June 7, 2010

Do I really have to go home?

I fell in love with Slovenia this weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I have really enjoyed the time I’ve already spent here, and Koper is a lovely town, but the mountains have my heart.  I spent the weekend exploring the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia – much of which is covered by the country’s only national park, Triglav – with Matej.  So that I didn’t have to take the 5:23am train (which I had previously sworn I would never do), I went to his house near Ljubljana on Friday night, and we went in to the city for taquitos and cervezas at Ljubljana’s cantina.  Seriously.

On Saturday morning we drove north to the area where Slovenia comes together with both Austria and Italy.  We first visited the Planica ski jumps, which hosts one of the world’s biggest competitions and holds more world records than any other site.  We drove to the Vršič Pass – the highest mountain pass in Slovenia – on a mountain road known for having some 50 hairpin turns.  It was an amazing clear day, and the scenery was spectacular.  There was still snow on the ground here.  We ate lunch at the pass to enjoy the views, which were far better than the beef goulash.  Matej speculated that the cow had recently been discovered frozen under an avalanche.

The view from Vršič Pass

The Vršič goulash

From there, we went down the other side into the Trenta Valley.  We did some hiking along the River Soča before heading up to see the source, which is a cave in the rock wall.  It’s not a long hike to the source, but it starts to get steeper…and rockier…and narrower…until you find yourself standing on a little ledge with your back against the cliff and clinging to (not clipped to) a wire with a drop down to rocks and rushing water beneath you.  It was a little scary.

Climbing to the Soča source

Not sure this shot adequately captures the feeling of looking down while standing on the ledge...

The Soča is a beautiful, clear, impossibly turquoise river surrounded by incredible mountain views (best enjoyed when not hanging off a cliff).  We spent much of the afternoon following the river, part of which is a whitewater kayaking course, the site of another international competition.

Matej on Reka Soča

Whitewater kayaking on the Soča

Also in the Soča Valley, we saw the Kulže Fortress (Trdnjava Kluže) on the Koritnica gorge, which has been the site of fortification most likely from the Roman times, defending the country against Turkish invasions, burned by Napoleonic French, and shelled during World War I.  The Soča Front between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies devastated the region and resulted in an estimated one million casualties.

Cemetery on the Soča Front

We drove back through Italy – which apparently actually is the shorter way – completing the day at Laghi di Fusine as the sun was setting, before heading home.

Lago di Fusine and Mangart Mountain in the Italian/Slovenian borderlands

On Sunday, we had a leisurely day around Bled, hiking in Vintgar Gorge and visiting Bled Castle (Blejski Grad) positioned on a cliff with great views over the fairy tale lake (also the site of world rowing championships and an international regatta).  We walked down to the lake from the castle and had the apparently famous Bled cake, sitting on a terrace overlooking the lake and directly across from the castle.  It’s a shame it’s so hard to find scenic spots in Slovenia, isn’t it?

Vintgar Gorge

Lake Bled from the castle

Blejski Grad

I took the last train back to Koper from Ljubljana and picked up a kebab to eat as I walked home from the station.  The nice man at the stall asked me if there was a word in English for “eating while walking”.  Is there an equivalent/better phrase?  I couldn’t think of anything, mainly because – as often as I do it here – I couldn’t think of an occasion where I eat while walking when I’m at home.  If I get take out, I drive home and eat it on my couch with my feet on the coffee table…

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3 Responses to “”

  1. Betty Cocklin said

    OK Velvet – this posting sent me to see how much it would cost to get over there. Every picture has been beautiful, but these put me over the edge. WOW. Seems it’s about $1,400 for a round trip. Does that sound about right? What a magnificent experience you have had and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

  2. Mom said

    I too fell in love with Slovenia in this area. Your pictures brought back many great memories and a desire to go back. Although I am not sure I want to climb to the source of the river.

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