By Niall Christie
We may all be dreaming of the summer that just doesn’t seem to be arriving, but it is never too early to think ahead to colder weather and a potential getaway in the winter months.
With the ever-increasing popularity of traditional European markets, a weekend at the famous market of Munich or fairytale of Bohemian Prague may seem like must see destinations. However, quainter surroundings and cheaper prices may appeal to some. Luxury and beauty may not be abundant everywhere in Europe, but one pocket in the mountains of Slovenia can rival anywhere else. Bled, a lakeside town with everything to offer.
Having never been to Slovenia before, I was unsure what to expect from my romantic holiday to the lakeside. But within minutes of landing, the offer of decent, local sparkling wine for less than five euros made it clear that this would be a weekend to (not) remember. Having purchased a bottle or two, we quickly made for our hotel.
Although on this occasion we opted for a more expensive hotel, which we purchased as part of a package, there are a number of different options for accommodation around Lake Bled. A handful of hostels, hosting mostly under-30s looking for thrills on the slopes, are on hand for those on a budget, whereas the spa-hotel where we were guests, as well as a number of even fancier hotels closer to the waterfront, could provide luxury for those looking to pay a bigger sum, albeit still much less than what would be expected in more established tourist spots.
The market itself remains small, with maybe a score of stalls lining the waterfront. This small selection only adds to the charm of the town, and with Ljubljana less than an hour’s bus ride away, those looking for something bigger needn’t look far. Mulled wine, locally-blown bohemian glass and some of the best stews you will ever taste await you at the Bled Christmas market, further proof that size doesn’t matter.
While it may be ski season and many tourists head for the mountainside, there are other ways to enjoy this corner of Slovenia. Boat rides can be taken across the lake, a must for anyone wishing to visit the famous island. If you’d rather see the lake from all sides than from it, a walk around the perimeter takes little more than an hour, leaving plenty of time to sample local wines and fruit brandies in the many bars on the waterfront. Watch out though. As we found out, much to our embarrassment, it is very easy to get sunburnt near the lake, even if it is closer to -10 degrees than 10. On top of this, the castle, the many local shops and bars are must visits, with adventure activities aplenty also on offer for the bolder amongst us.
Although it may be hard to drag yourself away from the shores of Lake Bled at the end of your trip, you’ll return home with rosy cheeks, due in equal parts to the brandy and cold that you’ll have encountered during your trip. But don’t worry, the many liqueurs, as well as that surprisingly good sparkling wine, are all available at the duty free.