Every year at Lake Bled, divers go on a quest to recover the bell that ended up on the bottom of the lake, and numerous visitors cheer them on from the lake shore. Elsewhere in Slovenia, people pass their time in winter by diving and swimming without any special reason.
The Bled legend about the bells of love
One of the legendary stories from Lake Bled has it that, around the year 1500, the leaseholder of Lake Bled at the time, Hartman Kreigh, disappeared. People said that he may have been killed by outlaws. At the Bled Castle, Poliksena, also known as the lady of the lake, mourned him. In her inconsolable sadness, she collected all of the gold and silver that she and her husband kept in chests. She ordered that this treasure be melted down and cast into a bell for the chapel on the island of Lake Bled, so that the bell would toll in remembrance of her husband.
However, when the bell was being transported to the island, a storm broke out and the boat sank together with the boatmen and its precious cargo. The sad Poliksena left Bled and went to a convent in Rome. When the Pope heard her story, he ordered that a new bell be made and placed in the steeple of the church on Bled Island.
The bell that is said to have been given to the island by the Pope himself supposedly still has special powers today, so visitors and many newly-weds ring the bell in hopes of fulfilling their own wishes. Legend has it that the bell that sank to the bottom of Lake Bled still occasionally rings. In order to show that it is still in the lake, divers recover it from the water at a special event that takes place every year. The event that brings the legend of the sunken bell to life takes place on Christmas Day, 25 December.
In the middle of winter, usually in February, Lake Bled hosts participants in the now traditional Winter Swimming Cup.
Jump in the water for Christmas elsewhere in Slovenia, too
On Christmas and New Year’s Day, when winter reigns in Slovenia, divers and swimmers also like to test their endurance in other bodies of water around Slovenia. Such events for those brave at heart are organised for swimmers at the main beach in Portorož, in the River Savinja in Celje, in the River Krka in Dolenjska, and elsewhere. On New Year’s Day, divers open their season at Lake Velenje, where they also have to make a toast under water.