Fairytale Bled, Slovenia
A fairytale town in a picture-perfect location, Bled, Slovenia is comprised of 3 jewels – Lake Bled, Bled Castle, and a tiny island with the beautiful church of St. Mary.
The walk around Lake Bled is a highlight. It is only 6.5 km (4 miles), and mostly flat, with scenic views the whole way, and plenty of places to stop for refreshments. (They are known for their cream cakes!)
I was fortunate to spend 6 days here, and walked around Lake Bled every day, twice on one day, as I never tired of the views, and they change with the light as the sun and clouds move.
The iconic scene is, of course, the island with the Church of St. Mary, but there are plenty of other sights along the way as well – the docked wooden boats, serene swans, and beaches for swimming if you get the urge. You might even see ducks all in a row!
Take one of the flat-bottomed wooden boats (called a Pletna) to the island, where you can climb the steps and ring the church bell for good luck. The ancient Slavs worshipped Ziva, the goddess of love and fertility here, then later pilgrims came to the Church of St. Mary. Be prepared for some exercise, as there are 99 steps on this tiny island.
You can also rent paddle boards, row boats, or a beautiful swan boat if you prefer to get to the island under your own paddle power.
And when you get hungry, if you haven’t packed a picnic, stop at one of the many restaurants with a view. Just keep in mind if you order the grilled cheese, it might not be what you’re expecting, but it’s literally what you ordered – cheese that’s been grilled. Different, but delicious! And in case you’re a wine lover, you’re in your element here – wine is cheaper than water, at 1 euro per glass.
Many of my meals were eaten at my hostel, one of the advantages of staying in a place with a shared kitchen. It’s a great way to economize, as even though the prices in Slovenia are moderate compared to Western Europe and the US, it’s still a tourist town with tourist prices.
It’s not a problem in Bled if you only speak English – being a tourist area, most people speak at least some English. But it’s fun to try to read the signs – if they were playing scrabble they’d have it made, with all of the Z’s, J’s, and Y’s!
Bled Castle perches high up on a cliff overlooking the lake, and is the quintessential medieval castle. It’s worth the climb for the magnificent views, and if you follow the robed monk, you might find the most important room in the castle…
If you are extremely lucky, like I was, you might happen to be in Bled for their Medieval Days , which only happens once a year. I spent the day, wandering amongst the artisan village set up outside the castle gate, and saw weavers, printers, and blacksmiths creating their wares.
I passed by gallant knights and ladies-in-waiting…
…watched colorful spectacles of swirling dancers and acrobatic flag wavers…
…and heard the cutthroat clatter of metal on metal as knights duked it out in full armor.
At night they even had a spectacular light show, including more dancing, glow in the dark flag waving, fire breathing, and fireworks.
A couple of easy day trips that are incredibly scenic are nearby Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bohinj. Vintgar Gorge was an easy half hour walk from my hostel, through lovely countryside, and a cool respite from the heat of a bright sunny day.
The Radovna River cuts through steep tree-covered cliffs, its emerald green waters foaming white over several small waterfalls, with one big one at the end. (Yes, the water really is that color, it literally glows neon green!)
I took my time walking the long boardwalk that perches along the river, criss-crossing over it in several places, then walked a different route back to my hostel through a deep green forest, emerging at the top of a hill near a small church, with panoramic views of the valley below.
A bus ride away is the Triglav National Park, including Lake Bohinj, a much bigger body of water than Lake Bled, also very scenic. This park is full of opportunities for adventure – hiking, biking, paddle boarding, fly fishing, canoeing, white water rafting, horse back riding, and more.
I opted to rent a bike for a few hours and explored the mountains surrounding the lake, where trails wind through beautiful forests and fields, and you might even see some art in the local villages.
Many people make only a day or two stop in Bled, and you can certainly see it in a day if you rush. But there’s something beautiful and serene and relaxing about staying for a while, seeing the lake in her different moods, early in the morning or late in the evening when the day-trippers have gone, that’s delightful, and makes you dream about the place long after you leave.