LAKE BLED SLOVENIA
Until a visit to the northwestern part of Slovenia, I was naïve about this part of Europe, especially Bled. It lies at the foothills of the Julian Alps and in my opinion the closest you will get to fairyland. The visual impact over the lake and island is surreal. The picture perfect Pilgrimage Church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary atop the island is in the middle of the lake which adds to the magical beauty and serenity of the lake surrounded by magnificent mountains and tranquil forests.
The people of Bled have a rich history and of course folktales and fables. The most well known today is the origin of the Lake. Legend has it that upon the arrival of humans, the fairies who had previously inhabited the area flooded the valley and created a lake with a small island in the middle, upon which they could continue to dance at night, undisturbed by the new arrivals.
Seeing the lake in person was like a dream come true, I immediately understood how such a legend did come about. The whole area looked like it had come from a Gothic fairy-tale book.
Spectacular views that stretch far and wide from the once in power Bled Castle built by the Bishops of Brixen, first mentioned in documents in the year 1011, was a major turning point in the history of Bled. The keepers of the castle were bonded knights, who upheld feudal authority in the name of the bishops. Gazing at the precipice upon which the castle is built and where I stood, I could imagine Medieval life in Bled, freezing in winter, cruel battles, life threatening illness and a pace unknown to us. I lost track of time thinking about it, my mind was filled with a storm of images racing around in my head. Would I have coped?…..
The traditional mode of transportation to Bled Island is in a wooden boat known as a Plätten. These flat-bottomed boats have been built in a similar fashion since the 12th century. The specialised rowing technique used by the oarsmen to propel and maneuver the vessel, has been passed down within the same families from generation to generation.
Reaching the island there are 99 steep stairs to the top. A challenge to say the least and even more so for a local just wed. On their wedding day there is a tradition that the young groom must carry his bride to the top of the steps for good luck, before ringing the bell three times inside the church and then to make a wish.
If like me, you hadn’t heard of Bled, where fairies dance and fables live on, it’s well worth a visit just to make a wish.