The Island (Otok), on the SW end of the lake, is picturesque and fun to visit, and is often called a fairy-tale island as it seems to float on Lake Bled. I’d say that almost every visitor to Bled will go to the island, partly because it’s so pretty and has romantic connotations but also because they want to be on the water (either on a pletna boat or paddle themselves over).
The idea of Love starts way before the island these days—on the edge of the lake in Bled town is a small dock with a large red heart that frames the island in the distance.
Although small, the island’s full of history and has long been a sacred site with a romantic twist. An 8th century Slavic Pagan temple to the goddess of love and fertility once stood here. This was followed by a pre-Romanesque chapel, a Gothic style church, and an early Baroque structure after an earthquake. The current Baroque church, with a Venetian flair (bell tower separate from church) is at least the 5th church on that spot.
One famous tale (there are many) linked to the island is the Wishing Bell Story. It goes like this:
Long ago a young widow lived in Bled Castle. Robbers had killed her husband and dumped his body into the lake. Because she was so depressed, she visited the island daily and prayed in the chapel. She used some of her wealth to commission a bell for the chapel, but while the bell was being transported to the island there was a huge storm that sank the boat, the bell, and the boatmen. Supposedly, on clear nights one can hear the bell ringing from the deep waters of the lake. After this tragic accident the widow sold her fortune and had a new church built on the island, and then left for Rome to take her vows. She died many years later and the Pope blessed another bell, made and sent to the island by Franziskus Patavinus in 1534. It is said that anyone who rings this bell will be granted their wish. A poignant story and thought, and some visitors to the island do pay to ring the bell.
On summer Saturdays, many wedding parties head to the island. 99 steps lead from the island’s dock up to the Church of the Assumption on top. It’s tradition for the groom to carry—or try to—the bride up these steps and then to ring the bell. Supposedly about 80% are successful, proving themselves “fit for marriage”. During the Communist days, the church was closed and weddings here outlawed, but the tradition re-emerged secretly even before the regime collapsed.
We were not there on a Saturday to see any wedding parties, but Sonya is a great sport and she staged the start of carrying Nath up the stairs! They are really steep, so actually carrying a person up them must be very difficult.