Bled is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Slovenia with Lake Bled being the most well-known natural attraction in the country. Located 475m above sea level in the north-west amongst the Julian Alps, this is a ‘must see’ place on your trip. Only 55kms from the country’s capital Ljubljana, you can easily make your way to Bled via bus, car or train. Or for those who like to cycle it offers an ‘up close and personal’ experience as you meander to the town and meet the locals.
The emerald-green lake is around 1.4kms wide, 2.2 kms long, 30 metres deep with the town built around the lake, literally.
Bled attracts a large variety of tourists from honeymooners to backpackers and everyone in-between. You can stay in 5-star hotels, homestays, Airbnb or hostels. There is also an excellent campground with modern facilities that attract those who come for the hiking, cycling, kayaking, rafting and canyoning opportunities. Bled is also known for its rowing, hosting international competitions regularly, so keep your eye out in the warmer months for the events.
The gracious swans and the traditional Pletna boats silently cross the lake with the reflection of the mountains around are perfect. If you can, stay until sunset and snap some iconic photos of the castle, the church and the reflections on the lake you won’t be disappointed.
To circumnavigate the lake, you can drive (clockwise only), bike ride, walk or for my group, on a little train that holds around 40 people with regular stops at designated locations.
In winter, the surface of the lake freezes and snow is sprinkled across the entire valley, creating a photographers dream.
Bled Castle was built in 1011 and sits high atop a precipice of the north shore with stunning 360-degree views across the lake and valley. Over the years it was expanded and fortified for defence reasons and even survived a severe earthquake in 1511. The Castle has been well restored and hosts numerous cultural events, in particular, the popular Medieval Days including visitors dressing in traditional medieval costumes. You can drive up to the Castle with good parking or walk from the Lake up a well-paved pathway which takes around 20 minutes.
There is a moat around the Castle but today it is filled with earth, however, my imagination was able to create a picture of what it would’ve been like 10 centuries ago.
To visit the island in the island in the middle of the lake, you’ll need to take a Pletna boat which has beautiful colourful awnings, are a wooden flat-bottomed boat with a pointed bow and the stern has a wide step for easy entry. Propelled with the special ‘stehrudder’ technique, the oarsman stand and row with two oars. These boats date back to 1590 and can transport around 20 people at a time. A Pletna oarsman is a very respected job and is mostly handed down through families from generation to generation.
Bled Island has several buildings, the main one being the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. Built at the end of the 17th century and decorated with remains of Gothic frescos from 1470, the church has a 52m high tower with a Baroque stairway from 1655 with 99 stone steps leading up to the top. Popular for weddings, there is a tradition considered good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the steps on the day of their wedding before ringing the bell and making a wish inside the church.
The church bell, made in the early 16th century, is said to have come from the pope himself. The story goes that he gave it to the church after the original bell, sent to the island by an inconsolable widow in remembrance of her late husband, ended up sinking to the bottom of the lake in a storm.
Now down to the good stuff – The Bled cream cake known as ‘kremsnita’ is a symbol of Bled itself. You can buy them across Slovenia but in Bled they are simply the best and encourage you to try one. A vanilla custard dessert that tasted much like an Australian vanilla slice – but not!
I encourage you to put Slovenia on your hit list of European countries. It has so much to offer and its natural beauty and friendly people are in itself a great attraction.
As printed in the Warrandyte Diary July 2017