“Go to Lake Bohinen, it’s better, and fewer tourists,” said the waiter, while he poured more wine. We knew he was right, because even though Bled is a tourist magnet with its beautiful villas, churches and castles, lake Bohinj has a spectacular scenery and is half as commercial as Bled.
And nothing is more boring than the commercialization we so often experience, I therefore browsed guide books for something more. And this time I had luck with me – in one of Bled’s many hotels, I found something that caught my attention. But in spite of commercialization, Bled remains one of Europe’s most beautiful places. The lake, Bled Castle, the island with its beautiful church, is like a fairytale.
There are no annoying motor boats, so one experience a tranquility that automatically makes one slow down. The silence is interrupted only by the church bell on the island. Visitors to the church may ring the bell for good luck. So while walking around the lake and watching the beautiful suroundings, one can enjoy the sound of all the souls who hope for happiness.But my goal for this trip was something very different, and to get to “my attraction”, we had to go to the Hotel Villa Bled. My traveling companions was somewhat skeptical when we pulled into the driveway of the hotel. I had not told why we should stop at this hotel, therefore they agreed with some reluctance.
Hotel Villa Bled was completed by Tito after World War II, but the first villa was built in 1883. King Alexander bought the place of Windischgrätz family in 1922, determined to build a new villa in flight with the old. But the King died in 1934 and the house demolished. The reconstruction of the new house was interrupted by World War II. But Tito demanded to finish the villa once the war was over, it became one of Tito’s favorite places.
But Tito did not only rebuild the Vila Bled he also committed artist Pengov – and therefore one of the meeting room has a huge fresco that describes Yugoslavias struggle against the Nazis during World War II. It is this fresco that caught my attention! But it is not certain that you will be able to se this magnificent piece of art. Since the painting is in a meeting room in a hotel, it might be occupied or even worse it may be covered. Therefor I was a little nervous when I confronted the front desk. But the receptionist gave me access with great enthusiasm.
The painting depicts air bombing of Belgrade, the battlefields of the Neretva, Sutjeska, Igmanski and ultimately victory over the Nazis and the rebuilding of the country. The fact that it is in a meeting room, and reflects postwar use of artists to portray the political attitudes and propaganda, make this interesting. The fresco is, however, covered with curtains if the room is used for weddings or other events intended that the painting theme is considered inappropriate. The fresco is considered part of national heritage of Slovenia, and therefore it can not be moved to a place more available for the public.
In our artistic stop we did, like everyone else, and rented a boat rowed out to the island with the beautiful church of the assumption. After an hour off shore we drove to Bohinen just to check if the waiter was right, and that he was. But after seeing Pengovs fresco, and walked in Tito’s park, I admit that in spite of all the commercialization, Bled is beautiful, very beautiful.
I had great expectations of Yalta. I had imagined a beautiful city with old buildings from the era when European kings and Queens used to spend their summers. So my disappointment was unbearable when I realized that Yalta is a large amusement park, where they played bad music and drink alcohol in public areas, terrible!
The road from our hotel to the beach, was a long street adorned with street vendors and rides. Street vendors sold same stuff as you will get anywhere as well as drinks(?). Inhabitants consume much alcohol, resulting in one of Europe’s lowest life expectancy – 50 years.
But a curiosity, fascinated me, they have retained the old street names from the Soviet era, so you can still run up Lenin Street and the statue of him in the harbor is still there. According to the Mayor’s, Soviet times is a also part of our history and should not be removed. He’s so right so right.
Steer clear of the public beaches they are overcrowded. We paid us in one of the best beaches, although the price is low, the service is good. However, one must be prepared for the new rich fat Russians drinking vodka all day, and it’s a strange sight as they lay like walruses with their very beautiful ladies at their sides.
There are many good restaurants in Yalta, but there are also many bad. Villa Sofia is, apparently,a great restaurant. People stopped to have their picture taken outside. We however wanted to eat there, but was met with a rather patronizing attitude. The food however was fantastic.
At two restaurants we dined, some of the guests got so drunk that they simply fell asleep at the table. A sad experience, a boy of 7-8 years was around the adult table and bore clear signs of the situation. Waiters did nothing to stop the drinking, but served even more booze. These experiences is st ill stuck with me, and by that I’m struggling to recommend Yalta.
In addition the restaurants play loud music, making it almost impossible to have a conversation. Besides, nothing is so annoying as 2-3 songs vying for attention in your ear. The music is also bad, almost miserable.
The traffic is nicer than I expected, but be careful. Two of our drivers drove as if they had stolen the cars. One driver was more on the leftside of the road than on the right. He showed me his driver’s license to prove that he was a good trusted driver… !? They have however begun to stop for pedestrians, but make sure the car coming behind has stopped as well!
Bring a lot of smiles in the bag when you travel to Ukraine, they need it. These people have suffered much and therefore they need all the support they can get. I gave away all my smile on the trip and was therefore a bit empty when I got home. There will be a while until I go back to «the border country» Ukraine. Ukraine is in fact land on the edge of Russia, the soil is black, while the country next door the soil is light and therefor it is called Belarus.
The flight from Kiev will take only 50 minutes and the fare was around 50 €. The runway in Odessa was somewhat a bumpy experience and we wondered if the wheels on the plane really could take all these speed pumps, yes thats what they felt like, speed bumps.
The airport in Odessa, is the kind where you have to do everything by your self. In the sense that you almost have to unload the aircraft baggage on your own. Odessa was a very positive experience. The city’s opera building is actually one of most beautiful opera houses in the world. Several streets in downtown are now converted to pedestrian areas, where there are many good restaurants.
I would like to mention two restaurants we visited the “Steak House” and Kompot in Deribasovskay Street. They had good food and good wine selection. But they are popular, so make reservation in advanced if you want the most popular tables. They are also some of the few restorants that don’t play loud music. You may therefor enjoy their food and wine in peace and quiet, only disturbed by people passing by.
Buy an ice-cream and do as many Ukrainians,walk down the Potemkin stairs. The stairs are ninefeet wider at the bottom than the top and in addition it has got an optical illusion. When you stand at the top and look down you can see only landings and from below you only see like a long flight of stairs without landings.
“Oh, Charles, do not be such a tourist. What does it matter when it ‘was built, if it’s pretty?”
(Sebastian Flyte to Charles Ryder in Brideshead revisited)
And beautiful it is, the castle built by the third Earl of Carlisle in 1699 to 1712. The castle has been home for the family Howard in more than 300 years, and the castle is now one of Britain’s largest private properties. With its 13 000 acres the property covered no less than 5 villages and had its own train station. The castle is thus only 24 miles north of York, and the drive to the castle is worth the trip in the beautiful English countryside.
Despite that the Howard family still lives in the castle, much of it is open to the public. They have placed guides in the different rooms, so you can go at your own pace.
Besides the many paintings and statues, one can also see some frescoes. Unfortunately, the castle was virtually destroyed in a fire in 1940, the frescoes are not what they once were, but still they are impressive. Several rooms are still not restored after the fire, which has made the castle quite accessible to the film industry. Granada therefore used the castle in film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel – Brideshead revisited. About the painter Charles Ryder, who falls in love, not only the heirs to the castle, but also in the castle. The castle was also used in the remake of 2008. It was the Granada television series from 1981 that aroused my interest for the place, and it has been one of my biggest dreams to visit this very beautiful castle.
The rain that pleased us all day didn’t give the parks surrounding the palace full credit, one can only imagine how great it must be on a sunny day. Next time! 🙂