Discovering Lake Bohinj In The Julian Alps of Slovenia

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By Nick Day

Spending two days in Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia) last summer was simply not enough, especially as one whole day was a 12-hour minivan tour to Lake Bled and all around the Julian Alps. We saw quite a bit of the city, including the wonderful old castle, atop the hill (reached by funicular or walking), tastefully and cleverly renovated to include many different museums inside but the going was slow, due to the high temperatures.

These finally drove us to seek greener and cooler pastures. Ljubljana reached 37° C (nearly 99° F), the highest temperature over the past 100 years, and was headed for 40° C (104° F) the next day. And, no air conditioning anywhere as these are freak conditions for them, last year at the same time being wet and cold. Those hotels that did have some rooms with A/C were already taken. Very few restaurants and cafés have A/C, some just equipped with mist sprays hanging from the large pavement umbrellas.

It was on Sunday morning that we checked out of our hotel and headed to catch the 10 am bus to Lake Bohinj via Lake Bled (perhaps the best known lake in Slovenia, but half the size of Bohinj). Well, it seemed like half the population of Ljubljana (almost 300,000) had the same idea, and it was lucky that we got there earlier enough to just secure seats for the 2-hour trip. The bus filled up to overflowing, with about 30 people standing. Fortunately, most got off at Lake Bled to go plunge in the lake and cool off, while we continued on to the delightful valley/lake resort of Bohinj, higher and cooler, but still hot and humid by SF Bay Area standards.

We had not booked a room, so we were hoping for the best, especially as it was a weekend (although many folks check out on a Sunday morning), and apparently August is when the real season starts. Right opposite the bus stop was a 4-star hotel, and by then I was willing to pay just about anything for a cool, good night’s sleep. The receptionist said she had 3 rooms left, and in a Booking.com style warning, said we had 30-mins to decide. How much, we asked? €139/night, no A/C, and no wi-fi in the rooms! It took us about 3 secs to decide to seek elsewhere. Two mins walk away, we found a lovely Austrian chalet-style 3-star B&B at €31/night each, for a total of €62 (great deal if you’re a single person). Also no A/C, but wi-fi in room, and a great breakfast included. A “no-brainer” decision, one might say!

There are no sterile Marriotts, Hiltons, and Westins (thank goodness) in places like this. It’s always been interesting for me to note that, often, the more expensive the hotel, the less likely they are to have free wi-fi in the rooms, only in the lobby (very inconvenient, especially when Skyping), or if you’re willing to pay a premium. For most travellers today, wi-fi is as important as having hot & cold running water and a bed, because that’s how you fix up your next hotel, plane or train ticket.

Often, one has to pay for breakfast on top, and many other services. And, don’t get me started on the stupid mini-bars in rooms, and the even more brain-dead people who even contemplate using them! In addition, the likelihood of meeting and chatting with other travellers in 4- &-5-star hotels over breakfast is slim to none.

We’ve met some great people on our trips, from several different countries, and with whom we’ve exchanged notes, and email addresses. If we hadn’t been flexible on our itinerary, and chatted with like souls, we’d never have visited Trieste (the place I now call home!), or Bohinj (better than Bled), or been urged to go to Ljubljana (which we were in two minds about visiting).

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Nick Day
Born and raised in rural England, Nick worked in the UK, Nigeria, & Iran, before moving to California. He is a fellow of RICS & RGS, state licensed surveyor, and has an MBA from UC Berkeley. He was chief route engineer and expert witness for PG&E, the USA’s largest utility. He set up project management (PM), zero-based budgeting, then ran PM at CalDOT. Nick chaired 2 ASCE committees that took him, plus work, to 24 states, and gave conference presentations. A photojournalist for 35 years, writing for several journals, he produced the pipeline route manual for ASCE. He’s visited 53 countries for work and pleasure. In 2016, he moved to Trieste from San Francisco, but stays in Lisbon for 1-2 months every year. For fun he drinks coffee, plays harmonica & clarinet, tennis & soccer. He gives pro bono financial planning advice and career counselling.

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