Slovenia 16th July-3rd August


It hammered it down in the night leaving a lot of moisture to float back up to the heavens during the morning.  

 We decided to stay another day anyway. We needed to reach the source of the Soca, the hole in the mountains from which the life/ energy force and healing waters emerge. 

So we packed up and tatted down and dissolved into the white clouds in the white Tranny.  


We were driving alongside the river, climbing all the while with suitably spacey music to accompany the wispy wonderland appearing through the windscreen.  


The last village up the valley was Trenta, a major gateway to the high Alps for walkers and climbers, and home to the national parks biggest info centre. We visited the museum and soaked up geographical, geological and biological knowledge and then vegged out watching a couple of mesmerising movies/artworks on the sacred Soca and the forest forces.    

       We also learnt how to handle meeting a bear.  

 There was a host of other exhibits including fantastically detailed nature illustrations  

 and a charming recreation of a simple vernacular house.  


The only knowledge missing was botany so we motored on a few km to the Juliana Alpine Garden created in the 20’s on a little patch of limestone.  

  The man who made it really loved the area.  

 Here are some of the insects and plants that we liked.  












 Even the little ticket office was a miniature delight.  


So, finally to the end of the road and a short walk to the source of the Soca.  


Short in distance but long in thrills or some adrenaline sport kind of jargon. We had taken the dogs but before long the cables started  

 the track narrowed and a women advised us the dogs weren’t going to be able for it. It was become clear that Sally wasn’t either so she stayed with dogs , gave me a bottle to collect water from the source in, and I carried on up an ever narrowing ledge, occasionally having to get real up close and personal with people trying to squeeze around on the return journey.  

 No way could this exist in Ireland. Heath and safety nightmare. 

Supply a steel cable, cut a few niches on the rock, bang in a few  metal pegs on the vertical bits and let ’em off.  

 I clung on with one hand as I took pictures of the deep cleft into the mountain.  

 A few more metal pegs and I was down at the suddenly tranquil pool where the Soca erupted.  


So we now have a bottle of liquid power healing from the Slovenian Julian Alps to join our collection of Irish Holy well waters. 

We wanted to park up for the night down the Lepena valley that we had been looking at from the camp and so drove up to the end under a ring of peaks.  

 Next to the river, with the doors open we could hear the waters gurgling all night while a big moon shone on the white Rock. Driving on in the morning alongside the steaming Soca

 we headed to the start of a trail up the side of Bavski Grintavec mountain. 

Led by a down to earth local goat women through her yard to the track we headed up into yetmore beech forest.  


We were going up to have a look at the deserted hamlet of Lemovje high above the valley. It was a beautiful place but a little melancholy with its lovely houses crumbling away.  

         One of the houses was being renovated and another looked like someone was resident with solar panel and mown grass so maybe it will be revived. 

Fantastic views but i guess that doesn’t make your life easier.  


After the climb we were relived to be back down to the river which we hiked for a few km passing azure pools that became irresistible.  

   You can see from Sally’s expression the temperature. 

We passed some great gardens and houses along the riverbank 


We had passed some sheep on a little beach and discovered further on a farm that made sheep cheese. We also managed to get a fleece that Sally has been yearning for and some real sausage from a real man.  


Further and further up the valley leading to the pass to Italy, stoping for more refreshing dips.  


Passed Kluze fortress, invaded by Napoleon, and adjoining the super deep chasm.  


Until finally to the wonderfully named Log Pod Mangarton at the head of the valley.  

   Beautiful but the home of tragedy in2000 when a mudslide took out half the village. And of course WW1.  


We’re staying tonight, our last on Slovenia, under these powerful peaks. 

It’s been a great love affair.  



I have a pile of walking guides in the Tranny to places I had wanted to visit on this trip but now ,as day after day in the Julian Alps only reveal more vistas to explore, and the first day of autumn is upon us and with it the realisation that time, for our journey at least, is finite- I might not get to open some of them. 

As someone who hates to turn down the possibility of checking out pastures new it’s a dilemma. “Should I stay or should I go?”

My dual personality is battling it out. One half is loving it here and never wants to leave, the other is reminding us of all the other glories that await further down the road. And that this is our chance. Could be the last. “Maybe the last time, I don’t know”


But for now the dominant mantra is”be here now”  and we are. And we really enjoyed getting here. As we curved around the peaks heading north , then turning East the views had us choked.  


  That’s a lovely piece of planet isn’t it?

  We turned off to go up the Soca valley, home of EXTREME and ADRENALIN sports but all I saw was beautiful clear turquoise water and people messing about in boats.  


 By the time we got to the camp site we were engorged with nature and all we could do was supp slowly at the surroundings.  

     Although we did manage to stroll down the road a little to check out a route for the next day. And call in at neighbouring camp site where their WW1 finds were on display.  


We were to find our own mementos of that desperate conflict the next day when we took off down the valley and then up and up into the mountains on trails made by soldiers 100 years ago. 

Ironically the beginning of the trail was marked  by a signboard, as we crossed the rushing river, describing the healing power of the waters.   


Scruff had done well leading us across the suspension bridge.  

 And more old iron buildings in picturesque spots.  

   We climbed to a more or less deserted hamlet  

 and then zig zagged or way higher and higher on the old military route to the lines way above on the ridge. How the supplies and equipment were ever dragged up there was beyond us as we struggled to get up unencumbered. The slope was littered with defensive positions and remnants of the Great War.  


We reached a chapel of sorts and a monument to the troops who died in an avalanche on Christmas 1916.  

 The landscape was benevolent towards us as we hiked through the beech and hornbeam forest.  

 with the stone walls of the conflict all around. Hard to imagine the horrors of the past in the tranquility of the now.  


We had climbed over 1000m in the trees and it was good to come to an opening that rewarded us with a view of the valley below.  

 And the picture at our feet of the countless cyclamen was equally as good.  

 After a traverse across the mountains we came to another memorial, this time to the troops from Bosnia Herzegovina who had lost their lives.  


And then we were on the way down again, alongside the rushing waters.  

   Passed symbols of war 

 and more natural threats of huge rock fall. The forests were left intact as a natural defence against these crashing into the houses and avalanche. 

  to the healing waters below  



The dogs were knackered so after leaving them at camp we returned to the river for a cooling dip.  

 There was a place just upstream of the suspension bridge where the Soca river surged through a gorge into deep pools and channels and folk gathered to hurl themselves from high cliffs into the bracing waters. Sally and I had a swim as the teens whooped and hollered with the joy of life  as they defied death in the healing waters. (Sorry, I didn’t take the phone for pictures). 

Tonight the rain is back. Tomorrow the weather will determine “Should I stay or should I go” 


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.  



  At the end of the lake, high up on the 1300m wall of limestone that curves around us ,is the waterfall that feeds it. Called Savica, it has been a source of inspiration to poets and artists over centuries and is probably the most famous in the country. We headed up for a look. 

  On route we found out we were heading in the direction of home. Although the falls are at 900m, that still left a lot of cliff we were planning on climbing the next day so we eyed them up warily.  
 We heard the roar of the falls way before we had climbed the 550 steps that led us there and all that power has been harvested since 1947  

 when they built the countries first hydroelectric power plant. The clean green Slovens are pleased to report that todate it has saved the burning of 1.2 million tonnes of coal, enough to fill 600,000 wagons stretching from here to Stockholm. Bet you didn’t know that. 

The waters were far more impressive before they enter the pipe.  

 There was a plaque in the observation tower commemorating a visit by Archduke John of Austria that had lots of the same carefully carved antique graffiti we had seen in Hungary.   On our way back down through the limestone boulders and beech trees I started to collect images of stone-trees or tree-stones.         

The mountains called again, and we must go. Up into the central range of the Julian Alps, towards the peak held almost sacred to Solvenians, Triglav. This towering lump of limestone is something that every citizen is supposed to scale in their life and they seem to take it as seriously as the Irish would Croagh Patrick. 

There is a network of huts across the high mountains that accommodate those wanting to climb and hike for days on end without coming down. Strategically placed 3 or so hours apart on prominent peaks or junctions of trails they offer bed, board and warmth. Across the Julian Alps there are about 50 of them, called mountain huts but often huge affairs with beds for up to 300 people, proving how popular trekking in the mountains is here. There are also about a dozen unmanned bivouacs with space for between 2 and 10 in case someone got caught out. 

Run by the Alpine Association of Slovenia, who also manage the trails, they have a policy of not turning anyone away and will find floor space somewhere for those in need. Which is just as well as camping is prohibited in the park and conditions can be inhospitable to say the least. 

They weren’t that great when we headed up a long 2 1/2hr zig zag track to scale the wall of Komarca. There was a shorter, more direct route up, but it involved chains and ladders that the dogs couldn’t handle so we had a relatively easy hike up through the forest above the waterfall. In the last couple of decades the area has suffered fire, earthquake and devastating winds and we saw plenty of trees down.  

   Another clue to the Slovenian nature worship could be the number of little cairns everywhere along the trails 

 although there are also lots of Christian shrines as well  

 This one was at Dom an Komni, the hut we came to eventually a little wet, hungry and cold. There had been a serious drop in temperature. From 36 degrees at the lake the day before to 6 degrees up there in the cloud. So we were glad to warm ourselves up with coffee and ham and eggs and didn’t object to the inflated prices they charge to cover the cost of getting the stuff up there to 1500m. Actually the prices are fine. A pint gets more expensive the higher you go but still ranges from 2.50€ to 4€. 

The cloud have lifted for awhile when we came out and we could see where we had come from for the first time.  


We carried on up another couple of hundred meters over the next 3 hours through a misty soft day that at times was very like a walk in the burren with more flowers.  

         We passed some lovely wooden water troughs which are a feature here.  

 And a lot more flower filled mini valleys and rocky escarpments.  


At last we glimpsed through the cloud a lake and knew we had made it to Dolina Triglavskih Jezer, the spectacular Triglav valley with 7 lakes. Not so spectacular for us though. We were staying with the dogs in the ” winter hut”, the one in the foreground.  

 The setting could have looked like the picture on the wall outside.  

 We had a lie down after our efforts to get there and discovered that above and next to us was a large party of raucous teenage French lads so no rest to be had. 

After dinner we were rewarded by an hour of rising cloud which revealed the world around us and saw us scurrying further into the valley before dark.  


To be fair to the French lads silence reigned after 9ish and we slept well in our little bunkhouse in the mountains. 

At breakfast we marvelled again at the young children that walk and get carried into these amazing environments. It seems it’s normal to take your baby to sleep at the top of mountains 2 or 3 times the height of Carrantuohill for days on end. And there’s loads of teenagers who want to hike from dawn till dusk, not a mobile signal to be had. 

The promised thunderstorms had luckily not materialised so everyone was studying maps and eyeing up the weather conditions. We were taking a different, longer route back down so, with the misty drizzle clouds still about, we gave up on hiking further up the valley and headed for home.  

       This time we got to the little lake at the top of the direct route up Komarca and the path was studded with by rocks fallen from the cliffs above. Wouldn’t want to be unlucky.  


We hiked along the top edge for quite a distance and there were a couple of places that were open to the cloudy valley below.  


And then , ignoring the hut we had stopped at the day before in our desire to be back down at the happy camp, we hurried on down through the beech woods.  


With the sunshine gone the camp is much quieter but still has an interesting selection of campers. I’ve been wondering about these ones.  


But now, finally, it’s time to say farewell to camp Zlatarog. We’ve never stayed so long in one place and probably won’t again. The lovely people here have recommended another camp further west but warned us it won’t be as wild. The e boat heads off and if the van battery is ok so will we. 



The Slovenian tourist board has a campaign running at the moment under the slogan ; I FEEL SLOVENIA.  It worked on us. We are head over heels in love. We are feeling it. 

So far on The Grand Tour we have been relentlessly moving forward, onwards, further ( like the bus of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters but without the Cool Aid). We were keen to the xplore the next valley, mountain range, or country. Now we’re worried that nothing’s going to match up to where we are. And we’re in a campsite surrounded by loads of people. That’s odd. 

But it’s felt more like being at a festival or a green gathering than a campsite. There is a fine mix of people from ultra crusty to retirees in smart motorhomes. The majority around us in zone B, in the woods, tend towards the younger ,more earthy, type. Setting up an amazing variety of tent, tarp, trailer,and truck higgledy piggledy across the lumpy bumpy ground in the deep shade of big beech trees. Can you see the Tranny in its beach side spot? 

 The shade has been imperative. It’s been hot, and humid and the joy of flopping into the lake to cool off must partly account for our love affair with the place. This lovely lake, the Bohinjsko Jezero, is Slovenia’s largest. About 6 km long and 1/2km wide, it’s up to 45m deep. That’s a lot of water and it renews itself three times a year. And this year, in this heat, it has broken it’s temperature record. Yesterday the water was 25 degrees, a few months from now it will be frozen over and there’ll be people skating on it.  

 The waters really are pristine and they try to keep it that way by banning any boat that isn’t electric, sail or rowed. There’s no rubbish lying around anywhere and there seems to be a general sensitivity towards the environment and to be great believers in its beneficial effects. We’ve come across loads of references, in ordinary tourist brochures, of energy spots, earth energy lines and so on. There as even a Natural Energy Healing Resort in Kamnic apparently famous fo it’s ” energy spots with special healing effects. The resort is also known for living water with an amazing energy output”   You don’t get that kind of blurb from Bord Failte.  

 Whatever, this is certainly a powerful landscape and the mountains may  radiate energy but they also demand a lot if you want to scale them.  

  To make it a little easier on ourselves we took a cable car, in fact we learnt today the fastest cable car in Europe, up 1000m  in about 5 mins, saving a slog of a couple of hours. We glided almost silently up above the misty lake 

 to the hardly pristine ski slopes.  

 From there to the top of Vogel, the second highest peak in the southern Julian Alps was another 600m but unfortunately our trail went down for quite a way before rising up past a little alpine cheese makers 

 and up a wild flower strewn valley to the bald limestone above.  

     At this point I must apologise if the blog resembles a holiday slide show of interminable boring landscapes. Maybe it’s a case of “if you weren’t there you won’t get it ” but I hope the pictures convey something of the scale of the grandeur.  


There’s more.  




We clambered up steel cables and the dogs just clambered 

 untill finally we climbed a narrow ridge and , like champions, emerged up onto the peak, pinnacle and summit of Vogel.   

 Our great achievement was put into perspective somewhat by the large group of 5 to 10 yr olds climbing up from the other side.  

 Fair play to them. 

The next day I had to go further and higher, for longer. The Mountains were calling and I had to go. 

Up on the cable car again followed by a chair lift to get me another couple of hundred meters higher and then a 9 hour hike in the heat began with a climb to a pyramid shaped peak, Suja,where I turned East and followed a ridge over half a dozen other peaks to the highest of them all, Rodica, at 1956 m.  

 Passed giant karst sinkholes  

 and pushing through the dwarf pine 

 with a long way to go and a danger of thunderstorms forecast I didn’t hang around and carried on along the ridge with amazing views on either side and the sun beating down.  

     There were a beautiful mass of flowers including Edelweiss  

 and limestone glories all around.  

   Eventually the path led me across a glorious flower filled broad Coll  

 and after a scramble and a climb involving cables and pegs and pins to the final summit. With thunder rumbling and clouds gathering I started the 3 hour descent and was never happier to reach shade  

 as I entered the beech trees and not long after a little mountain hut for hikers where I left a greeting from Ireland.  

   The thunder got louder and nearer and a couple of hours later as I passed the first houses 

 the rain started. A few minutes later I had hitchhiked a ride back to the campsite without getting soaked. 

Another day on the lake. We walked around it on the north shore through the woods , stopping for a swim at one of many little beaches and marvelling at the tranquility of it all.  

 We hiked around to the shop in the pretty village of Stara Fuzina with its fine hay barns where the hay is draped over the wooden rails and timber or fodder is stored within.  

     And from there got a ride back to camp on a lovely wooden cruiser, electric of course.  


THE GRAND TOUR: SLOVENIA 16/17/18/19/20/21st JULY

5 days of family fun and a day of moving deep into the Julian Alps and the Blog is back. 

Most of what happens on family holiday stays on family holiday but I can reveal that we spent 5 days together in a ridiculously large house very high up in the Kamnik- Savinjske Alps a bit north of the capital Ljubljana. So high up in fact that after picking up one son from the airport  

 we seriously overheated the poor old Tranny trying to scale the heights in first and occasionally and fleetingly second gear. 

So we parked her up up for a few days to rest and explored the area in hire car provided by son junior. We went up the windy road above the house to the ski resort of Krvavec and marvelled at the mountains and wild flowers.  

   We ate at a mountain hut. Hard boiled corn mush. Sour milk. Goulash. Sausage and lard. We did the same the following day after s earching for giant boulders beyond the Kamniska Bistrica valley. We failed to find them but got very hot making the spring water ponds look even more inviting.  

 Unfortunately or fortunately swimming was not allowed as the freezing waters had caused a few heart attacks, so instead we are took a cable car up to the high summer grazing plateau of Velika Planina and hiked up to admire the wooden architecture of the shepherds huts ( holiday homes)  

       and indulge in more traditional food before our return to the bottom

    Where we were briefly entertained by a couple banging out tunes in Slovenian and English.  


Every morning and night there were hard fought badminton competitions on the patio.  

 And much eating and drinking and drinking and eating interspersed with craic of various kinds. We did some sight seeing to local historic sites  

     and enjoyed strolling around the old town centre of Kamnik  



 before cooling off in the local pool with the rest of the overheated locals and returning to base for eating and drinking and craic. 

On our last day together we visited the lovely capital city Ljubljana. Small enough to walk around and only 70 cent an hour to park in the centre. My kind of town. 


After the fond farewells we headed north west to the Julian Alps to the scenic lake of Bled which unfortunately was overrun with people and so we headed out of town towards Bohinj. We found a lovely park up alongside the Sava river will the clearest water imaginable. 

At least I thought so until we arrived this morning into the campsite at the far end of Bohinjsko lake. A dead end hard up against the ring of peaks at the end of the valley with sheer cliffs and wooded gorges dropping into the waters and white limestone beaches, this place is a wonder. I wouldn’t have imagined I could feel so chilled in a camp as busy as this but the sheltering and shading trees, vast empty lake, towering mountains and general vibe have made for a totally relaxed atmosphere here.  

   The signs at reception gave away the vibe of the place.  

     Everything is so chilled that the fish in the crystal waters swim up to you.  


A walk around a bit of shoreline revealed more of Eden.  


The only fly in the ointment was actually a wasp in the beer that stung me full on the lip causing much amusement for my caring partner.  


What with a lip that is threatening to suffocate me and a finger that I shut on the van door and has been stinking like its gone gangrenous the  edge has been taken off the glories of this heavenly place. 

I’m sure that a cable car ride and hike to the peaks at 7.30 in the morning will restore my sense of wonder.