Slowenien – Seen

The next day we slept in a little, due to a forecast of rain. Unsure how to spend the grey day, we spent the morning researching some options before settling on a recommendation from a local: checking out a nearby waterfall.

We ate a small breakfast before heading out. We were staying very close to the lake, so after a very short drive we found ourselves ready to begin. Our walk started out uneventful; we talked about random different things, circling the lake and making our way through alternating patches of grass and forest alongside the lake shore. It was a grey day and not many people were outside, though we saw a few families playing in the park. When we reached the far side of the lake we crossed a beautiful bright-crystal stream. Our goal was to make it upstream where the water feeds into lake Bohinj.

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Bohinj

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We walked uphill from there, passing a few small hotels and neighborhoods. It seemed a little odd that the park was so developed with inhabitants, but I suppose many of them likely lived there before the park existed. We climbed until Chelsea began having pain in her knee, having tweaked it from canyoning the day before. Naturally she wanted to keep going, so we pressed on for a bit until I made her sit down and rest. While she was taking it easy I ran ahead to see if the falls were close, but after a few hundred meters I decided to turn back because it was evident she was in considerable pain walking. She took some painkillers and I helped support some of her weight as we started the return journey, because she wouldn’t let me carry her.

Doubling back, we ran into an older couple from California. We didn’t think much of it at first but I eventually decided we should try to ask them for a ride, since our hike had been farther than we’d realized and we ended up walking about 5 miles from our car. I ran ahead again and they were happy to help. The man talked to us about our academic backgrounds a bit and explained he was a computer engineer who had done a lot of work in automation. I was grateful that they took us back to our car, as it would have been a long walk back for Chelsea to manage.

After our mistaken hike, we actually did have a rest day. We spent most of the rest of the inside. We looked up a few things on my computer, talked and just hung out. Even though we were in a beautiful vacation destination, I enjoyed a bit of normalcy in our day. Chelsea and I don’t get to do that together often, since we tend to have plans whenever we see each other.

We had one more activity planned in Slovenia for the next day: paddleboarding on Lake bled! Our morning began much like the other days, with a drive out to our meeting point. This time we were on the other side of Bled, near the little island with the church. Our goal was to make it to that island. We got out of the car and walked a short way to a rowing center, where instructions said we would meet our guide outside. We ended up beating the guide there by a few minutes and were consequently confused when we couldn’t find anyone. Eventually a small hatchback with boards strapped to the top drove up, and we met our guide, a small woman from a nearby town who was very friendly and helpful.

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She got us set up with wet suits (which was good, seeing as the water was cold) and explained the technique. She helped us onto our boards and before long we were on our way. At first, I stayed on my knees for a bit as I got used to the feeling of the board beneath me. There are fins underneath which greatly help with stability, but I still felt like I was a bit heavy for the board and had to be cautious with where I shifted my weight.

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Easy does it..

We made our way from the dock timidly around to the shore nearby. After a little bit I decided to try my hand at standing, and found that with considerable effort I was able to. Chelsea later informed me that women tend to have an easier time with this, because more of their weight is distributed lower towards the board. I had to be very careful with my footing and balance and had a few near-misses just on the way over towards the shore. Our guide and Chelsea didn’t seem to be having as hard a time as I was.

At the nearby shore we stopped briefly at a small little pier. With solid ground (ok, maybe wood) under me I took the opportunity to admire the scenery. We didn’t stay long at the dock however and before long we were back at it again, this time with the island in our sights. During this stretch of paddling I decided that it was a good idea to get a more intimate experience with the water (ahem) and fell in. Twice. It was cold but I wasn’t too upset, it actually felt quite refreshing due to the wet suit providing some insulation.

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Despite my dips in the lake we did eventually make it to the island and pulled our boards ashore. Our first priority as we landed was of course gelato. Our guide treated us, something I wasn’t sure how to handle. Was this included in what we had paid for the excursion? I had brought my wallet along thinking we might snack on the island. It was a little awkward to say the least as I wasn’t sure whether to offer to pay. Nonetheless we enjoyed the treat sitting in the shade surrounded by pristine waters and crowds of tourists. Our guide explained how many Korean and Chinese visitors came to the island every summer. We were seeing just the first of them in mid-May.

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After our ice cream we did a quick lap of the island. Our guide’s husband ran one of the larger boats, rowing groups of tourists across the lake. She explained how she sometimes would hang out here with her son, who was an aspiring fisherman. We walked by the shoreline and the church, where we learned weddings and major Catholic holidays were celebrated.

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We rounded the island near the shore and hopped back on the paddle boards. The wind was against us now, making steering and control that much more difficult. I’m happy to say I only fell in once on the return journey, but Chelsea and I also decided (intentionally!) to take a dip in the lake, so it was twice in the water for me again.

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Fighting the wind, we made our way back to the rowing center and climbed onto the pier. We changed out of the wet suits and packed up the equipment, taking a minute to dip our feet in the water and enjoy the cool sensation. As we were getting ready to leave the guide kindly offered to give us a ride back to our car. We took her up on this, and she made an even nicer offer: suggesting we take a slight detour to check out a nearby viewpoint. She drove us through a small neighborhood we never would have found on our own, then parked at a small trail head next to someone’s house. A short (3 minute) walk treated us to the following splendid view of lake Bled:

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Lake Bled from above

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After we took in the view, we got dropped off at our car. Following a recommendation from our guide, we went around to the other side of the lake to check out a festival going on to grab some lunch. There we tried a few local dishes, enjoyed the music, and took our time doing some people-watching as well as window-shopping. There was some kind of accordion theme going on and we saw hundreds of people playing their instruments, parading, and having fun. It was a neat experience to see music so different than contemporary popular music being so celebrated and admired.

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I was good, I promise

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We spent a few hours at the festival, after which we got in the car to continue our return journey. We were bound for Germany, but only barely. We’d picked a place to stay just a few kilometers past the Austrian border. First we had to cross the last few kilometers in Slovenia and all of Austria, however. Our toll vignette expired the prior day, but given that we had only a few minutes ride in the car in Slovenia I decided to chance it. My gamble paid off, but not without a bit of stress – we actually did get stopped at the Austrian border but when we told him we were coming from Bled we were let off with a warning. Score!

Next time, we’ll be wrapping up my vacation with Chelsea.

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