One of the most iconic and photographed islands in Europe is lovely Bled Island, located in Lake Bled.
Bled is a small town that has been a popular tourist destination for some time because it lies on the shore of Lake Bled, home of the only island in Slovenia. The lake is only of moderate size — 2,120 m (6,960 ft) long, 1,380 m (4,530 ft) wide, with a maximum depth of 29.5 m (97 ft) — but it is quite lovely. Bled Island and Lake are well known and photographs are commonly featured in magazines and on travel websites.
Bled Island is usually reached by paying for a seat on a boat known as a pletna — a type of gondola. These canopy-covered boats seat about 20 people and are rowed to the island, a journey taking about 20 minutes each way. Pletna oarsman stand as they row, using two oars. Their role dates to 1740, when Empress Maria Theresa granted 22 local families exclusive rights to ferry religious pilgrims to worship on Bled Island. These are highly prized jobs and the men rowing the pletna to this day are mostly descendants of the original 22 families.
When you land on Bled Island, you’re given 30 minutes to explore before you return via the pletna you arrived on. You’ll scamper up a flight of 99 stairs to reach the top of the island, where your explorations begin. There is no charge to visit the island, except what you pay for the gondola ride; you are free to wander and visit the cafe and souvenir store. However, most people go to the island to visit the church, for which there is an admission charge.
The Assumption of Mary Pilgrimage Church was built on Bled Island in the 15th century. Today the church is frequented by tourists, and is also a popular place for weddings. Traditionally local grooms carry their brides up the 99 stone steps (built in 1655), while the bride remains silent, a successful climb said to bring them a happy life. Obviously this isn’t always achievable, and there are stories of some brides carrying their husbands up the steps.
A small Christian church was first built on the island in the 12th century. The present church was finished in the 17th century and has a lovely Baroque interior.
The church has a bell that visitors ring for good luck. The bell rests in a 52 m (170 ft tall) tower and was cast in Padova in 1534. The church has fresco fragments from the 15th century, some of which you can see in these photos.
The views of the hills surrounding Lake Bled from the top of the Island is lovely.
Very memorable is the view of Bled Castle sitting high above the lake on the north shore. The background of snow-covered peaks made it especially beautifully framed when we visited.
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