Have you ever dreamed of a place that you have only seen in pictures? That place that looks so perfect, you wonder if it really exists? For years I had seen pictures of Bled and Lake Bled. In blooming summer foliage, in crackling autumn colours, in snow-covered cold and in promising spring sun. Every angle seemed perfect. Would Lake Bled really be as beautiful in real life?
The sun has already started to set when we pull into the hotel parking lot in Bled. No time to lose. We quickly push our bags into the room and walk towards the lake with brisk steps. Although there are not too many tourists along the sidewalk, the trend is clear. Everyone is heading down to the lake. Down the hill, down the stairs, out onto the jetty. I'm finally standing by the lake. Lake Bled. In a golden sunset.
Bled Castle is shining on its illuminated green cliff and all the excursion boats are returning to port. Right then and there, I feel that feeling in the pit of my stomach. The feeling that our trip in Slovenia would be a really good vacation. The Slovenian Tourist Board has a slogan – “I feel Slovenia". And in Bled felt it really. In every little tingle of my well-being goosebumps.
Lake Bled is not a new tourist phenomenon. Ever since the middle of the 19th century, visitors have made pilgrimages to Lake Bled in northwestern Slovenia - then Austria-Hungary. The first tourists came here to strengthen their health with the help of the beautiful views and fresh air. Spartan living, wholesome food and walks in nature were the medicine. For the visitors, there was also access to organized gymnastics and hot baths, although it was certainly not a question of a luxurious spa with a gym. Rather, it was an expensive training camp for the rich. Pay dearly to live simply. A concept that became very popular and is actually not all that different from today's tourism at Lake Bled. I didn't go to Lake Bled to go to the spa. Nor for eating healthy. But I went here to enjoy the beautiful views, the hike and the fresh air. Almost like the old health tourists. Although we lived a little more comfortably.
Bled is Slovenia's most popular international destination, but this October weekend is definitely mostly visited by local tourists. There is plenty of space at every outdoor restaurant we pass and many of the traditional boatmen – ”stains” – resting on the docks waiting for customers. The Pletna boats with their captains are one of Lake Bled's signatures. The beautiful wooden boats with fabric roofs are seen slowly gliding back and forth to Church of the Mother of God – the well-known church on the island in the middle of the lake. There are only 23 pletna boats and the profession of rowing a pletna is inherited between generations. An honorable mission that was once only distributed to poor farmers.
Walking around Lake Bled is a very easy and flat hike of about 6 kilometers. Definitely not a hassle, but sometimes the simple is the most beautiful. We scout out some lovely outdoor seating at the eastern edge of the lake, so the focus of our walk was rather enjoyment of life than stress. Our day at Bled also offers 20-degree heat and t-shirt weather. Better than we could ever dream of. A perfect day for enjoying life.
Along the shores of Lake Bled are row after row of large old stone and wooden villas with well-kept gardens. Architecture from the bygone days of the 19th century is lined up right at the edge of the lake, with its own piers and large fences. We pass a castle-like stone residence. Nowadays, Vila Bled is a luxury hotel, previously it was the palatial residence of Yugoslavian President Tito. Below Vila Bled, about ten fishermen stand with casting rods, fishing for trout for the evening's menu at the hotel's restaurant. The lake is so clear that we can see about ten large trout swimming past a few meters out into the lake. The restaurant is likely to serve fresh fish tonight.
At the edge of the beach, among the fallen yellow leaves, couples lie basking in the warm autumn sun. A family sets out their picnic blanket. An elderly man sits with his glasses on his head and reads a book on a bench. The rush of tourists at Lake Bled in the high season feels very far away. I know it's actually there, but right now it's just me by my own magical little lake.
We find a free seat on an outdoor terrace with a view of the entire lake. At the front, as close to the lake as possible. Best view we can imagine. We settle down and each order a cold beer in the heat. A band plays classical music that bounces over the lake. The sun's rays slide in over the mountains for the last time for the day. It's a cliché - but if this isn't pure magic - I don't know what is.
I definitely had high expectations for Bled. So high, that the risk was always great that they would crumble. But you know what? Bled met my high expectations. And more besides. Our Slovenia trip could not have started better.
How do I get to Lake Bled?
Lake Bled (also Lake Bled or Lake Bled) is located at Bled in northwestern Slovenia, at the foot of the Julian Alps and close to the border with Austria. The lake is 2,1 km long and 1,4 km wide and surrounded by beautiful mountains and thick forests.
When is the best time to go to Lake Bled?
Lake Bled has 4 distinct seasons. Summer offers warmth, sun and swimming, while winter offers cold and snow. All seasons have their allure. Most visitors are during July/August, but although it is warm and often sunny, the weather can change quickly. The least rain/snow falls in January, the most rain in November. We visited Bled in October and I can safely say that we were very lucky with the weather...
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