Bled to Bolzano

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 - 20:00

After seeing the forecast yesterday, we decided to wake up extra early today to get to Lake Bled before the forecast thunderstorms were supposed to come in around lunch time. In the end the forecast turned out to be completely wrong and the only rain we saw all day was just as the sun was setting when we arrived at our hotel outside Bolzano. This made for a better day than we had planned for, with temperatures up around 25-27 degrees as a nice bonus. The drive to Lake Bled from our hotel was only about 20 minutes, and it was already very scenic driving along the mountains we later learnt are called the Julian Alps. As we approached the Lake we saw a sign for Bled Castle on a different road, and decided to take it and make the castle our first stop of the day. At the top was a car park which was rapidly filling up, but we got a space and were casually walking to the castle when we saw a sign saying we need to pay and display. We have been so used to free or tip-only car parks at attractions in the East that we'd forgotten car parks like this are almost never free in Western Europe! We paid the €3 for 1 hour parking, and then made our way up to the castle entrance where we paid the fee to go inside (€13 each).

The castle entrance fee included an audio guide which we could use from our phone, and we got to learn a little bit about its history. The castle is just over 1000 years old and is set on the top of a hill, with such good fortifications that it has never been successfully captured in all its existence. It is split into three levels, each with a courtyard overlooking the lake below. As for the famous view, the audio guide reckoned the middle courtyard had the best views, but we preferred the ones at the top level, and this was where I took my main panoramic photos from. From this vantage point we could see the picturesque Bled Island in the middle of the Lake (we heard a guide with a group tour mention how this is the only island in the whole of Slovenia since it is a land-locked country), and also Mount Triglav, the tallest mountain in the country. We found the whole complex was not very buggy friendly, so after carrying the buggy up to the middle courtyard, we abandoned it in a quiet spot and carried Lucy the rest of the way - in hindsight the harness would have been a better option. Because we had Summer with us we took it in turns to go into the actual castle building, though it was a fairly underwhelming interior, mostly dedicated to an exhibition about the people who have inhabited the region throughout the ages. The whole thing didn't actually take very long to see, and after some final photos from the castle walls, we headed back to the car and drove down to the lake shore to see it from another perspective.

After driving around quite a bit of the lake we realised the best place to stop and walk to take photos of Bled Island would be the small beach and recreation area called Velika Zaka. We parked up in the car park there (an eye watering €5 per hour with no sliding discounts for longer stays - same as Central London prices) and walked along the promenade all the way to the Olympic rowing club and back. Turns out the lake is a popular place for rowing competitions and training due to its calm waters and perfect distance from end to end for racing. Once we got back to the beach Melisa took a quick dip up to her knees in the water, and the water was so nice that she then dipped Lucy's legs in which resulted in a lot of giggling. As has been a common theme with bodies of water this trip, the water here is full of minerals which not only give the lake a lovely green colour, but (supposedly) healing properties as well. This has attracted tourists since the 19th century, and even Tito the ruler of Yugoslavia had a residence here so he could enjoy the water (and apparently be close to the Austrian and Italian borders in case he ever had to flee in a coup).

With our trip to the lake complete, all that was left to do for the day was make the approximately 4 and a half hour drive to our hotel near Bolzano in Italy. Originally our plan had been to drive straight back to Switzerland from Lake Bled on the rather boring motorway we had used for our outbound journey. However given how boring some of the driving has been recently in the flat parts of Eastern Europe, we decided to change the route up and return through the Austrian and Italian Alps, which is not only significantly more scenic, but we also haven't visited before. This meant an additional night in a hotel, and Bolzano was the obvious place to stay given it is roughly half way along the route. Unfortunately there wasn't any appropriate accommodation in Bolzano city centre, but we are staying in a lovely spot with views over the nearby Alps about 30 minutes away. On the way we quickly found that the Austrian Alps look just like the Swiss Alps, including the cut away areas of perfectly green grass and the detached homes in alpine architecture. What surprised us more was that when we crossed to Italy it also looked exactly like Switzerland, including being just that little bit cleaner and tidier like Switzerland generally is over Italy in the Lakes region. We even found it to ironically be more Germanic than the Italian part of Switzerland, with the street signs staying in German with only Italian text written in smaller font underneath, as opposed to 100% Italian text in Ticino. After a bit of reading online this evening it turns out that this area of northern Italy (North Tyrol) is 65% German speaking, and also happens to be the richest region in all of Italy and one of the richest places in the EU. That means it is full of German and Austrian tourists, which probably also explains the inflated hotel costs in the area. As you would imagine, the views have been fantastic throughout the whole drive, with the Alps rising around us, and some lovely hairpin bends as we climbed up to our hotel toward the end of the day.

Aside: Today was our last full day of the trip and we had quite a long discussion on how we feel about it coming to an end. It is a mix of nostalgia and deflation, though we also are looking forward to getting back home and catching up with family and friends. As mentioned on the Budapest entries, it already feels like the main part of the trip is over, with this last leg in Western Europe not having any novelty factor to it despite some interesting cities and scenic views.

Dog Notes: 

Lake Bled was a very dog friendly destination. Summer was allowed into the grounds of the castle, just not inside the castle itself though she wasn't missing much. She then had a great time off the lead by the lake shore, where she played with lots of other dogs and got quite jealous of the ones who were allowed to swim in the water (we would have let her if we'd had more time).

Electric Vehicle EV Notes: 

Similar to yesterday, there were hundreds of chargers to choose from on our route today, though when I filtered to high speed ones I was a bit worried when they all seemed to be from a company called Alperia that dominates the high speed charging scene here in the Tyrol region of Northern Italy. Alperia have decided to set their high speed charging rate at an insane €0.97/KW, which would make charging with them cost €77.60 for a full battery, or something like 28p per mile (we usually aim for less than 15p for it to be worth having an electric over petrol car). Luckily there was an option to filter them out on the BMW Charging app, and I found some chargers from the company BeCharge that we had used when we were briefly in Italy at the start of the trip, and cost a much more reasonable €0.54/KW - nearly half the price. It still baffles me how charging companies can set their rates so wildly differently to each other; such a contrast compared to the relatively small spread of perhaps 10% we see for petrol or diesel prices at different forecourts.
- BeCharge at Eni Petrol Station in Bressanone, marked as 110KW though we maxed out around 95KW

Miles Driven: 
Residenz am Kaiserweg


Its clear that there is a difference between geographic and political borders and no one told the geographers. Soon be back to work proper. Its been quite a trip though. Something really to remember.

Add new comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.