. No, it wasn’t fancy gourmet fare, but it was still very good food. I love fresh fish, and it doesn’t get much fresher than what is served at the Forellenhof. We did enjoy trout that was just as fresh when we visited Slovenia in 2016. The place in Slovenia was a bit more rustic, though.
Here are some photos from a fantastic lunch!
One of the other guests at the Forellenhof was a nun. She seemed to be enjoying her lunch with her companion. This restaurant is quite reasonably priced, especially compared to where we ate on Friday. I think we got out of there having spent less than 100 euros. There are other menu choices besides fish, too, although the trout is definitely the star attraction at the Forellenhof.
Since we were pretty full and lunch was later, we decided to hang out in the bar instead of having dinner. The crowd changed a bit. There were many French people there, no doubt wanting to eat some excellent cuisine. I did notice that there weren’t many Americans around, especially in our hotel. In fact, most of the people in our hotel didn’t speak English, which I found rather refreshing. Bill got to practice his German a lot, and I found that I understood more than I realized.
There were a few things that made our trip a little more stressful than it should have been. All of it had to do with my inability to unplug from social media. I was especially nervous after having read about a gang of women in our neighborhood who have been trying to break in to people’s houses. One of Bill’s co-workers even caught someone trying to break into his car a few weeks ago. After reading about the neighborhood creepers, I ended up buying more renter’s insurance. I am a BIG believer in insurance.
We checked out of Hotel Engel Obertal at about 9:00am yesterday. As a parting gift, they gave us water, a small loaf of fresh farmer’s bread, and salt. Our final bill for the bar and restaurant, taxes, and one night of parking in the garage, was about 400 euros. All in all, we spent about 2000 euros on the hotel. I would stay at that hotel again, although if we go back, I’ll probably book somewhere else for the different experience. To anyone who is looking into visiting Baiersbronn, I would recommend the Hotel Engel Obertal. It seemed pretty popular with seniors, although we also saw a number of young families there. It has a nice family vibe.
Our drive back to Wiesbaden wasn’t bad at all, although I did a fair amount of bitching… mainly due to stuff that was completely unrelated to our weekend. Overall, we had a wonderful time, and now I’m thinking our days of staying in downtown Stuttgart when we need to see the dentist may be over forever. I’m all about staying in the Black Forest now, and am even thinking of other towns I’d like to explore next time. A bonus was that when we got home, our house was fine, and the dogs were delighted to see us. Noyzi even jumped into the back of the Volvo all by himself!
I hope anyone who’s been following along enjoyed this look at Baiersbronn. There are plenty of reasons to go back… more “stars” to see, if the opportunity presents itself. Until next time!