Anything but slovenly

Given that we were thinking about avoiding this country and plowing straight up north through the Dolomites to Austria, Slovenia was a revelation. Driving past the abandoned border post we immediately entered a green landscape of forested hills, bucolic farms, and villages that never threatened to break out into anything considered urban or squalid. This overload of pastoral pleasantness never let up for the entire length of the country. Now France has got a continents worth of wonders within l’hexagone, and Switzerland and Norway have large hunks of landscape where you can feel trapped inside a fairytale. But for above-averageness in all departments, I award the EuroVisionOfLoveliness award to {…drumroll…} Slovenia!

Lake Bled, Slovenia

We stopped for a friendly beer in a roadside cafe, and by early afternoon we were in the capital, Ljubljana. This is a gem of a town. Small enough to walk across in an hour yet bustling with outdoor cafes choc full of friendly, well-dressed (though karina reckons their chic is a bit dated) Slovenians drinking and chatting the evening away. Art noveau and baroque buildings line the river and inner squares, and a small castle looks out over the city from on high. We drifted around, having a beer here, a bite to eat there, though I almost poisoned myself with with a beer that turned out to taste like cordial. The next day we caught the funicular up to the castle on the hill. It had a gallery of naive jungle art and a hysterical video presentation about traditional weddings in the castle. We walked back through parkland to the centre, stopping in a palatial university library to steal some wifi and cool myself on their marble balustrades from the heat of the midday sun.

We set off north west, and from afar the mini swiss scenery of the Julian Alps and the peak of Mt Triglav rise up in anticipation. We were making for Bled, a town by an alpine lake in the dramatic corner of the country. But being a friday afternoon in summer, there were a few other people who had the same idea, and they combined with roadworks to drag us to a stand still. Our petrol was running low, and all the idling and crawling in traffic had the needle below the empty mark. We were running on fumes when we took the Bled exit from the highway, but our van got us to the petrol station in the end. With renewed vigour. We cruised down the slope to the lake.

If I set about designing a dramatic european landscape, I’d lack the art and ambition to come up with Bled. High forested bluffs and hills surround the languid deep green waters of this alpine lake. On one of the cliffs, a beautiful castle is plonked photogenicly. On a small island in the middle of the waters, a small church and bell tower looks suitably venerable. The modest town of Bled clings to one corner of the lake and has the airs of a french spa town. On the other side of the lake, a well kitted out campground nestles in a valley and it was here we spent a few days. The sun shone and under blue skies I swam in the deep cool waters of the lake while karina sunbaked on the shore. Later, we hired a row boat and explored the island and church, before paddling into the middle where we shed our clothes and dove off the boat. As we floated on our backs, the castle and mountains formed a fish-eye lens hemisphere of beauty.

The fate of the van had been playing on our minds. The further we went east and things became cheaper, the less the possible price we’d get upon selling. There was the chance of it developing further problems, and I already had doubts that an experienced dealer would offer us much for it. We decided Austria would be our best bet, both for it’s VW dealers and being the last affluent country in central europe. We ran an ad on the London Gumtree, and received 3 bites, one of which responded to my follow-ups.

From Bled, the quickest way to Austria was via a motorway tunnel. However, at the border the Slovenians stung us for 35 euro yearly motorway sticker for driving 10kms of tarmac. I’ll miss Slovenia, it’s beautiful green landscapes, it’s friendly people, and it’s 20p supermarket pivo beer.

5 Responses to “Anything but slovenly”

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  4. Sofia says:

    – Thanks Guy. I shoot landscapes for plrseuae and when I have some free time. It’s good to photograph something that’s not wedding related sometimes. It’s such a different photographic discipline to my wedding work.How do you know these spots? Did you live there for a while?December 3, 2009 8:20 pm

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