Tuesday 3rd September 2019
Our taxi pick-up today was scheduled for a very precise 0850 hours. We were a few minutes late and Milan was impatiently waiting for us at the Jezero’s front desk. He hurried us along, loaded our bags and we were off to Bohinjska Bela where we were dropped off, Milan pointing us in the right direction. Our luggage went on with Milan to our next destination, Bled. The sign we had to look out for today was Kupljenik.
The weather today was very bright, and very sunny. Everything seemed to be in vivid technicolour this morning, from the blue skies to the very brightly coloured houses we passed, and the shiny brown horse and its foal in one of the gardens.
The instructions seemed easy enough this morning, and as we crossed a river as instructed (via a proper bridge), we couldn’t help stopping to take in the lovely view and to take countless photos of the sparkling river and two fishermen who stood in the water patiently waiting.
We eventually tore ourselves away and were soon winding our way uphill to the little farming settlement of Kupljenik. But oh, the heat!! If the rain brought out the earthworms that died on the road, the heat seemed to do the same for frogs. I saw several dead frogs on the hot tar lanes – whether they were squashed by passing vehicles (though we didn’t see a single vehicle on those roads) or they just exploded in the heat, I’ll never know.
Walking through Kupljenik, we passed houses and shrines…and once again we didn’t see a single human being. I remember thinking we should’ve asked Lidija about this – where do people go in the daytime?? The cows were out and about though; one seemed to be a guard cow – as we approached and walked past, her moos got louder and louder till they seemed to echo through the valley…the hills were certainly alive – with the sound of moo-sic.
As we left Kupljenik, we had wonderful views of Lake Bled, and the surrounding mountains. It didn’t look that far away, and it seemed like if we had walked towards it we may get to it in a couple of hours. But then our instructions took us in the opposite direction…it would’ve been too easy otherwise…
It was soon after we left Kupljenik, that we came to a junction where we had to re-read the instructions. Once again the landmark which caused confusion was a shrine – our notes said we had to take a turn (described as a tractor path) by a shrine. The confusion came when the next line said that this would be the ‘second shrine’ and that the two shrines were 50 metres apart. Problem was we hadn’t seen an earlier shrine and any which way we looked there was no sign of another shrine 50 metres ahead. So, on faith, we took the path that looked less like a tractor path but which looked like it was in the correct direction to Bled which we’d seen in the distance.
Thankfully it was the correct path, as we came upon the next landmark…yes, another shrine. The similarities between the streets of Varanasi and the countryside of Slovenia are startling, as far as shrines are concerned. There was a bench next to this shrine – and this is where we stopped for lunch. The Jezero had provided us with our lunch today – before we left the hotel, we’d checked our lunch packs…surprise, surprise…today, we had not one, but TWO ham and cheese sandwiches each. There was no way we could finish two huge sandwiches, so we gave our extras to Milan. We sat on our little bench, some of us swearing off ham and cheese sandwiches for life. Today, even I found myself wishing for a different lunch. None of us finished our sandwiches today, and donated the remains to the birds.
It was a beautiful walk this morning, despite the heat. We walked past open meadows with little yellow flowers (that inspired a ‘hills are alive’ moment in S), and fields of corn, with stalks way taller than us (reminiscent of a Stephen King movie…though the bright sunny day was at odds with the horror movie vibe).
It was a welcome relief when the open track continued under tree cover, the shade providing some respite from the heat. Other than a short steep stretch with loose stones, it was a relatively easy walk – which I was glad for, as my left knee had been starting to ‘click’ after that downhill marathon two days ago, despite taping it and using a knee guard .
Our instructions then took us to a river and a bridge that looked suspiciously similar to the one we had crossed at the start of our hike today. For a brief moment, I wondered if we had taken some truly convoluted route just to get to the other side of the bridge…I was very relieved when we checked our map, and confirmed that this was another bridge – same river though.
We then were taken uphill towards the village of Ribno. Our notes said there would be a coffee place there…sadly the place was closed, so we had to trudge along coffee-less. Our path now took us right through the village – one of the houses actually had a stream running through the front garden (this feature made it into our notes as a landmark). At all the villages we’ve passed through, the well-maintained gardens and colourful houses with flowers in their windows have been a constant feature…the other constant was – no human beings. It was no different here in Ribno…till we saw one elderly lady sitting in her garden.
The sun was blazing by now, the heat made all the more intense as it rose from the asphalt. At a crossroad we came to a sign that said ‘Bled – 2KM’…but our notes were sending us in another direction, by a path next to a ‘dark panelled house’. We took this path in the hope that it would provide more shade – it did, but what felt like 2KM later we were nowhere near Bled. We did, however, come across some benches under a tree next to a school yard.
School was out, and finally there were signs of life, as the kids kicked a ball and what looked like a toy animal around. We were somewhat of a curiousity, sitting there with our backpacks, downing our water…and wondering if we should have kept that second sandwich.
There still was much walking to be done before we got to Bled – much of it uphill. Through the village of Selo we went, passing a group of cyclists who’d stopped for refreshments, and being passed by a police car – the first we’d seen on our trip. We finally came to a sign marking the start of Bled.
The route then took us to the little town of Mlino – where there supposedly is a farmhouse serving ‘ice-cold drinks and tarragon cake’ – none of us saw it. The main road we were following eventually started to take us downhill – and as we turned a corner, there was Lake Bled – and what a stunner it was.
We had to walk along the lake to get to our hotel. The minimally-clad crowds were out in force absorbing the UV rays like there was no tomorrow – we probably were the most over-dressed people around. The path took us to the lakeside back/side entry to the Vila Bled. The grounds were stunning though we were all too tired to take it all in just yet. It was such a relief to get to the front desk, amidst the euphoric “we did it”s.
The Vila Bled used to be President Tito’s summer home and was rather posh in an understated communist style. To the front desk person’s credit, he didn’t flinch when we appeared looking like…well, looking like we’d just walked 17.55KM and 26,865 steps…and as was our standard practice, we had added our usual 2 hours to the projected 4 hours. He patiently explained all the hotel facilities, where the meals were, etc. etc. etc. while I sank into the very retro leather sofa.
Our bags were already in our room (here, unlike the Jezero, this ‘service’ is provided!). The hotel was really gorgeous, so after dropping off our backpacks in the room, we were down again for a drink and a snack, a walk in the grounds…and many many photos of the stunning views.
Dinner today was included – a 4-course feast, which our waitress, Beti, assured us (unasked) had taken all our food allergies into consideration. Beti was a real gem – as the sun went down she offered us blankets, which we politely declined as it wasn’t that cold. Not more than half an hour later, it did get ‘that cold’ – this time, without asking, Beti brought us blankets – and we finished our dinner feeling nice and toasty.
Needless to say, we were so stuffed – happily stuffed. We were so glad to have arrived here, at our last stop, with no major mishaps or injuries. There’s still a day to go, but I think it’s safe to say – we did it!