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Slovenia’s Lake Bled and Memories of Tito

Lake Bled, Slovenia

On lovely Lake Bled, we tour the villa of the former Yugoslav president, Marshal Tito. A strong leader, he united the six republics that made up Yugoslavia — an unstable union that broke apart a decade after his death. A Slovenian guide shares her thoughts on Tito and Yugoslavia.

Complete Video Script

Strolling the three miles around the lake, visitors enjoy ever-changing views. Also enjoying dramatic lake views are handsome villas, mostly from the 19th century.

My favorite was once the vacation villa of Yugoslav president-for-life, Marshal Tito.

Slovenia was one of six republics that united to make Yugoslavia — a country that existed basically from just after WWI until the 1990s. Tito, a larger-than-life, strong-arm dictator, was the one leader able to hold that troubled union together.

When Tito ran Yugoslavia, he huddled with foreign dignitaries — from Indira Gandhi and Nikita Khrushchev to Kim Il Sung — right here. After Tito died in 1980, his villa was converted into a classy hotel, offering guests a James Bond ambience. In this high-end suite, you can actually sleep in the dictator's bed. And visitors can use Tito's personal desk for something I bet he never imagined… sending an email.

Here in what was Tito's ballroom, a mural survives, telling of World War II heroics. After the Nazis bombed Belgrade and took over their country, the ragtag gang of Yugoslav patriots, inspired by charismatic commanders, formed a resistance army. Vastly outgunned, they fought back valiantly, eventually defeating the German invaders.

Tito and his Partisan Army booted the Nazis without Soviet support. That's why, unlike his Eastern European neighbors, Tito could and did chart his own course — independent from the USSR.

My friend and Slovenian tour guide Tina Hiti is joining us to help sort out the Yugoslav puzzle.

Rick: I find this propaganda so stirring. I can see how it would make people just want to wave a flag.
Tina: Yeah, this is a very typical socialist realism propaganda. It was all over Eastern Europe, and if you look at the picture, you can see the proud workers, you know, carrying their tools. You can see them with shovels. And then you can see here the true representative of a strong woman carrying a child and proudly waving the flag. But still, you know, it's a propaganda of Eastern Europe — but it was so different over here. We were never inside the Warsaw Pact. That's why maybe the faces are a little happier.
Rick: So, how was communism in Yugoslavia different from all the communism we think about with the USSR?
Tina: Well, we chose our way. The "Third Way," we called it, and it was a lot different — like we could travel, we had free market economy, and there were jobs for everybody. The social system was good.
Rick: Tito had some magic ability to bring it together.
Tina: Well, probably his magic ability was that he was a mix of all the nationalities that included Yugoslavia. His mom was a Slovene, his dad was a Croat, and his wife was a Serb, so he was the only true Yugoslav there was.
Rick: Today, are you happier with or without Tito and Yugoslavia?
Tina: I will say I was happy that I could live a part of Yugoslavia, but I am happy to be living in European Union as well now.