hiking Slovenia

THE GRAND TOUR:SLOVENIA 25/26/27th JULY

  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 GRAND TOUR: SLOVENIA 22/23/24th JULY

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.