The postcard pretty baroque church on tiny, lovely Bled Island is probably the best known image of Slovenia. If you could zoom out, you’d first see the stunning Lake Bled (Blejsko jezero in Slovene), then the little villages along its shores, then the green fields and the rolling hills. Zoom out even further, and you’d see the majestic Julian Alps – and if it was a perfect summer’s day, you’d see blue skies with clouds drifting above the peaks. I’m here on a foggy November day, so I – and you – will have to imagine these last bits. Shouldn’t be too hard, really.

There was once a pagan temple here on Bled Island, dedicated to Živa (love goddess). When Christianity comes along, Mary (virgin goddess) takes over, and the temple is replaced with a church. The church suffered two earthquakes in the 16th century, and was replaced by this one in the 17th.

Inside, the little church is gloriously gothic and golden, and has a long pull rope to ring a bell. Ring three times and your wish will come true. Caveat: you must believe!

My wish? Unfolding, slowly but surely. 

Lake Bled practicals

Lake Bled is only 55 km from Ljubljana, about 40 minutes by car. Íf you prefer public transport, you can take a train; they’re frequent but it’s a bit of a trek from the two stations (Lesce and Jezero Bled) into Bled town. The hourly local bus (less frequent in winter) from Ljubljana takes 70 minutes, so it’s a better option. Slovenia is a small country, easily reached from neighbouring Croatia and Italy. The bus from Zagreb reaches Lakes Bled in 2h 15m, while the one from Trieste takes 1h 45m.

Once you’re in Bled town, you can rent your own rowing boat – or get to Bled Island by pletna. These traditional wooden, flat-bottomed boats hail back to 1590 and can take 20 passengers (safely). Important to remain seated, and not getting up to take photos, however cool the angle (you know who you are!). The pletna pilots are the gondoliers of Lake Bled, and row standing up.

The trip out to the island takes anything from 10 to 30 minutes; this guy did it in 15. Once at the island, there’s a 99-step climb to the church.

World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo (yeah yeah), portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad, wondrous or unexpected encounters.

Disclosure: I was in Ljubljana on a press trip, hosted by the Slovenian Tourist Board. As ever, all opinions are mine and mine alone. Otherwise, this would be pointless.