The love affair with Slovenia has developed from its early infatuation through some disappointment and into a deep and passionate craving. The dissapointmen came when we had to sit in the van and listen to heavy rain hammering the roof and hid the beauties of the mountains from us.It was a reminder of what camping holidays at home could be. The lustful passion returned last night when, parked up under the highest peak in the southwestern corner of the park, Krn,the cloud lifted from the summit and the setting sun bathed it in a mellow yellow light.
And this morning we headed further north into scenery so dramatically exquisite that no camera, and certainly not a phone camera, was going to be able to capture it. The view from our pitch on the camp site recommended by the lovely people at camp Zlatorog is an example.
But I’m getting ahead of myself and first I must report on our journey, which involves going back in time on our tour of man’s inhumanity to man. Back before the Cold War, before the paranoia of the ex-communist states, before the Second World War, before the bunkers on the Czech/Polish border and the grisly reminders of the concentration camps. Back to the trench warfare of the First World War on a front you may never have heard of.
We had to get the Tranny up and over its first big climb since major boil over and it managed it fine, although at a sedate pace. The southern side of the Julian Alps revealed more miles of forest interspersed with steep sided hay meadows.
On the valley floor we skirted the mountains round to Kobarid and pitched up on an Eco Camping site, Kamp Koren. Basically one that is inspected to come up to certain criteria of greenness or greenwash. This one had the solar this and that and energy saving how’s yer fathers and some goats rabbits and veg garden. And the views were good.
Next day we took dogs for a walk on their very own doggy trail, marked with paw prints
up a wooded knoll behind the camp past some ancient pollards.
And fine sheds of beaten oil drums.
The threatened rain came and we hid in the van reading about the trails we could be hiking. The area is most well known for being at the centre of vicious and entrenched (literally) fighting between 1915 and 1917 along the Isonzo front and culminated in the Battle of Kobarid when hundreds of thousands of Austro-Hungarian, German fought Italian troops in countless miles of trenches and fortifications across, along and over the mighty mountains. The whole sorry saga is immortalised in Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and when the rain eased up we visited the award winning museum in town dedicated to telling the story. There were many moving exhibits.
And own word testimony from both sides of the conflict.
The amount and size and variety of different weapons was an eye opener.
And after hiking a little in these mountains the knowledge that the poor feckers had spent two long winters at the tops in ice and snow raining hell on each other out of morters and guns they had dragged up there was a sobering reminder again of our good luck. The western front was grim but at least they didn’t have to contend with avalanche, rockfall and frostbite.
The next day, after heavy rains all night, was brighter and we headed off on the Historical Trail, a 4 hour loop around the area passing natures beauty and mankinds folly. The turquoise Soca river ran below the camp and there were many lines of defence on both sides that we passed through.
Gun emplacements, observation posts, dug outs, trenches and forts were buried into the skin of the mountains.
A touch of the timelessness of the natural world was a relief. The river defended so desperately for a couple of years has been fed by a series of springs and mighty waterfalls for millennia and we enjoyed a Heath and Safety nightmare on slippery rocks and crazy boardwalks to visit one raging 15 m into the cave it has carved itself.
Then over the Soca gorge on a suspension bridge built on the same spot as a wooden one in 1st WW.
Up another forested hill lined with 100yr old trenches.
Atop the rocky hill, Tonocov Grad has been a settlement for centuries. Copper age, Middle Ages and a heyday in late Roman times. Then came the Ostiogoths and Byzantiums (no, me neither). There was also the remains of a very early Christian church.
At the bottom of the hill was another church, this one from the 17th century, that had an Italian Charnel House built around it. Opened by Mussolini in 1938, as this was the victorious Italians territory between the wars, it contained the remains of over 7,000 Italian soldiers killed in the Isonzo Front.
The church had great frescoes and views across the Soca valley.
Nearby there was a little place housing a collection of artefacts a keen amateur had found all along the lines of Italian retreat. Ironic that the country ending up In control after the German surrender had retreated a year previously. More igenious methods of barbarity.
With the sun now shining strongly again it was time for more natural beauty so we drove up the switchback road into the mountains to the little village of Dreznica where we followed a trail still higher on foot to a couple of spectacular (after all the rain) waterfalls called Sopota and Krampez and I had the most powerful power showers of my life under both of them (Sally has the evidence).
The walk continued passed more water features of delight. I’ve seen a few of these really simple little water wheels in streams and springs.
This one was in what was probably a ” power spot” as there were plenty in the area and weeklong tours were available to visit some. And you got your energy levels checked before and after to prove it.
A few yards further was a timber water pipe
and a string of artwork leading to the next village.
Another, bigger waterwheel
and more sculpture in wood now.
The views across the fields to thechurch in Dreznica were lovely
but not quite as lovely as those that greeted us when we drove another couple of hundred meters higher to the starting point of trails to climb Krn.
Which is where we came in.