Lake Bled at dawn
September 2018 was the first time ever that I had visited the exquisite little Baltic state of Slovenia.
Mountainous, bordering the Austrian Tyrol, over 60% of it woodland, boasting more than 300 lakes, but with barely 2 million residents, it is an unspoilt jewel of South-Eastern Europe.
The Light & Land tour that I co-hosted with Sue Bishop back in 2018 was a great success and we were unified in our enthusiasm for a repeat visit in 2019. Sue’s bright idea for this year was to plan our return for a month later and schedule the trip in late October so as to take advantage of both the Autumnal light and the rich colours of fall in this heavily-forested country.
Good call, Missy Bishy...
Sue and I both arrived a couple of days before our participants joined us so that we could recce some new unproven locations. There was almost relentless rain and drizzle for the recce days, so we found ourselves shooting with our cameras in plastic bags much of the time but, as the skies slowly cleared on the second day, we had some opportunities to snap the scenery under clearing skies and even managed to nab a few moments of ‘mountains-in-the-clearing-fog-and-clouds’ conditions.
View of mountains from the road trip to Slap Virje
What struck us most throughout the recce was the intensity of the autumnal hues in the densely forested Slovenian hillsides. We’d arrived bang on time for the fall colours and couldn’t wait to share the Technicolor experience with the posse. When the 'plane with our gang on board touched down in Ljubljana, out came the sun, away went the rain and up went the temperature. The Brits had brought the autumn sun with them!
With only a thirty-minute drive from the airport to the Bled area we were quickly established in Hotel Lovec, a short walk from the shores of Lake Bled itself. Base camp was extremely civilised; good food, good beds, good plumbing! In an area of outstanding natural beauty and in the heart of a National Park, Lake Bled is overlooked by a castle, the oldest in the country, whose origins date back to the early eleventh century. This commanding structure sits atop a craggy, precipitous cliff with mountains in the distance. It’s pretty spectacular. Even in the dark…
Blejski Grad, Lake Bled
The simple, delicate spire of The Church of the Assumption of Santa Maria rises out of a small wooded island in the centre of Lake Bled and it is this serene sight that most people associate with Slovenia… And when you first arrive there, it’s easy to see why. The scene is delightful whenever you view it of course, but at sunrise it really delivers the classic, honey-pot-location goods, and our three repeat visits in the early hours before dawn never disappointed. On the final morning of the tour we were rewarded with golden, lacy wisps of mist rising off the lake waters around the island in the dawn’s early light.
Mists of dawn at Lake Bled
We took minibus trips each day and visited a variety of locations in varied weather conditions. I’ll stop waffling (mostly) now and let some of the pictures from the excursions do the talking…
Slap Virje. In the true British tradition of seizing on a carry-on style suggestive/innuendo humour opportunity, I christened this gorgeous location: ‘Slap Vera’. My shameless immaturity provided multiple occasions of major lolage on the minibus. Well, I thought it did anyway… 21-shot stitched panorama with my nifty fifty (that'll teach me not to pack my 14-24...)
The mountain-top Chapel of St Primoz at Jamnik
Pleasure boat beneath the wooded shoreline of Lake Bohinj at sunset
The Church of the Assumption of Santa Maria on Lake Bled
View from Jamnik to the peaks of the Southern Tyrol
Mountains in the fog on the road to Bovec
Mists and rain at Lake Bohinj
The Church of St John the Baptist and its adjacent stone bridge emerging through fog at dawn
Beech and Birch wood forest on the shores of Lake Bohinj
Slovenia is an extraordinarily beautiful and picturesque country, blessed with diverse and spectacular landscapes. Add to this its efficient infrastructure with relatively quiet roads, its relaxed, friendly people and its quality accommodation & food and you have an unbeatable photo-tour package that’s no more than 2 hours from most of the UK’s airports.
In conclusion, I’d like to give a massive shout-out to the crew that came on the 2019 trip and made it all so worthwhile. In no particular order (yes, you were all cool!) Nick, Liz, Colin, Georgina, Peter, Fiona and Chris… Thank you for your company, compliments to your images and oops for the unexpected but scenic detours in the minibus!
Sue and I very much hope to see you all again.