Just a couple of hours’ walk from Lake Bled is Vintgar Gorge, where the River Radovna cuts through sheer limestone cliffs creating rapids and waterfalls. After a trip here, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gorge derives from the word gorgeous…
There are many hiking trails starting from Lake Bled, but the 10km-or-so round-trip to Vintgar Gorge must be the best.
Some books and maps refer to it as Blejski Vintgar, others as Vintgar Gorge. My Slovenian is a bit rusty, but I think Vintgar is the Slovenian word for gorge – calling it “Gorge Gorge” doesn’t seem right to me. Fortunately, the yellow-coloured road-signs call it simply Vintgar, and there are plenty of them. We set off from Bled’s lake shore in a north-westerly direction on Cesta v Vintgar without realising how long it takes to walk 5km up a steep hill.
It had been raining and overcast when we were getting dressed that morning, so we both left Bled wearing long sleeves and raincoats. Big mistake – the sun came out, the temperature passed 20°C and the incline we had to climb left our clothes sticking to our backs. Sleeves rolled up, and coats tied round waists, we struggled on up the hill with Lake Bled and its castle clearly visible behind and below us.
As we arrived at the gorge, we were gasping for a drink and were happy to fork out €2 for a bottle of water, €2 for a can of Coke and €4 each for the entrance fee from an old man in a wooden shack.
Once you’ve paid, you’ll set foot on a rickety wooden walkway which follows the course of the river for 1.6km. At times it criss-crosses the Radovna, creating some great photo opportunities.
Although it had stopped raining, we were quite pleased we still had our raincoats to protect us from the spray. The Radovna isn’t the same stunning aquamarine colour as the River Soča, but it’s still gorgeous and clear.
Over the course of the next 45 minutes, we really appreciated the power of water, and also the tranquillity of the area. There are a series of rapids as the Radovna moves downhill, culminating in the 13m high Šum Waterfall. Between the rapids, there are pools where if you look closely you will see fish desperately trying not to be sucked into a waterfall.
I might be wrong, but I’m sure the grilled local trout I had for dinner that night had a look of relief in its eye that it had been caught by a fisherman’s rod, rather than being battered to death on the rocks.
When you get to the end of Vintgar Gorge, you have two choices to get home – either retrace your steps back along the gorge before taking the same road to Bled that you took on the way, or do as we did and follow the signs to Bled through a forest.
This way is not for the faint-hearted – the spookily deserted forest could have been used as the setting for the film The Blair Witch Project, while you will share the occasional clearing with bulls. The forest covers a hill called Hom which you’ll need to climb, but to be honest it is more mountain than hill. Signs nailed to trees direct you to a pizzeria at the highest point, from where you will be able to see Lake Bled in the distance. Follow the winding road, through the village of Zasip, and you’ll be back in Bled in no time, ready for a cream cake.