So you haven’t had enough of Bled, eh? Don’t worry, neither had I. If you don’t have time to visit both Bled Castle and Bled Island, my vote is for the island. The island is a much more unusual excursion, and rather engaging mentally. How many other island churches have you been to? The castle, while providing nice views of the town and island, provides the usual museum fodder mixed with various recreations of the castle facilities (wine cellar, printshop, etc). While the layout was very well done the content was rather dull and uninteresting. If you have just completed the hike around Lake Bled and the viewpoints, you will have seem much more impressive views from that hike.
First thing’s first: getting to the island. Depending on the time of year, your options change. Transport to the island will continue “until the lake freezes” as one of the pletna men told me. But in the off-season, boats are much less frequent. The manpowered, traditional pletna boats are a bit cheaper, but don’t run on a timetable, rather leaving when they have six or more people (usually). Your captain will give you an allotted time to explore the small island, ranging anywhere from 20-50 minutes.
However, if you are like me and want to explore at your own pace, you can ask them to return on a different boat, and most likely they will give you a return ticket so you can do just that. These boats depart from one to four locations around the lake depending on the time of year. You should be able to pick and choose your location as they are all run by same company.
The other, slightly more expensive options are the motorboat or boat rental options. The motorboat runs on a timetable, so if you like dependability this is for you. The motorboat leaves only from the docks in front of the Park Villa Hotel/Bled Casino. You can also rent kayaks, SUPs, and rowboats in the summer, available primarily on the eastern side of the lake.
Once on Bled Island you can either simply explore (free) or buy a ticket that will enable you to visit the church, tower, and exhibit area. In 2016, it was 6 Euros and well worth the price.
Church of the Assumption
This is where all those clang-clang-clangs have been coming from that I’m sure you heard the entire time you’ve been in Bled. And now you know why: Those who ring the bell get to make a wish. The diagram shows pulling the rope three times, but you only need to ring the bell once to make the wish, so however many pulls that takes. I did it in one giant aerialist pull. Not that I’m bragging…
Legend has it that the original bell for the monastery was lost en route and sunk to the depth of the lake. How this translates into free wishes is beyond me, but, when in Rome, right? Six bucks for a wish, ain’t too shabby.
My favorite part of Bled Island (well maybe second to the (spoiler) schnapps) was the clocktower. I do love climbing things as my parents will attest to. Little Brennan made them climb the duomo in Firenze as many times as I could. If you can be at the top of the tower at noon, you’ll witness the full clock show, but every fifteen minutes you’ll see some action as the clock swings into action. Get it? Swings into action. At the top you can also learn how the clock and bells work, as well as some history about the tower.
As usual, I only mention a specific point of eating if it is exceptional, and that is the case with the small cafe on Bled Island. It is here you can try the best potica (pronounce the “c” like the “ts” in tsar). This traditional cake is a yeast dough that has been rolled out, filled a variety of fillings, then rolled up and cooked in a bundt-like pan. They will have several flavors to choose from, none too sweet, and all going very well with a glass of coffee, tea, or, in my case, local schnapps. What, I was on vacation! After climbing the bell tower, my brain hurt from figuring out how the clock worked, I think I deserved it. There is also a gift shop and small exhibit area in the same building.
Tip: you can apparently avoid the entry fee if you have a reservation and eat at the restaurant. I would’ve, the smells radiating from the kitchen were teasing me the whole time, but I was over budget at that time in my travels.
You can hike up to the castle from either the lake side trail (marked with an obvious castle symbol), or on the road from the main Bled bus station. After paying the hefty entrance fee (with your stub you can save some money at the small café overlooking the lake), feel free to explore up the ramparts and around the castle area, stopping by the various exhibits that tell you about life in the castle and the history of Bled. Most interesting in the museum, were the human artifacts describing activity in the Bled region dating back to the Iron Age.
Be sure to check out the view of the lake and the town while you are there.