In 2017 and 2018 I published A Firsthand Guide to Bled, Slovenia. This is the 2018 edition. For the book to have relevance, it needs to be written in Bled or soon after a visit. but as I can’t be there in 2019, I’m happy to provide this to anyone interested with the advisory note that parts may well be out of date.
People come to Bled all year round, but the busiest time is, unsurprisingly, the summer. It is also the time when the town is most active. Sports events and music dominate, but there are many other cultural occasions, too.
Three music highlights combine around July and August and together provide the most exciting and exhilarating part of the year. They are Festival Bled, Okarina Festival and Bled Days and Bled Nights. If you are very lucky and can spend a lengthy period in Bled, you will remember this time for years to come.
The Accordion Festival which began in 2013, is usually held in May, at the Lakeside Promenade. Accordionists, accordion clubs, professional musicians, learners, amateurs and lovers of the sound all descend on Bled and spend at least a day playing all around the town.
It is one of the most joyful events of the year. The climax is when all the musicians line the lake shore in Spa Park to play one song together, Slavko Avsenik’s – “Otocek sredi jezera” (Island in the middle of the lake). It is Bled’s own anthem.
Here are two videos you should see.
They all play in the same key (well, most of them), but the speed seems to be entirely at the discretion of each group. It is a wonderful experience and even worth a special trip to see.
Slavko Avsenik is a cultural icon in Slovenia. His “Oberkrainer” music – largely polka – defined the country music from this region. His influence travelled far into Croatia, Austria, northern Italy, Switzerland and beyond. There is a multitude (hundreds even thousands) of bands playing his and similar music in Slovenia and beyond. A typical band will be dressed in traditional Gorenjska outfits, and the instrument line-up will be guitar, bass, drums, along with the two most important instruments, an accordion and a tuba, along with a male and a female singer. The accordionist more often than not plays the lead role, like a guitarist in a rock band.
A festival of Oberkrainer music is held in nearby Begunje na Gorenjskem, Avsenik’s home village. It does not appear to be an annual event. The next is likely to be in 2019. More details here [festival.avsenik.com/en/]
In Bled the winter Oberkrainer festival “The Folk Music Hit Parade” is held on 10 November 2018 and other smaller events are held throughout the year.
This classical music event features extraordinarily talented young musicians from around the world, most of whom are studying in the region. There is usually a jazz to the festival which was founded and is led by internationally known violinist and native of Bled, Jernej Brence. The classical masterclass are led by violinist Michael Frischenschlager.
The concerts are not just for serious music aficionados. The music is very accessible and often the concerts are by ensembles and musicians playing in a unique and entertaining way. If nothing else, should you be in Bled and the jazz music concert with the young musicians is on at the same time, do not miss it.
“This is my first tip. During Festival Bled, take a nice walk to Grand Hotel Toplice for a concert of young musicians and then, if you are in the mood, walk to Villa Prešeren for a drink on terrace by the lake.
“Or, for early morning, from Jarše, on the way to village Ribno, along the paths in the fields, walking, running or cycling to Dobra gora – a little hill next to Straža – and try yoga or just sit on a bench and admire the landscape.”
Mojca Polajnar Peternelj
This celebration of world and Slovenian music begins just as Festival Bled ends. Sometimes they overlap a little. The two festivals are celebrations of music and share some of the same venues – Festival Hall and Bled Castle – but they are very different. For Okarina, a stage is built on the Promenade giving the audience incredible views of the musicians and mountains in the background as the sun sets. Musicians from around the world come to play in this unique setting.
For news of the line-up and details of venues plus profiles of the artists, visit the festival website [www.festival-okarina.si/en].
Folk Music Hit Parade
This celebration of Oberkrainer (Highland) music will be held in the Sport Hall, the biggest venue in the town. Around 2,000 people will be there to dance and sing along with Oberkrainer bands – traditional and folk music of the Alps. Slovenia, Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, are usually all represented on stage and in the audience.
It is an energetic, exciting celebration of a music style that developed in this area and based on the tradition of Alpine folk music, modernised and electrified. Book tickets in advance through Bled Tourism’s website www.bled.si/en/
Guest DJs and Clubs throughout the summer play dance music inside and out. One of the most popular places in Kult Klub, Ljubljanska cesta 4. There are updates on their Facebook page [www.facebook.com/KultBled].
Some conferences return each year to Bled. The town hosts an annual Water Festival. The organisers say that the main purpose of the project is to raise public awareness about water issues in Slovenia, as well as in other parts of the world, provide solutions and work on its development.
Bled Strategic Forum
This is one of the most important political and social events of the year in this region. The Bled Strategic Forum attracts leading politicians from the western Balkans region, and ambassadors from around the world. Business people, journalists, political observers and activists are on the exclusive guest list. Between speeches, late night meetings and discussions, they mingle with prime ministers and foreign ministers.
In 2017 more than 1000 participants from 66 countries took part they engaged in more than 50 hours of sessions on pressing regional and global issues including human rights, digital diplomacy, environment and EU enlargement.
The Bled Strategic Forum will be held in September 2019. There is more information at [www.bledstrategicforum.org/]
Each spring, the PEN Writers’ Meeting is held in Bled. 2018 see the 5oth of these literary events. Writers from around the world will be there to enjoy the literary festival.
If you want to get a taste of this beautiful Gorenjska region there are some events held near Bled that are designed for local people rather than tourists.
One I heartily recommend is the St. Margaret’s Fair at Bohinjska Bela. It lasts all day, but in the early evening, go looking for the local musicians playing music from the region, barbeques, beers, and dancing in the big tents.
Get directions from Bled Tourism. You can bus and walk or take a taxi to a truly community event.
Two years ago, Bled was winner in the Sports Destination category at the World Tourism Awards in London. Summer is the main sports season in the town, but some winter and ice sports also feature, not the least being ice hockey and skiing. Son of Bled, Anze Kopitar, plays for the US hockey team, the LA Kings. He is a local hero and many young players see him as a role model. Naturally, most of the sport goes on in or around the lake and in the Sports Hall (Športna dvorana).
Rowing – Bled has been a sports and health destination for over 100 years. Rowing championships are held, and there is a fantastic rowing centre on the lake (Župančičeva cesta 9, Phone: +386 (0)4 5767 230 email: firstname.lastname@example.org [www.en.vesl-klub-bled.si/]).
Check the rowing centre and bled.si websites for up to date information.
In the winter Bled is the centre for biathlons.
Chesshas been a feature of the sports calendar since 1930.
Bled Triathlon is held at the Rowing Centre, Mala Zaka.
a competitive sport, it is also the most convenient way to get around Bled.
Cycle hire is widely available. However, people staying at least two months
could buy a bike in Lesce and sell it back when they move on (just a
Walking. Is it a sport? Is it a therapy? Is it a cultural or community event? Arnold Rikli brought health tourism to Bled over a hundred years ago, and now once a year an early morning walk is held in his honour. The Rikli’s Walk to Straža hill is held at the beginning of July each year.
Walking and hiking are popular and a serious business in Bled and in the whole region. If you are planning a walking holiday contact the Infocenter Triglavska roža Bled Ljubljanska cesta 27, Phone: +386 (0)4 5780 205
Fishing goes on all year round. You will need to purchase a licence. Find out the details of licence fees and regulations for the lake and for the nearby Sava Bohinjka and Radovna rivers at Fauna Slovenia Fly Fishing, cesta Svobode 12, Phone: 00386 41 633 147. [www.faunabled.com]). If you are already in town you will find the shop opposite the bus station.
There are more detailed rules and regulations at this website: [www.ribiska-druzina-bled.si/price-list/?lang=en]
Any other sports?
Well, you could try: Alpine and sport climbing, Ballooning, Bellyak, Geocaching, Golf, Hydrospeed, Sky Diving, Horseback riding, Caving, Cycling, Kayaking, Mini golf, Motorcycling, Beach volley, Paintball and Airsoft, Summer tobogganing, Diving, Hiking, Rafting, Canyoning, Walks, Tennis and squash, Tubing,
Boating, Zipline, Alpine Skiing & Snowboarding, Biathlon, Ice climbing, Sledding, Cross-country skiing, Ski Touring, Snowshoeing which are all suggestions from the Bled Tourism website.
Four adventure shops and agents in Bled:
- Rafting Bled, Grajska cesta 4, 4260 Bled. Phone: +386 51 399 164 [tinaraft.si],
- 3glav Adventures, Ljubljanska cesta 1, 4260 Bled. Phone: +386 41 683 184 [3glav.com]
- Mamut Slovenia, cesta Svobode 4a, 4260 Bled. Phone: +386 40 121 900
- LIFE Events and Ribit gift shop, Grajska cesta 10, 4260 Bled Phone: +386 4 20 14 875 email@example.com
“I am not the cyclist I once was, but I still like to get away from the centre of Bled at times. Tourists are very welcome, but it’s good to avoid them sometimes.
I cycle out from the centre on Ljubljanska cesta. Turn right and follow the signs to Koritno – about 5km. Sometimes I turn here and follow the sign back to Selo. Other times I will cycle on to Bodešče and cross the Sava before returning. There are lots of paths and roads to explore here and you are only a few kilometres from Bled. I always bring a phone, water and something to eat. Maybe spend the whole day exploring. In the summer – drink plenty of water. It can get very hot and there is not a lot of shade in places. Joško
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