LAKE BLED & THE JULIAN ALPS

Mountains and lakes are the big draws in Gorenjska, and if you’re into adventure sports, this is the province to head for. The Triglav National Park, with hiking and biking trails galore as well as Slovenia’s share of the Julian Alps, is the epicentre for all things outdoors. A mountain trek is an excellent way to meet other Slovenes in a relaxed environment, so take advantage of this opportunity if you get the chance. The beautiful alpine lakes at Bled and Bohinj offer boating and swimming amid shimmering mountain backdrops. But Gorenjska is not just about nature pursuits; it also contains some of the country’s most attractive and important historical towns. Škofja Loka and Radovljica – to name just a couple – are treasure troves of Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture. Perched atop a steep cliff more than 100m above the lake, Bled Castle is how most people imagine a medieval fortress to be, with towers, ramparts, moats and a terrace offering magnificent views. The castle houses a museum collection that traces the lake’s history from earliest times to the development of Bled as a resort in the 19th century. The castle, built on two levels, dates back to the early 11th century, although most of what stands here now is from the 16th century. For 800 years, it was the seat of the Bishops of Brixen. Among the museum holdings, there’s a large collection of armour and weapons (swords, halberds and firearms from the 16th to 18th centuries), jewellery found at the early Slav burial pits at Pristava, and a few interesting carvings, including a16th-century one of the overworked St Florian dousing yet another conflagration. The smallish 16th-century Gothic chapel contains paintings of castle donor Henry II and his wife Kunigunda on either side of the main altar. You can reach the castle on foot via one of three trails sign-posted ‘Grad’. The first trail starts from the car park behind the Bledec Hostel; the second is a tortuous path up from the Castle Baths; and the third starts just north of the neo-Gothic Parish Church of St Martin (Farna Cerkev Sv Martina; Riklijeva cesta) designed by Friedrich von Schmidt in 1905.