BLED , LJUBLJANA , POSTOJNA
Conference organisers make a point of including excursions in the programme so as to make their guests want to come back … in Bled their mission was accomplished!
If we disregard the lack of sunshine, everyone agreed that the town of Bled and its immediate surroundings are in every respect ideal as a tourist destination, even during all four seasons if we are to believe the magnificent tourist brochures. A superb lake, no shortage of good quality hotels, no shortage of sports facilities of every kind, etc. – a real post-card destination. But that is not all. For example, Bled hosted the international chess tournament starring Gary Kasparov in 2002, and the Young People’s Winter Olympics in 2003, and in 2005 Bled will host the World Fireman Conference. And Prince Charles of the United Kingdom, Madeleine Albright American Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and others have stayed here or at least passed through, if we are to believe the photographs displayed in the Toplice hotel. So it is hardly surprising that Joze Antonic, mayor of the town of Bled, which is celebrating a thousand years since its foundation, always wears a broad smile. And to welcome the participants in the AEHT conference, Bled had pulled out all the stops, raising almost everywhere the flags of Slovenia, of Bled and of the AEHT
But in a small country like Slovenia the capital is never very far away, so a visit to Ljubljana (300.000 inhabitants) was on the programme for Saturday October 16th, leaving Bled at 8am to arrive in Ljubljana at around 9am. First a quick visit by bus, then a tour on foot in the old town around Congress Square and along the river, led by local guides who were fascinating in general. The Roman wall, the embassy quarter, the brightly coloured market, the city hall and other sights now hold no secrets for our visitors who could appreciate – despite the rain - the charms of this city with its 2000 years of history!
Another short drive in the bus took us, 50 kilometres down the road, to the Postojna caves, the biggest and among the most beautiful in Europe. By now it was midday, and the rain was coming down hard. Next, after a seven minute journey in a little train, the joyful band met up again at the heart of the cave complex for a good hour’s walk through the skilfully organised and well signposted maze. Each language group had its own guide, and we were treated to lessons in extraordinary facts which, we should mention as an aside, makes mankind pale into insignificance compared with the magnificence of nature and its vitality. The smallest stalactite is the work of thousands of years. Then came an added treat – a deeply moving vocal concert performed beneath the vaults of these veritable underground cathedrals. We emerged back into fresh air at 2pm, and all met up for a solid and nourishing lunch in the nearby restaurant.
But all good things must come to an end, and after some people had finished their shopping in the shops around the caves, the programme dictated our return to Bled by 5pm, to allow everyone to relax before the gala evening scheduled for 8pm.
As well as this day’s excursion full of enriching discoveries, the organisers had also planned several other sorts of tourism during our stay in Bled. For example there was a video presentation of Bled shown several times at the Bled hotel school. Or a guided walking tour of Bled, or, for the more energetic among us, a walk around the lake. And finally, once night fell, the students did not hesitate to throw off the stress of the competitions in the nearby ‘Shinjuku’ discotheque in Lesce, where they bathed in decibels, spotlights and … perspiration!