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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!

Where to find Halloween costumes & makeup in Tokyo, Japan! Kiddyland, Morph8ne clothing, unicorn hairstyle.

morph8ne goth girl clothing thailand

Happy Halloween! What is your costume this year? Will you be partying over the weekend?

Thanks for your sweet comments on my new light pink and baby blue hair! Here’s part 2 of my photoshoot for Attitude Clothing, featuring this exact Teacher’s Pet Crop Top sweater by Morph8ne, a Gothic Thai designer.

halloween miffy toy

I’ll also continue with Halloween coverage from my Japan Rail Pass trip. If you’re looking to buy a costume or cosplay outfit in Tokyo, this shopping guide is for you.

(Above, I was tempted to get this vampire Miffy holding a pumpkin from Kiddyland Harajuku.)

mermaid pink hair, pastel rainbow dyed hair

Can you believe I went from grey-green hair to pastel pink dyed hair? My stylist Stephanie Hoy at Sugar Skull Studio is brilliant at hair color. She added layers of purple and blue, and did an ombre fade with darker pink roots. (Ask for her, if you’re looking for a hairstylist in Vancouver, BC!)

My wood sunglasses are by Moat House. These Godiva frames are handmade in the UK, and have an appealing cat-eye shape. Moat House’s eyewear sits well on the face without being heavy, and the frames are beautifully crafted. I have the violet mirrored lens, but you can customize it with different lenses as well.

goth crop top choker sweater

Attitude Clothing sent me a few designs from their shop (I modeled a dress and hat in this post). They ship worldwide and carry many of my favorite Gothic brands, including Killstar and Long Clothing.

I’m wearing this Teacher’s Pet sweater by Morph8ne. which has a crop top cut and a 1990s feeling. Love the choker detail made from the same material (which attaches via a snap button at the back of the neck).

morph8ne skirt, dolls kill

Close-up on my Day of the Dead tights from Gal Stern. The luxury legwear designer has a new Halloween collection, featuring metallic printed skulls over the knees.

My Morph8ne skirt from Attitude Clothing is reversible, and can be worn  either way around. I chose to put the logo on the front, and feature the side-tag detail on the back.

pink hair tumblr girl, instagram

Thanks to Attitude Clothing for the fall fashion, which goes well with my new pastel pink hair.

(If you like these Morph8ne designs, you can shop more below, including my exact crop sweater):

final fantasy lightning hair, asymmetrical pink haircut

Flashback to MySpace poses. If you’ve been reading this blog for years, do you remember when I was on this social network?

(Images by Joey Wong.)

japan halloween decorations

September-October is my favorite time to visit Tokyo and shop — because all the stores have Halloween displays and special items for sale! I always make my rounds of the boutiques in Harajuku, Shinjuku and Shibuya to check out the latest fashions, as well as scary-kawaii toys and gifts.

cute halloween nail art stickers, barrettes

This is the time to stock up on Halloween hair and nail accessories. I found goodies like these in various department stores (Marui Annex, Studio Alta, Laforet, and even random places around Tokyo.)

(If you aren’t anywhere near Japan, don’t worry — you can find Halloween nail art templates online as well.)

tokyo halloween makeup

At Okadaya, Don Quixote and other stores, you’ll find lots of limited edition Halloween makeup. Doesn’t the kawaii packaging make you smile?

japanese horror makeup, special effects sfx

These horror temporary tattoos turn you into a blood-drooling vampire, undead zombie, fierce animal and more.

japan goth makeup, halloween eyeshadow

Halloween inspiration is everywhere. These “real make palettes” let you transform into a variety of creatures.

halloween colored contacts, circle lens

At Don Quixote, I saw a display of “shiny edge” colored contact lenses. The red circle lens would be perfect for a Dracula or Walking Dead look.

darth vader socks, star wars

I recommend stopping by Kiddyland Harajuku, which is four floors of character goods (Miffy, Totoro, Rilakkuma, you name it). Around October, the mascots get in the spirit. These socks are great gifts, and feature Pompompurin, Darth Vader and more.

(Here are Nightmare Before Christmas over-the-knee socks available online too.)

disney halloween socks japan

Disney gets spooky as well. Purple, orange, red and black are the colors the season.

hello kitty halloween products

In the Sanrio section, I found very creative (yet still kawaii) Halloween items. I like the “Noooo!” in the poster, featuring the mischievous Kuromi. There’s a Cinnamon Roll with bloodshot vampire eyes, and Hello Kitty as a ghoulish zombie. 

sanrio halloween hello kitty vampire

Hello Kitty turns into an evil vampire, ghost and pumpkin in these cute tattoo stickers. (Here’s where you can get more Hello Kitty stickers.)

line friends halloween stuffed toys brown cony

The Line friends couple, Brown and Cony, dress up as Dracula and a witch. I love how the bear’s expression never changes, even when he’s in costume.

tokyo weird masks, costumes

Now, where can you shop for a Halloween costume in Tokyo, Japan? The first floor of Don Quixote (which has various locations) always has tons of cosplay and outfits featuring all types of characters. These ghastly masks hung outside the Kabukicho store.

best costume stores tokyo japan

At Studio Alta in East Shinjuku, the Sadistic Action store is a great place to play dress up.

(Here’s a similar Alice in Wonderland costume to the one pictured above.)

halloween buy rent costumes, cosplay shops

The costumes are cute and sexy versions of witches, jokers and more. In the background, you can see Hello Kitty ghost socks too.

harley quinn suicide squad costume, wig japan

I’m sure you’ll see a lot of Suicide Squad cosplay this year. Here’s where you can find this Harley Quinn costume.

(I’m also selling costumes and Japanese fashion on my Depop shop – come browse!)

bat purses, gothic lolita bags

At Swimmer (locations in Laforet, Alta and more), I encountered bat and coffin purses.

coffin purse, lolita shops

Don’t you just want to pinch that ghost’s cute cheeks?

pumpkin stuffed animal, plush toy

And how can you resist squeezing these pumpkin bears!

steampunk mask, tokyo japan

The crafty department store Tokyu Hands (locations in Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya and more) is a great place to get creative with a DIY Halloween costume. THis steampunk apocalyptic puzzle mask on display was a perfect example.

tokyu hands halloween crafts

At Tokyu Hands, you’ll find everything from cute baking supplies to Trick or Treat bags. You can build an outfit from scratch using fabric and trimmings, or buy a pre-made one from the costume section.

japan baking supplies

“Boo-yeah” to this Halloween cookie decoration kit.

horror latex masks japan

For the more DIY supplies, head to Okadaya Shinjuku. The store sells special effects makeup, latex and other monster magic.

halloween party poster japanese

Isn’t it wonderful how Tokyo celebrates the spooky season in such a big way?

romantic goth dresses boots

I’ve also been having fun browsing Octer, a mobile app and online shopping platform. The site and search are fast-loading, and let me easily compare brands and products. For fall fashion, I’m loving Octer’s selection of high boots by Stuart Weitzman, lace-up bodysuits, and romantic dresses by For Love & Lemons.

More coverage from my JRailPass train journey to come, stay tuned and please feel free to share this post if you enjoyed. Happy Halloween!

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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).

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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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