When I decided to ask my girlfriend to marry me, I shunned proposal hotspots Paris and Venice as too cliché. Instead, we headed to Slovenia, where Lake Bled provided the perfect romantic backdrop
If you were given a lake, a church, a castle and some mountains, and were told to come up with the best-looking landscape imaginable, you would surely create the area surrounding Lake Bled. Words like 'gorgeous' and 'idyllic' don’t do it justice – they say a picture paints a thousand words, so look at the photograph above.
Lake Bled is a 75-minute bus-ride from Ljubljana, the capital of little Slovenia (which is the size of Wales, and the latest country to adopt the Euro). I'd heard about how beautiful it was, so thought that a day trip there during a city break in Ljubjlana would be the perfect opportunity to propose.
After arriving at the shore on a scorching June morning, we became extremely trigger-happy, taking pictures of the calm turquoise water, the snow-capped peaks of the Julian Alps in the background, the church on a little island, the dense green forest of the banks, and the castle perched on top of a steep cliff overlooking the lake. This was the epitome of romance – if Kat didn’t say yes here, she never would!
We walked around the lake, where locals and tourists were feeding the ducks and swans, and it was so hot, fish were jumping out of the water. Gondoliers were taking people to the lake’s island – could this be an opportunity for me to pop the question? Maybe not - unlike Venice’s equivalent, these gondolas sat over 10 passengers, and I didn’t fancy the possible embarrassment if Kat said no in front of complete strangers. We carried on walking.
We soon arrived at a pier where rowing boats could be rented. What a great way to reach the island in peace and do what I came for, I thought. We paid €8 for an hour and set off at what I thought was a leisurely pace, but I didn’t realise how much hard work rowing is. Sweat was dripping from my brow, and Kat was paranoid that the boat would capsize with every stroke.
Just as I thought rowing couldn’t get any harder, we approached the island’s docking platform. If you struggle to reverse park a car, wait until you try reverse parking a boat! The island is so small, we walked around it in five minutes, then sat and relaxed in the sun to get our breath back before the return to shore. The bells of the island’s church were constantly pealing – what a great venue for the wedding, I imagined. But I was getting ahead of myself here.
Back on dry land, we climbed the steps to Bled Castle for amazing views of the lake and the mountains. There was not a cloud in the sky, the temperature was pushing 30°C, and we both agreed we’d never been anywhere as beautiful as Lake Bled. Now was as good a time as any, so I whipped out the ring I’d bought at home and asked Kat to marry me. And luckily for me, she said yes.
On a high, we headed back to Ljubljana, and went straight to one of the city’s traditional gostilna restaurants to celebrate. Gostilnas serve local, affordable dishes in rustic settings - think big wooden tables, wooden beams and waiters in traditional Slovenian dress. Gostilna Sokol (Ciril Metodov trg 18; www.gostilna-sokol.com) serves hearty Slovene dishes. We enjoyed soup in bread bowls to start, followed by a mixed meat platter, including that local delicacy – horse! Our wallets wouldn’t quite stretch to champagne, but we loved the local sparkling white wine at €21 a bottle. And to finish with, I had to try a gibinica – a calorific combination of my favourite puds rolled into one: apple pie, cheese and chocolate, covered with poppy seeds and topped with cream.
Ljubljana is a great city for lovers, and we took a romantic post-dinner stroll along the emerald green Ljubljanica river. The banks are lined with bars – we settled for the popular Macek, between the Triple Bridge and Cobblers Bridge. Macek is Slovenian for cat, so the walls are decorated with paintings of felines in various poses, while our wine glasses had a cute cat logo emblazoned on them. Walking back past Triple Bridge, we had a nightcap at Cacao, on the river’s opposite bank, with a view of Ljubljana’s castle lit up and overlooking the city.
Ljubljana is a tiny city, so wherever you stay it won’t take long to find your way home and bed down for the night. We booked through www.apartmaji.si, which has apartments and studios all over town, sleeping one to eight people, and stayed at the Tara Apartment (€70 for a double room). It was on Trubarjeva, just steps from Cacao - quite fortunate, as we overdid the local fizz to celebrate a great day...