We will take the mountains, and the bars.

The last few days have kept us away from a reliable internet connection (well, me anyway) but we've seen quite a lot since. The theme this week? Hiking.

And just so you know, I have been teaching myself Slovene. The language is not entirely difficult once I learned the basic phonetic alphabet. The problem for me is where to put the emphasis. In English, it's at the end of the word. In French, it's at the beginning. I have no idea how it works in Slovene. More practice, I guess. Although, I can order coffee and say "thank you" and basically not look like a total jackass in pubs or cafés.

On Wednesday we hiked up a hill in our neighbourhood (I don't remember the name, I'll get back to y'all on that) to visit this church situated at the top. We roamed around the church and had drinks at a pub just a few meters away. That's what I love about Europe: you can't go anywhere without a bar nearby to reward yourself after hiking.

As usual, the view was quite good, and the beer afterwards was the proverbial cherry on top. We are lucky in this town: in any direction, we can walk for only twenty minutes and be able to hike up hills and mountains, hang out in parks or just take a quick bus ride to towns offering even better opportunities. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

For example, we took a bus to Bled yesterday, which is an hour and half from Ljubljana. This town is featured in most of the postcards and tourist guides, and with good reason. First, I should contextualize this bit by noting that I've been rereading A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, given to me by my friend Chris. Now, after reading about castles nestled in snow and towering mountains, visiting Bled just made the book come to life.

We arrived in the afternoon, and immediately grabbed a coffee and figured out what we wanted to see. We started by walking the circuit around Lake Bled, a relatively small body of water with some amazing houses dotted along the shore - huge houses, some made with brick or wood, including a stone mansion jutting out of the rocky cliff facing the lake, supported by (what seemed like) 100 foot-tall columns. Apparently, this was once Tito's summer home, now made into a hotel. We walked for about an hour, taking pictures and imagining which houses we would purchase if we had the funds to do so. I mean, who wouldn't? A gorgeous alpine town, massive (and climbable) mountains and above all, one of the most impressive churches I've ever seen. I've looked inside massive cathedrals in Prague, Budapest and France, but how many of them are built on an island surrounded by frosty mountains looming overhead?

We are returning to Bled in the spring, and I will take the gondola to the island and ring the bell in the tower, yelling out my victory cheer. I'm still working on the cheer, though. All I have is time.

Later, we found a trail leading up to Velika Osojnica, an eight hundred meter hill overlooking the town. There was still plenty of snow on the ground, at least half a foot, which made trekking difficult for yours truly, outfitted in jeans meant for city hiking. We did make it to the summit. The entire area was eerily quiet, with the groans and screeches of civilization far behind us. Sunlight pierced the thick grove of trees around us, and occasionaly a tiny birdsong could be heard in the distance. When we reached the top, we stopped for water and snacks and quickly made our way down.
The view from the top of Velika Osojnica.

We finished the rest of the circuit and watched the ducks and swans go about their business. Did you know that the Mute Swan, found in Lake Bled, is protected by the law? There were signs posted, warning the public to not "interfere" with the swans, or else!

We did make it to Castle Bled (amazing name) by running up the hill in ten minutes, but our progress was halted by the 6 Euro fee to enter the grounds. Like I said, we will check out all the architectural sights when the snow melts.

We went to a restaurant called "The Mountaineer" for a dinner of garlic soup, mushroom pasta and a massive pint of Union. Lisa had fried cheese with tartar sauce and a mixed salad. The portions were generous and the meal perfectly finished a day of hiking and touring. We caught a late bus back into town, and I immediately passed out once I dragged my tired carcass into bed.

Tonight: we continue our language lessons and then do some clubbing. On Sunday, an early breakfast at Le Petit Café and trip to the Technical Museum.

Take care, we miss you Vancouver.

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