Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ljubljana and Lake Bled

Ljubljana street with a view of the castle.

We awoke at 5:00 AM and walked about a mile to the bus stop in Plitvices National Park. It was dark, cold and raining. The road was dark and my greatest fear was being hit by a car, truck or bus. Luckily, we were safe and made it to the bus stop. I reminded mom to watch for rocks and not to trip. She didn't find it funny. I asked if she thought we would have the same bus driver and she hoped never to see him again. She was still humiliated from falling when we arrived! We waited along the side of the dark road. I put my hand up every time a vehicle passed which looked like a bus. Several passed us. Eventually, the bus pulled up and we were on our way to Zagreb, Croatia. We had planned the bus connections perfectly. We waited an 1 1/2 hour before the next bus left for Ljubljana. We grabbed some lunch and water and we were off to our next destination.
We arrived in Ljubljana and followed the directions to the apartment. We arrived at the location only to find no one there and the door locked. It was next to a restaurant so we decided to have a bowl of soup for dinner and wait a while. I was able to get free wifi and checked my messages. Ugh! Seems the apartment address is not where we are staying. This is a pet peeve I have with some of the people on The addresses do not always reflect the real location. It is irritating to book someplace based on location and find out it is on the other side of town. As mom and I were discussing this issue, the waiter overheard and said he would call the owner. He proceeded to tell us that he gets numerous customers that have this issue with Nana's Home. It happens so frequently that he has her number programmed into his phone. He called and said she would arrive in 15 minutes to give us a ride to the correct address. I was thankful he had helped us. The location of the apartment was fantastic but it was not made for an elderly person. It was up 5 flights of stairs. That wasn't the real issue. We got to the attic and the room had huge beams running across the floor. You had to step over them to go to the bathroom. The bed was a mattress on the floor. This was the worse place I had booked to date. For me, it would be fine. But with my was difficult and I worried she would fall. Luckily, she was fine and it did not ruin our time in Ljubljana.
Ljubljana is a fantastic little city. We came here to relax and see a city that everyone seems to love. It is the capital of Slovenia and sits on a river with the Alps in the distance. We had no list of sights to see. I just wanted to relax and enjoy the area. As we walked along the river, the café scene was lively all hours of the day and night. It was cold but everyone was out walking or riding their bikes along the river.
I was impressed with Ljubljana. They had tourist bike rentals for 1 Euro. If it had been warmer, I would have jumped on one. But it was too cold for me. We wandered the city as the evening lights were lit. The castle on the top of the hill was beautiful. Mom asked if I was going to hike to the top. No. I was too cold. We walked through the city enjoying the sights. People were setting up stalls for the Saturday morning market. We made a mental note to get up and explore the market in the morning.

One of the strange sights in Eastern EU is locks on bridges. A couple writes their names and date on a lock and lock it to the bridge. I saw this the first time at Butcher's Bridge. Couples in love place the locks on the wires, symbolizing their eternal love.
Ljubljana has designer stores, cafes and restaurants lining the streets. As we walked the street I saw a sign for a Mexican Cantina. I looked at mom and she nodded her head. Yum! I was ready for a taco. I had delicious fajitas and a margarita. It hit the spot! I cant remember the last time I had Mexican food. Not what I expected in Ljubljana, but yummy!

The next morning we went to the market. We strolled past the stalls selling handicrafts, homemade jams, sausages and baked goods. Everything looked delicious.
Then through the fruit and vegetable market and the flower stalls. We bought some fruit and I circled back for the homemade buckwheat vegetable pie. A man had an oven and made a buckwheat crust and topped it with sour cream and fresh vegetables or the meat pie with bacon. I bought the vegetarian tantalized my taste buds. So yummy! It made a great breakfast.
We walked along the river enjoying the weekend crowd and the sights. Mom stopped to try out a new look. I couldn't get her to yodel. Why not? It was definitely a new hair style idea for her. It looks so charming and lovely.  

We were finished in the market and decided to go to Lake Bled. It was a short walk to the bus station and an hour to Lake Bled. It is magnificent small town nestled into the Alps. The sun was shinning and the autumn colors made the area pop with color.

We walked along the lake  admiring the churches and castle on the top of the hill. Then, we decided it was time for lunch. We found an outdoor café and mom convinced me to wrap up in the blanket and enjoy our lunch in the cool, daytime sunlight. After lunch, I left mom in the café while I went to walk around the lake. As I left, I passed an old man rowing his boat. I felt like I was in a fairytale.
I continued on the 3.75 mile path and enjoyed the views and being in nature. Walking has become a past time and allows me to explore and burn a few calories from all the delicious foods I am indulging. The walk was easy and flat. Several locals stopped me and talked to me. Many did not speak English and just kept talking to me in Slovenian. I had no clue what they were saying to me and just smiled and nodded my head.

The views of the are were fantastic. The Bled castle perched above the lake. I had to choose if I wanted to walk around the lake or up to the castle due to limited time. I chose to walk around the lake. The Church of the Assumption sits on Bled Island and begs to be photographed. It is picturesque and the light was perfect. I took hundreds of photos of the church.
 One man I met, explained there are 99 steps from the lake to the church. In the summer months it is local tradition for newlyweds to row a boat to the island. Then, the groom carries his bride up the steps. If they make it, they are ensured a happy marriage. I asked if all the brides diet before the big day while the grooms lift weights and workout in the gym. The man laughed and said that more of them should! He said many struggle with the task but 80% make it to the top. I quickly realized he was a boat owner when he told me I should go out to the island and ring the bell. It seems the cute little church and the local townspeople believe if you close your eyes and ring the church bell then all your dreams will come true! I told him mine already had come true. He smiled and told me to have a wonderful trip in Slovenia.
Bled was beautiful. I finished my walk and found mom sitting on a park bench writing in her journal while children fed the ducks and swans. It was peaceful and beautiful. It was starting to get dark and we walked back to the bus station. We had had a wonderful day in the Alps!

We returned to Ljubljana and realized we had missed a wine tasting festival! No!! I was sad and insisted we find a restaurant with a nice wine selection.
I ordered a large glass of wine while mom was still attempting to find the best hot chocolate in Europe. We sat and reminisced about our day and made plans for our next destination, Vienna, Austria. This was not on our original plan but since the Christmas markets were open...why not? We booked the train for the following afternoon.

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