It is somewhat ironic that whilst some of Lake Bled’s Brutalist-inspired hotel stock continues to flourish or, at the very least remains viable, the historically unique Villa Bled, commissioned by the late Yugoslav potentate Tito is shamefully being allowed to go to seed, caught in limbo between the sepia-tinged memories of the past and harsh economic realities of the present day.
Currently in the hands of the somewhat nebulously named Protocol Services of the Republic of Slovenia, Villa Bled has recently gained some much needed publicity by being named on the CNN list as amongst the seven most beautiful worldwide lakeside complexes. Whether such acclaim, placing it on a par with properties in Banff, Como, Chile, Guatemala, New Zealand and America will provide the necessary shot-in-the-arm for the 67 year old property remains to be seen. The demands of the 21st century are though no respecters of history, especially in the era of a generation not brought up to drink at the cult-of-personality teat that Tito once took for granted. The hagiographic views of Tito are now fewer and further between in modern-day Slovenia, a country that has enjoyed 23 years of democracy without necessarily benefiting from it. If Villa Bled is to find a strategic partner to bring it up to a standard befitting its unrivaled position, the past should respectfully be acknowledged but not to an extent where the fractious history of the former Yugoslavia under Tito is made a cornerstone of its redevelopment. Compared to Hoxha, Honecker and General Jaruzelski, Josip Broz Tito would be bracketed by revisionists as a benevolent dictator but that doesn’t constitute a complete endorsement of his self-appointed ‘Presidency for life’ term of office, a period rife with division and the founding of the Non Aligned Movement. Often credited with keeping the diverse republics of Yugoslavia together, it should perhaps be noted that the Kingdom of the South Slavs didn’t start to disintegrate for nearly a decade after Tito’s death in 1980.
It is difficult to say whether Villa Bled is hamstrung by its past or stands as a poignant symbol of Slovenia’s current parlous financial state. Not dissimilar to the decrepit Hotel Bellevue at Lake Bohinj, where Agatha Christie once based herself seeking, ultimately in vain, inspiration for her next murder-mystery, Villa Bled has a tangible history that will never be erased from the Slovenian history books. Both hotels though benefit from marvellous settings that negate the need to trade on their former glories but, as with the Ski Hotel Vogel and Hotel Zlatorog, two of the Bellevue’s Bohinjski counterparts, without sympathetic modernisation from an international hotel chain or a forward-thinking local cabal, this eclectic quartet of hotels in Slovenia’s prime tourist regions will continue to be far less than the sum of their many parts.
The original story on Villa Bled can be found at: RTV Slovenia: The sad decline of Villa Bled