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Category Archive for Food + Theme Restaurants

Hipster Helsinki travel guide: steampunk bar Hell-Sinki! Kallio district, coffee shops, modern design stores.

spider goth print biker jacket

For those who love alternative subcultures… Helsinki is one “hell” of a travel destination!

In part one of my “Finlandia” journey, I took you to a mod furniture exhibit, and sauna / restaurant by the water. Now, I’ll show you around the coolest restaurants and shops in the hipster Kallio district. We’ll end up in a Steampunk bar that looks like an airship, complete with jets of steam.

(I’m wearing this Spider bomber coat. It’s one of my favorites, and currently on sale.)

best blog of year award, blogger awards

But first, some quick happy news: La Carmina is nominated for the Best Blog Award!

I was wondering if you’d be willing to take 10 seconds to vote for me? Every bit of support counts, and you can vote once a day.

Just click here to vote for La Carmina – I’m at the end of the check list. Thank you so much for believing in me, I really appreciate your kindness over the years!

gay friendly helsinki lgbt guide

Helsinki is one of the world’s most liberal and progressive cities — to the point where the pamphlets say, “We are not gay friendly. We are gay!”

My film team and I spent an afternoon in the Kallio district of Helsinki, where young artsy types tend to congregate.

hipster helsinki, kallio neighborhood

Quite a few readers recommended Good Life Coffee, in the heart of Kallio. I was sold by their motto:  “Avoid Bad Coffee.”

This coffeeshop chooses high grade beans, and takes a “no bull” approach to roasting and brewing (in their words). The result is simple, honest and delicious.

hipster cafe, coffee shop scandinavia

Good Life is a cozy spot for meeting up with friends, and flipping through design magazines. They also sell baked goods from local bakers; the restaurant / bar Sandro next door is also highly rated.

good life coffee helsinki finland

There’s a similar “Coffee Is Always a Good Idea” wood wall art available here.

I’m wearing the Joanie Mule shoe, which comes in black and marble white (like the exact ones I’m wearing).

If you’re digging my purse, you might like these Sanrio bags and platforms below:

black metal finland, heavy metal store

A city with “hell” in its name has to have a dark subculture, right? At the rock shop Hell-Sinki, we found Scandinavian death metal soundtracks that would be perfect for a Viking invasion.

steam hellsinki bar

Then, it was time for a drink at the Steampunk bar, Steam Hellsinki. 

The bar is a futuristic, fantasy vision of the Victorian era meets the Wild Wild West. Old fashioned steam technology is reimagined in creative ways, and displayed all throughout the space.

helsinki steampunk bar, club

It’s amazing to see how Steampunk has spread all over the world. (Remember when we went to a steam punk coffee shop in Cape Town, South Africa?)

The decor at Steam Hell Sinki is on point. We saw Gothic types hanging out on the retro couches, beneath vintage bicycles and lamps.

airship steampunk bar design

The piece de resistance… is a giant zeppelin airship that doubles as a bar! Colored lights dance over the blimp, giving the impression of movement. Every so often, fog spews out from the hull. 

victorian steampunk piano

Flowers, old pianos and vintage Victrolas add to the retro-fantasy Steampunk theme.

tea cocktails steam hell sinki

The resident dog is trained to put his paws up on the bar, upon command. Good boy.

Steam HellSinki has almost 100 types of gin available. The famous gin and tonics are garnished with berries and spices, and the special menu includes cocktails that come in teapots and cups.

world's weirdest coolest theme bars

We loved spending a relaxing evening under the chandeliers. Steampunk fans, don’t miss out on this “hell” of a bar.

artek furniture design store helsinki

No doubt, Finland is a world leader for interior design. I’m obsessed with Scandinavian and mid-century modern, so it was a joy to visit the Artek store. (They carry designs including the ones below).

kay bojesen monkey ape toy

I smiled when I saw this Ape by Kay Bojesen, which comes in small and medium size.

eero aarnio artek ball chair, trolley

I couldn’t resist sitting in Eero Aarnio’s iconic ball chair (available here). On the right is this Tea Trolley by Alvar Aalto, one of the founders of Artek and masters of Finnihs modern design.

If you’re as much of a design fangirl as I am, don’t miss out on the DesignMuseo (where I caught the Eero Aarnio retrospective) and nearby Design District Helsinki.

why join navy when you can be pirate cafe

Helsinki has innovative interiors everywhere, including restaurants. I had lunch at the wonderfully named cafe, Why join the navy when you can be a pirate. Good question, arr.

I love eating clean, and feasted on the fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies, juices, and healthy wraps. Since we’re pirates, we ordered a round of local gin (try Fevertree or Napue), garnished with rosemary and cranberries, and mixed with local tonic.

(My Spider bomber coat is fit for the captain of a pirate ship.)

southpark theme restaurant helsinki

We had dinner with a view at Southpark Restaurant. You might be thinking “Omg they killed Kenny” — but this is not actually a theme restaurant based on the South Park cartoon. It’s a “ravintola” named because it is in the south end of Helsinki’s Sinebrychoff park.

(Find my Joanie Mule sandals in black or marble white here.)

finland modern design restaurant

Southpark has a wonderful atmosphere filled with light, and walls decorated with modern art. The hashtags say it all: #HellaGoodFood, #SoCalSoCool.

A lot of regulars come here, which give the room a neighborhood vibe. We loved how the owners personally took care of us, and came by the tables to chat with their guests.

tom of finland gay art exhibit

All the cocktails get my top marks, especially the 1919 Sour. (They’re pictured with postcards of Tom of Finland, who pushed the boundaries of gay art in the mid 20th century.)

I know Californian food well, and Southpark nails it. The tacos were magnificent (and I’m picky), and their recipes fuse this style of cuisine with local catch and produce.

helsinki modern hip restaurants

For a meal that’s fresh and full of color, and served by a friendly staff — come to Southpark, “Mmm-kay?”

nudge rulla boutique helsinki

For a hip combination of fashion and food, visit Nudge (clothing shop) and Rulla (cafe), located side by side in the centre of Helsinki.

bird print kimono bathrobe

Both share a passion for sustainability and organic production. In Nudge, you’ll find one-of-a-kind clothing made by Finnish designers, like this dreamy bird kimono.

helsinki hipster fashion, jewelry

All the designs come from independent creators: you’ll find natural cosmetics, eco-friendly accessories, and Finnish children’s items. (The bat necklace was calling out to me.)

rulla cafe, rice paper rolls

Located in the same space is Rulla, where you can feast on hand-made healthy rice rolls with a Scandinavian twist. The options include salmon and shrimp with herbs, and side of tangy sauces.

scandic paasi hotel

Time to wind down at the hippest hotel in Helsinki, Scandic Paasi. The building overlooks the water, and is located next to a lovely park.

cool scandinavian design hotels

A picture is worth a thousand words… Scandic Paasi has outstanding modern design, in the lobby and spacious rooms.

We’re big fans of Scandic Hotels, which give great service and luxury at an affordable price point. (Remember our stay in Stockholm’s Grand Central by Scandic?)

scandic hotels helsinki finland paasi

The color-blocked bar was a mod dream. I encourage you to book a room Scandic Paasi if you’re going to Helsinki.

“Kiitos” (thank you in Finnish) to BorderlessMedia.tv for all the photography.

south park restaurant cafe

Helsinki is a city full of creativity — wouldn’t you agree?

● PS thank you for taking a few seconds to vote for me in the Best Blog Awards! It’ll make a huge difference in the final round (ending Jan 20), and I really appreciate your support over the years.

Click to VOTE now for La Carmina – Thank you!

Grand Central by Scandic, Stockholm’s hippest hotel! Cocktail bar & restaurant review, Long Clothing hexagram skirt.

long clothing hexagram skirt

I’ve got Stockholm on my mind. Let’s flashback to Scandinavia, where I spent a few weeks in the late summer!

It was my first time in Sweden, and my team got a warm welcome at Grand Central by ScandicThis is the hippest hotel in the city, with a visual identity inspired by New York’s theatre scene. Every aspect of our stay was infused with music — from band posters in the bar, to live DJ parties and stage shows in a late 19th century theater. 

(Find out more about Grand Central Stockholm and book a hotel room here.)

stockholm sunset, pink skies sweden

My junior suite even had a vinyl record player, with a selection of LPs including Madonna. One of the walls opened into a picture window, which let me watch these otherworldly pink sunsets every night.

grace neutral long clothing streetwear top

Directions: It was convenient to roll our suitcases to Grand Central by Scandic (address: Kungsgatan 70) as it was only a few blocks from the central train station (we took the 30-minute direct Arlanda Express line from Stockholm airport). The hotel is located in Norrmalm, which made it easy for us to walk south to Gamla Stan and Sodermalm, home to the trendy SoFo area.

Grand Central turned out to be the perfect place to unwind between stretches of sightseeing. (I’m wearing a Long Clothing x Grace Neutral top. The same mandala design is also on this label’s black jacket.)

fashion blogger, grand central scandic hotel

The hotel’s modern design matched with my outfit of the day. Clean and geometric, that’s how I like it.

♥ My apocalyptic black top is by Michi. They also make this similar off-the-shoulder black shirt, perfect for stylish activewear or to fight zombies when the world ends.

♥ I’m wearing a Long Clothing hexagram skirt (they also make a dress). This brand uses the same print and fabric in their Infinity Clip pants version of my maxi skirt.

long clothing nu goth geometric clothing

♥ My cut-out platform sandals are by Le Babe shoes. They’re very similar to these Jeffrey Campbell Brianna shoes that come in black, or tan suede.

For more about the clothes I’m wearing, click the thumbnails below:

scandic grand central junior suite, window

Grand Central by Scandic has various types of rooms, but I love the Junior Suite. Every evening, I perched on the windowsill and watched the skies change color. 

My room was decorated with paintings of musicians, to fit with the vibe of the hotel.

gothic geometric nail art, rings

Close-up on my silver cuff bracelet and ouroboros ring, by Alex Streeter. A perfect match for the hotel: Alex is the legendary NYC downtown silversmith whose devilish designs are worn by rock stars around the world (like Marilyn Manson and Hyde).

I’m also wearing a silver cat ring from Hong Kong, and black diamond skull ring from Sapphire Studios.

grand central scandic hotels stockholm blogger

The glass windows by the elevator made me feel like I was about to blast off into a space fantasy. (I love Michi, the indie designer that makes my cutaway top. More from them below:)

stockholm trendy hip hotel

The rooftops of Stockholm made me want to sing: Chim-Chimney, Chim Chim Cher-ee.

miffy nail art, alex streeter cuff bracelet

Can you see Miffy peeking from my thumbnail?

I adore Long Clothing’s hexagram fashion. Their streetwear is eye-catching and alternative Gothic, yet can be worn on all types of occasions. The black and white geometry is also easy to style.

stockholm sweden theater vasa

My team and I got a backstage tour of Vasa Theatre, which dates back to 1886 and adjoins the hotel. While we were there, workers were still working hard to restore the space to its former glory.

vasa theatre stockholm

The opulent theater is open now at Grand Central by Scandic, and hosts all types of contemporary stage shows as well as private events. The hotel is doing a great job of bringing in both Swedish and international artists to Vasa, for public performances.

We crept into a dressing room that was supposedly haunted by the ghost of an old actor. If a male enters the room, nothing happens. But if females walk in, the phantom gets enraged — and supposedly starts shaking the chandeliers!

geometric oversize top, long clothing designer

Maybe there are also ghosts haunting this gilded and mirrored theater bar. It reminds me of one in The Shining…

(My mandala top is from the Long Clothing and Grace Neutral collaboration, and also comes in a bomber jacket version.)

Restaurant & Bar at Grand Central by Scandic in Stockholm

Time for a drink at Teaterbaren, Grand Central’s hip cocktail bar. We chatted with the expert mixologists, who let us examine local spirits such as O.P. Anderson aquavit. 

The cocktails were magnificent, with colors that matched the Swedish sunset. (In the summer, daylight lasts until 11pm!)

acoustic bar stockholm, grand central djs parties

The bar brings in live DJs for late night electro parties. Grand Central also has rotating photographic art / design exhibitions. During my stay, there was a showcase of alternative street fashion portraits.

stockholm red caviar, swedish appetizers

We sat down for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Teaterbrasseriet. This relaxed space has plush leather couches, and offers a Scandinavian menu inspired by modern cuisine. Of course, we started with Swedish red caviar — the above photo says it all!

hipster stockholm restaurant Teaterbrasseriet

When you’re in Sweden, order fish and seafood, as it’s some of the best in the world. Look at the color of the smoked salmon starter, with lemon and dill to taste. My friends also enjoyed a Toast Skagen appetizer with shrimps and horseradish.

best stockholm swedish meatballs

Swedish meatballs are legendary, and something you must try. At Teaterbrasseriet, they’re made with Viking heartiness: paired with potato purée, lingonberries and pickled cucumber.

dessert restaurant stockholm

Eat all the berries when you’re in Scandinavia. We ate up this antioxidant-rich ice cream sundae. I’ll agree with the restaurant menu, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

grand central by scandic lobby lounge

“Tak” (thanks) to Grand Central by Scandic for the inspiring stay. I loved how the hotel pays homage to theater, starting from the moment we stepped into the lobby lit by stage lights.

stylish sweden hotels, scandinavian design hotel

If you want to stay in a hip Stockholm design hotel, this is where it’s all happening. Find out more about Grand Central by Scandic, and book a room here.

(Photography by Joey Wong.)

sweden sunsets, orange skies

There’s still more from my Scandinavian journey to come. If you missed my first post about the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, you can see it here.

japanese girl bowing

Curious to learn more about my clothes in these photos, including prices and sizes? Just click below for all the details. Arigato!

Tokyo Halloween themed food: pumpkin burgers at Grand Hyatt, Oak Door! Pastel pink hair color, Attitude Clothing.

pink hair asian model, fashion blogger

Trick or treat! I now have pastel pink hair, with blue and purple highlights. Are you surprised to see this new color?

I’m overjoyed because it’s the best time of the year — Halloween. To celebrate, I’ll show you photos from Japan, where locals celebrate the season big-time.

We’ll kick things off with my fairy-hair, and then chow down on Halloween-themed cuisine in Tokyo, including skull cocktails and bat pastries at the Grand Hyatt’s Oak Door restaurant.

moat house wood sunglasses

First, let’s take a look at the latest additions to my fall wardrobe. I’m wearing wooden designer sunglasses by Moat House, my favorite independent eyewear designer.

These artisans craft all their frames by hand in their Derbyshire, England workshop. The Moat House team sent me these gorgeous Godiva frames in Brazilian purple heart and oak, with a violet mirror lens. The cat eye shape is as flattering as it gets, and the frames are lightweight — so I can wear them with comfort all winter.

I’m a big supporter of Moat House‘s artisinal approach, and encourage you to support indie, sustainable brands like them. (They have all styles of wood glasses for both men and women, which you can see on their website.)

morph8ne lace up dress, attitude clothing shop

Attitude Clothing (an online shop with an amazing selection of dark fashion) sent me some designs by a Thailand designer, Morph8ne. Their dresses seem to be made for Wednesday Addams and Nancy of The Craft (especially their plaid schoolgirl dress).

I’m wearing the Charlotte dress, which has ultra long sleeves and a doll-like lace up corset back. I love the details such as the keyhole closure in the back, and the Morph8ne logo in a heart on the front.

nu goth style tumblr, mermaid hair

Isn’t this witch-baby dress perfect for the Halloween season? (Shop more fashion by this brand from Attitude Clothing, and by clicking below…)

pastel pink blue hair color, my little pony hairstyle

How would you describe my new mermaid hair: My Little Pony? Cotton candy pastels? It also looks a bit like the asymmetrical cut and color of Final Fantasy’s Lightning character.

I always go to hair stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio, in Gastown (#300-68 Water Street, Vancouver BC). Her work is magic: I went from grey-green to layers of light pink, baby blue and lavender. Stephanie is amazing at alternative dyes, but does all types of cuts: ask for her!

skull tights leggings, gal stern

As the weather gets colder, I’ve been reaching for these new gold skull tights from Gal Stern. Based in Israel, she designs luxury legwear and just released a new Halloween collection that is perfection.

The nude hosiery is the softest, highest quality (it won’t tear or run) and how wonderful are the Day of the Dead golden skulls printed over the knees! 

long clothing beanie, morph8ne dress

I’ve been keeping warm with my Long Clothing beanie, also from Attitude Clothing (they carry all my favorite brands). There’s a skeleton skull and chain version of this knit cap as well — or tuque, as we say in Canada.

pastel pink hair colour, fairy kei harajuku hairstyle

My doll-heel platform shoes are similar to these ankle boots by Demonia, and these shoes by YRU. More similar styles from my favorite footwear brands are below.

Thanks Attitude Clothing, Moat House eyewear and Gal Stern tights for the winter wardrobe update! In the next post, I’ll show you a second outfit featuring these designers. (Photos by Joey Wong.)

tokyo japan halloween themed restaurant

Now, let’s take a look at the cute Halloween food you can currently find in Tokyo! The October holiday gets bigger every year in Japan, and you’ll find spooky-themed dishes all over the city.

Nobody does it better than The Oak Door restaurant, located at The Grand Hyatt hotel in Roppongi Hills. This American steakhouse released a masterful Halloween menu, complete with kabocha pumpkin burgers.

skull goth cocktails, tokyo

Pick your poison: the Oak Door Bar is also offering creative cocktails that feature skull glasses and syringes. All are beautifully mixed and presented, and available only for a limited time.

Above, I sipped on a Deadly Rose with pomegranate syrup, apple brandy, silver tequila and lime juice — with dry ice added for a ghostly touch. In the middle, the V-Blood pays tribute to vampires. The Trick or Treat on the right is an unusual and delicious concoction of vodka, melon and pineapple juice.

the oak door bartender, grand hyatt roppongi

The “Dr Frankenstein” behind these drinks is Seyeram Anagbonu, bartender of The Oak Door. He takes a playful approach to his creations, and showed us how he made “brain sludge” out of vodka, lime juice and cranberry jelly.

pumpkin burgers japan, sweet potato fries

Then, Chef de Cuisine Adam Noffsinger came in with these mouthwatering burgers… which look exactly like Halloween pumpkins!

I’ve never seen a burger bun as creatively executed: the bread is made from pumpkin puree and baked in the shape of the squash. Delicious, and all-naturally flavored and colored. Inside, there’s a juicy patty (The Oak Door is known for its beef), Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced Japanese kabocha and classic fillings. Paired with sweet potato fries and spiced aioli, this turned out to be the most “spooktacular” meal I’ve ever had.

bat shaped cookies, pumpkin cake grand hyatt

The Grand Hyatt also debuted a Halloween afternoon tea, and we got to try a sampling of dark desserts. The bat-shaped chocolate cookies, crème brûlée, tarts and creamy roll cakes (all pumpkin flavored) are made in-house by the award winning patissiers.

They’re masterpieces: not overly sweet, with pleasing combinations of natural flavors, and expert decoration (check out the intricate swirls on the tarts).

halloween food menu, tokyo

Head pastry chef Goto Junichi is highly regarded, and deservedly so. His Halloween desserts showcase his fine French training, fused with a Japanese sensibility and touch of kawaii.

You can find his sweets at Fiorentina Pastry Boutique at The Grand Hyatt hotel, and I hope you’ll come to The Oak Door for a kabocha burger and Gothic cocktail before the season ends. (Above food photos by John S.)

monster donuts krispy kreme japan

As you may have seen on my social media, I was in Tokyo for the start of my JRailPass train journey. I found lots of Halloween-themed snacks all over the city, and took photos for you. If only I could eat them all…

At Krispy Kreme Japan, there’s a “sweet monster show” donut box available.

halloween zombie donuts, tokyo krispy kreme

You can buy the Krispy Kreme donuts individually, or get a dozen in a graveyard-decorated box. I spy a melon soda monster, spider chocolate custard puff, grinning caramel pumpkin jack, and a purple mummy with sweet potato icing!

snoopy donuts, mr donut

The Mr Donut franchise also gets into the Halloween spirit, with spooky Snoopy donuts. 

halloween themed donuts tokyo

Mister Donut has donuts shaped like the Peanuts puppy, in white chocolate and chestnut glaze. The seasonal packaging makes it look like Snoopy is wearing a witch’s hat. This chain is also selling chocolate spider and pumpkin ring donuts at the moment.

cute pumpkin decorated cake japan

The cute cafe La Petite Mercerie celebrates with these adorable cakes: a Halloween shortcake and pumpkin gateau chocolat.

halloween birthday cake design

Their smiling Jack-o-lanterns with highlighted cheeks are the definition of spooky-cute.

mickey mouse halloween cake, cozy cafe ginza

Cozy Cafe is offering a Disney Villains special. There’s a Mickey Mouse pumpkin cream cake, with chocolate 3D facial decor. Cozy Cafe also has gift boxes and other sweets themed like Maleficent, Ursula and other baddies.

snoopy peanuts halloween candies

If you want to buy Halloween snacks to take home, don’t despair. You’ll find plenty of items in gift stores all over Tokyo.

For these sweets, Snoopy transforms into a vampire, and peers out of a coffin.

halloween special edition snacks, candy

At Don Quixote (the discount general store), you can find all sorts of inexpensive themed snacks during this season. I found anime biscuits and Halloween Pocky, as well as many others for under $5.

kawaii halloween ghosts, skeletons

Japan rocks at packaging design. The Halloween mascots are always kawaii, with bright colors and simple shapes.

halloween pumpkin cupcakes

At Tables bakery, I was tempted to buy a Jack-o-lantern demitasse cupcake. There’s also one that looks like Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas.

halloween macaroons, ghost cakes

How cute are these bite-sized purple pumpkin and ghost mini cupcakes? 

nicolas house harajuku bunny cafe

In Harajuku, I swung by Nicolas House, a cafe with a bunny theme. All the custards and sundaes have rabbit ears and smiling faces. For the time being, there’e an orange pumpkin Bunnicula.

rabbit decorated desserts tokyo

Nicolas House did a Miffy collaboration last year, decorating all the sweets to look like the Dutch character.

cute bunny cafe, harajuku nicholas house

Even the savory dishes have a cute bunny theme.

kawaii monster cafe, harajuku

Finally, I popped into the Kawaii Monster theme cafe in Harajuku. The restaurant is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu meets an acid trip: there’s a cyber mushroom disco inside, and a giant sofa that looks like a cat. Everything is rainbow-colored, even the food — such as primary colored pasta, served on an artist’s palette.

tokyo monster theme weird cafe

I didn’t go inside or eat a meal here, but you can get the gist of it from these photos of the exterior. Kawaii Monster Cafe is open all year round, so you can get a taste of the rainbow at any time.

halloween eating eyeballs, disgusting horror food props

I leave you with this anatomical dish on display at Okadaya (the Shinjuku craft store).

What do you think of the Halloween treats in Japan, and my newly pink hair color? 

fashion blog halloween outfit scostume

PS: If you’re looking for a Halloween costume, I’m selling many of my favorite cosplay outfits on my Depop shop! I’ve also put up more Japanese Goth and Lolita fashion for sale including Banana Fish, h.Naoto, Peace Now, and much more.

Come see all the listings here, then email gothiccarmina@gmail.com and let me know what interests you. I’ll do bundle discounts, and all items come with a photo and personal note. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Travel guide to visiting Lake Bled, Slovenia! Romantic castle & island near Ljubljana, Slovenian cuisine at Tito’s Palace.

lake bled medieval castle

I’ve been asked: as a travel blogger, do I get jaded about traveling? Does going to new countries become boring at some point?

The short answer is no. Every time I visit a destination, especially one I know little about, I end up finding unexpected gems.

This was exactly my experience at Lake Bled in Slovenia. Who knew that this unassuming country would have a lake and castle straight out of a fairytale? 

slovenia famous island on lake

Photos of Lake Bled are stunning enough, but the views are even more impressive in the flesh.

It’s the definition of picture perfect: a tiny island with a white church, in the center of an emerald lake. The isle surrounded by the lush green Julian Alps, and Medieval-era Bled Castle.

lake bled tourism, slovenia

You’ll recall from my introduction post that Slovenia is a tiny country, which makes it easy to travel around. From the capital of Ljubljana, it’s less than an hour’s drive to Lake Bled.

lavender purple hair, disturbia dress

That day, I wore my new blue tie-dye dress by Disturbia, the Goth and alternative fashion label that is one of my favorites.

My sheer Sailor Moon jacket is perfect for warm weather. I got it in Hong Kong, and love how the color is neutral, and the wands and crescent moons are subtle (but Sailor Moon fans will understand the references!)

Shop more fashion from Disturbia by clicking the pictures below 

slovenia oldest castle, bled

Bled Castle is the oldest in Slovenia, and one of the country’s proudest attractions. Since it’s easy to access Bled from Ljubljana (there are also buses and trains), many visitors take a day trip to the lake.

beautiful slovenia scenery

I walked around the towers of Bled Castle, imagining that I was a European princess. Inside, I saw the silver armor of knights, spooky bones and other relics from the Middle Ages.

There’s a crazy Medieval toilet in one room: the hole is a precarious drop down below, like the Vale’s Moon Door in Game of Thrones.

slovenian landscape

Bring your camera. There are outstanding views of Slovenia, from the castle windows and terrace.

lake bled castle, attractions

It’s obvious why Lake Bled is a favorite destination for romantics. The location also leads into Triglav National Park, where you can take part in all types of outdoor adventures.

row boat ferry to lake bled

Time to explore the little island on Lake Bled. The traditional way to get here is by pletna, or a gondola with paddles.

As you can see, it takes a lot of muscle to row, row, row the boat! 

bled island, Church of the Assumption

The Church of the Assumption is the focal point of island. Excavations revealed a chapel that dates back to 9 AD, but the current one was built in 1698. Inside, there’s a “wishing bell”: you pull on a long rope, and it rings the bell at the top of the steeple.

lake bled rowboats

Lake Bled is not one of Europe’s most known attractions, and this is a good thing. You’ll feel as if you stepped into the olden days, and the experience doesn’t feel commercialised.

slovenia gondalier, pletna boat

The same well-muscled fellow took us back to the shores. He does hundreds of back-and-forth rows per day – what a workout!

slovenia tourism, lake bled tourists

I was glad to have the pletna to myself. We shot a 360 degree virtual reality video on the boat, which we will release soon.

lake bled travel guide, tips

I looked back, and the island faded into the distance. Many Slovenians get married here. According to local tradition, if a husband carries his new bride up the 99 steps to the church, then a happy marriage is guaranteed!

slovenia nature, flowers

But even if he crashes and burns, romance is in the air, with pink flowers and picturesque frames like this.

lake bled lunch, restaurant

Even though I didn’t do any rowing, I was ready for lunch. At Lake Bled, dining comes with a 5-star view.

tito dictrator palace vila bled entrance

Our guide Ales took us to Vila Bled, which used to be Tito’s palace.  President Josip Broz Tito lived here, during Slovenia’s time in Yugoslavia. He was known as a “benevolent dictator”… perhaps the beauty of Lake Bled kept him from harsh ruling!

yugoslavia soviet communist art

We walked through Tito’s decadent palace. One of the rooms had a giant Soviet-style mural, featuring hardy workers waving red star flags and sickles.

vila bled menu, slovenian food

We sat down at a table in his courtyard — you can’t beat a view like this. My filmmakers and I started with fresh juices, asparagus soup, and a feta and vegetable souffle. Even the simple brown bread, dipped in Slovenia’s best olive oil, was beyond this world.

ravioli with shaved parmesan

As I mentioned in my Portoroz post, there are lots of Mediterranean influences in the local cooking. This starter, a ravioli with parmesan, was executed with as much finesse as anything I’ve eaten in Italy.

slovenia trout, top restaurants

If you’ve been following me on Snapchat (@lacarmina), I’m sure you were drooling at the food we ate that day. Trout is outstanding in Slovenia, and I ordered it multiple times during my journey. As you can see from the stamp above, Vila Bled’s version was moist and colorfully presented with fresh vegetables.

slovenian wines, wine

Everywhere we went, Slovenian food was outstanding. At Gostilna pri Mari in Piran, an older local couple brought out plate after plate of incredible seafood. We started with octopus and squid carpaccio, moving on to squid ink risotto and penne with cuttlefish, and an entire grilled seabass.

Although you rarely hear of Slovenian wines, the local varietals are as complex and delicious as the ones produced in neighboring Italy and Croatia. I’m holding one of their dry, white wines from the Littoral region.

Vila Podvin, slovenian bed and breakfast

From Bled, we drove to Vila Podvin in the village of Mošnje Radovljica. This was a bed and breakfast inn to remember: the owners are proud of their heritage, and display Slovenian crafts in the lobby. We relaxed in clean and quaint rooms, then went downstairs to the garden — to experience their award-winning Slovenian restaurant. 

Vila Podvin restaurant, slovenia

At Vila Podvin, the dishes are “New Slovene” masterworks by Chef Uroš Šteflin. He reawakens forgotten Slovenian recipes, with modern and creative techniques. We started with a unique soft boiled egg appetiser, followed by either lamb or trout in nuanced, naturally-flavored foam. One of the best meals of our entire trip.

We even woke up early for the breakfast at Vila Podvin, a mix of homemade thick yogurt, fruits, farm eggs and other European delicacies.

slovenia lake bled castle

Like Elaine on Seinfeld, I don’t like to use the word “breathtaking”… but for Lake Bled, I’ll make a happy exception! Although my film team and I have been to many beautiful places around the world, this under-the-radar destination took our breath away… awayyy…

(All photos by Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann of Borderless Media).

travel tourism influencer campaigns, top travel blogs

I wave goodbye with the national flag of Slovenia. The coat of arms is a shield with the image of Mount Triglav, the country’s highest peak. Below are two wavy blue lines representing the Adriatic Sea and local rivers, and the colors go back to Medieval times — like the castle where I’m standing.

Had you heard of Lake Bled? Wouldn’t you like to visit?

bat sweater, skull leggings

PS: Shopbop is having a major sale right now – only til Oct 14th at midnight Pacific time! You can just enter code “MAINEVENT16″ for up to 30% off. My favorites are above: a leopard skull sweater, Goth skull print leggings, and this bat sweatshirt that is perfect for fall.

PPS: If you like what I’m wearing, shop more Nu Gothic fashion from the same brand (Disturbia) with a click below. And I’ve added new items to my online shop, including h.Naoto, Banana Fish, rocking horse Lolita shoes. Come see it here.

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