Lake Bled, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Paddle to a Great Souvenir ShopIt's easy to spend hours staring out at Bled Castle, which looks straight out of a fairytale with its island-location in the center of Lake Bled. But it's much more fun to actually take to the waters and experience the castle first-hand. All around the perimeter of the lake you'll find people renting kayaks, paddleboards or if you're feeling lazy, have an oarsman take you out in a traditional Pletna boat.
Most visitors climb the 99 stone stairs and visit the Church of Assumption. I instead found myself shopping. The island is home to an old-style print shop, where you can buy handmade prints; a wine cellar, where you can buy wine; and a cafe selling espresso, baked good and local honeys and jams. Most souvenir shops in town sell the same crafts but the gift shop on Bled Island had one-of-a-kind pieces sourced from artisans throughout Slovenia. The last thing I expected to do when I rented a SUP to paddle to the island was shop for souvenirs, but I couldn't resist buying a hand-thrown tea pot from a local pottery artisan for my mom. The shop owner was sweet enough to bubble wrap the gift and box and bag it so that if I did topple off my SUP enroute back to shore my gift would survive. Luckily, I made it back with my gift dry and still balancing on the nose of my paddleboard.