Lake Bled

Julian Alps, Slovenia | C.1655

Photo Credit: Simon and Jennifer Darr

Dedicated travelers have been making pilgrimages to Lake Bled – specifically the tiny church located on the tiny island at the center of the Lake – for hundreds of years. Now a popular tourist destination, Lake Bled is a haven for the rich history and local heritage of this region in northwest Slovenia.

The Church of the Assumption, built during the 17th century, connects to the surrounding lake via a stairway containing exactly 99 steps. It is believed to be good luck for a groom to carry his bride to the top of the stairs before ringing the church bell and making a wish on their wedding day.

The island is only accessible by boat. In fact, Bled locals produce their own boat, called a Pletna. With their pointed bow, widened stern, and colorful awning, Pletnas can carry up to 20 passengers and are manually operated by oarsmen known as Pletnarstvo – a role highly revered in the area.

The occupation dates back to the 18th century when Empress Maria Theresa assigned 22 local families the exclusive right to ferry religious pilgrims across the Lake to worship at the Church of the Assumption. Many of today’s oarsmen descend from the original families.

Along with the Church, Bled Island – the only island in Slovenia – also houses a museum, cafe, and souvenir shop. At the Church, visitors can marvel at the large gold altar, fragments of fresco from the 15th century, and the ruins of a pre-Roman chapel.

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