Bled – Medieval sword fights, a lakeside castle, and the Vintgar Gorge

Bled is one of Slovenia’s most popular tourist destinations, famous for its picturesque “Jezero” (Lake) with an island and a church in the middle.

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Bled Jezero is a perfect spot to rent a row boat and take a trip to the island or spend an afternoon just paddling around the lake.

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For the low-low price of 20 Euros ($26) you can jump on a swan boat and have someone paddle you out to the island.  We did this and I have to say it was definitely not worth it, the small island is very much anti-climactic.  Save your money and just walk around the lake – the island is pretty enough from the shore.

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The boats are modeled after the Mute Swan, the local species that live at the lake.  Mute Swans are distinguished by the black hump at the top of their beaks and S-shaped necks.

The Mute Swans at Lake Bled pay no attention to the tourists

The Mute Swans at Lake Bled pay no attention to the tourists

Lake Bled is also the Olympic training grounds for some of Slovenia’s best rowing teams.

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If you didn’t know, Slovenia can row.

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Bled town is set up right next to the lake – hotels, guesthouses border the eastern shore.

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We had a hell of a time getting to Bled from Munich.  In June 2013 there was excessive flooding in Germany and Austria, shutting down many of the rail routes between Bavaria and Slovenia.

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Instead of one simple four hour train ride our trip turned required ten hours, two bus rides, three trains, and four transfers.

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But riding the rail in Europe is probably the most pleasant form of “traveling” in the world, in that literal sense of the word while you’re doing it, though the coach rides in Argentina are a close second.

My friend Austin commented, while we were grinding out a long overnight bus ride in Peru, that the worst part of “traveling” is the “travel” itself – the long train, tuk-tuk, jeepney, boat, bus, and mini-van rides. This simple wisdom is right on the mark but “traveling” in Europe is relatively pleasant – the trains are smooth, the seats comfortable, and the views fantastic.

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We arrived at Bled’s train station in a drizzling mist and had no trouble hitchhiking to the hostel we had booked.

The rain brought lots of enormous snails out

The rain brought lots of enormous snails out

Our first day in Bled we walked up to Vintgar, a massive gorge set in nearby Triglavski National Park.

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The 4 km minute walk to the gorge leads through the small village of Podham and is almost as nice as the walk through the Gorge itself.

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The Vintgar Gorge has a wooden walkway a mile long that was built in 1983.

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The first 700 meters of the walkway leads back and forth over the Radovna River.

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There is never any real danger of falling so it is a popular little trek for families with kids.

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The Gorge was discovered in 1891 by Jakob Žumer, the Mayor of Gorje, and the cartographer/photographer Benedikt Lergetporer.

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Once the Gorge was made passable for purposes of tourism, it was declared one of the three most important tourist sights in Slovenia.

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The grand conclusion of the walk through the Gorge is the 16 meter Sum Waterfall.

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At the end of Vintgar the water is an incredible blue green.

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The next day we headed up to Bled Castle, a medieval castle sitting on the edge of the lake.

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We were a bit startled on our way up to the castle when we found two Slovenians duking it out Medieval style in the parking lot.

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We politely asked them why they were trying to hack each other to bits and they informed us they were practicing for the annual Bled Castle Medieval festival.

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They told us their actual fight would happen at 5pm up in Bled Castle and strongly encouraged us to join.

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