A Visit to Lake Bled
Lake Bled had been on my travel bucket list for several years. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that I finally had the chance to visit it in April 2019. I had seen many pictures of the area, and I knew that it was a definite must-see site. In fact, a big deciding factor on deciding to head to Slovenia was because I really wanted to see Lake Bled.
Since my time in Slovenia was short, I opted for a day tour that highlighted the major areas of Slovenia, and Lake Bled was on the itinerary along with Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave. In the past, whenever I planned on visiting Slovenia, the weather was always an issue. I knew that I wanted to get the best possible shots, and I figured late April would be my best chance since I would have no other chances until 2020. Thus, I was really hoping for some good weather on this particular day.
Unfortunately, because it is spring, spring showers are not unusual. On the day of the tour, it was raining, and it was not a light rain either. It was raining heavily for a good portion of the drive from Ljubjlana to Bled. Throughout the drive, I had hoped that the weather would clear up just enough to get some good views. However, the weather just did not cooperate for this trip, and upon arrival at Lake Bled, it was still very cloudy with rain. Since nothing could control the weather, there was no point in pouting about it, and there was nothing that could be done but to suck it up.
Despite the rain, it was still possible to travel to the Church of the Assumption, which is the church located on the island in the lake. In order to get to the church, everyone got on a pletna, which is a flat boat, and the rower started the fifteen-minute ride to the island church. Even though it was raining, the boat had a canopy, so it provided a little bit of protection from the elements.
As the pletna made its way to the island, it was possible to hear the church bell ring out three times constantly. Tradition states that if a person makes a wish and rings the bell three times, their wish will come true. Once the pletna arrived at the small dock, I left the boat and climbed the 99 steps up to the church. Another story deals with the idea that if a groom carries his bride up all steps, they will have a happy marriage. Maybe I’ll test out that idea one day?
Admittedly, I was half-expecting a lot of other tourists to be found around the area, but much to my surprise, the only large group of Chinese tourists was just leaving, and that meant the island was more or less deserted save for myself and the 8 others that were on the boat with me. I guess that is a benefit of the cold and rainy weather; it kept the crowds away which is a definite plus when traveling.
While it is free to walk around the island (it takes about 5 minutes), the church costs 6 euros to enter. Of all the people in the group, I was the only one to enter. The church is relatively simple on the inside, but it has a beautiful heavily gold-decorated high altar that dates from the 18th century with the Virgin Mary in the center. There are also two side altars that date from the 17th century along with a very intricately-detailed pulpit.
Just before the high altar is a rope that leads up to the “wishing bell.” Being aware of the tradition, I made a wish and rang the bell three times. I made sure to really pull hard on the rope to make sure Heaven heard my wish. I can’t tell you what my wish was, but I am confident it will come true sooner or later.
After the visit to the island, everyone took the pletna back, and then we headed to Predjama Castle, which is a renaissance-era castle built within a cave mouth. The castle dates from the 13th century, but the current castle dates from the 16th century. Even though most of the castle rooms are devoid of furniture, it is a fascinating place to visit and imagine how life would have been in the past. One thing that did surprise me about the castle was how cold and humid it was on the inside. I could just imagine how cold it would be in the past during a Slovenian winter.
Once the visit and tour through Predjama Castle was completed, we were all taken to the last site of the tour, Postojna Cave, which is only about 9 km away.
Postojna Cave has been known about since the 17th century, and it started to be visited as a tourist site in the early 19th century. Initially, because of the depth of the cave, early tourists had to walk the entire length and then walk back. However, because of its length, in order to get to the main area of the cave, visitors take a cave train into the depths of the cave which takes about 10-15 minutes. Originally, the train was hand-propelled by two men, but now the train is fully-powered and can easily carry 100 people on open cars through the cave in a fast and efficient way.
When we arrived at Postojna Cave, the members of the group were split into different groups based on our language. German speakers stood in one line, Italian speakers in another, Slovenian speakers in another, and English speakers in another. Gradually, each group was called, and a tour guide who works in the cave led everyone down to the train. Needless to say, the English group was the largest but many of the people in that group spoke languages that were not available, such as French, Spanish, and Chinese.
During the tour of Postojna Cave, everyone walked for about an hour and half in the cave. This was an amazing place since many of the stalactites and stalagmites had been growing for tens of hundreds of years. I was certainly impressed by it since this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this. Because of the fragile environment of the cave, everyone had to follow a particular path and not touch anything since the oils in human hands apparently damage the rock formations and keeps them from growing. Once the visit to the cave was over, everyone took the open-car train back up to the surface. I met up with the guide who drove to the cave, and soon myself and the rest of the group were heading back to Ljubljana.
In closing, even though the weather for a good portion of the tour was rainy and definitely not ideal, the sites were still amazing. If I have to be honest, the weather actually created a bit of a mystical environment of Lake Bled, so while the weather was admittedly a disappointment, it created a different kind of photo that was a bit unique. However, despite the weather, I was still able to finally see Lake Bled with my own eyes. It is another item that I can check off my bucket list, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
Have you been to Lake Bled? What did you think of it?
Please enjoy the photo gallery! All photos were taken by me using a DSLR and iPhone.