18 January 2020
Heading to Bled in Alpine Slovenia soon? Here are 8 interesting facts about (Lake) Bled revealed by a local that you might not already know.
You have probably read/heard that Lake Bled is most known for the tiny island with a pilgrimage church and more than 1000 years old castle sitting atop the cliff above the lake. Most certainly, you also plan on trying a fluffy Bled Cream Cake, a traditional pastry made of vanilla cream that (almost) everybody loves. It is probable that you also want to go to Bled Island on a pletna boat and take stunning photos of Lake Bled from one of the hills rising above it.
However, there is more. Even those familiar with our scenic hometown in the area of the Julian Alps might be surprised to find out some new things about it.
1. Lake Bled is, well, a lake.
Lake Bled is a glacial lake and a popular natural attraction in the alpine resort of Bled that lies in the northwest of Slovenia. As you can see, it is neither a town nor a village. So, next time you might want to think twice before saying that you are in Lake Bled, well, except if you are diving. 😉
Officially, Bled became a town in 1960 when five villages, scattered around Lake Bled, merged together. However, many inhabitants of the villages that today belong to Bled Municipality have preserved their strong attachment to a particular village.
In Bled, still today, there reside two kinds of people: those ‘who came naked to Bled’ (meaning they were born here) are called Blejci [pronounced: bleytzee]. ― In a more international context, they would be true Londoners, or true Madrileños, or true Porteños… While those who moved to Bled from some other place are named Blejčani [pronounced: bleytschanee]. And the latter are not true, of course… To conclude: Sometimes life is unfair. 🙂
2. The town’s name is pronounced Blét
And we say it quickly, without stretching it. ‘Where are you? I’m in Blét.’ Short and simple. And P.S.: Geographical name Bled has nothing to do with the past form of the English verb bleed (bled).
In Slovenian ‘bled’ also means ‘pale’. ― Me having a very fair complexion and coming from Bled was a perfect combination for (a rather harmful) high school teasing.
On a different note, centuries ago Bled was known as Veldes. That was at the time the territory of today’s Bled belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy. The geographical name ‘Veldes’ derives from a German word ‘Fels’ meaning a cliff. That is however not surprising since Bled has been for a long time famous for its cliff with the medieval castle that rises above Lake Bled.
3. Bled Island was once a hill
If we take a closer look at the island’s geological formation, we see that Bled Island is actually a former top of a hill made of limestone that was created by tectonic movements and then erosion. Thousands of years ago, glacial water filled the basin that we call Lake Bled today and that led to the formation of the island.
4. We take recycling seriously.
We are very proud of the fact that Bled Municipality was one of the first municipalities in Slovenia that introduced recycling. And that happened quite some years ago and is now a common practice.
So, before coming to Bled, you might want to learn a few things about separating trash if you are not used to it. And most important advice: You need to do it for real (not only say that you will and then forget about it) because we take recycling seriously. ― Paper, glass, plastic, organic waste (food)… all need to be put into the corresponding bins. ♻️
Since we really appreciate the time spent in nature ― Norwegians have a word for that: friluftsliv (spending time outdoors in the fresh air) ― we have a zero tolerance to waste in nature. Also, when hiking, may it be a nearby hill or a higher peak in the Alps, we take all the trash we produce on the way back to the valley with us. Many hikers even pick up the trash others left lying on the trail or elsewhere.
5. Tap water in Bled is safe to drink.
Tap water in Bled, as well as in most places in Alpine Slovenia, is of great quality and according to the Bled Public Utilities contains less impurities than bottled water. Apart from that, if we drink tap water we help our planet with reducing plastic bottles. Carrying a reusable bottle for water or other beverages in a bag or a backpack is part of our everyday culture.
So, when taking a walk by or around Lake Bled, you also might want to make sure to have a reusable bottle with you as there are drinking fountains placed by the lake whereby you can refill your bottle and quench your thirst for free. You will find that kind of drinking fountains, for instance, in the Spa Park near below Bled Castle, and in Mlino where people wait for pletna boats to get to Bled Island.
6. Sometimes it was forbidden to get married in the island's church.
Probably Bled Island is one of the most romantic places in our country to get married. It is even a popular destination wedding location. Hundreds of couples from all over the world have married in the island’s church since 1990. In that year ― that is one year before Slovenia became independent country, the first wedding ceremony after almost 50 years of silence took place.
In former Yugoslavia (of which Slovenia was part of), it was forbidden to hold any religious ceremonies in the island’s church. The wedding ceremony that happened on Bled Island after such a long time was already international ― the bride, Susana, was from Mexico while the groom named Nils came from Norway.
7. Above Lake Bled, there is more than 100 years old railway line.
Did you know that you can come to Bled by train as well? The train stop is located above the lake and is called Bled-Jezero. The railway track was constructed more than 100 years ago, that is at the beginning of the 20th century in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The new railway track connected Central and Western Europe: it started in Trieste, Italy, passed by Gorizia, Bohinj, Bled and ended in Prague, Czech Republic. Back in time, rail transport had a great influence on the increase in the number of tourists to Bled.
If you wish to experience riding on that old railway line while in Bled, it is best to start your journey in Bled and head towards Nova Gorica, a town near Slovenia-Italy border. The train ride is very scenic: you will pass through tunnels, cross (stone) bridges, and have the opportunity to admire nature, including emerald green Soča River. (Check the train timetable here).
8. Pletna boats were once rowed by women too.
Pletna boats, wooden boats with a colourful roof, are typical for Lake Bled and have been taking passengers to Bled Island for centuries. ― First pilgrims, then mainly tourists.
It is a well-known fact that nowadays a pletna boat, that can carry up to 20 people at once, can only be rowed by a man coming from a local family that has inherited the right to navigate pletna. However, not many know that at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century women were also allowed to row them. At that time, pletna boats were even bigger and riding with them was a popular free time activity among wealthy holidaymakers at Lake Bled.
However, no matter men or women, local authorities were strict when issuing boat licence. The applicant had to know how to swim and was able to rescue his/her own passengers in case of an accident. Apart from that, his or her pletna had to be registered for the exact number of people it could carry.