Pletna boats and Fiaker coachmen – where sustainable mobility meets tradition
Transport and mobility are vital components of sustainable development of a town or city, and according to the data provided by Umanotera, the Slovenian Foundation for Sustainable Development, transport ranks first in terms of energy use.
Sustainable mobility in Bled
For years Bled has been encouraging sustainable transportation methods. In support of this aim, Bled Tourist Board has introduced special bus lines that run in summer months between Bled and its nearby towns and villages and launched a Julian Alps Card: Bled to encourage visitors and locals to use public bus transport. Cycling is even more sustainable than bus transport, and walking tops the list of most sustainable modes of transport. Cycling and hiking trails will be covered in one of our next posts, and today we will focus on two modes of transport that are among the oldest used in Bled – pletna boats and Fiaker coachmen.
Pletna boats – ladies on the lake
© Jošt Gantar
The Bled Island is, and has always been, one of the destination's most visited attractions. Once in Bled, how could anyone resist the lure of this unique place? Conscious of the island's appeal, our ancestors began looking for ways to transport high numbers of people to the island and back in the shortest time possible. The rise of pletna boats started with religious tourism and the boat itself is included in the list of Slovenia's intangible cultural heritage.
Designed to transport construction goods
According to the sources quoted by the Pletna Bled Boating Society, pletna boats were initially designed to facilitate transport of construction material to the island. The beginnings of religious tourism date back to the 15th century, when boats were adapted to become better suited for transportation of people. The Society says that the early pletna boats were larger than today. Later, the vessels were simply fitted with benches and a table, and that was it.
Mlino – the heart of pletna boat making
© Jošt Gantar
The shortest route from the lake shore to the island is from the village Mlino, so it comes as no surprise that the village became the cradle of pletna boat making, a tradition that has been preserved to the present day. With Arnold Rikli and the construction of the railway in 1906 pilgrims and religious tourists were replaced by spa tourism, and the town saw rising numbers of tourists flocking to Bled every year. In the 18th century, the villagers of Mlino were granted a right-of-way easement that allowed them to transport people and goods on the lake. The right was passed from one generation onto another. Driven by their entrepreneurial spirit, the villagers also began making their own boats and passed this knowledge on to the next generation.
Franz Joseph I of Austria – a sustainable traveller
Franz Joseph I, the monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, paid his first visit to Bled in the 1980s. He was taken from Ljubljana to Bled in a horse carriage, and then to the island in a decorated pletna boat.
Pletna is part of Bled Local Selection
© Tomo Jeseničnik
Bled Tourism Board has recognized the value of many crafts, culinary and other products that make up the rich Bled tradition. They have invited artists and craftsmen to offer their products under the destination trademark of Bled Local Selection. Anže Logar from Mlino has been keeping his family tradition of pletna boat making alive and thanks to him, pletna boats are now part of the Bled Local Selection. The boats Anže makes are not for sale, but are available for lovely boat trips on Lake Bled. More on http://www.lakercraft.com/.
© Jošt Gantar
Horse-drawn carriages are another sustainable mode of transport that you can use to explore Bled and its surroundings. The tradition of Fiaker coachmen shares a similar history to pletna boats. It flourished with religious tourism and the arrival of the 'iron road' since the guests coming to Bled needed to be taken from the railway station to the center of the town and their hotel accommodation.
From one generation to another
It is interesting that the profession of a Fiaker also passes from generation to generation as part of a family tradition. Both pletna boatmen and the Fiaker have formed a society, which is also responsible for the uniform appearance of its members. The making of horse-drawn carriages is also a family trade since most Fiaker maintain and tend to their carriages by themselves. Carriage design did not change much through time, but certain changes have been made to ensure greater safety.
© Jošt Gantar
The Fiaker will take you for a ride in Bled and its near surroundings, but the most romantic ride is definitely the one around Lake Bled. Pletna boats are waiting for us at Mlino, and horse-drawn carriages at the lakeside promenade. Why not have a ride in both?