After another zoo time breakfast experience we left the hotel and made our way to the bus station because today we were visiting Lake Bled in the Julian Alps. These are part of the Alps that stretch from north-eastern Italy to Slovenia. They are named after Julius Caesar and at their highest point they rise to nearly three thousand metres at Triglav. The sky was overcast but it was clearing quickly and the sun, when it arrived, was warm and cheering.
By mistake we tried to purchase bus tickets at the railway station and were directed instead to ‘the old building across the street’; this amused us because the railway station was hardly the epitome of modern architectural design! We bought our tickets, a bargain at only €6.30, and waited for the bus to arrive at the station.
It turned up and left on time and we set off out of the city in a northerly direction towards the smaller towns with interesting names, Kraj, Preddvor, Jesersko and Radovljica, which were on our route. But first we had to drive through the suburbs of Ljubljana, which was predictably a lot less attractive than the city centre. Here there were rows of concrete high rise blocks of apartments not dissimilar to those that we had seen in Pula and which had the mark of the communist past indelibly stamped upon them. They looked as though they had been built hastily, I guessed in the 1970’s, when the population of the city was beginning to grow as it became more prosperous.
On the edge of town I was surprised to see a rugby club, because I had no idea that they played the game here. I don’t suppose I should necessarily have been surprised because they do play to a very high standard next door in Italy. Actually (and this is surprising, I think), out of the one hundred and ninety three countries in the world Rugby Football is played in one hundred and twenty three. The International Rugby Board, which is the games governing body, has ninety-five full members and twenty associate members. In the world rankings Slovenia is 63rd and its Balkan neighbours Croatia are 48th, Serbia 73rd and Bosnia Herzegovina props up the table at 95th.
I have also discovered (and this is even more surprising, I think) that Slovenia has a national cricket team and has been an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council since 2005. There are slightly less cricketing than rugby football nations but the ICC lists one hundred and one countries as members, including Croatia but not Serbia or Bosnia Herzegovina. This list however includes Gibraltar, Jersey, Guernsey, The Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands as well as Scotland, none of which are independent sovereign nations, so taking these and others into account the list reduces to only ninety-one.
As we passed out of the city and into the countryside the views began to improve and we passed through green meadows flanked by snow capped mountains, vivid green fields surrounding semi Alpine villages with traditional farmhouses and churches. The towns too were interesting even though they were mainly unattractive, scarred by ill-conceived industrial areas and rows of bleak apartments that had been constructed with no time for or attention to the principles of style and design.
Finally, after about an hour and twenty minutes on the efficient little cream and blue bus we pulled into Bled and disembarked and slipped into the tourist town and the sunshine.
We planned to walk around the lake but before we started we found a terrace bar for refreshments and debated the alternatives of clockwise or anti-clockwise (a bit like choosing a route around the M25) and we both agreed that anti-clockwise for some unknown reason looked preferable.