Hostel life in Bled

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Work at the Vila Viktorija hostel has been easy going and in the most liberating way mindless, leaving me with a good apatite for the lunches which arrive in morning as if by magic in a traditional menažka; an urn like stack of painted pots containing a variation of meat, side and salad each day. Given the time to myself to sweep or clean I’ve dived back into the ever growing world of podcasts for brain food and laughs, favorites include;

Back to Bohinjsko

I had only just glimpsed the tranquil Lake Bohinj the week before so was keen to revisit it in full, so Pia, Anne and I drove up the valley to explore. Trying our luck we hired some stand up paddle boards and wobbled out across the calm waters, the quite lake to ourselves. Lake Bohinj with it’s crystal waters surrounded by sharp white peeks and few building makes for a far more remote experience than Lake Bled, once out in the middle the silence and sense of scale is eerily humbling. Although we soon descend into the usual capers, sabotaging each others efforts to remain standing on the boards. At this scale the landscape reminds you of your insignificance which is great for letting your childlike self flourish. This might have been the reason for the passionate full volume group rendition of Frozen’s “Let it Go” while driving home. Anne keeps promising to post the video evidence…

Vintgar

Another afternoon adventure, Anja and her brother Luka take Anne and I to collect and test some beers at Carniola Brewery; a garage hobby turned busy venture for brewer Rok who gave me a few elegant bottle labels to bless the bike. We jump back in the heavily laden car, bar pumps and kegs testing the suspension and head on to the Vingar Gorge. The Radovna river rumbles down a narrow Tolkienesque gorge with Ewok inspires wooden bridges crossing back and forth. First established in the 1890’s by an Austrian who felt a need to share the hidden wonder, it’s an essential visit and shady escape from the sun. We test a few more beers by the mighty Å um waterfalls while Lucca points out some useful edible plants.

While we walk, Luka with a clear passion for history, tells of Slovenia past, like much of Europe its an ever changing and redrawn one. The Ottoman empire pushed trough the Balkans but getting stuck in the deep Bohinj valley decided not to pursue Europe any further. The first world war had been tough one on the small country, part of the Austro-Hungarian empire they battled Italy along mountainous trenches carved into the rock, artillery so relentless they wore down the peaks with huge human losses. At the end of the wars their largest city Trieste and most of their Mediterranean coast were handed to Italy.
Back at the family home he shows me a wall of his historic findings and tradings; rusty bayonets, swords and various gun components spanning many eras and armies spread across a wall. He’s spend many years in the remote hills hunting for the remnants of the wars, unearthing the stories with the items. Although at a cost; some artifacts are still just as dangerous sixty year on as the day of their sinister creation. He wryly jokes of the respect and caution he has learnt for his subject, gesturing half a hand of fingers with a wink of a lost eye and pirate smile, a reminder from a small German explosive meant for children of our worst.

Exploring the hills behind the hostel I walk out along the river to Bohoinsko Bela. With a similar philosophy to navigation on the bike I follow some of the unmarked trails along the river, peaceful and progressively more unkempt ever challenging my choice of flip-flops. The path abruptly ends in Slovenian warning signs and tape so I slowly make my way trough scanning the open field beyond, it looks like a deserted field and golf driving range so I cross with caution, ears pricked. Arriving at the other end it become apparent range (luckily closed) was not for golf swings but target practice. I kick myself for my naivety, adding one more item to my long list of dumb lessons learnt.

Turns out – over few beers and Cards Against Humanity, Pia is a long time squash player; competing nationally, which pricked the competitive ears of some Cornish hostel guests. Next day she booked a court, keen to give it a try we wandered up to try our luck. She’s been training for two hours before but this doesn’t phase her game, some of us were happy giving it a go, enjoying the cathartic act of smashing a ball at a wall while she dispatched any challengers.

After the days tasks I have been trying to learn the craft of open water swimming in the lake, working out technique and how to breath properly based on a few You Tube lessons, generally I end up flapping about like a drunk but it provides an amazing ducks eye perspective of the alpine surroundings. At this point I’ve managed to build up to crossing the lake back and forth opposite the hostel, about 1400m while so far surviving the stealthy rowers gliding past dipping their blades and the grumpy patrol of swans.

Apart from a service along with the hostel hire bikes my bike has rested in the shed so no maps.

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