Christmas in the snow
Bled Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
Last Christmas, standing in the disappointing half a millimetre of snow in Copenhagen, Ness was promised lots and lots of snow the next year. Next year had come, so we thought heading up in to the Alps might be a fairly reliable way to find some of the pretty white stuff. Our trip there however didn't go entirely to plan!
We flew with Ryanair for what will we hope be the last time to Trieste in northern Italy. Aaron was 95% sure we needed to get to Gorizia, on the border of Slovenia, in order to get to Bled. He couldn't quite remember if that was the right place, so we approached the very helpful tourist info guy at the airport. He reliably informed us that we needed to go to Trieste (a 45 minute bus ride from the airport) from where we could get a train straight to Nova Gorica in Slovenia - the Italians pinched Gorica off the Slovenians at the end of the second world war (renaming it Gorizia in the process) so the Slovenians responded by building Nova Gorica right next door. Anyway, we caught the bus and, having landed at Trieste airport at around half past 2, arrived at Trieste at just after 4. We went to the train station and were not best pleased to discover that in order to get to Nova Gorica, we needed to catch a train to Gorizia (which is, by the way, about a 20 minute bus trip from the airport at Trieste) and the next one left just after 5. So we went for a coffee.
After 5, we got on our train, were treated t the spectacular sight of a young italian guy with the best mullet you'd ever see - he'd gone so far as to shave the sides of his head to highlight it - and arrived still in good spirits into Gorizia at around 10 to 6. We then found the bus stop for the bus to Nova Gorica with the next bus leaving at 20 past 6. The bus pulled up, we bought our tickets and we were off to Slovenia... or so we thought. We got to the border crossing to discover that no one when telling us about this bus had mentioned that it uses a local border crossing, open only to Italians and Slovenes. We were unceremoniously dumped off the bus, and told that the international crossing was about two kilometres "over there". Not very helpful. We walked back into town looking for a taxi to take us across with no success and eventually asked a few locals where we might find a taxi rank. They directed us to one of two in town (the other being at the train station) which we found. As we were standing under a big "Taxi" sign, a taxi drove past and pulled in to the side of the road... under another "taxi" sign we hadn't seen. We ran to get to the taxi, however the driver clearly decided he'd had enough of waiting and pulled away just as we got to the car. We waited for a little, getting a little worried about possible lack of onward transport in Slovenia due to it being 7pm on Christmas eve and all. We tried calling a taxi, and were a little perplexed to discover the number was for a box at the taxi stand. Eventually we gave up, and headed back to the train station, were there had been taxi's earlier.
Not anymore however. So there we are, 8pm Christmas eve, in the wrong country and unable for the life of us to get a taxi. After some very concerning moments, the grandson of the woman running the newstand at the station arrived to help her lock up and take her home. He lived in the wrong direction otherwise he would have given us a lift, but after some considerable problems with taxi drivers who had given up for the night, finally managed to organise one of his friends, who I think was a parcel courier guy, to run us across the border to the train station. We finally got to Nova Gorica train station at 9:15 - nearly 7 hours after landing, we are literally a half hour bus trip from the airport.
Not unsurprisingly, there were no more trains from Nova Gorica to Bled that night. In fact, there were no more trains from Nova Gorica to anywhere that night. Or the next day. It had been a bit of a laugh, with a few stressful moments in Italy before we got across the border, but standing at the train station, we basically gave up, called a local taxi company and told them to take us Bled.
Bled isn't that far from Nova Gorica - around 60km's or so in a straightish line. Unfortunately, there is no road in a straightish line. The only way through the alps was to go from Nova Gorica to Ljubljana and then on to Bled - around 130 km's. The poor taxi driver who took us, although making more money than he was probably expecting on christmas eve, was in a lot of trouble with his girlfriend for driving to Bled late on Christmas Eve - she calmed down a bit when he told her he was coming back, and we believe may have mentioned how much he was being paid for it!
Anyway, we arrived. 9 hours after landing, 6 hours later than we should have been, but we arrived. Most importantly, there was snow. Lots of it.
Bled itself is a nice enough town, but it's really just a town. It's claims to fame are the lake, the castle, and the alps around it. All of which on their own are just about worth the trip. Combined, it's something of a magical place. Christmas day we passed in the time honoured tradition of eating a lot, drinking too much and falling asleep mid-afternoon. On boxing day however, things got interesting. It started to snow. Not gently, or a little bit like it did in London or Copenhagen last year, but constantly at between half an inch and an inch an hour. It was still snowing that heavily when we left three days later.
In the meantime though, there were things to do - a new snowman made with clean white snow, rather than the slightly muddy version made in Switzerland a couple of years before when Ness got her first taste of snow, large numbers of snow angels which involved plenty of falling backwards (and occasionally forwards) into a couple of feet of snow and innumerable snow balls. Aaron also discovered a way to swim for a little way in snow, which was fun if a little cold. Both skiing and sledding were cancelled on us due to the snow - you just can't do anything on snow like that as it was so light and fluffy so we were free to play in it to our hearts content, walk around the lake and drink large amounts of hot chocolate which was absolutely delicious and available in so many flavours it was hard to try them all - including a divine white chocolate version.
The third day we were there, we discovered the simple delights of walking under a tree covered in snow and shaking it. From them on, every time we saw a thin looking tree we'd go haring off and grab it to give it a vigorous shake. Standing in that, you have the choice between keeping your head up and getting it all over your face, or down and getting it all down your back - either way was still very fun.
Best discovery's of this trip - aside from Bled itself and shaking the snowy trees - was the lovely local wine Halozan. Sold in litre bottles at around £3 a go, we passed a great deal of time watching the snow fall while working our way (slowly of course) through one of those bottles. A perfect ending to 5 (almost) perfect days. The only major problem as ever, was that we had to leave. Bled definately made it on to the "go back to" list, and there are plans afoot to spend next Christmas there as well - though we might fly direct to Ljubljana this time around!