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Yesterday's storms made for some spectacularly clear skies today as we headed

into the Slovenian mountains to the clear turquoise glacial waters of Lake Bled,

 an amazing jewel of nature nestled at the foot of the Julian Alps. Slovenia’s only island,

Bled Islet is located in the middle of an alpine lake with mountains as a backdrop.

Christians built a church here that is still visited by pilgrims today.

We crossed the lake by traditional pletna boat to Bled Islet, then hiked up to Bled's Castle,

and later enjoyed a walk around the lake, offering breathtaking views.

                   

ABOVE LEFT - A wooden boat (pletna) crossing the lake to the island  (Blejski Otok).

ABOVE MIDDLE - On the wooden boat (pletna) crossing the lake to the island.

These boats are operated by standing rowers known as pletnars.

ABOVE RIGHT - The 99 stone steps to reach the Assumption of Mary Church.


                   

ABOVE LEFT - Judith and Nancy on the 99 step climb to the church

ABOVE MIDDLE - Interior of the Assumption of Mary Church.

ABOVE RIGHT - Judith ringing the church bell.

Legend has it that this will make your wishes come true.

The church bell, made in the early 16th century, is said to have come from the pope himself.

The story goes that he gave it to the church after the original bell, sent to the island

 by an inconsolable widow in remembrance of her late husband, ended up sinking

to the bottom of the lake in a storm. So, Bled really has a pair of legendary bells:

the one in the church and the one on the bottom of the lake. The legend

about the sunken bell is brought to life every year by a special Christmas event.

                   

ABOVE LEFT and MIDDLE - Views of Bled Castle (Blejski Grad)

ABOVE RIGHT - Maja (our guide) leads the group on the trail up to the castle.

                   

ABOVE - Bled Castle (Blejski Grad). The most beautiful view of the lake, its island,

and the surrounding peaks is from the castle towering over the lake on a cliff.

It has been the location of important diplomatic and state protocol meetings.

In addition to the picturesque architecture, this 12th century castle is also home

to a museum collection; a castle printing works, where you can learn about

traditional manual printing.

                   

ABOVE LEFT - In the castle courtyard with the island far below.

ABOVE MIDDLE - Gutenberg printing press replica operator. We purchased a print.

ABOVE RIGHT - Carol (our leader) and Benedetta (of Customized Journeys)

         

ABOVE LEFT - Our lunch entree was a wonderful cheese dumpling - a specialty of the area.

ABOVE MIDDLE - Dessert was another specialty  - the Bled cream cake (kremsnita)

                   

ABOVE LEFT - The Island church on the left; cliff-hanging Bled Castle on the right

ABOVE MIDDLE - The one island (Blejski Otok) on the lake is a sacred site with the

Church of the Assumption at the top of a 99 step climb. Lots of Slovene weddings are held

here and it is traditional for the groom to carry - or try to carry - the bride up the steps.

ABOVE RIGHT - Pletna wooden boat. These are hand built according to a centuries-old design.

There's no keel, so the oarsman works hard to steer the flat-bottomed boat with each stroke.

ABOVE - Our group on the 4 mile walk around Lake Bled.