I’ve always liked Southwest Airlines’ slogan. “Wanna Get Away?” Their first television commercials featured people having bad days – then up pops the Southwest phrase in big, bold letters. It wasn’t so much where you wanted to go, just that you wanted to go. So today I have Southwest on the brain, not only because I “wanna get away” (and don’t we all?) but because I know precisely where. Take me to the Julian Alps in northwest Slovenia, please. There you’ll find a tiny fairyland oasis known as Lake Bled.
Let me tease you with a photo. Here, you’re standing on a steep vista known as Little Osojnica Hill. Lake Bled’s emerald green waters are a squarish mile of blended glacial melt and hot springs. And those mountains in the distance? You’re looking at Austria and its Alps. The country and its majestic peaks are less than ten miles from Slovenia and Lake Bled.
But forget about the surroundings for a moment because it’s Lake Bled I really want to talk about. Here’s how you get there. From Frankfurt, Germany, catch a 75-minute flight (KLM or Lufthansa, not Southwest) to Slovenia’s capital city of Ljubljana. Instead of spending time trying to pronounce “Ljubljana”, make your way to the city train station. Travel thirty miles northwest on the rails and step off at the Lesce-Bled station. Congrats! You’re only a two-mile walk from Lake Bled.
Now for the best part. You’re not only going to Lake Bled; you’re going to the island in the middle. Bled Island may be the most picturesque islet I’ve ever seen. It’s perfectly surrounded by the lake. It’s lush with trees. But best of all, Bled Island hosts a soaring 17th-century pilgrimage church. It’s like a miniature Mont-Saint-Michel, only it’s not in France and you have to climb a wide stairway to get to the church doors. Brace yourself; we’re talking ninety-nine steps on that stairway. But you’re not gonna come all this way and not see the church, right?
Earlier I told you Lake Bled is like something out of a fairy tale. Here’s another reason why. The only way to get from the lakeshore to the island is on a pletna. What’s a pletna? A wooden, flat-bottomed boat, seating a dozen or so and powered by a very-much-in-shape Slovenian oarsman. He stands in the back like a Venetian gondolier, using his two oars to propel the boat slowly across the pristine waters. Doesn’t it just add to the image? Better than muddying up things with something motorized.
If Lake Bled and its islet aren’t enough to get you booking flights, how about a couple more temptations? High above the lakeshore stands the oldest medieval castle in all of Slovenia. Drawbridge, moat, courtyards, towers; Bled Castle has everything you’d expect in an 11th-century fortification. Must be worth the price of admission because it’s one of the most visited attractions in the entire country.
Maybe you’re not into castles. How about a plate of Chantilly cream pastries instead? The cremeschnitte is the region’s culinary specialty. The pastry is so highly regarded, the Slovenian government designated it a “protected dish” in 2016. An annual festival celebrates nothing but the dessert. Over the last sixty years, a hotel near Lake Bled has baked over sixty million of them. That’s what I’d call a recipe refined to perfection.
In a recent post I mentioned my daughter is getting married next year. For my future son-in-law’s sake, I’m glad she didn’t choose the church on Bled Island. Local tradition says it’s good luck for the groom to carry the bride up the stone steps before ringing the church bell and making a wish. Up ninety-nine steps? The groom better be as strong as a pletna oarsman if he’s going to make that kind of climb.
Photos are nice but videos are the real clincher. Spend a couple of minutes with the following YouTube tour. I guarantee you’ll “wanna get away” to Bled Island, and soon.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.