Bled island

Lake Bled, a fairy tale place in Slovenia

Fairly Lake Bled

Lake Bled is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Slovenia. This fairytale-like lake is a Slovenian landmark and attracts a lot of visitors throughout the year.

And the view is incredible: the emerald green lake is surrounded by forests and mountains.
In the west part of the lake, there is a little island with a church and a tower. And above the lake, the medieval Castle of Bled lies on the top of a rocky cliff. Such a fairytale place to enjoy yourself!

 

Lake Bled

Bled is about 50 km northwest of Ljubljana, at the foot of the Julian Alps and Karawanks – mountain ranges. The lake is of tectonic-glacial origin and lies 475 meters above sea level. It is about 2 km long and 1,380 m wide, while the maximum depth is about 30 meters.  The lake surface water reaches 24°C during the summer, and it freezes at extremely low winter temperatures. A short river Jezernica flows from the lake down to the Sava Bohinjka River. The freshwater comes to the lake from the Radovna River by a pipeline.

The town of Bled with about 5,000 inhabitants lies around the lake. Also, it is the seat of the municipality of the same name that belongs to the Gorenjska region. The confluence of the Sava Bohinjka River and the Sava Dolinka River is nearby.

 

Myths and legends about Lake Bled

Various myths and legends are connected to Lake Bled.
One of them is about the Old Slavic goddess Živa who brought fairies and elves to dwell on its shores. In ancient times, Živa was the pagan goddess of love and fertility. The graves and skeletons discovered on the island are from the period between the 7th and 9th centuries when there was a temple of goddess Živa.

After the local population was converted from paganism to Christianity, the ancient temple was replaced with the church consecrated to the assumption of the Virgin Mary.

 

Bled Island and Pletna boat

The Bled Island is the only island in Slovenia and it looks totally unreal!

Pletna boat

It is possible to reach the lake by a small wooden boat, which is called Pletna.
The boat got its name after the roof which was once whickered and now is made of linen, which protects the passengers from the sun. For the protection of the lake and the environment, motorboats are not permitted, and boatmen can only use oars.

Bled lake, pletna boat, Bledsko jezero

Bled lake, pletna boat

 

The boat can carry a maximum of 20 passengers. It is a real pleasure to ride in it while gliding over the peaceful surface of the lake.
The transport by pletna boats dates back to 1590. The profession of oarsmen who operate the boats is highly respected and handed down from generation to generation. So it has remained in individual families for centuries, similar to gondoliers in Venice.

A tour on a pletna boat is 14 euros per person. You usually have 30-40 minutes for a walk around the island before returning to the coast.
Also, if you like, you can rent a small boat and row it to the island or on the lake.

 

 

Bled Island

The Bled Island is famous for its Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary from the 15th century, the bell tower and the remains of the old Slavic cemetery.

Bled island

Bled island with the church

 

The original church is from 1142. It was rebuilt in the middle of the 15th century, in the Gothic style and finished in the Baroque style.
You need to pay for entry (6 euros for adults), and within the bell tower, there is a Wishing Bell from the 16th century. According to local tradition, for anyone who rings the bell three times, his or her wish would come true. It is also believed that the bell brings a long and happy life to newlyweds.

Belltower, Church of the Assumption of Mary, Bled

Belltower, Church of the Assumption of Mary, Bled

 

On the south side of the island, there are 99 stone steps built in 1655, leading to the church.

99 stone steps on Bled island

99 stone steps to the top, Bled

 

Nowadays, the wedding in this church has become very popular and a matter of prestige, for couples from Slovenia as well as from other countries. And according to local tradition, the groom must carry the bride in his arms all 99 steps up to the church in order to ensure a long and happy marriage 🙂

Bled lake, 99 stone steps

Bled lake, 99 stone steps

A café and a gift shop are near the church on the island.

 

The legend about the Bled Wishing bell

There is also an interesting story about the Wishing Bell.

According to the legend, around 1500, Polyxena von Kreigh, a young widow from the castle, gave all her silver and gold to be melted down and cast into a bell for the chapel on the island in memory of her husband who was killed by robbers. But, because of a storm, the boat sank together with the bell to the bottom of Lake Bled. Desperate Polyxena sold her property, gave the money for the construction of the church on the island, and went to a convent in Rome.

After her death in 1534, the Pope had heard of her sad destiny. In memory of Polyxena, the Pope sent a new bell to Bled Island. This bell is still used today. And it is believed that it fulfils the wishes of visitors.

Bledsko jezero

The swan on Bled island

 

And according to the legend, during calm nights, sometimes the sound of the old sunken bell can be heard…

 

 

Bled Castle (Blejski grad) on the lake Bled

Bled Castle is located on a rock cliff, 130 meters above the lake.

Bled Castle, Bledsko jezero

The view from the lake on Bled Castle

 

You can get to the castle by road, but it is more interesting to take a walk along the marked path through the forest. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the castle and therefore, so put on some comfortable shoes.

On the way to the Castle, you will pass by St Martin Church, in neo-Gothic style, built in 1905. It was erected at the site of the former Gothic church from the 15th century.

St Martin Church in Bled

St Martin Church in Bled

 

The Bled Castle is from the 11th century. It is considered to be the oldest castle in Slovenia.
The castle was first mentioned on 22nd May 1011, when German King Henry II donated the island to Bishop Albuin of Brixen. The town of Bled was also the administrative seat in the Gorenjska region. Medieval documents refer to Bled with its German name Veldes.

Blejski dvorac

Blejski dvorac

 

 

The lower and upper parts of the castle

Today the castle has been renovated and adapted for tourist visits (entrance fee for adults is 11 euros).

The castle consists of two courtyards. In the lower part, there are the Grajska tiskarna-printing shop, the Stolp Gallery, and the Castle coffee shop.
In the printing shop, you can see a reconstructed Gutenberg printing press. A craftsman in a medieval dress will kindly explain how the books were printed manually on the wooden printing press in the 16th century. He can typeset your name and make a unique souvenir from Bled.

Bled Castle, tiskarna

Tiskarna-printing house in Bled Castle

 

The castle could not be a castle without wine. So the Dornberg wine cellar is located between the two courtyards.
And the castle cellarman dressed as a monk will explain the origin of the wines. He helps you fill and cork your own bottle of wine, as well.

Dornberg winery in Bled castle

Dornberg winery in Bled castle

 

In the upper part, there is the Castle Forge, a Chapel from the 16th century and the museum.

Bled Castle, Chapel

Bled Castle, Chapel

 

In Museum you can find interesting exhibitions that show the history of the development of Bled from the Bronze Age to the present day.

Blejski dvorac, Museum

Museum: the first written mention of Bled castle, and the hoard of metal and gold objects found in Bled

 

Also, you can see the oldest map of Bled from 1749 in the Bled Museum.

Map of Bled castle from 1749, Bled Museum

The oldest map of Bled from 1749, Bled Museum

 

One room is dedicated to Arnold Rikli, the creator of an alternative healing method in Bled.

Bled Castle

Bled Castle

 

The entire town complex is protected by high walls with a long corridor and the entrance tower.

 

 

Bled Castle events

The view from the walls of the castle is really spectacular.
On one side you can see a little island with a church and a bell tower. A coastline is full of trees in various shades of green.

On the other side of the lake, in distance, the view goes to the Julian Alps with peaks under the snow. The perfect combination of emerald green water, greenery, and nature, light wind and sun make you forget everything and enjoy the view and the surroundings.

Bledsko jezero

Bled lake

 

Well, Bled Castle is a very romantic place, where weddings and various celebrations are often organized. Within the castle, there is the Knights’ Hall and the Bled Castle restaurant.

You can organize a business meeting in a different environment: the conference hall and the protocol room are at your disposal in Bled Castle.

 

Kremšnita, Bled cream cake

Bled is also famous for one dessert, a kind of cream cake – cremeschnitte, i.e. kremšnita.
You should definitely try it when you come to Bled.

cream cake, kremšnita

Cream cake, kremšnita

 

The original recipe was made in 1953 by Ištvan Lukačević, the former manager of the Hotel Park patisserie.
A golden crispy layer on the top is made from butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar, a delicious vanilla cream covered with whipped cream in the middle, and a crust made from butter dough… mmm, so delicious!

You can see how popular Bled cream cake is by the fact that 12 million cream cakes have been produced until now.
Well, is it really tasty as everyone says?  You have to taste it yourself 🙂

 

Tourism on Lake Bled

The perfect geographical position on the southern side of the Alps, as well as the proximity of the Austrian and Italian borders, make Bled an ideal tourist destination throughout the year.

During the summer, from June to September, the water temperature is around 24ºC, which makes it ideal for swimming and diving.
Visitors can walk along the path around the lake which is 6 km long. You can enjoy riding, cycling or take a trip around the lake in an open carriage – fijaker, as well.

Sports fishing is allowed since there are 19 fish species in the lake.
The possibilities are great because the wooded slopes of Jelovica and Pokljuka mountains that surround the lake represent the perfect environment for hiking.

Bled is an excellent base during the winter months for ski and snowboard lovers. There are three famous ski resorts in its surroundings: Krvavec, Vogel, and Kobla.

From the time when the Karadjordjević Dynasty had a summer residence in Bled, there are a golf course and tennis courts. You can try how lucky you are in the casino as well.

Throughout the year, various events, concerts, festivals, sports competitions are organized in Bled. Especially interesting are the events of Medieval days that bring Bled back to medieval times.

 

Summer sledding

An interesting experience is ”Summer sledding” on the Straža ski slope, from spring to autumn.

Straza hill

Bled, Straza hill

 

The sleds are attached to a special rail and can reach a speed of 40 km/h. Perfect for raising your adrenaline!
The track is 520 meters long and you descend from the height of about 130 meters towards the lake.
During the winter, the tracks are removed and this terrain turns into a ski trail.

 

 Arnold Rikli

Tourism development in Bled began in the middle of the 19th century, thanks to Arnold Rikli, a Swiss who got sick and came to Bled because of air, thermal water and nature. As soon as he recovered, he realized the benefits of a mild climate and all the opportunities that the lake provided. He left his family business and in 1855 opened his first centre with his own methods of treatment in Bled.
Arnold Rikli is one of the pioneers of alternative medicine. He has developed a program of various activities with an accent on swimming, baths with thermal water, sunbathing and walking.

His famous quote is:

The water is good, the air is better, but the sunlight is the best“.

 

The local population called him “Sun doctor” because he promoted the “sunbathing” therapy. They were not very enthusiastic because the therapy was based on walking in the sun without clothes (in a limited space on Straža hill)! That is why Arnold Rikli is considered one of the forefathers of naturism.
The healing place operated until the First World War. But even today his methods are used in combination with new therapies in medical-regenerative programs.

In memory of Arnold Rikli, Rikli’s sports days and hiking on Rikli’s paths are organized every year in Bled.

 

Accommodation in Lake Bled 

Arnold Rikli made a great contribution to the development of tourism in Bled. The first baths and organized guest accommodation facilities were built in 1895. In 1906 Bled was among the best tourist destinations in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Nowadays around the lake, there are several very luxurious hotels with spa centres such as Rikli Balance Hotel (former Golf Hotel), Grand Hotel Toplice, Garni Hotel Savica, Best Western Premier Hotel Lovec, Villa Bled (the former President Tito’s residence).
Bled has about 4,000 beds in various accommodation facilities that include hotels, villas, and guesthouses, including camping sites.

Bled Castle, the view from the lake

Bled Castle, the view from the lake

 

Lake Bled, between the legend and the reality

The combination of spectacular nature, fresh air, possibilities for various sports, leisure, and pleasure, made Bled one of the elite holiday destinations in Europe.

Lake Bled looks equally beautiful during all seasons.
In the spring and summer, everything is green around the lake. And in the distance, you can see the slopes of the Julian Alps under the snow.
Autumn gives the lake special golden-yellow tones and reflections in the water.
And in winter it looks like a painting, almost unreal, like fairy tales and legends about this beautiful place.

Bled lake, Bledsko jezero

Lake Bled

 

A picture of the romantic Bled attracts you to visit it and enjoy its nature.

And somewhere in the distance, you can hear the sound of the bells from the lake…

 

 

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