After the rest of Germany came back from Easter, we hit the road for a trip through the mountains from Regensburg to Graz, Austria to Lake Bled, Slovenia on the way to Verona, Italy. We had great weather most of the time. This was our second try on a few days in Verona, and we’re glad we gave it another shot.
1st Leg: Regensburg to Graz
The drive was pretty easy, if a bit infuriating towards the end. We sat in front of a tunnel for 30 minutes waiting for it to open up to traffic in our direction. They were doing construction on it, at night, but still causing big traffic delays. We almost missed our check-in at the hotel, arriving at 22:05.
Sarah found us a fun way nearby to spend some time not in the car the next day: the Österreichisches Freilichtmuseum, or “Austrian Open-Air Museum” lets you travel back in time on foot around all the areas of Austria. Watching the mills in action was a real treat.
The weather broke into a terrific rainstorm just as we were preparing to leave and we had a rather rainy visit to the downtown area. It didn’t deter us from climbing the Schloßberg and watching the clouds roll on past us.
2nd Leg: Into Slovenia
We could have headed right for our accommodations in Lake Bled, but for almost the same drive time, why not stop in Ljubljana for Kaffee und Kuchen? I mean, the Habsburgs must have done that all the time.
We turned up right on schedule in Lake Bled and set out strolling around the lake. I turned in early that evening and was ready to observe the sunrise on the lake; it did not disappoint.
Several times we tried to visit the Vintgar Gorge just outside of town, but the first time we got there the local police had just closed it off. On our second attempt to visit the gorge, it was still closed off and we saw a helicopter airlifting something away. Instead, we drove off across Slovenia’s only national park to Savica Falls.
On the way back from the falls, we stopped off at the Vogel ski school and took a gondola up. Not much happening up there. There were a bunch of kids on their lunch break, but we just wanted to look around. After about a half-hour, we rode the gondola back down, feeling peckish ourselves.
We stopped off in Bohinjska Bistrica for lunch at Štrud’l and split one of their house specialty entree. It was huge and delicious. We couldn’t say no to one of the palačinka (Palatschinken) and one order of šmorrn (Kaiserschmarrn), which was enormous and did double-duty as dinner in our hotel room later that day. The waitress at Štrud’l was happy to pack it up for us.
Food in the Bled region was uniformly great. I had grilled lake trout every day, each time served differently, and all of them were excellent. Evidence is provided. Sarah enjoyed everything she ate, but was surprised at the amount of meat (despite having Croatian heritage and hailing from a meat-centric part of the USA). You can find meatless dishes, but you have to look pretty hard for them, and the variety probably won’t be the widest. Case in point: Sarah ordered a salad. The description mentioned bacon. We thought “oh, a few bacon bits will add a nice savory flavor.” This is what she got:
On our last full day in the Bled region, we climbed the stairs up the side of the cliff to the castle complex on top for lunch and little wine shopping. Upon reaching the summit, we discovered we could have driven. That would have been preferable, given the six bottles of white
whine wine we schlepped back down on our backs.
Gratuitous Lake Pictures:
3rd Leg: Buongiorno VeronaPart of the problem the last time we tried to tackle Verona was parking — or rather the lack of it. We were staying 20 minutes outside of the city center and absolutely needed a car to get to the action. And then the parking was a nightmare. This time, however, our hotel included a parking spot in a very nearby underground garage, and it was only a ten minute walk from breakfast to one of several bridges leading into Verona’s Altstadt.
Last time we were pretty unprepared for the restaurant schedule in Verona. You can miss lunch, and have to wait for dinner hours to get a meal, if you’re not careful. That happened to us last time, and combining that with pouring rain and a sketchy-at-best understanding of the downtown layout, we were so frustrated (not to mention hungry) that we opted for a lousy restaurant right along the promenade around the arena. It would seem that terrible places are the ones most likely to have a durchgehend warme Küche. That restaurant experience still ranks as the worst we ever had in Italy. But 8 years later, we’ve got smartphones with offline maps and reliable WiFi at hotels, and a host of review websites to help you avoid the garbage. We enjoyed glorious, local food and wine, with a stack of alternatives nearby should our first choice be unexpectedly closed or full.
- Bigoli pasta with ground duck or nettle pesto
- Fettucine with local black truffles
- Raddichio pizza
3.5th Leg: a stop in Mayrhofen, Austria
We certainly could have driven all the way from Verona back to Regensburg in one go, but Sarah found us a very good deal on an overnight stay in the Zillertal region of Austria mostly on our way back…so we opted to split the 5.5 hour drive into two 3-hour drives, enjoying the weather and the views both on the road and from our hotel in the morning.