This, then – the outside-on-the-inside thing – is the over-riding concept at Rikli Balance Hotel, which, set back a little from the lake shore and slightly elevated, commands what is unquestionably a superb view of Lake Bled, its island and church, and the surrounding alpine peaks topped by a castle. When the proud people at the hotel talk about what they have brought inside, they are talking about local elements and traditions: Norway spruce wood, Carniolan honey bees, gingerbread hearts and Gorenjska embroideries.

It goes like this. In 1968 the building was born as the Hotel Golf, and operated as such for decades until it was closed from January to April 2017 to renovate all 150 rooms. Another closure followed in January to March 2018 for the renovation of the reception and lobby bar, the restaurant and part of the conference rooms. When it reopened in March it was reborn as the Rikli Balance Hotel.

Arnold Rikli (1823-1906) was a Swiss natural healer who was among the first people to notice the beneficial effect of the healthy and clean environment in Bled, with its pure air, wonderful natural surroundings and beneficial climate. He was a forefather of the naturism movement, particularly nude sunbathing, and founded a healing centre in Bled. At the beginning of the 20th century, Lake Bled was considered to be the most beautiful health resort in Austria-Hungary.

The hotel’s Norway spruce comes from the nearby Pokljuka plateau, located in Triglav National Park, Slovenia, and it is a leading feature of the décor. Also, spruce needles, shoots, resin, amber and essential oil are used in naturotherapy and are part of Rikli Balance’s wellness treatments.

Another motif is the hexagonal shape to be seen all around the hotel. These represent the Carniolan honey bee that is indigenous to this region of Slovenia, to the southern part of the Austrian Alps and to another half-dozen countries mainly to the east and south, including Hungary. In the rooms dedicated to the bee, the colour of the tapestries symbolises honey, and the patterns carved in the wood represent the hives where they store nectar, honey and pollen.

This scenically spectacular north-western part of Slovenia is known as Gorenjska, and one of its old traditions is that young men would give a beautifully decorated red gingerbread heart to ladies as a token of their love. This again is a design element of the hotel, and the Rikli Balance Gingerbread Heart rooms highlight the story of love, symbolised by dark-red tapestries and stylised hearts carved into the wood.

Finally, another rich tradition in the region captured in the rooms is the traditional embroidery that once decorated fabrics, and again a typical pattern is to be seen in the spruce.

The connection with nature continues in the hotel’s public areas, where there are living green walls on which grow moss and ferns to moisturise the air. It is a theme continued with the use of natural wool for curtains, carpets and chairs, and the naming of the conference rooms after (in the Slovene language) Air (Zrak), Sun (Sonce), Water (voda), Dew (Rosa) – they all represented key elements of the naturopathy (natural healing) practised by Arnold Rikli. The 5586 square metres of conference space represent the largest such area in Bled.

The hotel’s dominant colours are equally carefully chosen: yellow to represent the honey, brown the wood, green the plants and blue the thermal water of the Julian Alps. Honey and nut biscuits called Medenjaki welcome guests to reception. A bottle of clear and healthy thermal water, plus some fruit, welcome them to their rooms, where balconies overlook the lake. One room has a moss wall for balance and well-being, and another 17 rooms will have this feature added. Some rooms have chromotherapy, allowing under-bed lighting to be changed to white/light yellow, red, green or blue. It is quite a sight, apparently, to be out by the lake at night and look up at the hotel, to see the rooms glowing with these different colours.

All is synchronised, then, to introduce the guests to local tradition and give them an idea of the story in this part of Slovenia. It is a feeling continued in the hotel’s Ziva Wellness Centre, Ziva being the Slavic goddess embodying longevity, youthfulness, beauty, grace, vitality and fertility. Here is the place to enjoy a honey massage courtesy of the Carniolan bee or a massage with spruce tip bundles. The eponymous Ziva massage involves crystals placed on the body’s energy centres, and the Pokljuka ritual is a one-hour sauna visit with a herbal drink, a pine scrub, the spruce tip massage and a relaxing cup of spruce tip tea.

The spacious wellness centre is the largest in Gorenjska and offers three sorts of sauna: infra-red, Finnish and Turkish, 10 massage rooms, a regeneration room, indoor and outdoor thermal water swimming pools with waterfall and slide, and a beautician.

Rounding out the Rikli Balance Hotel offer is the Panorama Restaurant with its, well, panoramic view of Lake Bled. Here guests can enjoy a buffet of crab cocktail with pineapple, stewed kale with bacon, peasant terrine with cranberry sauce, vegetable pie with spinach sauce, veal roast in its own juice, baked sea bass with vegetables, Paris potatoes with Provence vegetables and so on. The smaller, more intimate Restaurant Veranda in the hotel caters for a la carte.

Lake Bled is one heck of a selling point and can be seen in every brochure on Slovenia. It is all magically picturesque. Cradled by the Julian Alps, the whole lake is on display except for a couple of hidden corners. It is a six-kilometre walk all the way round, or do it the easier way on a horse-carriage with a Bled coachman, known as fijakers.

Wooden gondolas called pletnas powered by standing oarsmen take people back and forth to Bled Island, on which stands the Church of the Assumption, dating from 1698. The church is reached by a 99-step staircase, built in 1655, and a regional tradition is for the husband to carry his new bride up them. You can ring the church bell and make a wish.

High up on a craggy bluff more than 100 metres above the lake’s north shore is Bled Castle, originally an 11th-century fortification but its present appearance dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. Three walking trails lead up there and it is said to have the best view of Lake Bled.

The most famous delicacy at Lake Bled is a dessert – the Bled Cream Cake (“kremšnita”) made using an original recipe from over 60 years ago. A good place to try it is in the lobby bar at the Rikli Balance Hotel in the evening, accompanied by the resident pianist. The hotel is operated by Sava Hotels and Resorts, and is a Four-star Superior. Sava Hotels and Resorts operates 13 hotels in Slovenia, including six at Lake Bled.

The whole Rikli Balance concept was dreamed up in brain-storming sessions by the staff, and the idea is that the link with the area’s outstanding nature and traditions – with the alpine air, the thermal water, the spruce wood, the embroidery, the bees – is all presented as a local benefit for the guests. That outside-inside thing, which we might have mentioned.


Rikli Balance Hotel

Cankarjeva 4, 4260 Bled, Slovenija

Reception

+386 4579 17 00

riklibalance@hotelibled.com

Reservations

+386 4579 16 00

info@hotelibled.com

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