Our Engagement Story: Hikes, Hills & Horses on Lake Bled, Slovenia

By Matt Morelli

In May 2016, Jade and I got engaged on a steeper-than-expected hill overlooking Lake Bled in Slovenia. In this post, we share the story of our special day.

Recently, we both sat down together and looked through the hundreds of photos we took on the day and reminisced about what happened. We recorded our conversation and below is the transcript from the recording, accompanied by our photos.

We've included links to the attractions, restaurants and providers we mentioned so that you can plan your own romantic trip to Lake Bled. If you do end up visiting Bled, regardless of the occasion, do let us know how you got on in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

The Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary on the island of Lake Bled, Slovenia
The Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary on the island of Lake Bled, Slovenia
The infamous 99 steps on the island on Lake Bled, Slovenia
The infamous 99 steps on the island on Lake Bled, Slovenia

Deciding Where & When To Propose

Jade: So, it’s been over a year since we got engaged. You proposed to me on top of a hill overlooking Lake Bled in Slovenia. It was our first time there. Our trip spanned my 30th birthday and was in between some big life changes. We’d just moved house...

Matt: That’s right, and you were due to start a new job when we got back.

Jade: Yep. So, why did you decide to propose in Slovenia?

Matt: Well, I’d been thinking about proposing to you for a long time...

Jade: In other words, I’d planted the idea in your mind a long time ago....

Matt: Yeah, pretty much from day one!

Jade: Not exactly from day one, but, sure, in between the first and second date I had gone to a friend’s wedding and I had caught the bouquet, not without effort on my part, and I had sent you pictures of the moment it happened.

Matt: Yep.

Jade: But you didn’t run away!

Matt: Nope. I had plenty of opportunity didn’t I?

Jade: Yeah. Then, around two years later, you proposed on Lake Bled.

Matt: I’d spent some time researching good places to propose and in doing so, I’d discovered a blog post by Jessie Festa who claimed that to get the very best view of Lake Bled, you needed to go to a very specific viewpoint. The photos were amazing and I knew it would be the perfect spot to pop the question.

According to tourism tradition, Matt rows across Lake Bled towards the famous island.
According to tourism tradition, Matt rows across Lake Bled towards the famous island.
For those unable or unwilling to row, there are other options available.
For those unable or unwilling to row, there are other options available.

Jade: I remember you telling me, Matt, that because you’d been given free reign to plan anything for my birthday, you thought my birthday would be the least obvious time to propose.

Matt: As we’d talked about getting married so often, it was an absolute given that at some point a proposal would happen. I can’t actually remember a time when we hadn’t been talking about it. So in order for me to surprise a proposal on you, I had to think about what might be the least obvious time. For me, that was on your birthday.

Jade: I think this was a very obvious time to do it. But I allowed you to get away with it.

Matt: What do you mean? You knew?

Jade: I couldn’t be sure, but not long before we went away to Slovenia, you told me you’d had trouble getting my ring size, so while we were sat watching TV one evening, you popped a measuring tape around my finger. I hadn’t made an assured connection between this happening and you proposing in Slovenia. I certainly didn’t know you were going to propose on my birthday.

Matt: Did you have an inkling?

Jade: I had an inkling. But I also had to prepare myself for any possible disappointment had you not have proposed while we were away.

Matt: For me, it was the least obvious time, even though clearly it wasn’t. I saw the blog post about the viewpoint, looked at the photos in the post and I just thought, that’s the spot.

Jade: So, our trip to Slovenia started in Ljubljana in an Airbnb, followed by a few days in Bled with a day trip from there to Bonhinj. And then from Bled back to Ljubljana. Within the first few hours in Bled, you were rowing the two of us across Lake Bled to the island. When we got there, we had a little joke, didn’t we?

Matt: About the staircase?

Jade: Yeah! On the island, there’s a staircase of 99 steps leading from the water’s edge to the church. Legend still has it that a groom should carry his bride up the steps to the church before getting married. When I saw the steps, I thought maybe you might propose on the island. I couldn’t resist having a little joke while we were there.

Matt: You went all Beyonce on me.

Jade: I told you “Put a ring on it!”

Matt: Yup. *laughs*

House Klasika, our hotel in Bled
House Klasika, our hotel in Bled

The Morning of the Proposal

Jade: In Bled, we stayed in a nice pension, didn’t we?! It was an old farmhouse that they’d converted. I remember the balcony with a view of the surrounding mountains. I think we had the best room in the place. It was my birthday, so you went out to the bakery across the road to get some fresh pastries while I was getting ready. We had breakfast on the balcony whilst enjoying the scenery. Then, we prepared for a walk. Again, I was a little suspicious. A couple of days before, we were planning our itinerary for our visit to Bled and you’d absolutely ruled out walking up to a viewpoint to see the lake.

Matt: Had I? *laughs*

Jade: Yeah, so I thought that you’d planned something.

Matt: Did you think I was planning something for your birthday or for a proposal.

Jade: It was in the back of my mind that it might be for a proposal. I was never certain. I wasn’t going to start looking for a ring or anything.

Matt: That's good!

Jade: I have a vivid imagination, so I didn’t want to get ahead of myself as I’d then be disappointed if it didn’t happen and I wouldn’t enjoy my birthday. But I was thinking it might be a possibility. Also, I thought, you’re a bit strange...

Matt: Oh. Thanks.

Jade: No, as in you were acting a bit strange. And I thought I won’t do my usual psychologist interrogation on you in case you inadvertently revealed something. So I just let it slide. I wanted you to feel in control of the day.

The view from the spot where Matt proposed to Jade
The view from the spot where Matt proposed to Jade
A few moments after we got engaged
A few moments after we got engaged

The Proposal on Lake Bled

Jade: What had you anticipated about the walk up to the viewpoint?

Matt: It was described as an easy walk and it didn’t seem too high. I obviously thought it would be uphill, but that it would be a leisurely stroll.

Jade: Hmmm. Okay.

Matt: And it certainly started up that way didn’t it?

Jade: It got difficult really quickly. Plus, you hadn’t brought any water. Also, we were having to rush because you'd booked an early table at the restaurant at Bled Castle.

Matt: Did you know about that?

Jade: Yeah, I suggested it as you said you hadn’t planned anything for the middle part of the day.

Matt: Right. I don't feel like I'm coming off well in this story.

Jade: Well, I’m coming off as controlling, so we'll call it quits. I thought if you had anything planned, I can’t ruin it by moaning so I kept my moaning to a minimum. I even kept quiet when we passed some girls coming down from the top of he hill loudly sharing stories about how they knew someone who fell down a hill and scrapped their face off. I thought, I won’t say anything, Matt looks nervous.

Matt: Did I?

Jade: Slightly. It wasn’t a dead giveaway. You looked anxious, particularly when we got to the top and saw there was lots of people up there.

Matt: That was a surprise. The lookout was much smaller than anticipated and there were a couple of groups of people up there already. It was busier than I expected. There was one spot that was fairly secluded near the front of the lookout where the view was unobstructed, so we waited for this prime position to become available. I didn’t want you to feel embarrassed in front of everyone while I proposed. It didn’t take long until we got the spot, you sat down and started taking photos with your back to me. I was behind you, gearing up. Did you sense anything?

Jade: I purposely looked forward so I didn’t ruin anything. I knew you were looking in your bag for something. You asked me to turn round. It felt like a long moment, like time slowed down. And then what did you say?

Matt: I kept it short and sweet.

Jade: A bit like me. *laughs*

Jade can't resist taking more photos of the scenery
Jade can't resist taking more photos of the scenery
A boardwalk on the edge of Lake Bled
A boardwalk on the edge of Lake Bled

Matt: I'd written down a short speech, but when it came to the time, I delivered a truncated version. You’ve not actually heard the full speech. Would you like to hear it now?

Jade: Yes, please!

Matt: Here it is in full:

Jade: Ahhh. That's lovely! Yes! Yes, I will! I had to prompt you to put the ring on my finger. You seemed to forget that bit. The ring was beautiful. Three freshwater pearls on a rose gold band.

Matt: ...As you requested.

Jade: I remember asking, ‘is this real?’ I didn’t want to be caught out in case it was a joke.  I remember being all teary as well. And then we proceeded to take pictures of ourselves and the ring. I wanted to make sure we’d captured the memories. We asked a random person to take more photos of us.

Matt: It was all over quite quickly.

Jade: It was just the first part of our adventure that day. Next, we headed down the hill and carried on walking around the lake. The boardwalk on the water’s edge was nice.

Matt: Yeah, that was a nice surprise. It was a lot more intimate around the other side of the lake from Bled itself. As we walked, we got pictures of the church on the island from every conceivable angle. Then we headed up another hill.

A wing of Bled Castle
A wing of Bled Castle
Yet another Bled Cream Cake
Yet another Bled Cream Cake
Jade draws a crowd as she pretends to cast a commemorative coin.

Up to Bled Castle

Jade: Here’s a top tip; you don’t have to pay admission price for Bled Castle if you have a reservation at the castle restaurant. It’s well worth eating at the restaurant. The food was really good and the views were stunning. Of course, we’ve since become pescatarains, so we ate a lot of stuff we couldn't eat now.

Matt: Yeah, I remember the cured meat platter was really good and beautifully presented.

Jade: It looked like fine dining, which, for a restaurant at a tourist attraction was a surprise. As well as the meat platter, we had a chicken salad. The cost of the food covered what you would have paid to get into the castle, so it was good value. Also, the setting was lovely. We were sat outside on a veranda looking out onto the lake below

Matt: Of course, we finished off our meal with a Bled cream cake.

Jade: That was probably our favourite of all the cream cakes we tried in Slovenia. After our meal, we then explored the castle. We got collared by the guy running the on-site metalwork shop. He persuaded me to pretend to cast a commemorative coin with a mold and hammer. I soon drew a crowd of tourists who all started taking photos of me. 

Matt: Where is that coin?

Jade: Lost.

One of the noble steeds on offer near Bled, Slovenia
One of the noble steeds on offer near Bled, Slovenia
The two of us on horseback with Matt enjoying his blueberry liquor
The two of us on horseback with Matt enjoying his blueberry liquor
Jade looks lovingly at her horse having arrived back at the stables
Jade looks lovingly at her horse having arrived back at the stables

Horse Riding in a Storm

Jade: When we went back to the hotel, you gave me some cryptic instructions but you didn’t let on what was happening next. I’d looked in the guidebook before we went to see if I could find any clues, but there were so many different activities you could do in the region. I didn’t know which it could be. You just told me I had to wear trousers.

Matt: You still didn’t have a clue what was happening until we reached the stables.

Jade: What made you choose horse-riding?

Matt: Neither of us had done it before, we were in a beautiful part of the world and you’d recently expressed an interest. I thought, ‘let’s try something different’, as we always do. 

Jade: I was super excited.

Matt: The horses were lovely. Do you remember the name of your horse?

Jade: Marcus? I think your horse was called Philip.

Matt: The guy in charge said my horse was formerly ridden by the Slovenian president.

Jade: No, that was a joke! He was basically saying the horse had been around for 40 years and was really slow.

Matt: Oh, I thought he was for real. It makes sense, he was the slowest horse alive! And he did whatever he wanted. He stopped every few steps to eat leaves or grass. But he liked being part of the gang as well and he would occasionally canter to join you and the guide. Most of the time though, he went at his own pace and I respected him for that. 

Jade: My horse was a bit of a young stallion.

Matt: Wasn’t quite as tame, was he. Were you tethered to the lead horse for the entire ride?

Jade: Not always. But he was still learning and was tethered at the trickier bits.

Matt: Do you remember going up the hill? Phillip hated it! It was so steep! He really struggled and I felt close to falling off. We were both rewarded at the top of the hill though. The horses had a graze on the meadow while we humans were treated to a shot of blackcurrant brandy served by a lady who suddenly appeared from nowhere. It was a bit weird. We were sitting on horseback, in a light drizzle, thunder rolling around the surrounding mountains, knocking back shots.

Jade: That was good brandy! Then we rode off into the mountains, through shallow streams and through woodland.

Matt: My horse lagged behind and kept eating. He would grab at tree branches and stop to crunch on them. 

Jade: On the way back, we called in at a pub. There was a rescued wild bear being kept in a cage in the garden. We were told it wouldn’t survive if it was released. It had become a bit of a tourist attraction.

Matt: The cage wasn’t very pleasant. I understand the problem of him not surviving if released, but the conditions he was living in could have been better. After a brief look, we headed back.

Jade: We galloped back along the road to the stables. Your horse didn't join in. You guys were left for dust. I effectively rode off into the sunset with another man on the day we got engaged. *laughs*

Matt: Phillip and I were left in the rain. I gave my horse a light tap on the rear with a tree branch every now and again, but he largely ignored that. When he did respond, he would quicken his pace for about two seconds before slowing down again. I didn't really mind. I think we had a good understanding of one another.

Jade enjoying another glass of fizz and her surprise birthday treat
Jade enjoying another glass of fizz and her surprise birthday treat

Fine Dining in Bled

Jade: We headed back to the hotel and got dressed up. You had book us into a fancy restaurant. 

Matt: Penzion Berc is known in the area for its gourmet food made using local ingredients.

Jade: It was a really nice place. The setting was very intimate and homely. It was like we were visiting someone's house. It was really good! When it came to eating desert, the waiter was acting quite peculiarly. We later discovered why. They had prepared a special dessert for my birthday, complete with a candle.

Matt: I’d emailed them before to ask them if there was anything they could do for your birthday. I didn’t know what they were going to do. I was as surprised as you were. It was nice, wasn’t it. A simple, but lovely gesture. He took some photos of us, we ate our pudding and that was it.

Jade: A fantastic day! Lots of happy memories.

Matt: I’m glad you liked it.

The Flag of Slovenia bears a shield depicting the image of Mount Triglav.
The Flag of Slovenia bears a shield depicting the image of Mount Triglav.

The Proposal Team

Our day wouldn't have been as memorable as it was without the following brilliant people & suppliers. Thank you to you all.

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About the author

Matt Morelli

I've travelled to 38 countries across 4 continents, both independently and with my wife. I've been writing travel guides and making videos since 2007, all based on my real-life experiences. Here To Travel is a place for travel advice and inspiration that encourages us all to make mindful decisions. If you want to have life changing adventures that have minimal impact on the places and people you visit, Here To Travel is for you.

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