Tuesday, December 16, 2014

INTREPIDLY, FROM BERLIN TO VENICE (Part 1): Lake Bled & The Legend of the Sunken Bell

(I had joined an Intrepid Travel small-group tour during September-October 2014, and we had a blast going from our starting point Berlin, to Krakow, Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Vienna, Budapest, Bled, and finally Venice! 

This is the start of my series of posts; and as usual, the posts will not be in chronological order. In fact, some places i'll probably skip altogether. . .and a place or two, i'll ramble about on and on. So here goes! ;-D)

Most of the stops on our tour were capital cities. And after enjoying the cosmopolitan delights of the enormous Vienna and Budapest, a stay at the small, quiant town of Bled, Slovenia was a welcome change. 

Bled looks very laid-back on the surface; but in truth, it seems to have modelled itself to be the 'extreme outdoor activities' capital of Central Europe. If you love the water, there's canyoning, wild-water rafting, river tubing, kayaking and scuba diving. Want to get up in the air? Paragliding, sky diving and ballooning are options. Planted on terra firma? You can choose from trekking, rock climbing, mountain biking and the rather sedate horseback riding. 

But of course, yours truly did not partake of any of these strenuous activities ("umm, my travel insurance doesn't cover it" was the lame excuse proffered). Instead, a relaxing ride on the traditional Pletna boat on Lake Bled was in the works.

These are traditional wooden, flat-bottomed boats, operated by the oarsmen. Just like the gondoliers in Venice, this profession is respected, and handed down from generation to generation in families.  

Fare was EURO12.00 per person, and we (tour mates Maia, Joanne and i) sat back for the 20-minute relaxing ride. Which proved to be not quite relaxing, as the other passengers (3 families related to each other) apparently had no concept of water dynamics; and some of them got up to transfer seats, thereby tilting the boat dangerously to one side. A sharp "HEY!!" from yours truly quieted the mutiny though, hehe ;D 

And here was our destination, the island in the middle of the lake and its star attraction, Church of the Assumption:

Here's a closer look in color:

You might be wondering, what is this church all about? Well, it really has to do with a certain legend about the sunken bell. Here's the official version from the Bled.si website:

The legend of the Sunken bell

Once upon a time there lived a young widow in the castle of Bled. Her husband was killed by robbers and his body was thrown into the lake. She was so inconsolable that she gathered all her gold and silver and cast a bell for the chapel on the island, in memory to her husband. But the bell didn’t arrive there. The bell, the boat and boatmen sank during a terrible storm. 

The desperate widow sold all her property after this accident. She offered the proceeds for the construction of a new church on the island. She left Bled and lived the rest of her life in Rome as a nun. 

After her death the Pope had heard of her misfortune and of her good deeds during her life as a nun, so in memory to her he decide to make a new bell. He said that anyone that rings the bell three times and believes in God, his or her wish would come true.

So, this is what we (or most tourists, for that matter) came here for - to ring the wishing bell three times, and make our respective wishes!!

Ah, there is the matter of an entrance fee of EURO6.00 though. It does include admission to an exhibit of the national costumes of all European Union members, as well as to the church tower (warning: 99 steps!!!) 

It did feel a bit like a rip-off, but Joanne and i duly coughed up our money. Maia was likely much wiser than us, and laughingly demurred.

Here's Joanne getting ready to pull the bell cord:

 I took my turn thereafter, and silently made my wish. Nothing like the sound of bells ringing for that sense of instant gratification - it makes you feel like your wish will indeed be granted! Immediately! Right now!

(Postscript: Two months after. My wish hasn't come true yet.)


JoanneGust said...

Haha neither did mine :( I don't think we rang it three times though.

Berlin to Venice said...

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