Don’t worry, I didn’t kill anyone.
My first encounter with Bled was actually not the famous Bled cream cake (kremšnita), or romantic boat trips to the church on the island. But it was romantic enough, as we took the train from Ljubljana and we got off at Bled train station, and then went down many steps through nature, quickly arriving at the beach and lake.
A random house on the way down to the lake
Coming from a landlocked country with several lakes, swimming in these was never an issue for me. I love it. Bled has no sandy beaches, of course, they covered with grass with many trees around. And if you are more adventurous and would like to jump in the lake, or even sunbathe in the hot sun with no shadows to ruin your tan, then there is a great wooden platform. Basically, at this beach you have everything you need. A restaurant, a pipe with free water, a toilet which costs.50 cents, and cold drinks from the Mercator supermarket, which also has freshly baked pastries and other types of food. The supermarket is open (at least in summertime) until 9:00 p.m.
Vintage postcard from Bled
You will be healed
After spending the hottest day at the beach in Piran last summer, I really felt sick and couldn’t stand any more sun. However, I was fortunate enough to take the chance again and join my friends in a trip to Bled. I was lying on the grassy beach, under the perfect shadows from the trees, at a temperature of 33 or 35 degrees, although the real feel is 28, and the summer breeze makes it so enjoyable. I even finished reading another book in Slovenian, and although the beach was crowded and noisy with many children playing around me, I really wasn’t bothered. I can say I was healed.
What I didn’t know then was that there is a history and facts behind Bled’s healing powers. At the at the end of nineteenth century the Swiss hydropath Arnold Rikli recognized the value of Bled and its advantageous position, and built a health centre there offering therapies that were often used by the aristocracy and even emperors from Central Europe, particularly the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The healing properties of Bled’s water come from a spring right next to the lake shore, which is still used in a variety of treatments, thanks to which Bled has earned the reputation as a health resort.
Rikli created baths, walking paths, hiking paths and housing. In 1895 he built a wooden house and baths in Swiss style and a hospital with his own examination office, thus spreading the word across Europe about the healing power of Bled. Besides the people who were looking for healing, Bled started to attract people who wanted to spend their holidays in a healthy and clean environment. In 1903 Bled was awarded with a gold medal on international fair of healing places in Vienna, in the year 1906 Bled was classified among the best tourist destinations in Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The healing place was operating until the First World War, and was later abandoned. Rikli’s “helio-hydrotherapy” regime was strict: The guests of his camp were woken up at around 5 A.M. to go on an early morning walk. They spent much of the day in various types of baths – steam baths alternating with cold baths full of mineral water from nearby springs. They also sunbathed naked, which many considered downright shocking. Some scholars believe this may have been the beginning of nudism. Also drinking and smoking were forbidden, and most of the meals were vegetarian.
Arnold Rikli in Bled. Source:Wikipedia
Reportedly, the locals didn’t really like Rikli, they thought his methods were eccentric and the nudity of his patients scandalous. In return, he was arrogant towards the locals and never learnt the Slovenian language, which is, to be honest, one way to show respect in the country you live in, but however Rikli was the one who put Bled on the tourist map. The number of visitors to his sanatorium kept increasing, helped in part by new railroad links. Under Rikli’s orders, swimming platforms, trails, and promenades in parks were built. His cures attracted the rich and fashionable from across Europe. But the turmoil of the WWI ended his activities.
But, luckily Bled itself kept growing and is now one of Slovenia’s top tourist destinations.Today, Rikli’s villa, which is under the cultural guidance, is sadly falling apart and is owned by the shady businessman Nicholas Oman.
Desperate state of Rikli's villa today
You may see Rikli’s statue in Bled and also attend Rikli’s sport days which are organized every July. At that time hikers walk, run and climb on the hills above Bled and can discuss and try out Rikli’s healing methods.Check about Rikli’s days and other events in Bled here: http://www.bled.si/en/what-to-do/traditional-events/Main-events
Why was Agatha Christie scared to death in Bled
Prominent guests, such as Agatha Christie, Arthur Miller and many others, have also visited Bled in the past. The story goes that back in 1967 Agatha Christie was visiting Bled and Bohinj with her husband, Sir Max Mallowan. She came to Slovenia not to write, but to enjoy nature in privacy, away from the publicity that usually accompanied her back home.
The most unusual thing happened to them when, according to Christie, one night they saw a man of whom she was terrified, because it resembled one of her fictional characters, a murderer. “I couldn’t breathe. We followed him and we saw him entering a small bar. We waited in front of the bar to see him again. When he left, we went to the waiter at that bar and asked him for that gentleman. The waiter told us that this was his friend, a good man, a husband and a father. Since I wanted to meet him, we followed him home. I gave his daughter, a golden watch and golden jewellery.”
Good one, Agatha. If I were that man and you were following me, I would have been terrified of you.
I guess there also lays the magic of Bled. If you experience writer’s block, just visit Bled, your senses will be restored.
Agatha Christie in Slovenia, 1967. Source: sIol.net
How to get there
The only setback to Bled is getting there, especially in summer. If you drive you will definitely be stuck in traffic, especially when you would like to leave the area. So, be prepared to spend at least half an hour in crowded traffic and moving very slowly as part of your trip. However, once you get to Bled you can drive close to the railway station to find the best and most affordable parking space. There you pay just 4 euros for the whole day, and you can usually find space.
Of course, you can also come by train which I recommend, and then just go down the steps to the beach. If you go to Bled to heal, to swim, to find a murderer, or just to enjoy the beautiful scenery, it’s definitely worth it.