With a comfy bed, soft sheets and a warm blanket, we slept like babies and woke refreshed. After blissfully long, hot showers, we adjourned to the dining room for breakfast…. sausages, eggs, farm cheeses, breads and jams…..a feast fit for a king. We hated to leave this pleasant farm, but we had a full schedule today…..starting at Postojna Cave.
This amazing cave, larger and more accessible than the Škocjan cave, dazzled our eyes and minds. A tram carried us swiftly through large caverns lined by stalagtites and stalagmites of all sizes and colors. Whizzing through this underground grotto, with the cool subterannean air against my face, felt like a ride on Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain….but with an authenticity that can only be found in nature.
As fun as it was to see these exquisite formations while comfortably cruising through on the narrow gauge train, it was even more spectacular after we disembarked into the deep recesses of the cave and walked through it’s unique chambers, each with different calcite compositions…..multi-hued, translucent draping flows, slender white stalactites seemingly dripping from the ceiling, pillars created by the “kiss” of a stalactite and staglagmite……it was stunningly beautiful. Craig, impressed by Škocjan, was absolutely awed by Postojna.
Sadly, although we were told (repeatedly) that flash photography accelerates the growth of algae and will eventually destroy the cave environment, people continued flashing away. One woman spent the entire tour holding a video camera to her face! Why would people settle for poor pictures when they could have rich memories? (the pics posted here are from Postojna’s website).
We left the darkness of the cave behind and, in glorious sunshine, drove to Lake Bled in the Julian Alps.
A rarity for us, our hotel was quite easy to find. Called “rustic” in it’s website, we found it Swiss-chalet charming. We were welcomed by it’s manager, Luka, a genial bear of a man with a hearty laugh. He genuinely desires that his guests enjoy their stays in this beautiful area and proffers books, maps and recommendations to help meet this goal. This was to be our “home” for three nights…..and it was easy to see we had made a good choice.
We took one of the pletnas (shallow-bottomed boats that criss-cross the lake) to the little island in the lake, arriving just in time to see a groom complete a local tradition…..carrying his bride up the 99 steps leading to the church. “My legs are like jelly,” he said, mopping is moist forehead before heading back down to the lakeshore.
Our 45 minutes on the island were soon up and our strong captain/oarsman was waiting to return us to the lake’s shore. During the ride back, our fellow passengers began talking about their vacation plans. When hearing that we had recently been in Mostar, we were asked if it was safe. “Absolutely,” I replied, “we would have liked to have spent more time there.” A quiet man, perhaps in his mid-40’s spoke up, “You would like Serbia, too.” He was a doctor in Bled for a conference. I asked him what I’d asked so many others on this trip…. “Why?”
Why had these countries, these people, turned against each other?
He weighed his words carefully, “I know it, I studied it….but I cannot understand it.” He continued, “Before the wars, I was in the Army with a Slovene and a Croat. We were the best of friends. Now, we don’t talk. I think we could still be friends, but we haven’t talked for years.” He looked away…..now lost in his own thoughts.
Our thoughts were of food. Once again, we had skipped lunch and our hunger pangs were getting louder. After we got off the boat, we headed toward Vila Ajda, a restaurant recommended by Luka because of it’s traditional Slovenian cuisine.
We ordered all the local specialties….black radish salad with soft spreads of local cheeses, buckwheat dumplings, grilled trout, pork stew and Lake Bled’s very own dessert, Kremna Rezina, a sweet concoction of flaky pastry, vanilla cream and light-as-air whipped cream.
We dined on these delicious dishes while gazing at all the beauty around us. As the sun slowly set and I began to feel a chill in the night air, our waiter thoughtfully draped a pashmina shawl around my shoulders.
The castle come aglow with soft lights as we sipped blueberry brandy. When we were totally sated and ready to leave, Craig was presented with the bill…..while I received a long-stemmed rose. A perfect evening.
“Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle” ~ Michaelangelo