The beginnings of tourism

Beginnings of tourism

The first visitors to Bled were pilgrims from Carniola, Carinthia, Styria, the Slovenian Littoral, Friuli and Austria who came to see the Church of the Assumption on the island. In addition to performing their religious devotion, they also admired the beauty of the place and attracted an increasing number of pilgrims with their tales of adventure. In addition to these more simple folk, noblemen also visited Bled. Janez Vajkard Valvasor, a local aristocrat and polymath from Carniola, wrote a book entitled "The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola!" in 1689, in which among other things, he reported on the thermal springs at Bled. Due to the arrival of a large number of people who were seeking health and to whom he had to attend to, the castle administrator, Weidmann, wanted to destroy and fill in these springs - fortunately he was prevented from doing so. People continued coming to bath and, as Valvasor said, to regain their health.

In addition to Weidmann, the subsequent castle administrator, Ignac Novak, also represented a great threat to the development of the spa and other tourism in Bled. In the years from 1782 to 1787 he proposed many times that the lake should be dried out in order to acquire fertile fields, and to obtain clay from the lake bottom to use as a raw material for the brickworks. Novak's proposal was refused by the Carniolan Provincial Assembly. In 1822, the springs were covered with a simple sheet. Since the springs were not especially warm (23°C), the number of tourists who came to

Bled, not for the healing waters, but to admire the idyllic landscape increased. The famous English naturalist Sir Humphrey Davy described Bled as "the most beautiful place he had seen in Europe". During the time of awakening of Slovene national consciousness, the young and the old came to visit Bled and with nationalistic zeal, searched for the temple of the Slavic goddess Živa and the shadow of her priestess, the beautiful Bogomila hiding in the harmonious contours of the island church.

Arnold Rikli

The beginnings of intensive tourism date to 1855. A Swiss hydropath named Arnold Rikli was one of the first people to recognise the value of Bled's climate and its advantageous position for a long swimming season. He founded the Institute of "Natural Healing" and introduced a new method of treatment. If he wanted to attract guests, he needed baths, nicely arranged walking paths, excursion points and accommodation facilities. In 1895 Rikli ordered the building of simple wooden Swiss-style baths opposite the then HotelPark (today's Kazina), with a Health Institute in which he had his office, kitchen, dining room and administrative offices. For patient accommodation he also had constructed huts in the chestnut-ringed park, which were a characteristic part of his treatment method. Due to increasing interest among patients, new, larger baths were constructed in 1899. Bathing in the lake and in the baths constituted an integral part of Rikli's treatment method. For this, two cold springs with temperatures of 10°C and 15.6°C were used. He also recommended warm baths and steam baths. In addition, sunbathing on the bath galleries was obligatory. Walks were part of his healing programme. He selected several excursion points in the Bled area and categorised them according to degree of difficulty. At these locations he built courses for bowls and skittles. Rikli maintained strict house rules which all patients were required to observe. Early rising (between 5.00 a.m. and 6.00 a.m.) was followed by walks and physical activity in fresh air. Patients took their breakfasts with them. To improve circulation, they walked barefoot on dewy grass.

After one hour´s rest, at about 10.00 a.m. they bathed and sunbathed. During the midday break which lasted until 2.00 p.m., they took a modest lunch and then continued bathing, sunbathing and taking long walks. At 5.30 p.m. they had dinner and only after that, were they free to do what they wanted. Their nutrition was vegetarian - meat was found on the menu only exceptionally, and at additional cost. Rikli spent a full 52 years in Bled. During this time he was, as Dr. Mirko Kalin emphasises, one of the most renowned naturopaths for atmospheric treatment. According to Dr. Kalin, Rikli's treatment was effective against many diseases: for example, rheumatism, migraines, insomnia, hysteria, anemia, poor blood circulation and obesity. In addition to Rikli's patients, Bled attracted more and more people who wanted to spend their holidays in a healthy and above all beautiful environment. In 1870, with the construction of the Trbiž-Ljubljana railway line, Bled obtained its railway station at Lesce, at which express trains stopped, and with them many passengers. In 1903, Bled received the Gold Medal at a large international exhibition of spas in Vienna, and in 1906, it was officially classified amongst the important tourist spots in Imperial Austria.

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