Matt’s been traveling like crazy the past couple of months (including May.) So, we decided that Sarah and I would join him on one of his trips to Slovenia. He has to be there for 2 weeks this month, so it worked out perfectly that she and I would go for 4 days at the beginning of his trip.
While looking through our guidebook, we chose to stay in the lake town of Bled, due to the proximity of his plant, the alps and the airport! We were not disappointed…talk about overwhelmingly beautiful.
We also chose to use one of the budget airlines to travel to make this trip as inexpensive as possible. Because of that, we ended up driving to the only airport in England that flew into Slovenia on this particular airline, Stansted (just northeast of London.) We had to accommodate in a few areas for the flight: only one piece of luggage for Sarah and me to share; she had to sit on my lap; and we could only take one piece of carry on luggage–a purse would be considered the one piece, which kinda sucked since we had a little one that is still in diapers! Well, I was fine with not having a purse, I just tucked all my essentials in her diaper bag. We then tucked the diaper bag in a rolling carry on right before we boarded and made sure to grab a few essentials to tuck in the seat pocket in front of us. (Basically entertainment for her, blankey, and her sippy cup.)
I quickly realized how spoiled we’ve been traveling international flights and upgrading to the economy plus area…the extra inches of legroom are wonderful. Not only that, but putting a tall toddler on our laps doesn’t lend itself to comfort in any form. Fortunately, said toddler is an excellent traveler and adapts well, so we were off! The one little hiccup to the actual flight there was a little diaper leakage accident on dad’s lap, just as we were getting ready to land….not really little, or funny…at least to him. (Think Karma!)
The first thing you notice when you walk out of the airport is the tall mountains in the distance. Not really that far away, and snow-capped. What a great view for first time guests of your lovely country. After pausing a second, we went off to get our rental car. Another ‘traveling-with-toddler-issue’ is a car seat…what happens if you can’t bring it? Well you call the car rental agency and inquire if they provide them. Lo and behold they do! (Take note you future travelers with small children!) After getting everything and everyone settled, we were off. Fortunately, they drive on the right hand side of the road, so that was nice!
Here’s your 5-minute intro to Slovenia, if you aren’t already aware…It’s a pretty small country surrounded by Italy (west), Austria (north), Hungary (northeast), Croatia (east) and the Adriatic Sea (only 29 miles of coastline on its southwest tip.) Because of that there are extreme differences in its terrain and is divided into 4 regions: Ljubljana (its capital), the Alps, Coastal Slovenia and the Karst, and Southern and Eastern Slovenia. Bled is in the Alps section of the country, less than an hour from the Austria border.
We arrived at our hotel in Bled and the first thing we noticed is the view of Lake Bled. Before we even checked in, we walked to the lake for a quick looksee! Ughh, the turquoise water, the snow-capped alps in the background, the island in the middle of the lake, the castle…what a magnificent view. I’m sure my lacking photog skills won’t do it justice!!
Fortunately, once we checked in we found out we had a lake side room…we got the view the entire time we were there. (So far, the hotel gods are 3 for 3 on awesome hotels/views during our travels.) After getting a little bit settled, we ventured out for a walk. Since it was late afternoon, our goal was to find a place to eat at some point–no one likes a hungry, grouchy toddler–or wife, let’s be honest!
We found what looked to be an old house converted into a ‘hotel’ (I would have called it a B&B), but it had outdoor seating overlooking the lake, so it worked for us. The food over there is unique in that it is so close to other countries so you’re apt to find anything from good Italian to weinerschnitzel (which I had for the first time–basically it’s a pork tenderloin!) We joked that Sarah was trying more varieties of food that we ever did when we were that age. Another side note about the food is that the portions are HUGE! I swear, every meal we had, we felt guilty for the amount of food left on our plates. It was a little nuts. By the end of the trip, we learned to order an app and a main dish and could split both comfortably between the 3 of us.
After the long day of travel, we were wiped and since Slovenia is an hour ahead of us, we were fine with heading back to the hotel after dinner and calling it a evening.
We got up the next morning to overcast skies and drizzling rain. Boo! But, now that we’re old pros at dealing with rain, we ventured out. We headed up the steep mountain to Bled Castle (actually, due to the weather and the climb, we chose to cab it there and back–best euro’s we spent!) The earliest mention of the castle was in the 11th century. I guess it was considered a stronghold of the Bishops of Brixon who ruled over the area until 1803. (This means nothing to me, but you history buffs might like that tidbit of info.)
A lot of the castle has been turned into museums of one sort or another and a couple of eating establishments. But, the best part about it was the views. You could look out over Lake Bled, see Bled Island, and check out the Karavanke mountain range. We ended up staying a lot longer than we planned because of the rain–we kept ‘hiding’ out in the different museums to stay dry.
That evening we went across the street to the restaurant associated with our hotel. It was as if an 80’s Greek revival happened in the place. Teal and gold, fake foliage, columns everywhere! Atmosphere aside, it had good food and wasn’t terribly busy. They are also well known for creating something called the Bled Cream Cake. So, of course we took one to go to enjoy after she went to bed (no one wants to give sugar to a toddler right before bedtime). It’s a layered cake with phyllo dough on the top and bottom, with a custard layer and a whipped cream layer between. Then topped off with powdered sugar. DE-LISH! (Sorry, I’m not one to take photos of food…just imagine heaven in your mouth.)
The next morning proved to be a much nicer day. After breakfast, we chose to venture out on the lake and go to Bled Island. The only thing on the island is the Church of the Assumption, that has been around for centuries. According to what we read, the site has been a focus of Catholic pilgrimage because of its association with the The Virgin Mary since the early Middle Ages.
Among other really interesting (and old) things, the church houses a 15-century Wishing Bell. It is believed that those who ring the ball to honor the Blessed Virgin will have their wished granted. We both decided to try it. Matt had no problem at all–which he credited to all those years of being an alter boy. I on the other hand, was practically swinging on it to get it to ring and just barely got a couple of chimes out of it. (In my defense, a little boy hopped on the bell right before I did and he was swinging on it, so I think he broke it.)
The only way to get to and from the island is by a canopied rowing boat (pletna), which can hold up to 20 people. According to our row-boat captain, there are no motored boats allowed on the lake, and no female pletna captains are allowed. The boats are passed down from father to son (or son-in-law, if applicable.)
Since we were staying on the opposite end of the lake, it took a little while to get there, but it was a beautiful day, with gorgeous scenery. Sarah enjoyed her first boating experience as well…mainly watching the other people on the boat and trying to pull herself up one of the poles holding the canopy in place.
For lunch, we walked (forever) to this pizza place I had read about online, Pizza Rustica. It was supposed to be right around the corner from our hotel, but a 15 minute walk later, we found it. It was in an area surrounded by hostels and looked to be a house converted into an eating establishment. No great views here, but really, really good food. Again, gigantic portions, so we actually had some to take back to our hotel. After a late lunch, we headed back to our hotel for family naptime. (I always feel guilty about naptimes when we travel…I feel like we should be outside doing something, anything; taking advantage of where we are. But, if the little person doesn’t get a nap, no one is happy later in the afternoon!)
That evening we decided to try one of the guide book suggested places to eat, the Gostilna Pri Planincu. After another decent walk, we arrived to this alpine-styled inn that has been in business since 1903. The first thing you noticed when you walked in was all of the license plates. They covered the ceiling and walls and they were from everywhere, from the US to Dubai! The oldest one we found, just in our room, was one from 1958 (it was from a US state though.) Again the portions were huge, so after stuffing ourselves, the walk back to the hotel was wonderful.
Since Matt had to work the next day, Sarah and I were on our own. We woke to more rainy weather unfortunately. So, after breakfast, some cartoon time (they were in Italian, but that didn’t seem to bother her), and a quick morning nap, we were off to walk the path around the lake.
That was my goal at least. Unbeknownst to me, someone else didn’t share that goal. We were able to walk about a quarter of the way when she decided that running and jumping in mud puddles, seeing baby ducks, swans, and other things just weren’t fun anymore. So, after a mini-breakdown, we headed back towards town. Needless to say, since it was raining and we didn’t have all of our normal rainy day distractions, it made for a long day for us. We were thankful when daddy made it back to the hotel. We had a room service picnic and called it a night.
We were up and moving early because Sarah and I had a flight at 10:30.
She and I have never flown without Matt before, so I was a little nervous, but she went to sleep about 10 minutes into the flight and slept for about an hour. Then karma kicked in and she peed on me. Not just a leaky diaper, but full-on pee all over her, me, even the seat. Thankfully, we were about 5 minutes from landing (and we both had a change of clothes in the carry on.) But, have you ever had a wet lap while trying to get off an airplane with a carryon and toddler? It was an experience that I hope to never repeat. We stopped at the first restroom we could find and I supermanned us into different clothes and off we went to get our suitcase.
Overall, the mini-vacation was amazing. We plan to head back at least a couple more times before our journey here is over. If you have the opportunity, put this on your must-see places to visit!