Several weeks ago when I received an offer to travel to Slovenia for my first free weekend, my immediate instinct was to deny it. What was in Slovenia? Why would anyone choose Slovenia when there are Paris, Rome and Munich?
The city in Slovenia, Lake Bled, was a hidden gem, the group insisted. Though it sounded more like a home for vampires than a secret treasure of Europe, I decided to make the trip for the sake of adventure.
Since this was the first weekend Franciscan students traveled on their own, without school buses and guides, the trip to Slovenia was an entirely different experience. We had to figure out the train system on our own, how to get from one train to the next within a span of three minutes and find our stops when nobody spoke English. Yet six hours later, we had successfully arrived in Lake Bled, Slovenia.
Upon first arriving in Bled, the scene that met us was like something out of a storybook. We had come across the most beautiful lake, with sparkling crystal waters, completely surrounded by snow-covered mountains. In the center of the lake was a small island only accessible by rowboat, with a church and a large bell tower on it.
There were so many different activities to do in this town, although small. We explored a gorge that led us along rickety bridges suspended over a river of rapids, and (we) had desserts in a castle perched high on one of the mountains. We also got a chance to hike to the peak of a mountain that overlooked the city, where the Guardians (of the Divine Will) in our group could not help but pose for photos as Blessed Pier Giorgio.
Of all the experiences we had in Bled, easily the most significant for us was the church we discovered. Over in Gaming, students have the opportunity to visit many famous churches.
In fact, it is not uncommon to go on a school trip where students see three to four major churches in just a few hours. However, this church in Bled was arguably the most beautiful we have seen yet.
We stopped in the church unexpectedly, simply desiring to say a short prayer and move on with our trip. Yet we found a church with the walls completely covered with murals. The murals, while beautiful, did not mean that much to us until we discovered what they were actually of.
Each mural was a picture of one line from the Our Father that stretched all around the church.
They were absolutely stunning depictions and made us see the Our Father in ways we had never before considered. Our group went around the church saying the Our Father together, line by line, while looking at the murals.
Above all, the best mural was the final one — the one that depicted “Amen.” This one, which stretched from floor to ceiling, included hell, purgatory and heaven. Angels reached down to grab people from purgatory and pull them up into the realms of heaven. In heaven, there were dozens of choirs of angels surrounding Jesus, who looked more triumphant than I have ever seen. The experience in the church was so moving, that when we left, thinking only 10 minutes had gone by, we realized that we had been in the church for over an hour!
Upon leaving Bled, each member of our group had a great appreciation for Slovenia, this little country we would have never expected to hold such beauty. Lake Bled truly was, as TripAdvisor had suggested, an “adventure-fairytale” and was a trip we will not soon f