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Is Slovenia a better option for our 2 nights?

Wanted to get an opinion or two.
I am fascinated by a few places in Slovenia so would love to devote more time to it but rest of trip is booked so this is the only option or leave to another year. These 2 days are mid-trip basically.
Lake Bled is the primary draw, it is on my bucket list as a photographer.

Original plan for these 2 nights was to make the drive from the Dolomites to Bavaria, Germany staying next to Neuschwanstein Castle to visit the castle, take photos, etc... and then drive from there returning the car to Venice.
I have a hotel booked these 2 nights which can be cancelled with no penalty.
Due to rain and some ongoing construction a trail near the castle and the main scenic walking bridge are both closed which while not affecting logistics makes the location a little less desirable than it previously was. It is possible the repair work will be done before we get there.

Both Neuschwanstein and Lake Bled are on my bucket list.
I compared Lake Bled's driving time and though longer from our base in the Dolomites on the first day is a closer ride to Venice at the end and overall is an hour less driving for the total trip.

I think either is worth the driving time personally.
Would only have 2 nights see two potential places to stay which look nice and habve availability on our Sept dates in Bled, Hotel Villa Bled or Hotel Kompas ; lean hotel Kompas due to enclosed pool which would be nice in case of inclimate weather.
Would want to also sneak out for either a sunrise or sunset one day in Jamnik which is not too far away ; about 35 min each way according to google maps.
Otherwise spend the time (basically just 1 full day) taking the boat over to the island in Bled, walking around the island, walking to the viewpoints high up surrounding the lake, etc... is it easy to access the main viewpoints of the island for photos?

Enjoying the views mostly.

On the way to Venice may be worthwhile to stop at Skocjan Caves? or Predjama Castle?

What do you think does this plan sound better than a trip to Neuschwanstein castle for these 2 nights? I cannot do both obviously. This would be kind of a last minute change of plans so may need to be sold this is a better idea than my other plan.
Both are admittedly rushed though for the Neuschanstein Castle 2 nights is the absolute max I would stay there whereas Slovenia I could spend more days and easily find things to occupy the time.

Posted by
385 posts

I have been to Neuschwanstein 4 times - all day trips, each taking a different person there. One could argue that it was three times too many! That being said, I loved hiking up the gorge and the pictures from the Marienbrucke are a big draw. With the gorge and bridge both closed, I would lean towards Lake Bled. We were just there in May and loved it - you can visit the castle and take good pictures, boat out to the island and take good pictures and walk around the lake. We left from Ljubljana and spent several hours in Bled before driving the Vrsic pass and we stayed over in Kobarid. We loved everything in Slovenia and would definitely love to make a return trip to Bled as there were many things we would like to do in the area.

Save Neuschwanstein for some time when you can access all that is good there so you don't have to go 4 times like I did!

Posted by
1827 posts

Thank you tiger fan
The points you brought up are my reasons for the potential change of plans

I am thinking I should book a cancelable room in bled and then keep both bookings another month or so to see if any repair progress has been made to the marienbrucke and gorge trail?

Which area would you say is more beautiful / picturesque in general?
(Bled or Neuschwanstein)

Posted by
1635 posts

I've been to Neuschwanstein twice and to Bled once.

I think other places in Bavaria have the edge over Neuschwanstein. And I think Bled is stunning. If your main interest is photography, go to Bled.

I didn't make it to Predjama Castle when I was in Slovenia, but I did go to Skocjan Caves, and they were pretty strict about enforcing a no-photographs policy in the cave. If you want some great photography opportunities on the drive from Bled to Venice, take the scenic route over Vršič Pass and along the Soca River.

Posted by
1827 posts

Thanks Lane.
I should preference my post by saying that my main interest is photography but will also be with wife and toddler daughter who do not have share that interest.

So say Sunrise and Sunsets are my time and rest of the time I am regular tourist with the family and trying to find things that would interest them as well. Wife agrees to let me plan where we go as long as I do the driving, she wants the trip destinations a surprise to her.
I mention this as if we stop on the drive to Venice I imagine it would not be ideal time for photography and I would only want to plan a stop if it was something they would enjoy, so does not need to be with a camera where/if we stop.

Could do a scenic drive but am leaving the Dolomites where we will have driven on a few mountain passes during our stay so imagine we will at this point quite satisfied with our mountain road time and be fine taking the highway.

Neuschwanstein had the whole Disney castle going for it. End of the trip will have a daytrip in Euro Disney while we stay in Paris so I thought that was a nice tie in and my daughter is a Frozen fanatic.
I do worry though if it has enough for 2 nights to keep wife and daughter happy as the hotel I have booked has nothing to do at the hotel and is quite basic. One night is likely enough I think but is a fair amount of driving just for the overnight.

Bled is really drawing me in the more I look into it, so I am at this point convinced I need to make Bled work into the plans.
The hotel options are much more full service, some with swimming pools for my daughter and wife and daughter would enjoy taking the wooden boats over to the island, maybe a carriage ride around the lake, visiting the church on the island. Overall much more for them than the castle or castles if we included the other castle near Neuschwanstein.
I also think just one overnight in Bled would not work out, especially with a long drove getting there ; so need 2 nights in Bled.
Even more so if I want at some point I may want to see Jamnik, sadly I will don't see having time for the Vintgar Gorge if we only stay 2 nights.
My main question now is do I get creative/crazy and leave the Dolomites a day earlier than planned losing a little money to do so and go to Neuschwanstein still but for just 1 night. Ideally in a way I could cancel in short notice if I find out the Marienbrucke and Gorge trail remain closed or weather does not look ideal.
Would then need to drive from Neuschwanstein to Lake Bled directly if we go there which is a long drive.

Posted by
5254 posts

I found Vintgar Gorge more spectacular than Lake Bled.

Posted by
1827 posts

Booked 2 nights at Vila Bled
I looked at quite a few properties and selected this one as it has the best position on the lake for views
The rest of the hotels are all bunched near each other in a section which is much closer to town but means an extra 30 minute walk to the best views which are on the West and South West side of the lake based on my research ; the hikes as originate from these parts.
Of course I will have a long walk into town this way.

With only 2 nights and arriving late in the day on the first day we likely won't have time for the Gorge but am keeping it as an option to decide when we get there ; might let my wife decide if she wants to go there or to the Bled Castle, likely not time for both. Might be a better than the Castle should we get some overcast / gloomy weather.
I have seen pictures and the gorge looks nice but not overwhelmingly so, what makes it so special? Is it the clarity and/or color of the water?

Not sure if we will stop anywhere on way to Venice, may just get there earlier instead.

Posted by
24809 posts

The gorge is very nice, but I wouldn't quite call it spectacular. I suspect it's more impressive to folks from the desert Southwest than North Carolinians like me. It's larger, I think, but not massively better than a gorge I walked near Lake Placid, for example. But any watery attraction sort of pales when it's seen on the same trip as Plitvice Lakes, as was my situation last year. In any case, from the photographic perspective, I believe you'll much prefer Lake Bled. (Caveat: I am not a photographer myself.)

Also, you mentioned a young daughter. I'm not certain how well the gorge would work with her in tow. It was pretty crowded last year (though not as bad as Plitvice). I'm not saying the gorge would be a problem, because I wasn't thinking about having a young child there, and I'm sure there were some. I'd just recommend that you discuss it with a disinterested party in advance. There were leashed dogs alllowed at Plitvice, and I think there were some at Vintgar as well. Crowded conditions, narrow walkways above a gorge, get the picture..

I have similar concerns about Skocjan, too, except that there were no dogs. Neither site felt dangerous to me, but Europeans don't build in as many safeguards as we do (it could be argued that we overdo it, I know).

The other thing about Skocjan is that it is not as developed-for-tourism as Postojna. That's mostly as good thing, but I'm 64, and I found the light level a bit too low to fully appreciate the formations. The guide would mention the different colors, and I could hardly see a difference. If you're thinking about photography inside the cavern, it might be more of a challenge than expected. Postojna, as I recall, is more brightly lit (probably with some colored lights). Geographically, Postojna might not work for you, though, even if you weren't bothered by its more touristy character.

Posted by
1827 posts

Thanks scraven. Yes my take on it was it looks similar but a little more impressive than a place near me I like to photograph when the autumn leaves turn (Flume Gorge in NH). While I find it a beautiful place my wife thinks it is not so fantastic and if very crowded or if slippery likely would be a place where I would have to carry my daughter for good portions.
If the water is clearer and more aqua colored it could leave anything in NH in the dust I have no doubt but still not really the type of thing my wife would be into. Plitvice Lakes on the other hand would blow me and her away I have no doubt. Don't know if I will get there but is definitely on my list should I get to Croatia.

The caves have some interest just because we have nothing like that in the northeast United States but when it comes down to it I think my wife would prefer we get to Venice earlier. Personally I might prefer the cave but if I do the crazy one night side trip to Neuschwanstein I am going to be ready to turn in that rental car as soon as we can rather than extend the driving by the end I think.

Posted by
5254 posts

Acraven - interestingly, I am also from North Carolina. Hmmm.

We visited the gorge with our then 4 year old. He loved it.

I have also been to Plitvice, which I loved (talk about a photographer's dream).

As for the gorge, I found the color of the water amazing against the lush green forest. I also liked that it was an activity.

At the lake (also fantastic) we just stood, strolled and took pictures. We went up to the castle, but decided not to go in because it didn't seem that interesting compared to others.

Posted by
385 posts

I think with a toddler daughter, Lake Bled is best and I would not try to fit in Neuschwanstein. My husband is like you and gets up early to go out and take photos while I sleep in and I asked him which is more beautiful/photogenic and that was a struggle, but I think he leans towards Bled because there is more there that is interesting/quirky - it feels older and less like a Disney set. We lean towards nature/cobblestone streets/old buildings in our photography. Photographing Neuschwanstein is like photographing the Eiffel tower - I feel like there is no photo there that hasn't already been taken. He still wants to go back to Neuschwanstein in the winter to photograph it with snow. I would not make another trip if up to me.

I think a child would appreciate Neuschwanstein and environs more at school age. My kids were 11 when we went and could bike around the lake, swim across the lake, hike up the gorge, do the sommer-rodelbahn and one son went tandem paragliding (yes, at 11). My point is, there are so many vigorous outdoor activities there, but they are for older people - not toddlers - in my opinion. Lake Bled is more toddler-friendly - no power boats on the lake, but you can either rent your own rowboat or pay to be rowed out. The castle had a show of some sort, like a re-enacted battle with knights and maidens etc... that might interest her - I don't know if that is on a regular schedule. And to stay at a resort with a pool, well, that was the pinnacle of fun for my kids.

Posted by
1827 posts

Thanks Tigerfan,
Yes for us Lake Bled makes more sense and I did book 2 nights there and very much looking forward to it.
At Neuschwanstein many of the adventurous options you describe do which sound exciting to me but little appeal to my wife and would be not suitable for my daughter.
Must have been an amazing experience for your sons though!
From a photography standpoint, Lake Bled seems to be one of the few areas in the world that you can actually make a nice photograph in any weather. A day of relaxing walking around the lake, rowing to the island, maybe take a horse carriage ride to the Castle, sounds like it would appeal to everyone. I will have 2 sunrises at least there so weather permitting can do the hike up to Ojstrica pre dawn one day and the other day photograph from the Lake Shore. One sunset and night photography at the Lake Shore and likely a side trip for a night photograph of Jamnik's church which is not too far for me to go (likely solo, hopefully navigating there in the dark won't be too difficult)

The castle for 1 night is still calling me and I still thinking of reworking my plans somewhat to have it planned but not mandatory and I have a plan B already in place.
This would involve checking out of the Dolomites one day early, cancelling now I will pay a small fee to do so vs. a larger fee later. STILL DEBATING NOW
I booked one night at the Castle which can be cancelled with no penalty day before and then thinking I will book a 3rd night in Lake Bled where there is also the option of canceling late with no penalty.
1 night at the Castle seems the right time for our group and I don't think the drive will bother me to get to see such an incredible place but do worry it makes the overall trip more rushed and moving about so much is something my wife does not appreciate.
It adds approx. 4 hours total driving difference which is not bad but a 3 hour drive to spend 1 night and then get in the car for a 5 - 5.5 hour drive will be a tough travel plan!

If we want to go to the castle we can do so, but allows us to make that decision after we are already in the Dolomites and know our energy level, tolerance for driving and moving about more so than now.
If we decide not to go, we can take a more scenic route to Lake Bled a day early and stay 3 nights which will allow us to see some more things in Slovenia.
We either do the castle for 1 night and Lake Bled for 2 or the skip the castle and Lake Bled for 3.
The time in the Dolomites suffers which is a shame but part of that decision is because the cancelation policy is not the same there.
If we end up with 3 nights in Lake Bled we can visit Lake Bohinj and Vintgar Gorge and I will have much better chance of getting good light for the planned photos with more days.

As far as the castle's negatives:
It does not bother me in the least that the castle is not an authentic castle and more of a palace residence with castle façade.
I could care less, it is a beautiful building with amazing surroundings and for me it will always be on my bucket list to photograph. The appeal to me is where we are staying we would have access to the grounds when there are no tourists about, I see it partially as a once in a lifetime opportunity that could allow me some angles or times of day/night that could make my photos be different from there than most. Like your husband I would also prefer to photograph it after snowfall or even late fall with the leaves turning but definitely makes logistics harder and I likely will not be traveling to Europe in the winter anytime in the next decade plus.
It still has unique history that even if not hundreds of years old is still old enough by US standards to be appreciated for the difficulty it was to construct when it was.
My daughter being a big Disney fan I would rather hang a print of the castle that inspired Disney on her bedroom wall that I took than one of the castle built by Disney inside an amusement park.