Slovenia and Lake Bled

The alarm woke us with a start at 6.45am, and we went out onto our balcony into the cool morning air and watched the sun rise over the distant mountains and hills of Slovenia – our 85th country.  😊

The Queen Victoria had dropped anchor off the picturesque town of Piran, a maiden port of call for the ship.  Slovenia gained its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, and is a bilingual municipality, with both Slovene and Italian as official languages.  We were looking forward to exploring and, after breakfast, we eagerly made our way to the Queen’s Room to await the call for our group to board the liberty boat for the short ride ashore.

On arrival at the quayside, those with British passports (and therefore European Union) could go straight through, but those from non-EU countries had to go through immigration.  As we were waiting, we were serenaded by some locals in their national dress.

Once everyone was present and correct, our guide led us onto a large, comfortable coach and we set off along the fantastic Adriatic coastline, climbing up the winding roads so we had superb views of the sea and our ship anchored far below.  Piran certainly looked a most charming little town, with many compact houses built in the hills, and here and there old churches and other medieval buildings.  As Piran had originally been part of the Republic of Venice, a lot of Venetian influence was apparent.

Our coach reached the motorway and the driver put his foot down.  We passed through diverse scenery from countryside to large commercial areas and shopping precincts.  After around 30 minutes we stopped for a comfort break, and alighted from the coach to purchase a bottle of cold water each and to use the restrooms.

Once everyone was back on the coach we continued on our way, eventually arriving along the shores of the famed Lake Bled into the town of the same name.  I had only ever seen pictures of Lake Bled, with its little island in the middle, and had hoped that it would look as beautiful in real-life as it did in the photos.  In this aspect I was certainly not disappointed.

Lake Bled is of mixed glacial and tectonic origin, situated in the Julian Alps. It is 2,120 m long and 1,380 m wide, with a maximum depth of 29.5 m. The lake lies in a picturesque environment, surrounded by mountains and forests.

The bus parked up and we all got off into the bright sunshine.  There were lots of trees and shrubs and grassy banks along the shores of the lake.  At the other side of the expanse of water we could see a turreted edifice, the 11th century Bled Castle, perched high on the hillside.  There was also another fortification and bell tower we could see on the small, but interesting-looking island in the middle.  A row of large, canopied rowing-boats waited shore-side to take us across to the island.

Once we were all aboard, split between two groups, our boatmen positioned themselves at the bow of the vessel and took to the large oars, languidly rowing us across.  It only took about 10 minutes, and was a very pleasant ride, allowing us to gaze out over the lake and enjoy the slight breeze ruffling our hair.

Once we arrived, we were advised we had about 45 minutes until we had to be back at the boat for the return ride across.  We puffed our way up a very steep set of steps to the bell tower, which formed part of the grandly-named Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Maria; it was hard work but well worth it when you got there, for the views.  We walked all around the edge of the walls, taking in the spectacular scenery, and stopped at a little shop near the church for a large ice-cream; in fact, the vendor was doing a roaring trade as everyone seemed to have the same idea!

We walked around and took loads of photographs, then it was time to come back down to get the rowing boat across to where the bus was parked.

It was then only a short ride into the town of Bled, where our guide advised us that we had an hour of free time to do some shopping or try some of the local cuisine for lunch.  We were surprised, and not a little disappointed, that lunch was not included in the price of the excursion; usually for full-day tours a meal and/or snacks forms a large (and often memorable) part of the trip.  Maybe it was yet another sign of the increased penny-pinching we have noticed from Cunard.  ☹

Nevertheless, we found a pleasant little café with some chairs and tables outside, and we ordered a large, cold beer each as well as a slice of the local cake.  This is the most famous delicacy of the area – the Bled Cream Cake (“kremšnita”) made using an original recipe from over 60 years ago. More than 12 million pieces of this dessert have been sold in Lake Bled so far.  The cake consisted of a layer of flaky pastry, followed by a thick layer of custard, topped with a layer of fresh cream and finished with more flaky pastry dusted with icing sugar.  It was scrumptious.

As we were sitting in the sun, numerous small, sparrow-like birds flitted about, hopping from table to table in search of any stray crumbs.  When I threw some morsels of the flaky pastry down, a large number of the birdies swooped down in the flurry of feathers, fighting over the tiny titbits.

After we’d finished our cake and beer, we made use of the café’s toilet facilities then slowly made our way back to the bus for the return journey to Piran.  It had been a lovely excursion.

We arrived back around 3.30pm, but as we didn’t have to be back on board until five-thirty, we decided to have a walk around the immediate area, looking at the boats bobbing gently in the harbour and browsing the shop windows.  We walked around until we came to a spacious square with many pavement cafés and bars, and some stalls selling local wines and produce.  We decided to sit in the sunshine with a freezing cold beer each and just relax and watch the world go by, a most pleasant way of spending the time.

We ordered a large beer each, which was cold and foamy and just the ticket.  As I sat there, Trevor wandered over to the stalls and purchased a bottle of local white wine for us to enjoy on our balcony.  We were sitting there enjoying ourselves when Trevor glanced at his watch; it was 4.30pm and we had to be back on board within the hour!  We’d nearly missed our plane out to Rome, and at this rate we’d miss the ship!  We therefore had to get a move on and return to the port to queue for the liberty boat back to the Queen Victoria.

Back on board, we returned to our cabin and had just over an hour to get showered and changed ready for dinner at six.  Tonight the dress code was ‘Smart Attire’ so I put on a floaty turquoise and orange dress with high-heeled orange shoes.

Dinner was the usual delicious, calorie-laden culinary delight washed down with chilled rosé wine and finished with coffee and petits fours.  There was no sign of Guy and Tessa tonight, so Trevor and I just sat at our table for two by the window, and watched as the Queen Victoria weighed anchor and set off once again as the daylight faded and hundreds of twinkling lights came on and reflected on the surface of the flat-calm sea.

After dinner we repaired, as usual, to the Golden Lion for a drink and a half-hearted attempt at the quiz before tonight’s show, which was a double bill featuring the previously-seen singer Jacinta Whyte and hilarious comedian Mike Doyle, who once again had everyone splitting their sides.  So far the entertainment on board has been excellent, as is the superb ship’s orchestra and its talented musicians.

After the show we returned to the Golden Lion to participate in an interactive trivia game called Gridlocked, where there were several categories of questions, for example History, Sport, Music etc. and you won points vouchers from 1 to 5 points, depending on the difficulty of the question.  Half-way through the quiz you could wager some or all of your accumulated points (“double or quits”) to increase (or decrease!) your chance of winning.  It was good fun but we blew all our points in the end.

Afterwards we went along to the Queen’s Room to see what was going on; we got up and practised our ballroom dancing, doing the rumba and the foxtrot (badly!)  We then returned to stateroom 5130 and went out on our balcony in the cool night air, enjoying a nightcap and listening to the gorgeous sounds of the sea, looking at other ships passing in the night and using the Marine Traffic app to identify them and see where they were going.

Tomorrow we had another fantastic destination to look forward to – the one and only Venice.

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