Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, Slovenia in the Julian Alps

When I was going through my Tatras mountain pictures, I was not sure if I picked so many to share because they were all so good or all so average. For this set, I had the same problem picking out a few great pictures because the Julian Alps are gorgeous. A monkey with a throwaway camera would bring home great images. Enjoy!

Glacial Lake Bled

I did not get out of Kranj as early as I would have liked. I was figuring out the European financial system to wire money for my camera. Once I got riding, I just couldn't get the same kind of tempo that I had the day before. I think I was a little tired, but I also think I had let the camera stuff carry over mentally because I love to dwell on the things that I cannot control. It didn't help that I was busy fighting against getting lost the whole morning too. The roads just were not as clearly marked unless you were taking the autobahn. Oh well. I made it and it was stunning.

I thought once birds left the nest they usually fed themselves. This chick would wait for its parent to pick the bread up and put it in the chick's mouth. It would not forage on its own at all.

Lake Bled, Bled Castle, and Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church.

When you roll up to Bled, it is like rolling up to one of the towns on Martha's Vineyard in the summer. It is overrun with cars and people. You can't quite figure out where to go. It is a bit overwhelming and not clearly laid out. However, once you get into town a little farther and understand where you are, it is amazing. Lake Bled's color is amazing. Bled Castle looks like it could tumble off its 460 foot cliff at any moment and fall into the lake. The Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage church steps cling to the water of its small island. Put it all together and the view is breathtaking. I sat down and had my lunch to soak it all in. I also needed time to soak in the heaviest pastry I have ever had in my life. Instead of 3" by 3" fluffiness, it was a quarter pound of oily cottage cheese and bread.

Lake Bohinj.

Boating on Lake Bohinj.

I did not stay in Bled as long as I expected. It was beautiful, but the sheer number of people scared me off. A Slovenian told me Bled makes a good kremne rezine (cream cake) which is supposed be a backhanded compliment about how well put together Bled is for the tourist. That same person recommended heading over to Lake Bohinj, which is quieter, closer to nature, and a little better for my schedule. I followed their advice and was very happy.

This is brilliant for boaters without a trailer.

Lake Bohinj rowboats on a foggy morning.

It took me two tries to find my hostel but as soon as I did I was in the lake swimming around. It wasn't crowded and it was incredibly warm for a glacial lake. There were ten people sharing the dock and if I had walked a hundred meters away I would have been alone. I guess my shoulder didn't really let me swim around much, but just jumping in and flopping about felt wonderful. I got to wash the day's sweat off, cool down, and relax. I finished off my relaxing with a great nap. I have not spent nearly enough time on R&R this trip.

Lake Bohinj sailboats on a foggy morning.

Lake Bohinj.

After I woke up from my afternoon nap, I hiked around the lake and finished up in town, which included about three restaurants and a bar, but a canal converted into a stage with a live band was dominating the non-dinner scene. I don't know who they were, but at some point I swear they played a version of the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane in Slovenian with an accordion. That was unique. The 2km walk home in the dark under the bright stars was wonderful. They were so bright someone might have been reaching down with the Big Dipper to get a drink out of the lake.

Straw drying rack make up the walls of these 'garages'

The great view from the start of the mountain road back to Bled.

Mountain village.

My original plan was to bike from Lake Bohinj, back towards Bled, and then up over Vrsic Pass in one day. However, there was a second road from Bled that cut across the national park that was supposed to be gorgeous that had a ton of vertical. I thought it would be a treat to see some new terrain (instead of going back on the same road) and get up into the park since I was not going to have time to do a backwoods hike. I had no where to be, went slow, and just soaked up scenery. Going so slow made the day a whole lot easier and enjoyable. I did not know how far I needed to go and didn't car. My only plan was to make it to Bled by nightfall to hopefully meet up with an Ice friend who was living in Germany.

Mountain farming is gorgeous farming.

I refuse to believe that whoever named this company does not speak English.

A nice way to fancy up your security bars. We should do this in the states.

For my second visit to Bled, I went to Vintgar Gorge. The clear turquoise water has cut an path through the rock to form the 1.6km gorge. About a quarter of that length is steep walls. The rest opens up more into a stream than a steep walled gorge, but it is still beautiful. Even though there were so many of us walking through, it was very serene. I wanted to stay there for hours and just listen to the water passing by. They had a wooden walkway down the entire gorge, but it didn't ruin the experience. It worked. I do not know how deep the water was, but you could see to the bottom for most of it. The gorge was windy enough that you could never quite see what was ahead. There was always a new surprise around the corner.

Vintgar gorge.

Vintgar gorge.

A slap (waterfall in Slovenian) at the end of Vintgar gorge.

A video tour of Vintgar gorge, just outside of Bled.

After visiting the gorge, I tried to find milk. This was not as simple of a task as you might think. First, I had to find a grocery store. Normally, there is one every couple blocks but in Bled the tourist shops have pushed out the markets. Once I found one, I went in looking for a carton with the mleko on it. I got kislo mleko opened it up, took a swig, and had to fight to not spit the partially curdled liquid back out. I went in and got something else with mleko on it from the cold section. No swig, but same problem. Finally, I found something on the shelf that was passable.

I biked over to my campsite and wanted to eat before setting up camp because I was so hungry. As I was finishing, it started to drizzle. As I checked into the campsite, it started to pour. I just waited until it rained itself out and then spent a half hour finding a campsite. They never sell out of tent sites, but you could have fooled me. I settled into sleep and hoped that the storm had blown itself out so rest of the night would be dry. I hate putting away a wet tent.

River in the Julian Alps.

In the morning, I put away my tent quickly. It was mostly dry, but it looked like more rain might be on the way. As I was getting ready to leave camp and start my ride to Vrsic Pass, that rain came as a down pour. I turned around and hid in the registration lobby instead. Luckily, it let up and I got on my way. I was taking another mountain route instead of the main road. It was cloudy the whole day, but it was still beautiful. Unfortunately, the rain was still coming down when I got to Vrsic Pass. I had the choice to go up and descend in the rain which would probably be pretty dangerous or just wait it out. I chose to wait. I saw two Spanish guys choose to ride up because they did not have any extra days left.

Mountain agriculture.

Another mountain village.

I started out my wait in a wood fired pizza joint. After an hour, the rain was still coming and the weather forecast said it would hang around with a possible break in the morning. I was really torn. I had already lost one rest day and this would eat up the other. Eventually, I decided to stay the night and hope for the best in the morning. It couldn't really be worse. I checked into the Pr' tatko hostel, drank a couple cups of Oregon Chai, and watched the rain come down. It cleared up for two short hours, but other than, wet, wet, and wet. It was the perfect movie and nap day even though I didn't do either. The staff at the hostel was brilliant. I was one of two guests for most of the night and we spent the evening talking about running a hostel, politics, hiking in the area, and anything else we could lay our minds to. They gave me some home made honey wine that was so sugary even I liked it. It was a great night. I'd go back.

Bee keeping in style.

1 comment:

  1. your posts are so long, sometimes i forget what i want to comment on by the end of the post. haha

    the julian alps are gorgeous indeed. and you underestimate the quality of photography that a monkey with a disposable camera can produce! :-)

    your photography are magnificent, brody. would you mind giving me some of them in its original size so i can print it on canvas? i would be honored if your travel phots would be displayed as art in my house.