The alps were a major obstacle on our way back home and since we could not go around we had to go over them. Our first point of contact were the Julian Alps with the famous lakes Bled and Bohinj. Lake Bled and the village of the same name are located only just off the motorway less than one hour north of Lubjana. The village Bled is super touristy and seems to consist only of hotels, eateries and tour companies. Every visitor of the Julian Alps and Triglav National Park comes through this place. As you might expect this means that it has lost its charm. It has a nice promenade and park and a small but steep hill on one end from which Bled castle guards the village, lake and enjoys a grand frontrow seat for the alpine panorama. As soon as we arrived we hit the tourist info to increase our leaflet collection and try ‘Kremsnita’, the local cake speciality. We had this combination of pastry, cream and custard before in other coutries but it was supposedly invented in Bled.
We parked Trevor at a small carpark at the edge of town and went scouting. One of the tour companies offered really exciting underground kayaking in a cave but since the next available spaces were six days away we couldn’t do it. The promenade was lovely and we discovered we had come at a good time: the Bled Okarina festival was on with all sorts of music shows and a street food market along the lake. The views up to the castle and the surrounding mountains were awesome and picturesque with the greeny-turquoise lake in the foreground. We gave the castle a miss after looking at the brochure and seeing that half of it was converted into modern function rooms and they still asked for €10 entry. It was a really hot day and the water nice and cool but we didn’t really fancy paying for it in the public baths. Sun bathing and swimming in other places was threatened with a minimum 200€ fine which was just ridiculous. We discovered though that there was a stretch of shore outside the village was free to swim with no ‘no swimming’ signs. Happy with our find, we walked back to get our swimming gear. Back at our rolling home we were in for a shock: we had a parking ticket over 80€ for leaving Trevor in a no parking zone. This half of the car park was reserved for employees and parents of the adjacent kindergarten. Strangely enough they managed to give us the ticket in German, but only write the parking restrictions in Slovenian. We were absolutely furious about this and the fact there were no contact details of the traffic police office. It took us two hours to track them down and get in touch with the issuing person. Matthias had quite an argument with him and managed to get the fine reduced to a warning. During this time we managed one good deed by saving another tourist from parking fines. This lucky escape called for some celebrations so we went for a swim followed by a yummy stoneoven pizza in a lovely pizzaria next to the icehockey stadium. For the night we decided to be daring and make use of the free parking between 8pm and 8am.
Having slept like logs we got woken up by a car pulling up next to us and somebody knocking on the window. The traffic warden had come back to tell us that camping there was strictly forbidden and there was motorhome parking only a few hundred meters away. We knew about this but refused to pay 10€ for 24h with two portaloos as the only facilities. After some discussion we managed to escape another fine by pointing out that there were no signs to tell us about the ‘no camping’. At this point we were really frustrated and annoyed with Bled and ready to leave the country there and then.
Being woken up earlier than planned wasn’t all bad as we had planned walking about one hour to a gorge. We only made it half way before we started sweating buckets again thanks to the strong sun and high humidity. Once we arrived at the entrance of the gorge we were rewarded by a picturesque scene of a thick layer of fog hanging above the river. Finally we got a chance to cool down.
The gorge was beautiful and impressive even though the river was a bit low due to the recent heat wave. In the last and wider part of the gorge was a strech where people and constructed hundred of ‘stoamandl’ (towers of rocks and stones). Children were playing around and working on new ones and the whole scene was shrouded in thin fog which gave it a pretty mystical appearance.
The exit hut was built next to a bridge over Slovenias highest waterfall – a whole 16 meters! Facing at least an hour long walk back we didn’t hang around for long. Thankfully parts of it lead through a forest which made it bearable.
Matthias managed to convice Zoë to give lake Bohinj a chance. It was another glacial lake some 30km from Bled. It was supposedly less touristy and more for adventure seekers as well as active tourists. On the downside Zoë found stories about serious parking problems and dubious rules and fines. Therefore we went straight to the tourist info upon arrival and discovered that there was a big field with free parking just outside the village. Lake Bohinj is slightly bigger and much nicer than Bled. It is surrounded by high and impressive mountains. There are definitely lots of day visitors from Bled but we saw only one hotel and two restaurants. Swimming was free and no signs threatening us with fines. All activities were also cheaper then around lake Bled. After cooling down and drying on the beach we fancied some boating. Soon we found ourself in a canoe paddling up the crystal clear lake. Since swimming was free, every suitable spot of coast was taken; some people had even got there by boat. We were further impressed by children and teenagers jumping off what looked like a 10-15m high cliff. Without trying very hard we ended up at the other end of the lake in just under an hour. Since there was no shade we needed to cool down after all this rowing workout so we beached at a shady spot and went in. On our way back along the coast we also accidentaly discovered the FKK (nudist) bathing zone! Exactly two hours after we set off we were back at the boat rental shed.
In order to beat the looming mass exodus of day visitors we wasted no time returning to Bled. That evening there was a concert in the park by a Japanese drumming group called Gocoo. 16 musicians used 40 drums, a digeridoo and other instruments to create an amazing and brilliant show. The group was on their 20th anniversery tour and their repetoir ranged from slow dances with a dragon to fast and furious rythyms that left no listener unaffected. Towards the end of the two hour show (without breaks!) everybody was either dancing or clapping along. After the second encore they were quite rightly rewarded with standing ovations.
Having exhausted the budget friendly activities (hiking wasn’t an option in up to 35 degrees), we decided to move on the following day. In order to avoid any more parking trouble and to complete our challenge of travelling through Slovenia without paying for accomodation, we drove half an hour back to Tržič to a free motorhome carpark next to the outdoor swimming pool.
The next morning we managed our first lie in in about a week before setting off on our escape away from the heat and across the alps.