I was naïve about this part of Europe, until a recent visit this past December/January. Bled lies at the foothills of the Julian Alps in Slovenia. It’s a pristine and picturesque environment, where you find yourself surrounded by magnificent mountains and tranquil forests. The people of Bled have a rich history of folktales and fables. The most well known concerns the origin of Lake Bled. 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.
The visual impact as I cast my eyes over the lake as it surrounds the island, was surreal and awe-inspiring that held me steadfast. Seeing the lake in person, I immediately understood how such a legend could come about. The whole area looks like it has come straight out of a Gothic fairy-tale book, like the ones I read as a child. Adding to the magical beauty and serenity of the lake is the Pilgrimage Church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary which sits atop the small island in the lake’s center.
The 11th century Bled Castle that looks down on the lake presents a spectacular vista and conjures images of intrigue and its medieval origins in one’s imagination. One can lose track of time thinking about life in Bled in the middle ages when gazing at the precipice upon which the castle is built.
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 manoeuvre the vessels has been passed down within the same families from generation to generation.
Upon reaching the island, the 99 steep stairs present a challenge to any visitor. Even more so, however, to local young grooms, as tradition holds that it is 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.
So 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.