Lake Bled is a stunning jewel in Slovenia’s Julian Alps crown, a gorgeously picturesque spot attracting large numbers of tourists despite being something of a secret for US travelers. By American standards, it’s a small village situated smack dab in the middle of a perfect mountain setting.
Yugoslavia’s dictator, Marshall Josep Broz Tito, had his villa here with spectacular lake frontage. It’s a resort hotel now and I wish we’d had time to scope it out.
One small note – because I visited Bled as part of a package tour, all admission charges for the castle, church and pletna boat were covered. If you’re planning to go, just be aware that there are fees. Back to my story…
Our hotel overlooked the lake but our rooms faced the front entrance; the lobby provided the only view of the castle for us.
Not to worry, we boarded our bus after breakfast, cruised around the perimeter road to see the lake and its treasures from all angles before visiting the most intriguing attractions.
The lake itself is beautiful, and the autumn sky was pure blue, making all our photos look like postcards. The real stunners here are Bled Castle, barely clinging to the rocks high above the lake and the Church of the Assumption, which sits on an island and is reachable by one of the traditional, human-powered pletna boats.
Bled Castle is just over a thousand years old and sits more than 400 feet above the water. It was briefly owned by Napoleon, only one in a long line of owners, including a hotelier who was unable to realize his vision of transforming the castle. Several rooms now contain museum displays, which were only added in 2008; the exhibits include medieval era artifacts as well as prehistoric archaeological treasures excavated locally. The outdoor terrace has grand views of the valley (we were there too early to plop down for an alfresco snack).
If you’re on your own when you visit, be aware that, even after your car or bus drives up the windy road to the castle, you’ll still have several minutes of hiking up the steep gravel path to the castle. Stop often to snap pictures!
The church is another exercise (literally). Getting to the island is the easy part. The pletna boat docks at the bottom of the steps leading to the church. There are 99 of them – steps, not boats, and one tradition says that if a man carries his intended all the way to the top, she’ll marry him. No mention whether a chiropractic adjustment is included in the deal.
Inside the church is another tradition – making a wish while ringing the bell in honor of Mary. I didn’t participate in this bit; I just watched. People who wanted to ring the bell were given tips on how to get the bell to ring – the rope is long and thick and the bell heavy. You’re instructed to start with the rope not moving, so you’re not piggybacking on the previous wisher’s efforts. At first, people let the rope stop before taking their turn but, eventually, the cheating set in. Tsk-tsk. What would Mary say?
My favorite personal discovery in Bled was the honey shop at the mini-mall. The most curious thing? An outdoor event at the same shopping area, touting Tupperware parties! The one thing I wish I’d done in Bled – sample the local specialty cream cake. Everyone who ate it raved about it. I didn’t intentionally skip it; I just forgot. When I go exploring on my own, it’s easy to get attracted to whatever crosses my path and sometimes that means I lose track of stuff I might have been seeking out. Oh well, it’s a great excuse to go back.