Slovenia is a beautiful country with so much to offer in terms of sightseeing. And, hence, no trip could be complete without a visit to Lake Bled, Vintgar Gorge and Piran. My friends — Sarita, Ameeta, Lochana — and I had decided to go off the beaten path, but these three popular destinations demanded a visit.
So, one sunny morning, we continued our tryst with Slovenia as we took the one-hour bus ride, through the scenic countryside, from Ljubljana to Lake Bled. Known for its blue water, Lake Bled is the only natural island in Slovenia. The small island in the middle of the lake is like a prominent jewel in the blue, and houses the famous Church of Mary the Queen — also known as the Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, or Our Lady of the Lake. The tall cream church building nestled amid greenery with a grey spire holds your attention. To access the church, one needs to take rowboats or ‘pletnas’.
Lake Bled | PHOTOS AND COPYRIGHT @MANJIRIPRABHU
According to a legend, if you ring the church bell while making a wish, chances are it will come true. So, when the sound of the bells pervades the lake, hope springs into the air... Someone’s wish is going to be granted!
From a distance, one can spot a medieval castle perched atop a mountain, like a grandfather keeping guard over the lake. It is one of the oldest castles in Slovenia. Surrounded by gentle mountains with dense trees, over which the grey mist descended but the sun shone luminescent through the haze, making Lake Bled an unforgettable, serene experience. We were content to just sit on a bench and soak in the astonishing and peaceful beauty of Lake Bled and allow life to pass us by.
The cool breeze fanned our faces and we caught the reflection of the white clouds on the blue water like shimmering, molten white paint as it mingled with the ripples created by the swimming ducks. Boats slid across the lake and dark clouds silhouetted against the olive green hills with the castle looking majestic in the sunlight. It was a landscape to calm a tumultuous mind, to inspire one with hope and to awaken an inherent joy.
Content and happy, we shopped at the local stores and headed to our next destination — Vintgar Gorge. It’s a 1.6 km walk along the Radovna River, through the Hom and Boršt hills till Vintgar Gorge. The trek over wooden bridges and boardwalks, under waterfalls and rapids through overhanging cliffs and lush greenery is a must-do experience.
Vintgar Gorge | PHOTOS AND COPYRIGHT @MANJIRIPRABHU
A narrow path runs parallel along the foamy Radovna, that cascades over moss-covered undulations of rocks and overhead, tall green-yellow trees display a touch of autumn. The spray in the air; the sparkling green river; the elevated wet boardwalks with bamboo railings that spiral and curve, hugging the sides of the gorge with the continuous roar of the water; the bridges that appear like wooden lines across the foliage and sky... the landscape filled us with a sense of wonder.
We paused at times to gaze at the gushing flow of water, often tumbling over each other and the rocks in a mad rush to meet and eventually pool at a calm, translucent rendezvous point. A contrast of haste and calm, of land and sky, of old stone and new foliage, of the cold spray of water and warm sweat of the trek… there was an urgency in the air, as if nature was in haste and wished to convey something important to us. And the rush had to end in calm, that the flow needed to collect in quiet pools, that life needed an occasional pause!
The trek ended by a dam from where the water flowed to the hydropower plant. The fascinating stone arch bridge of the Bohinj railway, built in 1905, 33.5 metres above the path, was an imposing sight. The bridge cut across the 53 metres wide gorge and the combination of the man-made structure connecting with nature’s wilderness was awe-inspiring.
Piran Square | PHOTOS AND COPYRIGHT @MANJIRIPRABHU
Our final destination was Piran, the famous coastal town of Slovenia. As we climbed off the bus that took us to this Port town on the Adriatic Sea, our first sight was of the vast stretch of blue water and the picturesque boats lapping gently along Piran’s graceful, curvy harbour and pier. As we walked further towards the town, we stepped into the grand Square, which boasts of large checked squares on the paved ground.
Known as Tartini Square, it has the imposing statue of the composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini (who was born here) surrounded by white-coloured townhouses. In the distance on the hill, the famous Saint George’s Cathedral peers down over the town. It was a warm, sunny day and we climbed up the narrow alleys and cobbled paths up to the protecting stone walls of Piran. The view from the top was jaw-dropping as it swept over dense treetops, the cluster of tall cream-orange buildings and sloping rust-coloured roofs with the Adriatic Sea stretching far into eternity.
Piran town square and rooftops | PHOTOS AND COPYRIGHT @MANJIRIPRABHU
We then strolled down the paved street, which wound along the town, past exposed brick walls and windows, down to the church and ancient lighthouse, and finally to the tip of Piran. It was the stunning expanse of rich blue water and the waves tipping over to the sea-level promenade that took our breath away. The water was so clear that I could see my reflection flickering in the sunlight along with the boulders deep down at the bottom of the sea. Tourists lazed in wicker chairs with the waves licking their feet.
It was a striking and memorable sight. The promenade was bordered by large boulders, on the other side of which the sea lashed relentlessly. On our left, rows of restaurants and shops made a charming picture of cream facades and architecture. The inviting aroma of food tickled our senses and we enjoyed a relaxed meal before heading back to the bus stop.
As we ended our Slovenia trip, we realised what a lasting impact this small, but gorgeous country had on us. We carried a slice of calm of Lake Bled in our hearts; the rush and gush with a pause of the scenic Vintgar Gorge had seeped into our minds and the blue sea and quaintness of Piran seemed to have grown into our memories. Although it was farewell for now, we knew it would never really be a goodbye.
(Manjiri Prabhu is an acclaimed author of several fiction and non-fiction books and founder and curator of two festivals)
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