Sometimes the real deal exceeds your expectations – and sometimes you feel like you’ve landed on the most popular of the popular beaches of the Canary Islands. Nothing wrong about the most popular beach of the Canary Islands, if that’s your thing, but then you know before you go that you won’t be alone. We had foreseen that there would be other people marvelling at the Bled island in late July – we just hadn’t really realised exactly how many – in stark contrast to the pristine quietness around lake Bohinj. Two lakes – two worlds, both in the immensely beautiful Triglavski National Park in Slovenia. 

A continually transforming play of puzzle

Unknowingly, we had managed to make the master stroke of choosing a campsite at the outskirts of the worst hustle and bustle surrounding lake Bled. 

We reasoned that it was a good idea to stay somewhere where we would be able to visit both lakes, go on bike trips directly from the site, and see lots of the natural sights in the area – and we always try to stay clear of the biggest camps. We ended at Camping Radovljica. Google them if you want know more - I'm not even sure they have their own web-page, but we managed to book by e-mail.

Half of the family was in ecstasy over the giant public pool at the site, while the other half tried to figure out where to place the tent to minimise the noise of a billion overly happy kids. It went halfway ok for the latter half and perfectly for the first half. The kids still keep in touch with friends they made poolside.

The fact that Slovenian camps (as many other camp sites in Eastern Europe) don’t organise the site in separate pitches, was a more undivided challenge for all of us. It’s a holy mess. Tents and trailers intertwined as a giant flexible puzzle in constant transformation. Add the Dutch and you are on holiday in a blender.

My introversion flairing up

If you lack experience with camping alongside Dutch people, I’ll illuminate you instantly. The Dutch are nice. They are social. They are loud. They travel in huge groups. They will play ball over your head as you eat breakfast – and then they will all happily join in to help you move your tent when you can’t stand it anymore and decide to go live next to a quiet British family instead. So nice and horrible at the same time. I'm definitely introverted. Don’t complain about the stereotyping by the way – I know they’re not all the same within any border. I just want my personal space and peace please! Sometimes this can be somewhat contradictory when you go camping...

Thankfully we found our little piece of solitude at last and could continue our days at the site focusing on checking off our Triglavski bucket-list. There will definitely be a couple of hiking-post from Slovenia coming up at a later point. 

Beach hopping around lake Bohinj

We started out with a plan – we were to bike halfway around lake Bohinj, stop for a swim, continue with a hike to Savica Waterfall, said to be one of Slovenias greatest waterfalls, eat somewhere on the way and then bike the rest of the way around the lake. 

Although lake Bohinj is the largest lake in Slovenia, the path that takes you around it is only about 11 kilometres. Easy Peacy Lemon Squeeszy (as the original saying goes)! 

It did not go down like that.

We managed to park the car and get down to the lake without too much difficulties. Except – the machine at the parking lot won’t give you change – giving me the chance to witness a perfectly entertaining tantrum from a fellow tourist – I have no idea of how much money he had just donated, but it seemed to have broken the holiday budget – by far. Then we had to keep our eyes on the price, as we passed some sales stalls on the way down to the lake – I suspect our youngest is a supressed shopaholic. So far so good though.

Down at the lake is where the entire plan started disintegrating completely. We biked for a little while, but the water was so green. And clear – we could see the fishes gliding. And it was hot. And even though we weren’t alone, it was fairly easy to find secluded spots along the path where we could stop and jump in. We stopped and jumped in. Biked for a while – hiked when the path got too rough – and stopped to jump in again. It started to seem more like beach hopping than a bike trip. 

And it was wonderful! The kids unsuccessfully trying to catch the fishes, the mountains surrounding us – the water so unexpectedly warm considered the location. We had brought enough food and snacks for this to continue all day – Savica Waterfall – I’m sorry, the thought of you just didn’t manage to allure us away from the lake Bohinj this time.

Winter swimming anyone?

Finally, on the other side of the lake, we found a good restaurant, and then tried to swim in the tributary river too. After finding out that the river gave us an opportunity to try winter swimming, we didn’t take it. Pain is not my game, but feel free – and people will surely be impressed. The difference in temperature between the river and the lake is surreal! My husband still claims he got all wet, but I can see no photographic evidence that supports this and have no recollection of such an incidence.

Next time…

It’s possible to rent canoes, kayaks and SUPs (Stand Up Paddle) at the lake – if I had known we would end up swimming so much, I would have gotten a SUP and made us swim across the lake. It’s only about 1 km wide. We could have placed the little one at the SUP when she got tired – at least now I know what to do when we go back. Lake Bohinj – we’re not done with you! We’ll also have to eventually see that waterfall and ride the cable car to mount Vogel for a hike.

The path on the north shore of lake Bohinj is perfect for hiking and mountain biking. On the south side there’s asphalt – if you bring your bike and start with the tricky part, you’ll be back at your car in a glimpse when you have reached the western end. The car ride from Radovljica to lake Bohinj took about 45 minutes – next time I’m considering staying somewhere around the lake and concentrate on this area alone.

Some parts of the path were a bit tricky, but probably utter heaven for mountain bike enthusiasts

When in Bled – rent a SUP

From Camping Radovljica to the more famous lake Bled, our plan was to bike all the way. We had checked out the route and found a way, mainly on small asphalt or gravel roads with little traffic and much greenery – partly following a branch of the beautiful Sava river. I can imagine recommending it. 

Biking a small part of the way to Bled...

Then my eldest daughter went down with a stomach flue for a couple of days, and we had to cut down on some activities. The rest of us left her, biked part of the way and took a very short swim in the cold river. As we didn’t want to leave her too long, we ended up stopping by lake Bled when she was well again – by car on our way to Austria.

Dipping in the Sava river

I had pictured this serene trip on our bikes – in the beautiful countryside of Slovenia. Instead we had to settle for a car ride that drove me close to madness. I go a little insane in traffic jams – and lake Bled in July = TRAFFIC JAM. 

Then, when you finally get there, parking is impossible – which I shouldn’t complain about as it probably encourages people to find other means of transportation. As we hadn’t managed to rent any SUP yet and that was an absolute must for our daughters, we still struggled through the obstacle of placing our car somewhere – and ended up with a parking ticket.

Before coming back to the car and realising the fine, we managed to rent the needed SUPs though, and got our asses out on the water. The SUP rentals where easy to find along the shore, and it turned out to be the best way of experiencing lake Bled. 

While the shore is packed with people (I would not have known where to spread out my towel), the lake is relatively calm in comparison. We swam a lot, had SUP competitions trying to race each other to the Bled island, where a temple of the ancient Slavic goddess of love Živa used to stand in the location where there's now a Gothic church. 

I totally lost the race (two times that is, to be absolutely honest) to my much more accomplished SUPer husband, but I did manage to tip him off the board. SUP is so much fun!

From Živa to Mary to bikinis all around

The meaning of Živa in Slavic languages is life or living. She has some likeness to the goddess of Idun in Norse mythology. 

Živa has an ancient history as the goddess of fertility, love and immortality in the polytheistic religion of the area before Christianity came and forced the virgin Mary on them instead. The location of the temple on the island is probably not a coincidence, as the goddess was strongly associated with water. She was often depicted naked, in contrast with the shrouded Mary. 

All in all, I’ll still declare Živa the winner, as modern days has brought bikinis and SUPs all around the church. Still – I’m not going to romanticise the ancient mythology of Slovenia – I’m no expert on it, but according to my research they seemed to believe in a version of Hell where you could be condemned to feed on your own body. Nasty! 

Questions? Wanting to share? Duke of Edinburgh or plain Jane? Feel free to contact me.


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