Tuesday 19 July 2016

Lunch with Tito: Lake Bled

South of Salzburg you head up into the Tyrolean Alps and cross into Slovenia -  a country that seems quite inordinately blessed with natural beauty.

We're en route to Italy, but a lunch-stop in Slovenia, here at Lake Bled, seems irresistible.

Driving alongside the lake away from the town of Bled, the castle comes into view on the far side (above).

And then we're at the entrance to Vila Bled, once the summer residence of President Tito, now a state-owned hotel.

After Tito's death and the break-up of Yugoslavia, Slovenia was the lucky Balkan state that got Lake Bled and the villa. 

Inside, they've kept the 1950s modernist decor, communist (luxury) style ...

and in a corner of the foyer, above the desk he used, there's a portrait of the man who had a truly remarkable life - the son of poor peasants who became a country president, world statesman and the man who stood up to Stalin.

The terrace is the most perfect lunch spot I can imagine. I didn't notice my salad much, transfixed by the views.

I couldn't wait to take the stone staircase down to the lake afterwards 

to get a closer look at tiny Bled island, the jewel in the lake

with the Church of the Assumption, where ringing the bell, according to legend, guarantees wishes granted and prayers answered.

Everything I'd read about Bled warned that this place swarms in mid-season, so it was a pleasure to find how peaceful and quiet it actually was on a summer's day in early July.

Walking along the shore of the lake from the villa, there was hardly anybody - an occasional walker, a few paddle-boarders and the odd boat passing lazily by. 

A small sign to a 'café' on the lake pathway leads to a steep upward climb through the forest

... to what used to be Tito's private belvedere - a distance away from the villa and completely secluded, perched high above the lake

The interior is pretty uninviting with standard soviet era fittings, and the café is low-key and ordinary - but with the most perfectly stupendous views. I couldn't get over how few people were there and how under-used and little exploited this incredible place is. Perhaps this is its greatest asset, though.

I wondered how many world leaders had retreated to this hideaway to carve up Europe's borders between them, and how many mistresses of Tito (who famously had very many).

Re-purposed grand piano below Vila Bled

As we headed south again, I felt I'd had an overwhelming injection of visual beauty wrapped up in a history lesson.  

Bled, Slovenia, July 2016


  1. What a lovely place!
    Adding it to he list of places I'd love to visit.
    Warmest greetings from New York.

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