Saturday, July 30, 2016

Adriatic Exploration: Lake Bled

After four days of seafood, truffles, and swimming in the Adriatic, we took a detour to Slovenia. It would have made more sense to go directly from Venice, but I had not planned to visit until after reading about the beekeeping culture, since Dan has two beehives. We are glad we did!

Sunday, June 26
Despite the weekend, the border crossing was quick, and we noticed a change in the landscape right away. Verdant valleys, little villages, church steeples, and soon the Alps came into view. We stopped for a snack, then arrived in Lake Bled. We dropped my parents off at their lakeside hotel, then checked into our b&b. We walked down the steps to see the view of Bled Castle from their room.

Bled Castle

We decided to walk around the lake and saw people eating ice cream, who pointed us to a stand. After ice cream, we walked through a sort of food festival, where we sampled posmodulja, a pizza-like cheesy garlic bread baked to order in an oven. Mmm. Lots of ducks, geese, and hydrangeas around the lake. My mother wanted to feed the birds. We stopped at a lakeside cafe and tried our first kremna rezina, aka Lake Bled cake. Yum.

Lake Bled hydrageas

Lake Bled cake!

Lake Bled

Walk around Lake Bled

After our walk around the lake, we had dinner on the patio at Penzion Berc, with piano accompaniment. It started to sprinkle, which turned into rain near the end of the meal, but luckily we were protected by the awning. The trout starter was delicious. My mother was not impressed with the venison, but I thought it was tasty. It was dark when we finished dinner, and later I saw lightning. Thunderstorms woke me up a few times during the night, but Dan slept through it.

Monday, June 27
We had breakfast in the dining room, where Dan was impressed by the large selection of nuts and seed toppings for cereal. Many condiments were available, including turkey and liver spreads that Dan tried. We met a couple from Iowa on their honeymoon. The wife is a medical anthropology professor, and she met her husband when he installed her cable. We were planning to go to the apiculture museum, since it was rainy and gray, but they told us it was closed on Monday. After breafkast, we walked to my parents' hotel. Their breakfast at the lakeside hotel offered even more items, including smoked salmon, make-your-own-waffles, and sparkling wine. Unfortunately they had slept very little, so couldn't enjoy the meal. It was windy with rain on and off, so we decided against boating. We walked along the lake and went inside Vila Bled, Tito's former residence, to see the socialist murals. From their dock we took a boat ride to the island and went inside the church and clock tower. Ladies in a tour group were taking turns photographing each other ringing the bell inside the church. I noticed a couple asking about the scaffolding (some frescoes were being restored), I think they were getting married at the church. We tried the special yeasted cake on the island that is reminiscent of babka. After the boat ride back, my mother returned to the hotel to rest, and we continued walking along the lake until it started raining. So we ducked into a campground resto where my father and I had soup and salad, and Dan got ćevapčići, the regional sausage. Then we walked back to our b&b to pick up the car, and drove past some farms and hay fields to our appointment to meet a local beekeeper. Beekeeping in apiaries began in Slovenia, and the Carniolan honey bee originated from the area. He showed us his apiaries, and a hive he extracted from a tree. We sampled some honeys, tried "apitherapy," where one lies next to the hives for therapeutic effects, and bought some honey.

Dan with apiary

Apiary in Lake Bled 

Apiary in Lake Bled

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After touring the apiary, we returned to the hotel to find my mother. She had taken a nap and gone for a swim, and was feeling better. The weather was clearing up, and we drove to Bled Castle, which overlooks the lake with beautiful views. I had made a reservation at the castle restaurant, thus free admission to the museum! After touring the museum, we had dinner at the resto, next to floor-to-ceiling windows. Amazing view. The tasting menu portions were huge, and included pasta with truffles, and foie gras on filet mignon, yum. Our server was a sweet young fellow, and my mother took a photo with him, and asked him to write his name. [Not weird at all.]

Taking a panoramic shot

Posing at Bled Castle

View from Bled Castle

Bled Castle restaurant

Filet mignon with foie gras

Tuesday, June 28
A clear, sunny day, hooray! My parents had slept better too. After breakfast Dan rowed us in the pletna boat (the hotel includes an hour of boating), and was able to row all the way to the island! We saw some big fish in the lake. There was a wedding on the island, I think the same couple from the previous day.

Boating on Lake Bled

After he rowed us back to the hotel, we drove to Vintgar Gorge for a hike. It was very picturesque. From a bridge over the river, we saw a beagle (maybe) in the distance, but it was on a trail below us.

Rock layers at Vintgar Gorge

Vintgar Gorge

It took awhile to find our way back to Bled, but eventually we made it. We dropped my parents at their hotel, and Dan and I biked around the lake to a swimming spot, first stopping for kremna rezina at Vila Bled. Delicious, and what a view! After a swim in the supposedly restorative waters of the lake, we biked the rest of the way around the lake, then tried the kremna rezina at the Park Hotel, where the cake originated. Yum again. The cake was shorter though. Dan also got some cash at the bee bank.

Fancy bike rack, Villa Bled

 Lake Bled cake at Villa Bled
Lake Bled cake

Bee bank in Slovenia

We biked back to our b&b to shower. It was too late for dinner for my father, so my parents didn't join us. Dan and I had dinner on the terrace at Pension Mayer, near our b&b. What a lovely setting. Dan had the daily menu, which was kohlrabi soup, mixed meat grill (also featured the regional sausages), and crepes stuffed with raisins and cheese for dessert. I had the big salad and buckwheat doughnut that turned out to be giant dumplings stuffed with cheese and covered in mushrooms. We had cvičeka, described by our server as a strange local wine and tasted kind of like fruit punch, in a good way. After dinner he served a house-made liquor that was quite tasty. We were going to walk around the lake after dinner, but there were too many mosquitos. Dan facetimed with his parents and relatives, and I read my book.

Big salad

Buckwheat doughnut = ravioli with mushrooms

Mixed grill

Wednesday, June 29
Departure day. After checking out, we stopped in Radovljica, a small town just a few km away, to visit the apicultural museum. Just a few rooms, but lots of interesting history about beekeeping, and a large collection of old painted panels that were used in the front of beehives. My father did calisthenics in the foyer of the building (up and down the stairs, and laps), while my mother admired the alpine views from town. Then we walked around town. The church was closed, but we saw a WWII-era bunker that has been turned into a chapel dedicated to Edith Stein, a Polish Jew who became a Carmelite nun, was killed at Auschwitz, and became a saint. We also went inside the basement of a resto where traditional gingerbread is made and decorated. [That I later learned is not meant for eating. Apparently they are souvenirs/keepsakes. So weird.] We also had a slice of gibanica, a strudel-esque cake of Slovenia, but my mother didn't want to try it. We walked by a building with a pretty bee motif mosaic, that used to be a bank. Then it was off to Plitvice Lakes, Croatia...zbogom, Slovenia! We hope to return.

Painted beehive panels, Radovljica

Beekeeping equipment, Radovljica

Dan with beehive guards, Radovljica 

Radovljica, Slovenia

View from Radovljica

Edith Stein chapel in Radovljica

Gingerbread apiary, Radovljica 

Beehive mosaic in Radovljica

Bee mosaic, Radovljica

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