20 and 21 November 2018
After 8 months on the go it was time to take some time away from Pintail and have some adventures inland. In a brave move during European winter our Australian friends Ranny and Andy had decided it was time for their first family long haul trip with their six month old daughter, Bella. Andy’s work took them first to their former home city of London followed by a flight to Germany for a train ride from Munich to Zagreb via Salzburg and Lake Bled.
Having them so relatively close was temptation too much so we decided to fly north to join them for part of their trip in Slovenia and Croatia. By the time we met Bella for the first time she already had an impressive amount of air miles and train hours under her tiny belt.
It turned out to be a bit of a brave move for us too. Leaving Licata in 25° we hadn’t really thought about the weather. We thought it might be a bit colder but certainly weren’t prepared for the freezing temperatures that greeted us as we drove across the Slovenian border from Italy. Ranny and Andy had arrived in Bled the night before and sent a message to say that it was snowing hard there. We drove deeper into a landscape so different from the one we have become used to. Suddenly gone were the maquis scrub and olive trees, the dusty yellow hues and the flat roofed architecture of the Mediterranean. It was as though we had climbed through the wardrobe into Narnia! The snow got heavier the further we went, clinging to the fir trees that lined the road. It was settling fast and the snow ploughs were out.
By the time we arrived in Bled the snow was inches thick and the pavements a challenge for a pushchair but it gave Bled a wonderfully wintery atmosphere even if the temperature was -1°!
Despite the conditions, and with Bella snug in her buggy, we took a slippery walk along Lake Bled where we could just about make out the main sights in the low cloud shrouding the area.
We stopped to warm up in a lake side restaurant. It was great to catch up and get to know Bella over a beer or two. Life has certainly changed for Ranny and Andy but Bella has definitely not stopped their wanderlust.
Once our toes had thawed out, we left them to take a boat trip out to Bled Island. We’d had enough of boats and needed to check into our hotel.
Staying in is the new going out for the new parents and so we fell into a pattern of meeting up at Ranny and Andy’s apartment each evening we were together. The snow made an excellent fridge for our drinks!
The following morning on our drive from the hotel we got a glimpse at the mountainous landscape that surrounded us. In a short-lived gap in the thick, low cloud we could see the majestic Julian Alps which rise to nearly 3,000 metres.
We had planned an ambitious schedule for the day – a circumnavigation for the lake with a climb up to the castle part way round. The snow had started to melt a little and the temperature raised to a barmy 3°! The paths were easy enough along the lake.
But all that changed when we started climbing the forest paths up to the castle. The still snowy, rocky and rather steep path almost beat the buggy. Despite the gradient Andy and Stefan managed to get Bella up to the top more than 100 metres above the lake and despite all the bumps along the way Bella managed to sleep right through the hike!
We entered the 16th century castle walls to find that someone had built a snow beast, now unrecognisable in the thaw.
We were treated to a lesson in Slovenia’s geography and wine making by a monk
and a display from some fire eating and breathing locals!
The castle housed a museum, chapel and ancient printing press
but the best bit was the views down across the lake even in the thick mist.
Having abandoned the idea of continuing our walk around the lake, Andy also abandoned the buggy to walk back down to the town via a long, windy flight of steps.
At the bottom we found ourselves at the Church of St Martin
but we found a warmer welcome and a tasty pizza in the Devil Pub on the edge of the lake. Trips to the pub are a bit different from the last time we saw Ranny and Andy in London although, in deepest Slovenia, we did find some very familiar drinks from home.
The next morning we set off to continue Bella’s European tour with a visit to two capital cities in two days…