The island on Lake Bled is a charming sight that, together with the mighty castle, adds to the everlasting allure of Bled. The ride in a traditional wooden ‘pletna’ boat to reach it is an adventure in its own right. Alternatively, visitors may opt to row to the island themselves, while in particularly cold winters when the lake freezes it is even possible to walk there.
The first sight on the island is a monumental 17th-century stairway with 99 steps, above all a challenge to newlywed grooms, who according to tradition must carry their brides all the way to the top. Having mastered this successfully, the easier task of ringing the wishing bell in the Church of the Assumption of Mary to make your dreams come true awaits every visitor. Another special feature on Slovenia’s only island is the free-standing belfry, the construction of which was surely influenced by the Venetian school.
Earthly pleasures are catered for in the island’s newest addition, the so-called ‘potičnica’. This unique café and shop sells delicious traditional festive ‘potica’ cakes that come in sweet and savoury varieties, with a seemingly endless selection of fillings.
The pletna boats, the origins of which go back to the 12th century, are rowed by a boatman standing upright. They are covered by a linen roof, which probably gives them their name.
Boat traffic on the lake was regulated by Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century, who gave 22 families the rights to operate boats. Their descendants retain these rights to this day.
Did you know?
Legend has it that the island was once a shrine to Živa, the old Slavic goddess of fertility and love.
The origins of the lake
Long ago, where the lake is today, there was once a verdant valley with a little hill atop it. These were idyllic times; shepherds would graze their sheep in the valley and on nights of the full moon, beautiful fairies climbed the hill to dance on its velvet-soft grass. One day, however, a herd of sheep managed to escape and grazed on the hill instead of in their rightful place in the valley. Come the next full moon, the fairies went once more to their favourite playground, but one happened to fall and sprain her ankle. This made the fairies so angry with the shepherds that they summoned all the waters from the surrounding mountains to descend and flood the valley. And this is how the lake and the island came to be.