(Guide says 15 km – 9.3 miles, and we walked 15 km – 9.3miles!)
We set out from Pišece a little bit later than we wanted to but it was very nice to have a bit of a lie in. The accommodation we chose was nice enough, nothing special by any means, but clean, private and in the area that we needed. The most important thing was the location, we would only have a few hours walk to the train station in Brežice. The only problem we had was dinner. Because it was Saturday, everything was closed except a pizza parlor which was a 30 minute walk down the road. The only option to eat meant more walking, absolutely unbelievable. Luckily, Gary was up for a stroll and the food was pretty good, otherwise we might have slightly different feelings about it all.
The days walk started out with 7km on a nice country lane with no traffic to speak of. Then it was into the woods for 4km on a gravel road, followed by another 4km through some farms and a village to the train station. All in all, a very nice and easily manageable day. We are quite happy as this begins our option for rest days in Ljubljana and/or Lake Bled. Two rest days together will be heavenly, and hopefully enable the last bits of my blisters to heal completely.
As we were nearing about the 5km mark, I caught a glimpse of one lone walker ahead of us on the side of the road. We walked along trailing her for a while until all of a sudden we came to a bus stop and saw there were two other walkers waiting for her. We all said hello and made introductions to find that they were formally a group of five but dwindled down to three and yet, these survivors are having a great time of it!
We walked along and enjoyed chatting a bit, getting to know Barry, Laurel, and Gabby. Gabby told me she has just moved to Portland where so many people that I love are now living, and she shared that she needs to meet some local friends. She was only there two weeks before leaving for the EPW, and is hoping to start an entirely new life when she gets back. These are always words that endear someone to my heart. We continued walking along for several kilometers chitchatting until we saw “Beer!” spray painted on the road with an arrow. None of us were after a beer, but we agreed that coffee sounded quite nice. When we arrived to see an open sign, even though it was Sunday, we all did a little happy dance and our spirits were lifted even more.
Over coffee’s and juices we continued to get to know each other a little better and we talked about our plans for the two rest days. We exchanged information and the group of three left to head to the accommodation in Brežice, while Gary and I continued on our own to the train station.
Shortly after the coffee bar we left the roadside and started walking through fields. Our feelings of sheer giddiness grew as we knew that we were getting close to the train station and only had a few kilometers to go. Gary and I have also decided to forego the EPW accommodation in Brežice and visiting Ljubljana altogether to spend our two rest days on Lake Bled. In everything I’ve read, it seems to be an area that suits our idea of rest and relaxation a bit more than a big city. This way, we can swim and cool off from the heat a bit, I can work to get a few posts up and he can go and explore the area some.
It doesn’t take long at all for us to reach the train station. When we do, we go straight to find the station manager and begin to ask a litany of logistical questions. Mitja, turns out to be an absolutely fabulous person, helping us to get where we need to go and telling us all the things we must see. He breaks out a super detailed map and shows us the village he grew up in which also happens to be the same village where Melania Trump grew up. He adds that we should sit on the left side of the train to have the best view of it when we pass.
I’m so appreciative for all the help and great information, and ask if I can take a picture to post on the website and he’s thrilled. Before leaving, Mitja shows us the manual console in his office that is used for tracking the trains. I find it unbelievable that it’s not computerized. A train arrives, so Mitja excuses himself to go and greet it and then happily comes back to take a few photos.
We leave the office and head over to a little pub, which is set up inside a travel trailer, to get cappuccinos, and end up meeting the seven people sitting on a bench there. Two men who have immigrated from Costa Rica talked with us about their travels, their families, and their lives here. We honestly could’ve stayed all day, but the train arrives before we expect it. We grabbed our packs and rushed on to the train. Just then we heard Mitja saying, “Wait! I want to take a photo of you first!” so we turned to smile, and thanked him again for all the help he gave us. It’s easy to see that he’s a people person and he loves his job.
The train ride to Ljubljana offered some beautiful views, but the ride from Ljubljana to Lake Bled was absolutely breathtaking. With the river on one side and the mountains as a backdrop, I sat in silence with my mouth agape and found it hard to look away from the window. We had some cold pizza slices left over from dinner, so we decided to celebrate a little by having them with the remainder of Steph’s white wine. Gary immediately nods off and there’s a noticeable difference in how I feel. My body and mind have begun to relax. This is a holiday inside of a challenging holiday, and I now realize how stressed I’ve been about the physical and logistical challenges of walking the EPW each day. I had almost forgotten how being on holiday is supposed to feel.
When we arrive at the station, we walk out to the taxi area to find one single taxi waiting with a happy gentleman named, Brané. He drives us to our hotel while simultaneously telling us dozens of things we must see and do and pulling out guides and maps for each. I find this to be amusing, but I can tell that it’s freaking Gary out a bit. This guy is a serious multitasker. He tells us that the accommodation I’ve booked is one of the nicest on the lake, and that we will be very well taken care of there. This is exactly what I was hoping for. The price for this hotel is a bit of a splurge with my current limited budget, but I think we deserve it and I’m hoping that Gary and I will both be able to relax and rest well here and then return for a strong EPW finish.
We arrive and are stunned at the beauty of the lake and surrounding area, and absolutely awe struck with Villa Istra. The first thing I want to do is climb into the bathtub and soak all the grime away, I don’t even care about food. I do, however, want something bubbly to drink while I soak, so I ask the ridiculously fit young man at reception if there is anything available. At first he gives me a dead pan stare as if to say, “but of course you silly American” and then says with a glint in his eye, a hint of dramatic flare and a very heavy accent, “Come with me to the cellar” as he turned on his heel and abruptly walked off. I was a bit confused, but excited that something really good might come of it so I turned and ran a few steps to catch up with him. We went down two flights of stairs into a cold, dark area. He fumbled with keys for a moment and then opened the cellar door.
Lights automatically switched on and I swear I heard a divine chorus from above as my eyes took in the walls lined with terracotta tubes containing all the perfectly chilled beautiful bottles. He turned to me, waved his arms open in a theatrical manner and said, “You pick what you like.” Oh my goodness! Was this really happening? I felt as if I had accidentally stumbled onto the set of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and this guy was doing a fabulous Robin Leach!
I just stood there looking at him without moving so he started pulling things out, “You want the bubbles, yes?” as he made a collection on the table, he said, “Which one do you like?” I still couldn’t speak. Standing there with grass in my hair and dirt caked up and down my horsefly bitten legs, this all seemed far too civilized to be real. I finally reached out to touch one and he said, “Okay! That one it is!” I cradled it like a baby as we walked back up the stairs and he showed me to my room.
The room, which is larger than my entire cottage by the sea was, is honestly one of the most luxurious places I’ve ever been in my life. The bed is huge and covered with the finest linens that just begged to be rolled around in and the huge balcony with a full sized dining table and lounge chairs overlooking Lake Bled is pure heaven. Amazing to think that I’ve spent the past 13 days sweating, climbing through mud, wearing dirty clothing, sleeping in bunk beds, sharing bathrooms with ten other super smelly people, and now I have this. Two completely different worlds.
Later, as I’m lying in the scalding bubble bath sipping my champagne and digging the dirt from under my toenails, I think about which of these worlds I prefer. Luxury or challenge and at times even bare bones survival. There is no ‘one or the other’ for me. I’d be bored to tears with either all of the time. I need both to have balance. One helps me to appreciate the other. My soft side and my rough side, my feminine side and my masculine side, my sensitive side and my adventurous side, my strong side and my weak side. The one thing I know is that I’m so very blessed in this life to have the opportunities to pursue and experience both of these worlds on my own terms.
Accommodation in Lake Bled:
Vila Istra, Cesta svobode 35, 4260 Bled, Slovenia (Booked through Booking.com), price fluctuates dramatically based upon season. $135 per night to $550 per night.
Some additional favorite photos from the day: