Beautiful places: Bled and Ljubljana
I would like to, regularly, write a blog about the most beautiful places in Slovenia, because that is what Slovenia is, a country full of beautiful places! For my first »Beautiful places” blog I thought it would be a good idea to start with two very famous attractions: Bled and Ljubljana. Two very different places, but both beautiful in their own way.
Bled was my first introduction to this beautiful country. I first went on holiday here in 1989, when I was still with my parents and brother. It was still Yugoslavia at the time and I met my first “real” boyfriend there. We dated no less than 9 months 😉 and I went to Slovenia two times more to see him. Somehow I felt very much at home here. During my visits, I also met some friends with whom I kept in touch, which also kept my connection with the country. Even after I broke up with my boyfriend, I went on vacation to Slovenia twice and ended up with a Slovenian from Bled J after all. For many Dutch people who have heard of Slovenia, Bled is often the only place they can possibly mention. It is one of the most touristic places in the country. Every year, the village that has 8000 inhabitants is overrun by almost half a million tourists from all over the world.
Bled was put on the map in the 19th century when Swiss physician Arnold Rikli discovered thermal springs there and transformed Bled into a spa. By the way, Rikli was not very popular with the locals because not only did he look down on them, he also never learned the language, despite living there for 52 years (I know why and so do you if you have followed my blogs ;)). Bled remained a spa until World War I.
The great attraction of Bled is of course the lake, with the island in the middle, which has a church on it, and the beautiful castle on the 130-meter high rock on the edge of the lake. Lake Bled has a circumference of 6 km, 2.12 km by 1.30 km, and the lowest point is 30.6 meters. It is a nice walk of about an hour and a half around it. In the summer rowing competitions are held and in a severe winter it can even freeze up. You enter the island via a staircase with 99 steps. Tradition has it that a groom must carry his new bride up these stairs to ensure a happy marriage :).
The well-known Pletna boats that bring tourists to the island are traditional wooden covered boats that are made by the locals of the village of Mlino. The boats are already mentioned in the 12th century. Poor farmers from the village were ordered to transport pilgrims to the island and were therefore exempt from paying local taxes. The Pletna rower’s profession is highly respected and it often passes from generation to generation.
Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. The city has about 280,000 inhabitants, making it one of the smallest capitals in Europe. It, therefore, has a very nice and cozy center. Since 2007, the old center has been completely closed to traffic. In the main square is a statue of France Prešeren, the famous poet who is also the author of the Slovenian national anthem called »Zdravljica«. Fun fact: the song is actually a “drinking song” because our France did like a drink or two every once in a while;). The lyrics of the song are also written in such a way that the lyrics on paper have the shape of a wine glass.
Near the square, you also find the three bridges (Tromostovje) over the river »Ljubljanica« that runs through the city. For a few euros, you can take a trip in one of the tourist boats and see the city from a different perspective. Along the river, there are plenty of cozy terraces and eateries. The architecture is very beautiful. Many designs were made by Jože Plečnik, a well-known architect who lived from 1872 to 1957. I, therefore, recommend everyone to take a nice walk through the old city center. Things you should definitely see include: the Dragon Bridge, the Robb fountain, the town hall, and St. Nicholas Cathedral.
To round it off, you should of course visit the Ljubljana Castle, which dates back to the ninth century and was built to protect against the Turks. Later it was used as a prison for a while, even in World War II. It has been owned by the city of Ljubljana since 1905. The castle is located on a hill right in the center. You can walk there (quite a bit of climbing) but there is also a glass funicular with which you can go up. The view is fantastic!