There is something almost incomprehensible about sitting on a park bench, looking out over a green lake pebbled by a slight breeze at a castle twice as old as your country. As the morning sun echoes off mossy stones, you see into the past and realize the great Hapsburg ruling dynasty of Europe vacationed here. Yes, Hapsburgs drank, cried, laughed, and ruled their way into oblivion while your ancestors carved a raw wilderness into The New World. As the bass swirl in the lake and Slovene citizens walk to work around you, pine trees like you’ve never seen before climb up the Julian Alps to reach the snow that never exists in May where you live. You notice the houses made of tile and stone on the opposite shore of glacial Lake Bled, beyond the castle, and you wonder what the people behind the yellow, green, beige, and pearl colored walls might think if they noticed you on this bench wearing a shirt that reads “I’m an American.” Everywhere the smell of expresso brewing, the taste of vanilla-and-cream pastry called kremna rezina, the roar of motor bikes, the playfulness of gaudy fishing boats and old men mending nets, the laughter of small children tied to their parents wrists and bouncing like helium balloons along the crowded sidewalk around the lake remind you that these good people, who have exercised a Jobian patience and resilience in the face of Nazi occupation and the internecine savagery that inflamed the Balkans when Yugoslavia split apart, are happy you came to visit. If you’re so inclined you may go horseback riding, hiking, or take a rowboat to the small island in the middle of the lake and ring the bell at Assumption of Mary Church for good luck. A more laid back idea might be to enter the town of Bled proper and gamble at one of the small casinos or enjoy a fine lunch lakeside at the five-star Grand Toplice Hotel and afterward take a horse and buggy ride or relax in the thermal-spring heated pool. The lake is situated in the northwestern corner of Slovenia forty-five kilometres from both the Italian and the Austrian borders. There are regular bus routes from most central European cities and English is spoken everywhere. Currency in Slovenia has been the Euro since 2007 and prices are very reasonable in comparsion to other European resort areas.
Juror #3/Jim McGarrah :: Click here to view juror photos
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