Thursday, July 31, 2008

Greetings from: BLED

Just a short trip to the north, Lake Bled is nestled at the base of the Julian Alps. It’s every photographer’s dream: you just can’t take a bad picture of this place. Resorts surround the lake, which is emerald-green and clear as far as you eye can focus. Swimmers, sunbathers, strollers: all around the lake, young and old; a retreat for tourists both internal and international. Tito himself had his summer villa here (which is now a hotel), but for such a prime piece of picturesque property, several of the lakefront homes are abandoned, collapsed, or otherwise in disrepair. Matthew keeps talking about renovations, and it frightens me.

We took a boat out to the center island (of course, we hired one for 12€ each; did you really think we’d row ourselves?), where, in the church atop the island, we watched the tail end of a Slovenian marriage. According to legend, if the groom can carry the bride up the stairs (and there are a good number of them), then the marriage will be a successful one. I don't think the groom did this, however; he was too calm and non-sweaty to have lugged another person. In dress shoes, no less. The bride wore a cream-colored gown, and the groom’s tuxedo was the color of honeyed milk with white pinstripes. We caught a glimpse of them as they left the chapel, amidst handfuls of rice. It must be odd, celebrating this day with a steady stream of tourists surrounding your party, blocking your photographer’s shots, and otherwise just getting in the way. But perhaps when you’re enjoying yourself, when you’ve convinced yourself that this day carries a greater weight than any other day before, you can ignore the presence of strangers commenting on your clothing and the clothes of your guests.

The national pride and joy—the dessert that made Lake Bled great—is a kremna rezina, a layer of whipped cream atop a layer of vanilla custard, sandwiched between to flaky pastry rectangles. It appears on your plate like a brick, but goes down like a marshmallow. Accompanied with a vroča čocolada s smetana, it’s decadence for those who know decadence. For others, it’s just a toothache.

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