Slovenia is a stunning little country nestled between Austria and Croatia. It is known as one of the most stunning countries in Europe and a favored destination for hiking and for exploring the stunning Alps of Slovenia. One look at Lake Bled in the breathtaking Julian Alps sums it all up. While the European Alps are mostly in France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, other neighboring countries also boast their own stunning mountain ranges with different moods and characteristics.
Tucked away in northwestern Slovenia is the iconic Lake Bled with its Lake Bled Island and Bled Castle. This is an easy day trip from the country's capital, Ljubljana - it's only 55 km (or 34 miles) from the main city. If one hasn't put this real-life scene straight out of a fairytale on one's bucket list for Europe, then one most certainly should.
Bled Island And The Church
It is Bled Island that first catches people's attention as they glaze over Lake Bled. The religious history on the island long predates the current church. Long before the church was built on the island, it was home to a temple dedicated to a pagan goddess of life and fertility. But after the Slavic peoples in the region became Christian around 745, the temple was replaced with a church dedicated to the birth of Mary.
- Pagan Temple: There Was Originally A Pagan Temple On The Island
The church was rebuilt in 1465 in the single-nave Gothic style and the current baroque image of the church dates from the mid-17th century. The church is notable for its free-standing bell tower made of porous stone (called buckwheat grains). The bells continue to ring out their melody to this day.
- Height: The Free Standing Bell Tower Is 52 Meters High
The staircase is of particular fame. It has 99 stone steps and there is a tradition (still alive today) that the groom must carry his bride up all 99 steps if they wish to get married in the church on the island.
- Tradition: The Groom Must Carry His Bride Up The 99 Steps
- Wishing Bell: Visitors Also Ring The Wishing Bell
The church complex includes the bell tower, curacy and provost's house, a small hermitage, and some other buildings with their own mysterious and otherwise legendary tales to tell.
One of the main attractions on the island is the wishing bell. It is popular with visitors coming to the island to ring and recommend themselves to the Mother of God.
Look to the background up on the cliff along the shore of Lake Bled and one will see the eye-catching Bled Castle. The castle dates back to 1004 when the area was conferred by the German King Henry II to Bishop Albuin of Brixen. At that time it was the only Romanesque tower protected by a wall.
- First Built: Around 1011
- Current Form: After Being Rebuilt After The 1511 Earthquake
The first castle was built around 1011, although the bishops did not live in the castle. In the Middle Ages, more towers were built, and it was transformed into a residence for feudal lords. An earthquake in 1511 damaged the structure, but it was rebuilt afterward in the form we see it today.
It was restored between 1951 and 1961 and today the castle is open to the public. The castle hosts the castle wine cellar, the tower gallery featuring monthly exhibits, a memorial room, the Castle Beehive (with souvenirs), and more.
At the museum in the castle's upper courtyard, one can delve into the history of the castle and Lake Bled.
Other Things To Know Of Lake Bled And Its Surrounds
The Local Cuisine:
The Bled area is famous for its cream pastry called kremna rezina or kremšnita 'Cremeschnitte'. It is considered the area's culinary specialty and has even been designated a protected dish of designated origin by the government of Slovenia.
- Cream Pastry: Local Specialty Designated A Protected Dish
Hiking Around Lake Bled:
While the Bled landscape is famous and internationally recognizable, the area still boasts many stunning trails and hidden attractions to be found. There are well-maintained footpaths leading into the hills above the lake. On these hikes, one is rewarded with eye-watering views of the surroundings from the Castle Hill, Straža, Dobra Gora, Kozarca, Osojnica, or Kuhovnica.
- Tip: See The Bled Tourism Site For More Information
One more thing to note about the Bled Castle is its stunning Castle Chapel. It is considered the most interesting of the preserved buildings of the castle complex. The Castle Chapel is dedicated to Bishop St Albuin and St Ingenuin and was built in the 16th century.