After our perilous journey over the Julian Alps left us blocked in Slovenia, we found an alternate path around through Italy and Austria to get to Lake Bled. We first spent a little time in the Austrian city of Villach. Villach is not a city you visit on purpose, but after the day we had we needed to stretch our legs just as much as we needed a travel win.
We parked in the city center and used some Euro coins to buy us an hour on the parking machine. We explored by foot, starting with the old town.
Right next to this interesting playground we spotted what appeared to be an old Medieval wall that was re-purposed as a World War II Memorial. I later read that Villach was a Nazi stronghold that was bombed 52 times by the Allies and mostly destroyed. It was also one of the locations that participated in Kristallnacht. We later came upon a memorial for those persecuted during WWII across the from the town’s museum.
We walked down to the river Drau – not much of a view on a dreary day.
Nonetheless the old areas of the city still had some charm
And Brendan came across some Banksy art! We were unable to determine if it was actually done by Banksy, or whether it was a replica. It would be random for Banksy to come to Villach, but hey, you never know!
That was that for Villach. After a quick slice of pizza at a grab and go cafe, we were back in the car and on our way to Lake Bled.
We began to climb in elevation again and crossed our fingers that the pass from Austria to Slovenia was passable, and not wanting another Julian Alps snow experience. Luckily, we were in the clear, despite some crazy fog on the way down to Kranjska Gora in Slovenia.
About an hour later we made it to Lake Bled, and the search for parking had begun. We drove 75% of the way around the lake, found several signs for parking only to realize they were really just for hotel guests, and eventually did find a paid lot towards the west side for 3 Euros/hour. We went on foot the rest of the way, thinking we would walk for as long as we weren’t miserable (the weather was still very cold and rainy).
We walked for about an hour and took a series of pictures. The lighting was terrible and the day was so grey that the photographs do not do Lake Bled justice. We could only imagine what the aquamarine water contrasting with the Baroque architecture of the church on Lake Bled island would have looked like on a glorious summer day. Alas, not today.
We took solace at least in knowing that the boats to the island were not running due to the bad weather, so there was not much to do other than walk around Lake Bled by foot. Portions of the path were actually closed due to dangerous conditions and rough waters lapping over boundaries.
The last thing we checked out at Lake Bled was the Bled castle, but passed on the tour because it was getting late and we wanted to get to Ljubljana in daylight.
From Lake Bled, getting to Ljubljana took about an hour. We found the parking for our AirBnB easily enough (although there were not spots that were workable, so I went to check in and ask about parking while Brendan waited with the car). We wedged ourselves in towards the back of the lot, knowing that it would be a tight reverse maneuver to exit.
The AirBnB was a place called Gami Lofts, which was an industrial warehouse converted in to office spaces, several of which were AirBnBs. I checked in at the front desk of the Gami complex with a very nice young lady who explained that we should move our car towards the front of the building if a spot opened up, and also gave me the parking permit. We never actually met our host, as the front-desk handled most interactions.
I went back to find Brendan, directed him through the gauntlet in reverse, and we luckily did find some better parking towards the right side of the building. After parking, we dragged our suitcases through the main building, wound around the pockmarked asphalted parking lot in the back, and in to the Gami area. Finding this place was not easy, and could have used better instructions in the AirBnB listing.
The location, however, was great – just on the outskirts of the old city – and it was a cute loft style like the one we had in Lisbon. We were staying in the “Preseren” room. We were also excited at the prospect of connecting my laptop to the TV via an HDMI cable we found later to watch the penultimate Game of Thrones episode (which we did).
We decided on a simple meal that night after a very, very hard and cold day, and landed on burgers at Lars & Sven. It was a short 15 minute walk and we found it easily using our Tep and Google Maps. The burgers were fantastic, quick-serve style, and exactly what the doctor ordered.
No fuss, and in and out in a short amount of time so we could get in some Game of Thrones and good R&R. The staff was also very pleasant, and we discovered the multitude of recycling bins (paper, plastic, food waste, trash) to sort our waste after eating. We also noticed plentiful recycling bins throughout the country, making it easy for anyone to drop off their waste at convenient locations (we were thinking back to our Virginia trash dump horrific experience and also our overflowing recycling bins in Denver). If cities want citizens to recycle, they have to make it easy and convenient to do so. The US does an abysmal job at this.
On the walk back, we discovered the underground tunnels to bypass major street intersections, and also noticed museum exhibits in the tunnels around Roman ruins, as well as an archaeological dig underway. What a charming city!
Back at our Preseren Loft, we quickly settled in for Game of Thrones (disappointing!), and bed soon thereafter. The burgers and Game of Thrones indulgence certainly went a long way to make up for the arduous journey we had around the Julian Alps.
We were thankful to be back in Ljubljana again.