Written by Diane Inglis
(A highly commended runner-up entry in the Travel and Water Writing Competition.)
As one of the growing number of older people taking to the lakes and rivers of Britain for a swim, I jumped at the chance to join an open water swimming holiday in Slovenia.
After one of our regular sessions in the murky local dock, my friend suggested swimming in Lake Bled. Buoyed up by the energy boost and feeling of goodwill that only a dip in open water can bring, I said yes. I did not hesitate. I did not even know where Slovenia was. Once home I googled Lake Bled and saw aquamarine water against a backdrop of pine forests and mountains. My interest was piqued. It looked amazing but would I be good enough and could I swim far enough were just two of the questions rattling around my head as I signed up.
At 53 years young, was I too old? Would I be left trailing in the wake of young triathletes? But my doubts were laid to rest by the organisers who explained that there would be eight swimmers of mixed ages and abilities, divided into smaller groups.
We flew from Stansted to Lublijana and from the moment we arrived, I was hooked. A cool guy with dreadlocks tied in a ponytail and the chiselled face of a male model approached us at the luggage carousel. Gathering us together, he introduced himself as Andreas. With a long lean stride he loped towards his waiting VW Camper van, leaving us mere mortals trailing in his wake.
The Slovenian scenery was beautiful. Craggy mountains and lush forests straddled the route as we wound our way to our hotel on the shores of Lake Bohinj, Slovenia’s largest lake.
An alpine chalet with views over the water, the rooms were comfortable with pine furniture and rustic décor. The only thing lacking for me was the tea-making facilities.
The swim guides were two girls, an Aussie and a Kiwi, who completed 20 mile sea swims for fun. Worried that my own one mile efforts may seem a little paltry, I hesitantly declared my lack of training and ability. “No worries,” said Lizzie, “we’ll soon get you out on the lake. By the end of the week you’ll be swimming further than ever before.”
First day was a swim in Lake Bled. Crystal-blue water framed by mountains, the lake was warm enough to swim without wetsuits. Flanked by Andreas in our support boat, we struck out to the island in the middle where we stopped for coffee and a slice of Lake Bled Cake, a moreish creation of flaky pastry and vanilla custard. We then climbed the 99 steps to the white stuccoed church where for one Euro you could ring the bell and make a wish. We could still hear it chiming as we swam back to shore.
After a lunch of pizza, cold meat and salads, we swam the length of the lake, 1.3 miles, to the lido at the other end. Lizzie’s prediction was already coming true and it felt fantastic.
The next day Andreas drove us across the border into Italy for a swim in an ice-blue lake. High in the Julian Alps, the water was a painfully-cold 12 degrees and a quick dip was more than enough for us wetsuit-clad softies.
However they obviously breed them tough in the mountains and we could hardly believe our eyes when a man stripped off and waded in stark naked without even so much as a shiver. We then travelled a few miles down the road and swam a mile in a fast-flowing river. I got out before the end as I could not get my stroke right in the current and just met the others at a small café downstream.
The journey back took us over some high mountain passes, so to save time we rode the car train. Rattling along through the endless tunnels, we felt like early Wild West pioneers, heading for a new future. Our swimming over, we concluded the day with a wine tasting and fantastic meal in a tiny mountain cabin restaurant where the only
sound was the rustling of the pine trees.
Our final day was spent enjoying a leisurely swim in Lake Bohinj. I actually completed the distance, just short of three miles, with ease, albeit slowly, which was a huge boost to my confidence.
Slovenia was a real wow and we are already planning our next trip. As for outdoor swimming holidays, I can’t wait.
Name of tour operator: Swim Trek
See also Lake Bled, Slovenia – Short Break
POSTED 10th June 2016 by STE Web Editor STEVE HANSON on behalf of DIANE INGLIS.