Lake Bled – The Fairy Tale

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Lake Bled – The Fairy Tale

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Lake Bled, Alpine Slovenia

Lake Bled is a must-see for anyone visiting Slovenia, even for just a short trip. With a beautiful church sitting majestically on an island in the middle of the lake, guarded by a medieval castle on a clifftop and all backed by the beautiful Karavanke Mountains, its the quintessential fairy tale setting.

In ancient times there was no water around the Lake Bled area; only a lush valley with sweeping grassy meadows as far as the eye could see. A gray rock sat prominently atop a large green hill in the middle of this valley.

The rock was the dwelling of the fairies. By day the hill would glisten in the sun, by night it was lit up by hundreds of fairies dancing around its slopes. The Slavic goddess Živa was their fairy queen, and the place was known by all as the Hill of the Fairies.

According to folklore Lake Bled was formed when the fairy goddess Živa, along with her troupe of fairies, flooded the valley to protect their dwelling on the hill where the island now sits. The island is presently home to the Baroque Church of the Mother of God, and access to it is by traditional wooden gondolas known as a “Pletna” on which you are rowed out by a “Pletnar”, an expert at navigating these boats (apparently it’s not as easy as it may look). Alternatively, you can hire a small rowing boat and take yourself out there. If you are lucky enough to be there in winter when the lake sometimes freezes, you can walk.

Whichever way you arrive, there’s no avoiding the 99 stone steps you must ascend in order to get to the church. Should you decide to get married here, tradition dictates that you carry your bride to be up these steps first.

Lake Bled is surrounded by the densely-forested Pokljuka and Jelovica Plateaus. The lake is about 2 kms long and 1 km wide, and you can walk around it in about 1 hour. The best place for photos is the western side of the lake. In summer the water is warm enough for swimming.

You can visit the castle either by hiking up from the lakeside, or driving to the car park. There is an entrance fee, but as well as the castle chapel and fascinating exhibition, the view from here is fabulous.

A different and cheaper view though, is from a nearby hill on the western side of the lake. From the campsite you can hike a trail that leads to either Ojstrica (20 mins) or Mala Osojnica (40 mins) viewpoints. From here you’ll also see Mount Stol, the highest peak in the Karavanke Mountains.


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