Is Halloween tourism a thing? Well we did it.
After a year on the continent, most of us have exhausted our first-blush list of destinations for weekend getaways. However, few know or realize that Italy borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and not Croatia—but Slovenia, on its eastern side. Trieste is the major city east of Venice which lies in this border between Western and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Alps.
Our destination was Lake Bled, a quaint and picturesque resort city at the confluence between Austria and Slovenia, 90 minutes away from Italy, deep by European standards into the heart of a country. In English, it’s an ominous name, and thus the perfect choice for a budget road trip for four grad students over the Halloween weekend.
It wasn’t very Italian, even though most people speak Italian after first trying Slovene. In fact, mi sembra (it seemed to me) far more “Eastern” than anywhere I’ve been before. Historically, Slovenia was part of the former Yugoslavia, along with Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro. These are all independent countries now (Kosovo is disputed), with unique languages, cultural nuances, and proud heritages.
Slovenes didn’t look Italian either. Their food is very heavy and hearty, appropriate for mountainous and cold climate living. They drink a lot of beer, even at dinner, rather than wine.
Lake Bled is a charming town on the edge of a sizable, placid lake anchoring myriad hiking trails, many small villages and agricultural plots (wine, cows), and what appeared to be a healthy tourism business. Our hostel was quaint, clean, and run by three young women, and we had no problem navigating the small city and getting out to into nature.
Of course, our intent was to soak in a bit of autumnal color, and feel a bit spooky on during a primarily North American holiday that gets little fanfare in Italy.
And colors we got. Gorgeous reds, yellows, browns, and oranges. And the temperature was just cold enough to need to bundle without biting too much. And, eating hefty bowls of soup, plates of fried turkey “Ljubljana style” (similar to Cordon Bleu), and the local delicacy—a cream cake like a French mille-feuille—tends to help insulate too.
Driving was interesting. We rented a Fiat 500L minivan, by far the most stylish five-seat van I have been in or driven. It was a manual-shift diesel. Very easy to drive. Tolls were pricey (45 euros or so across 530km or 330mi, each way). Fuel wasn’t awful, maybe 100 euros total.
Anyway, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I really enjoyed the trip with my friends.
We did also stop in the capital city Ljubljana on the return trip. It was a public holiday, so not much going on. Slovenes, like many Europeans, haven’t quite embraced the concept of brunch, or even breakfast, so usually they would rather serve lunch early than a slice of toast with jam and butter into the midday. I wasn’t pleased.
The city is very beautiful however. Not quite my taste in terms of size and energy, but probably has a totally different vibe at night during a busier period.