Lake Bled, Slovenia: More than just another pretty place

The beautiful Lake Bled was a late add to our travel itinerary and what a wonderful addition it was. Lots of people have seen the lovely pictures of the little church on the island in the middle of the blue waters of Lake Bled, with alps in the background. What else did the area have to offer, other than the fairy tale view? Lots, it turns out. For one thing, it’s a great center of apiculture, or beekeeping. Now, I’ve never had a great interest in beekeeping, but it turns out to be pretty fascinating. We took a short bus ride from Lake Bled to Radovljica to enjoy this quaint little town, but mostly to visit the tiny Museum of Apiculture. John being John, he has been working to master Slavic language pronunciations, asking bus drivers, tour guides, and everyone else we meet how to pronounce these place names and other Slavic words. I just call Radovljica ‘the little bee town.’ John knows what I mean.

Lake Bled island (forefront) and Castle (in the middle on the bluff)

The Secret Life of Bees

We all know that bees have a pretty sophisticated social organization, but did you know that worker bees do several different dances – a waggle dance, a circle eight dance, and a circle dance – to communicate to the others in the hive where the good flowers are? We learned this and so much more about bee behavior. The museum also has beautiful folk art panels that Slovenian beekeepers have traditionally used to help the bees distinguish among hives so that they don’t go to the wrong one. The hive panels are beautiful works of art, some religious, some of folk life or farm life. As you might expect, the fruits of the bees’ labor – honey, beeswax candles, and more – are for sale in the stores and in honey boutiques in the area.

A painted hive front for a Slovenian Apiary — they focus on many themes and are so beautiful!

Getting around Lake Bled (literally)

Meanwhile, back in Lake Bled, we took the 4 km walk around the lake, which was full of great people-watching opportunities. On a beautiful summer day, there were people walking, on bikes, in boats on the river, eating ice cream, swimming, and sunning on the lake shore. Partway around the lake, we spotted a luxury hotel that was formerly the private residence of General Tito. Back in the day, Tito invited guests, including Indira Gandhi, King Hussein of Jordan, and others to visit.  A short way later, there was a staircase going up the mountain. We took the stairs and discovered that, at the top there was a terrace café that had also been part of the Tito property. We bought ice cream and enjoyed the view of the lake and the gallery of pictures of Tito’s guest dignitaries from the 1950s – former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Haile Salassi, and Nikita Kruschev, among others.

We ended our walk at the Lake Bled Pub for a beer and a nice conversation with a delightful Canadian couple who were visiting Lake Bled for a few days.

Tito’s Summer Villa on Lake Bled. It’s now a luxury hotel

Pletna boat out to Lake Bled island

Small Pletna boats that take people out to visit the church on the tiny Lake Bled island have been around since the 18th century when Empress Maria Theresa of the Austro-Hungarian Empire granted oarsmen the right to ferry worshippers to the church. Today the boats mostly carry tourists, although the church is popular for weddings as well. The groom traditionally carries the bride up the church steps and rings the bell in the church three times for good luck. Those not getting married can ring the bell three times to have a wish granted, although our Pletna oarsman told us that wishes must be kept secret and no wishes for money are granted.

Pletna boat going out to the island
Ringing the bell three times for a wish

Vintgar Gorge

The beautiful Vintgar Gorge is a short shuttle bus ride away and makes a nice walk of 1.6 km.

Beautiful Vintgar Gorge – sometimes called a poor man’s Plitvice Lakes, which we understood once we got to Plitvice Lakes
Crowds arriving as we were leaving – we were glad we got there early
No trip to Lake Bled is complete without trying a piece of its famous Cream Cake

Taking the plunge

On our last day in Lake Bled, we took the literal plunge and swam in the lake. It was my first swim of the season and the cool water felt wonderful. Although it’s almost Labor Day at home, we were wearing wool in Ireland only a few weeks ago. As we head south toward Croatia, Montenegro, and Greece, there should be more opportunities to take a lazy swim.

St. Martin’s Church in the Old Town
Beautiful Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary on Lake Bled Island

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