A 3 Minute Video Tourist Guide to Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled


Lake Bled is approximately 45 minutes’ drive from Ljubljana. The lake has become internationally recognisable for its small island on top of which sits the Church of Assumption. I’ve been to Bled many times, both on day trips while staying in Kranjska Gora, as well as staying at the Grand Hotel Toplice, which overlooks the glorious lake, on three occasions.

Lake Bled Otok (Island)
Lake Bled Otok (Island)


I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Grand Hotel Toplice in three stages of its life. The first was some 15 years ago, prior to its renovation. The hotel was tired but there was no getting over the fact it benefited from the most superior view in town. Just over a decade ago the hotel was renovated. Everything was in keeping with the style of the hotel but its glamour had been well and truly restored. Unfortunately, my most recent visit, last year, found that some of the furniture had seen better days and wallpaper was peeling off the walls in parts. However, what hasn’t changed is that fantastic view. Free parking for guests is a great bonus and means you can take day trips to the likes of Postojna, Bohinj and Ljubljana.

Bled Castle
Bled Castle


The breakfast at the hotel is excellent too and will set you up for a day of sightseeing, particularly if you’re planning on doing some hiking. You can choose from various types of fresh bread rolls, cheeses including skuta (similar to cottage cheese but better), hot dishes like scrambled eggs, multiple types of sausages and very garlicky and crispy bacon. There’s even a waffle station. The fine dining restaurant is worth checking out one night too. Though there’s some excellent restaurants nearby. Restaurant Ajda does some wonderful traditional dishes included Strukli. While a visit to Bled is not complete without popping into Hotel Park for a slice of kremšnita – a layer of flaky pastry, topped with a layer of cream, a layer of custard and more flaky pastry, with a liberal shaking of icing sugar on top.

St Martin's Church Lake Bled
St Martin’s Church Lake Bled


In terms of weather, if you go in the winter, expect snow and there’s potential for the lake to freeze over. In the summer days are generally warm, while nights cool down a little, so it’s good to pack a sweater. Be aware there can be some epic thunderstorms; the last time I visited one knocked the power out to part of the town. Always be prepared and carry a raincoat and umbrella. Don’t go walking in the mountains during a thunderstorm.

If you only have a couple of days, or even just a day to visit Bled, you must try to cram the following in:

1) Walk to Bled Castle and on route, stop off at St Martin’s Church

2) Take a Pletna boat to the island, climb the 99 steps and ring the bell of the Church of Assumption

3) Visit Restaurant Ajda and try their savoury strukli

4) Pop into Hotel Park for an afternoon snack and feast on the kremšnita

5) Walk around the lake (9km) and enjoy the beautiful architecture and fresh air

Useful websites for planning your trip:

Balkan Holidays

Slovenia Tourist Board

Grand Hotel Toplice

Hotel Park

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Slovenia’s Puklavec Red & White Wines on Offer at Waitrose

This weekend (and I’m not sure how long for) Waitrose has reduced the price of Slovenia’s Puklavec’s wines. On offer is the vineyard’s full-bodied and gloriously fruity Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend, as well as their citrusy and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Wines are reduced from £8.99 to £6.74.

Slovenia's Puklavec Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
Slovenia’s Puklavec Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

It’s just a pity the King’s Road store in South West London mixed up the bottles and put the white with the reds, and the red with the white!

Slovenia's Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc
Slovenia’s Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc

I’m going to enjoy the red with some veal schnitzel (recipe here) and imagine sitting overlooking the spectacular Julian Alps; and the red with some mussels (recipe here) and pretend I’m sat on the glorious Adriatic in the idyllic seaside town of Piran.


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Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Furmint 2009

Puklavec & Friends Furmint Sauvignon BlancI recently wrote about the Puklavec Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia available in Waitrose. I’m a huge fan of the folks at Puklavec having met them at the International Wine Festival last year. It’s such a shame that the likes of Waitrose have only picked up one bottle from their impressive range. I tried out the Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Furmint and it really is a notable wine.

With the sauvignon comes all those renowned citrus fruit aromas and notes. However, the furmint’s mineral and aciditiy characteristics gives the wine a more mellow and crispy note. Think the aroma of lime and the taste of elderberry. This pale and delicate wine is a great wine for summer. Team with a salad or fish, or just enjoy as an aperitif.

For more information and to find out your nearest stockist check out the (very swish) Puklavec & Friends website.

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Recipe: Balkan Ćevapčići Served with Ajvar

I can’t lie, ćevapčići is probably one of my favourite finds from Eastern Europe. The ground beef sausage shaped burgers are popular across Yugoslavia and are traditionally served with flat breads, kajmak and ajvar (more of my favourites!). The kind people at Cox & Kings recently sent me a jar of ajvar (an aubergine and red pepper condiment) they picked up while in the region, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to whip up my own ćevapi. I like to add a bit of an Ottoman twist with some cumin and coriander. Find out how to recreate memories from your time in the Balkans below…


Ingredients (serves 6 as a starter, 4 as a main)

500g mince beef

250g mince pork or veal

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp vegeta (optional)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

25g plain flour

10 tbsp rapeseed oil


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C

Mix the mince, spices, garlic and onion together in a bowl

Form into sausage shapes

Roll each sausage in plain flour

Put in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes

Heat the oil in a griddle pan and gently fry each ćevap

Place the ćevapi in an ovenproof dish and heat in the oven for 20 minutes

Serve with flatbreads, sour cream, ajvar, and salad


Of course if you don’t live in a studio flat and have the luxury of outside space (and the sun should appear) you can always barbecue the ćevapi instead!

The ajvar was  courtesy of our friends at Cox & Kings who provide fabulous tailor-made holidays all over the world including Serbia and other East European destinations.

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Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Slovenia

Puklavec and Friends Sauvignon BlancWhen I was at the London International Wine Festival this year I had a chat to the people behind the Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia. It was nice to see them back in town and it was a good reminder of how unique this Slovene wine is. The region is usually noted for its Malvasia grape, however, this Sauvignon Blanc is something a bit special.

This a fabulously fresh wine, and as expected has flavours of grapefruit and lime, though they are more subtle than a new world Sauvignon Blanc, with a twist of minerality that the soil in Jeruzalem is renowned for. Sauvignon Blanc is a great wine with spicy dishes, such as Thai curry, but you could enjoy it with a more traditional dish from the region such as river trout wrapped in prosciutto.  The wine’s acidity cuts through the salty meat perfectly.

What you need to know:

Alcohol by volume: 12.5% vol
Bottle size: 75cl
Closure type: Screwcap
Grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Other Countries
Style: Dry
Suitable for vegetarians: Yes
Wine colour: White
Price: £8.54 per bottle

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Recipe: Adriatic Mussels in White Wine & Parsley

The winter is the best time to indulge in mussels on the Adriatic coast of Slovenia and Croatia.  This is a very simple recipe for steamed mussels and ensures the taste of the fabulous, succulent mussels shines through and is not dominated by any other ingredient.

Adriatic Mussels

Here’s my foolproof recipe…


1kg mussels, with the beards and any barnacles removed, any open mussels should be disguarded

250ml white wine (Malvasia would be ideal)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 tbsp parsley, chopped

3 tbsp olive oil


Put oil, wine, parsley and garlic into a stock pot and heat until it reaches a simmer

Place the mussels into the pot

Put a lid on the pot and allow the mussels to steam for 4 to 5 minutes

Serve when the mussels are open, with bread to mop up the sauce

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Slovene Orehove Rezine / Walnut Syrup Cake Recipe

There is something about delicious, moist, cake which makes me reminisce of summer holidays spent in Kranjska Gora.  The first time I arrived, Mira, the Grandmother, had created possibly the most intricate and exquisite cake in honour of my arrival.  I was quite blown away but I was soon to realise that cake is a longstanding tradition of the region.  The Slovenes certainly put our fairy cakes to shame!  This festive period I decided to do a little baking of my own and in honour of the Detela family I baked a Orehove Rezine, a walnut cake with a superbly sticky syrup.  I must say though, I thoroughly cheated by using a mixer but you can use a mixing bowl and wooden spoon and do it the old fashioned way too!

Orehove Rezine

Here’s the recipe…


175g walnut pieces, broken up

150g butter

150g soft light brown sugar

60ml set honey

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

50g plain flour

50g wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

65g polenta

75ml milk

For the syrup

90g golden caster sugar

60ml set honey

120ml water

For serving

Sour cream

Lemon rind


Heat oven to 180°C

Place walnut pieces on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes

Put butter, sugar, honey, eggs, vanilla extract, flours (including bran pieces) polenta, nuts and milk into mixer and mix until a smooth consistency is achieved

Grease and line a cake tin

Fill the cake tin with the cake mixture

Orehove Rezine

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes

To make the syrup,

To make the syrup, put the sugar, honey and water into a pan, gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and then simmer for five minutes

Turn off the heat and when the cake is ready drizzle over the cake

Orehove Rezine

Serve with a dash of sour cream topped with lemon rind

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Celebrate Slovenia’s Jubilee Year

Ptuj SloveniaThis year, 2011, marks the 20 year anniversary of Slovenia’s declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.  There is no better time to visit this jewel in Eastern Europe’s crown.  The whole year will see many special events, the adoption of new visions for development and a huge celebration to which the whole world is invited.  A very special part in these gatherings will be played by Slovenian expatriates and their descendants – the biggest such gathering in Slovenian territory is planned for early July.

This year the Slovenian Tourist board plans to make it easier for Slovenians, their descendants and friends to visit Slovenia, through numerous special offers and discounts.  To ensure that Slovenians, their descendants and friends throughout the world know about these offers, details are posted on the Slovenia.info website.  The website, which posts special tourist deals and packages for expatriates, emigrants and their nearest and dearest, has also organised a forum for impression of relatives and former citizens.  The Slovenian Tourist Board has even put together the special packages in cooperation with a range of tour operators, and will be continuously updating them.  We can’t wait to get there, neither should you!

For more information visit www.slovenia.info – book a deal now!

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Pampering Post-Slovenia’s Kurent Festival

Fancy experiencing some traditional Slovene culture?  Then why not head to the Kurent Festival in Ptuj this spring?  The festival is held between the 26th February and 8th March.  This annual event is one of the most significant of the calendar of Slovenia; it banishes winter and embraces spring.
Kurent Festival
This year, specialist tour operator, Just Slovenia is offering a five-night trip incorporating Ptuj during the annual Kurent Festival, followed by a luxury spa break in Bled’s Grand Toplice Hotel – one of Slovenia’s most grand venues which has welcomed international figureheads including, Prince Charles and President Clinton.

What happens at the festival?  Kurenti, dressed in distinctive sheepskin costumes adorned with feathers, horns ribbons and cow bells, parade through the streets, clanging instruments to ward off evil spirits.  Many musical and artistic events, street theatre, a masked ball and weekend carnival parades take place, with revellers smashing clay pots on the ground to bring good luck and health.

After all the excitement in Ptuj, visitors will then travel to the beautiful alpine town of Lake Bled to stay at the luxury Grand Toplice Hotel, where they will enjoy a two-day spa-package.  This comprises four treatments: a massage bath plus a glass of sparkling wine; a whole-body massage with the addition of warm herbs; exfoliation and facial massage; reflexology foot massage, plus use of swimming pool and saunas.

Just Slovenia

Tel: 01373 814230


Based on travel in late February or early March, the Kurent break includes two nights’ accommodation at the Garni Mitra Hotel in the centre of historic Ptuj, followed by three nights at the Grand Toplice Hotel overlooking Lake Bled.  The price of £755 per person, based on two sharing, includes return flights from Stansted, car hire, five nights’ bed and breakfast, plus the two-day spa package.

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Recipe: Soča River Trout Wrapped in Pršut

When I first visited Slovenia the Detela family took me out to a restaurant one day for lunch.  This was the dish I ordered and I love it!  It’s fresh, tasty and as I found when I tried to make it recently, not actually that difficult.

Soška postrv s pršutom

Check out my recipe below…


1 trout per person gutted, cleaned and patted dry

4 slices of proscuitto ham per fish

1 clove of garlic per fish, crushed

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley per fish

250ml white wine

50g butter



Generously butter a roasting dish large enough to fit the fish laying flat

Place the garlic and parsley into the fish

Wrap the prosciutto ham around each fish to seal it, season with salt and pepper

Soška postrv s pršutom

Place fish into roasting tin

Pour wine over fish

Place in oven on 180°C and roast for 30 minutes

Remove the fish from the oven and keep warm

Simmer the juices until slightly thickened

Serve the fish with the sauce poured over it and a generous wedge of lemon

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