It was a momentous trip day when after months of planning we entered the, amusingly named, Karawanken Tunnel. For nearly 8kms this took us through the peak of the Karawanken Mountain and into Slovenia.
Once we had paid the toll (a surprisingly small €6.50) we crossed the border and headed onto the sunny motorway with the towering and, this time, snow-capped Julian Alps in our sights.
Arriving back at Lake Bled we saw the campsite on the beautiful water out of season and were able to camp up at our pitch of choice – which turned out to be the pitch next to the one we had previously set-up in two years ago. We only worked this out after feeling a sense of deja vu, which provoked us to look through some old photos.
Once set-up and with water taken on-board we had a stroll around the grounds and were delighted to find Aussie Peter and Kiwi Deb at the camp (who we previously met at the Allianz Arena aire in Munich 10 days ago).
After a happy reunification, we enjoyed an early evening beer with them at the lakeside and heard their tales of getting here from Munich. While we had chosen the Bavarian and Austria Alps route, they had gone the long route via Innsbruck, Verona and Venice.
To us it felt like a very long way around but according to Peter this was only like ‘popping out for some shopping back in Aus’. Crikey. I’ll never complain about the 7 minute walk to the Co-Op ever again.
The next day, back on the bikes we retraced our earlier efforts up into the mountains of the Triglav National Park to once again enjoy a Sunday lunch Slovenian style at the family bistro in the now derelict ski resort of Ztranik.
It was steep going for five miles but once up amongst the snow and with far-reaching views of Lake Bled way down below us we rewarded ourselves with lunching on half a grilled chicken, a pork and bacon grill, fries and salad.
We then free-wheeled at alarming speed for half an hour down the road we had taken two and a half hours to pedal, push and puff our way up previously.
Back at camp, Peter invited us for dinner – “just for chicken, mushrooms and s**t”. Despite Jo’s protests at not wanting to see another chicken for at least a week, we tucked into a delicious pepper chicken risotto (and various accompanying wines).
It was a joy spending another evening in the luxury of their grown up van (it’s got carpets, Sky TV and a coffee maker!) and once again enjoying their delightful company!
After waving off Peter and Deb and needing to work off the late night on a very wet day, we meandered around the lake on our bikes.
We spent the morning drinking coffee, people watching, sampling the famous Lake Bled Kremsmita (cream cake) and planning the next day’s outing to Lake Bohinj.
We picked up a cycle route map for our chosen route from the campsite reception. Eyeing us sceptically, the ‘extreme sports’ young men behind the counter suggested a ‘lighter route’ up into the park.
I amazed them by accurately describing our bike ride of two days ago up into the mountains. After describing the out of season closed ski sports bar at the top of the plateau, they were impressed and weren’t able to hide their surprise!
Retracing earlier steps we were prepared for the frantic throwing on of our bikes onto the graffiti-covered train and the picturesque ride rattling through the mountains toward Bohinj Bistrica. The morning drizzle cleared to reveal blue skies.
Again amused that the bikes cost more than us to travel – €3.50 one way compared to a €3.20 day ticket for us – we arrived at the station and were fairly hurled off the train by the conductor.
The bike ride towards the lake was peaceful under brightening skies and we came across a herd of goats carrying out their own style of de-forestation gently consuming the pines felled for winter fuel by a local farmer.
The cycle paths continued to be smooth and peaceful. We saw only three other cyclists on the route – and an alarming meter long snake, which hissed and spun upwards as we rode past. It was clearly a quiet spring day in the park!
Lake Bohinj was peaceful with only a few of us around its gentle shores. St Christopher’s – the most photographed church in Slovenia – was locked but beautiful in the bright sunshine above the shimmering green waters of the lake, and its many noisy, flirting ducks.
Cycling back through the closed ski resort of the valley we admired the local family farms and particularly the newly dug vegetable patches which were being planted with bulbs and cropped for winter onions by the older men and women, all of whom greeted our passing by with smiles and waves.
After four hours on the bikes, we arrived back in Bohinj and needed to eat. Even though this a winter tourist destination, it seems most visitors aren’t from England, France or Germany – languages we have a fair grasp of.
Sadly, Simon’s Welsh or Spanish didn’t help either. We just had to gamble with our menu choices…
Lunching with locals on Bohinj cottage cheese, potatoes and a Kranjska Klobasa (hot Slovenian meaty sausage stew as it tuned out) we just managed to throw ourselves and the bikes with a minute to spare onto the rattling train back to Bled.
We cycled home to the reward of a lakeside beer as the sun set over the Hungarian youth rowing team taking to the waters at the world-class Olympian training facility alongside the lake’s monastery. Schuss!