Bled (15 May 2013)
Pictures of Lake Bled always looked so pretty that I simply had to see the real thing for myself. I needed proof that Lake Bled was as gorgeous as people made it out to be. And so, on a bright sunny Wednesday, just perfect for a trip to a scenic lake, I made a day trip to Bled from Ljubljana to find that proof for myself.
Yes, I am happy to report that it is a very pretty place. And I enjoyed the walk around the lake very much as well. The guide books are not always wrong after all!
There is Bled Island in the middle of the lake. Visitors can be rowed to the island on a pletna from various points on the lake shore and it costs each passenger a steep €12 to get there and back. The cost of the boat ride and the feeling that it was all a big fat tourist trap had initially made me quite reluctant to visit the island. In the end however, I caved in because I thought that I would regret it if I did not do it, big fat tourist trap or not. So I got onto a pletna with a German speaking family.
Each trip took more than 30 minutes (the trip back took longer) and the elderly gentleman rowing my pletna looked rather exhausted even though it was not a full boat (there were only 5 of us). He did make me feel that the €12 price was not that unreasonable after all.
There is a Church of the Assumption, a pilgrimage church, on the island. People go there to ring the church bell and make a wish. I did just that and learnt that bell ringing was hard work. German speaking grandma tried and managed a squeak from the bell. Since she was around when it was my turn with the bell, I thought I had better get a good solid wake-the-whole-town toll, muscle injury or not. I am still waiting for my wish to come true.
Apparently, there is a local tradition where on his wedding day, a man will carry his bride up the steps on the island to the church, ring the bell and make a wish. All that effort for the sake of having good luck. I did see a man carrying a lady (not sure if it was his wife or not) up the steps when I was there. He seemed somewhat tired after the successful attempt. I did also hear the bell toll after that and, although I was not inside the church when it happened, I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he was responsible for it.
Next to the church is a little house with a gift shop and some exhibitions. I do not remember very much about the exhibitions except for the little figurines wearing the different ethnic costumes of the various European peoples.
The Europeans seem to love their castles a lot, especially if they are built high up on some hill or mountain so that modern day visitors may kill themselves trying to get up there. Bled has one such castle, with almost 300 steps up the cliff to kill almost anyone.
When I reached the ticket office at the castle, I was panting so hard that I could barely speak. The ticket lady looked only slightly amused. I took that as a sign that I was not the first panting visitor she had encountered and so felt quite comforted.
I visited the museum at the castle which has an exhibition on the history of the town and the region. The castle chapel is very small but very pretty. There was even a man at the castle printing work who showed visitors how they printed things in the good old days.
Printing in the good old days did look like very hard work.
I think that people go up to the castle nowadays mainly for the good view of the lake. The view was indeed pleasant.
I was definitely not the only person at the bus station when I decided that it was time to return to Ljubljana. One of them was a taxi driver to get customers. Besides him there were 4 or 5 Indian girls and a Spanish couple waiting for the bus to Ljubljana like me.
The taxi driver offered us a ride to Ljubljana. The Indian girls refused to even acknowledge his existence and the driver was very puzzled by their hostility. According to the girls, the driver had been trying to get them on his taxi for the longest time. I am however not sure how that proved that the driver was untrustworthy. The Spanish couple and I, seeing the Indian girls’ hostility, decided not to take the taxi as well.
I tried to pretend not to speak much English so that he would not harass me. He tried to make conversation with me and asked me about my nationality. I did not think that he would know much about Singapore, as do most people outside Asia, and so I told him. Then he said that he knew that Singaporeans could speak English. He had in fact driven some Singaporeans the other day. I was dumbfounded. But fortunately he was more interested in getting the Indian girls to like him.
Actually, if all of us had accepted the taxi driver’s, each person would have paid something a little less than the bus fare. I am all for being careful, but sometimes it may be worthwhile taking the plunge and trusting strangers. I did have to rely on the kindness of strangers so very often when I travel. Maybe the taxi driver was a real crook, but since there was no one who wanted to share the taxi with me it did not matter to me if he was one.