The Magic Of Lake Bled

Pletna Boats

Bled Island

Bled Castle

Bled Castle Wall

During most of the year, one of the most famous lake regions in the world lies quietly and ignored by the masses of travelers around the world. No doubt, accessibility plays a part on this, even if the place is quite accessible. But perhaps it is something else. Perhaps it is the fact that the country is not particularly associated with grandiose structures like the Eiffel Tower, or the Vatican, or the works of Michael Angelo. No, its incredible beauty is the result of nature itself, of mountains and crystal-clear waters, of ever-changing weather patters, and of course, of a small, but incredibly beautiful church that happens to be sitting on a tiny islet in the middle of a lake. Welcome to Lake Bled in Slovenia.

The most visited place in Slovenia is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places this tired traveler has ever seen. Its inherent beauty is not just the result of what you see, but also of what you feel when you are there. It is as if the majestic Alpine chain forms a frame around the lake to share with us one of the most incredible windows in the world. On a late April day, when hardly anyone was around, the silence alone, softly punctuated by the cool breeze of an early spring day, was the stuff of dreams. A person here and there, then solitude. The rhythmic sound of ores slowly moving the Pletna boats carrying travelers to the only island in Slovenia and the Assumption of Mary Church sitting 99 steps above the water level, was nothing short of Alpine music to my ears. Legend has it that if you pull the massive rope to ring the church bell three times while looking at the Virgin Mary, your wishes will someday come true. So, with eyes that seemed overwhelmed by all the beauty that lay before them, I firmly wrapped my hands around the rope and pulled as hard as I could. The deep sound of that bell spreading in all directions over the green, transparent waters of Lake Bled were as sweet to my ear as the sound of a Mozart sonata filling a concert hall in Vienna. Staring out of the window during the 35-minute drive back to Ljubljana along valleys dotted with small villages and green pastures, I couldn’t help but think that I had just seen one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. What’s more, the deep, endless sound of that bell traveling beyond the mountains that surrounded it, still rang gloriously inside my head. I knew there and then, that the legend was true. My wish had already come true.

The Tranquil Buda Castle Hill

The view of Pest from the famous Fishermen Bastion in Buda is always magnificent.  Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The view of Pest from the famous Fisherman’s Bastion in Buda is always magnificent. Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The Fisherman's Bastion is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest.  Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Fisherman’s Bastion is one of the most visited attractions in Budapest. Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Fisherman's Bastion Cafe has arguably the best locations in town.  Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Fisherman’s Bastion Cafe has arguably the best locations in town. Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Buda Castle Hill area has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and remains the gem of Budapest.  Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The Buda Castle Hill area has been recognized as a World Heritage Site and remains the gem of Budapest. Leica M 240, Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM.
The narrow, residential road on the west side of Buda Castle Hill is a study in beauty and tranquility.  Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.
The narrow, residential road on the west side of Buda Castle Hill is a study in beauty and tranquility. Leica M 240, APO Summicron-M 75mm f/2 ASPH.

You just can’t miss it.  The Buda Castle Hill sits majestically over the city of Budapest as if protecting it like it did a few centuries ago.  Before arriving to Budapest I had read a few travel articles that downplayed this particular part of the city as being too “touristy.”  And yes, the tourists (to include your’s truly) were there, but frankly, I don’t think that some of these travel writers were doing much justice to this wonderful place.  The 360-degree views alone make this part of the city a “must visit” destination.  And if you get there around 7:00 AM like I did, you will have the hill practically all for yourself for a few hours.  And while public transportation can get you there in no time at all, it is a lot more fun to walk across the famous Chain Bridge and then up the hill through the various winding trails and sets of stairs leading to the castle.

But as great as the views were from the eastern, Pest-facing side of Castle Hill, my favorite part of this journey was walking along the promenade that borders the western part of the hill.  This quiet residential area with its tree-lined pedestrian road and incredible views of the Buda Hills at the distance reminded me of the quiet serenity one feels when visiting some of those old European cathedrals.  Walking that empty promenade during the early morning hours accompanied only by the soft light of a morning sun has to be the greatest highlight of my visit to this great city.  And while I may never see this city again, this wonderful morning stroll, lit only by the melancholy light of morning eastern sun, will remain with me forever.