With the arrival of cold weather, I've suddenly become nostalgic for Slovenia. Bled, to be exact. Situation on a beautiful blue mountain-fed lake and surrounded by the Julian Alps, I used to spend many weekends there with friends eating hearty mushroom soup, playing golf (yes, I said golf), drinking wonderful Slovenian wine and sitting in the old sauna at the old world hotel along the edge of the lake. Some expat friends got married in there in 2001 and it was a magical, fairytale event -- taking gondolas over to the centuries-old church; dining at the castle perched precariously on cliff's edge overlooking Lake Bled and partying into the wee hours with a wonderful mix of expats and Americans who had flown in for the occasion. We used to stay at the Grand Hotel Toplice -- and it was truly grand, in an eastern European, somewhat downtrodden sense of the word. But the 5th floor suites with balconies were amazing as was the charm of the cafe and bar. They renovated about 5 years ago and I think they lost some of that charm but it's still a treasure. The Hotel Vila Bled, a former Tito residence, is another unusual place. I arrived there late one night with an old boyfriend in the dead of winter after traversing the mountains from Austria. For an additional $25, the manager upgraded us to the Presidential Suite -- 6 rooms, marble floors, 2 bathrooms...total decadence in a Yugoslav sort of way. The rooms still contain furniture used by Josip Broz Tito and his family and guests.
Definitely worth a stop on any European travels: http://www.hotelibled.com/accommodation-slovenia-bled-introduction.html. If you haven't given this country a look recently or ever, think again.