Two of the Best
for a special break,
Slovenia might not
to mind, but this little
country has all the
charm and eccentricity
of a Don Camillo tale...
TAKE THE HIGHWAYS IF YOU ARE IN A HURRY but better still follow the quiet,
small roads wending their way through the mountains. That way you can enjoy
the vistas: meadows carpeted with a cornucopia of wild flowers and dotted
with grazing sheep and a few unspoilt alpine farmhouses. It is just about
as good as it could possibly get. Never have we seen such a myriad of flowers
ranging from deep blue columbines to the yellow and gold of buttercups and
Slovenia has character and individuality: its small capital Ljubljana has
it in bucket loads; Radovlijica village has it too, as does Kropa… we could
go on and on. They do not do bland and they can surprise too. We were looking
for some special hotels rather than the usual 'beige' in colour and
character hotel chains. Our search was well rewarded: in one we found the
aim is to create 'the best in Bled' (they have everything needed to achieve
that aspiration) whilst the other is a rare gem indeed. First then, to Lake
Lake Bled Rediscovered
SET AGAINST A BREATHTAKING BACKDROP of snow-dusted mountains in
a peaceful location with uninterrupted views across the legendary Lake Bled
stands the newly-renovated Hotel
Triglav. This art nouveau building (1906) with twenty-two en-suite rooms
is reportedly the first hotel opened in Bled. After being grabbed by the former
socialist state and run down into a near ruin, it was returned six years ago
to the original family. The owner has spent the last year lovingly restoring
at a cost of over £2m and furnishing the building
with antiques collected over many years, but taking the opportunity of adding
all the modern touches such as an indoor swimming pool and spa.
From the hotel there is an uninterrupted view of the iconic islet with its
church whilst the rather less than elegant hotels at the other end of the
lake are shielded by the mountains. Encompassing the entire lake is a well
maintained path that is perfect for a leisurely amble, but should you wish
to be driven to Bled's small town centre the hotel can provide a complimentary
Managing Director Marcela and her enthusiastic young team have put together
many impressive packages to cater for just about every taste ranging from
horse riding, steam train excursions (on the picturesque Bohinj railway),
wine tasting, weddings, cookery classes or just Wellness relaxation programmes.
This, together with some of the very best of Slovene food eaten in the almost
'ocean liner' atmospheric restaurant with picture postcard views across the
sparkling lake, is indeed unforgettable.
We both admit to enjoying a glass or two of wine and here we could indulge
ourselves as all the wines are local and excellent. Imagine our delight
at discovering what is probably the best rosé that we have every tasted: Pinky
Chick. Marketed as the sexiest wine in Slovenia, Pinky Chick's aromas and
taste were crammed full of the fruits of the summer leaving a gentle tingle
on the tongue and we are pretty sure many would dearly love to be able to
buy it here in Britain.
The hotel is at present still completing the landscaping of its gardens and
a few additional small touches. This, however, does not affect the enjoyment
of staying there and provides the opportunity to be one of the 'first' to
sample its many delights including those fantastic lake views from your bedroom
balcony. We have all probably read the lists of the top ten 'best hotel views'
look out for a new addition from Bled's lakeside.
Kendov Dvorec Hotel
WE'VE WAXED LYRICALLY about the beauty and character of Slovenia
for many years, but only this spring did we find something which, if not unique,
then so rare it should be ranked in a global league the Kendov
We were exploring the little populated western side of Slovenia a mere thirty
miles or so north of Trieste where there are few roads, some farming, lace
making and little traffic in these enchanting forested and meadowed foothills.
Here in this tranquil, idyllic setting surrounded by old apple trees, sits
an old manor house now the hotel Kendov Dvorec.
The manor is surrounded by a small well tended garden of hydrangeas giving
way to a meadow of blue and yellow wild flowers with magnificent views across
the village of Spodrja Idrija and the surrounding mountain peaks. Its history
dates back to 1377 when the first owners ran a large estate supplying the
local mercury mines (long since gone) with wood.
Obviously this is no ordinary eleven-bedroomed hotel and is run with a combination
of informality and friendly professionalism hard to match. The resulting relaxed
atmosphere creates the impression that you are a visitor in a private, grand
house of a bygone time which indeed you are. In fact, this beautiful
manor is primarily run for VIP guests of the company that owns it.
Luxury and elegance combine with homeliness in the individual nineteenth century
furnishing of the rooms. Small personal touches such as the delicate
decanter with cherry brandy liqueur set on an exquisite lace mat in our bedroom,
linens edged with handmade lace and vases brimming with simple and uncomplicated
local flowers were not only charming, but made us feel very welcome
The team, headed up by the delightful Gregor Kosmac, was so discreet that
you hardly noticed and dinner was an absolute revelation. All the dishes are
made with locally sourced ingredients based on traditional Slovene dishes
but with a deceptive simplicity, lightness and skill. There is no menu and
the sublime food matched with local high-quality wines (two of which were
produced by the owner of the hotel) provided us with a meal we will remember
for many years.
Only a truly skilled chef could have produced such delicious, tender smoked
lamb and feather-light flat bread: called bati, it had been allowed
to rise just slightly. Our intensely flavoured wild mushrooms were accompanied
by a small ball of meltingly-creamy polenta, quite unlike any other we have
tasted. A truly inspirational dinner.
In the summer meals may be taken out on the shaded garden terrace surrounded
by wisteria and roses, but we ate in the elegant dining room. There are two
more rooms downstairs set aside for entertaining, weddings and other occasions.
In one of these rooms, originally the house's granary, there is a fresco of
the Tree of Life supposedly depicting the last family members of the Kenda
family to live in the house. Again, the little touches of complimentary drinks
in the small sitting room add to the exclusive feel.
You are quite likely to find that fellow guests have been before and if you
can live without the modern trappings of a spa and swimming pool, the Kendov
Dvorec has everything anyone could really wish for. It is certainly one of
the most romantic and magical places we have experienced. Tim and