Wednesday, August 18th, Bled to Ljubljana, Slovenia

Our first full day in Bled, Slovenia consisted of a morning tour then checking out and driving on to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.  The tour started at nine a.m. with Barbara, a local guide.  She took us down to the lake right behind our hotel, where we boarded “Pletnes”, which are wooden row boats.  The boatmen steer the Pletne while standing and we sat along the sides under a tarp which protected us from the rain. It drizzled a little during the morning but by the afternoon it had all cleared up.  We went to the Island of Bled which is the only island in Bled. The water was an absolutely gorgeous colour of turquoise. A greeny/blue that was so clear you could see fish swimming in the lake. We landed on the Island’s shore, got off the Pletne and proceeded to walk up 99 heavy stone steps leading to the 17th Century Catholic Church dedicated to Madonna. This church as well as the whole area of Bled was given to the Bishops of Brixen by the Emperor Henrik II in the year 1004.  The church was originally built in 500 BC but reconstructed in 1465 and the 1600’s. (I do not know who the church was originally dedicated to as it was built before Christ. It must have been a church of the Slavs?).

At the very front of the pews in the middle of the ceiling hangs a rope, right down to the floor.  The rope is attached to the “Wish Bell”. The legend is that when you pull on the rope, straight down not side to side, you make a wish and ring the bell three or four times and your wish will be granted. Wishes are granted because many years ago, there was a beautiful girl who lived in the castle overlooking Bled. She was a newly wed bride from a noble family, deeply in love with her husband and very happy.  A war broke out so he had to leave her to go fight in the war. She was very worried about her husband’s safety so every day she would row a boat to the church to pray for her husband to come home safely. She continued rowing to the island each and every day until one day she made an agreement with Madonna. The girl agreed to give a bell to the church and in return Madonna would protect her husband and bring him home to Bled safely. The girl took all of her jewelry, silverware, light fixtures, dishes and anything made with metals to have melted down.  A beautiful bell was made.  While they were transporting the bell to the Island of Bled a storm came up and overturned the boat with the bell, which sank to the bottom of the lake.  Because a bell was not delivered to the church, her husband was killed during the war.   The widow was so distraught that she left the castle and joined a convent. She spent the rest of her life grieving the loss of her husband.  After her death a priest heard her story and he arranged for a bell to be installed in the church in her honour.  This bell was cast by a master craftsman Francesco of Padua in 1534. Because the church now has a bell, all women who ring the wish bell will have their wish granted.  BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH.

After touring this church and making our wishes, we were rowed back to the hotel where we picked up the Range Rovers to drive to the Castle up on a hill overlooking the city of Bled. On the way, we first stopped at the train station to take some photos. Then on to the castle.  Even though we drove up, we still had to park the cars and walk  a fair distance to reach the castle. First we walked over a moat with a draw bridge and then up a steep hill with cobblestones. The view overlooking Bled and the lake was amazing from the castle walls. We had a tour of the castle which today is a museum showing samples of geological rocks from the area, tools dug up from archeological sites, pottery, jewelry, clothing and even animals from the area.

In the castle courtyard there was a show with medieval dancers in the period costumes. They even had a mock sword fight between the knights and fire swallower (he was dressed more like the court jester than a knight). The castle has a restaurant as well as the museum. In one corner is a Romanesque tower from the 11th Century which stands watch over Bled and the lake.

Barbara, our guide did a great job telling us about the local history.  We then left Bled and drove to Ljubljana, had lunch and said goodbye to Barbara.  We had a couple free hours so Tatiana and I went shopping for a new recorder as I somehow lost mine. (It showed up a few days later in the men’s car??). Anyway we went to a store called “The Big Bang” which is Slovenia’s version of Best Buy.  Too funny.

Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia. Slovenia is a small country of 2 million people and 270,000 live in Ljubljana. Our hotel was called Hotel Lev and was a modern highrise building. Lev means lion in Slovenian. While walking to the restaurant for dinner we were all commenting that this city could be anywhere in the modern world. The buildings could be in Vancouver. One item that is different was the bicycle lanes are on the sidewalks, rather than on the streets. I like this because I feel it is much safer to ride a bike on a sidewalk.

At the restaurant they placed little stools beside our chairs to sit our purses and/or cameras on.  I liked this as well, it would be a great idea for Abigail’s Hotel to copy. Very classy. They also had crocheted doilies on all the plates for decoration. Don’t think we need to copy that idea.

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