The next morning I drove up into the Julian Alps to hike Mount Visvenik in Triglav National Park. It was only about 7K feet, so nothing to get too excited about. I started at the base of a ski resort and pretty much just slogged straight up towards the peak.
In the below shot, you can see the spine you hike along culminating in the summit. The weather on the drive up to the hike was quite foggy, but I was able to hike above it, and became a rather nice afternoon.
Above you can see a view of Mt Triglav, the highest peak in the country. Most people do it as a 2 day hike, but I believe it is too late in the season as it looked pretty daunting covered in snow and ice.
The highlight of this hike was once settling down on the summit, military helicopters kept buzzing close by.
After sitting for about 10 minutes it was time to follow the loop down into a more gradual grade that would return back to the car at the trailhead.
A look back at the summit I was on a few moments earlier
All downhill from here
After getting back to the car, I worked my way counterclockwise around the outskirts of the park to end in the town of Kranjska Gora (KG) for the night. KG was a tourist ski town, but pretty quiet this time of year.
On my way to KG I could not help but notice the amount of stacked wood in the area. It seemed like every truck on the road was hauling tree trunks, and each property had at least 3 cords of wood staked. I mean it felt like no one had electricity out here and they needed all this fuel for heat this upcoming winter.
Here is the spot I chose for dinner that night. It billed itself as traditional Slovenian, and that was all I needed to hear.
To start I had a salad. They don’t seem to use lettuce in their salads over here, just pile on the vegetables. I followed that up with Kielbasa and Bratwurst. This isn’t like the sausage you get back home in the grocery store. This has intense flavors and is usually paired with some sort of potato and kraut mix. It became my go-to meal for the trip and never disappointed.
Walking back to my B&B that evening I sat and watch the women of the local volunteer fire department practice their hose hook-ups.
At breakfast the next morning I was surprised to find pancakes! I quickly stacked a pile on my plate, actually took all the ones at the buffet-style offering, and went looking for the syrup. I could not locate it and just made do with butter and various jams. The other patrons seem to look at me a bit strange and then when the cook brought out more “pancakes” I realized my mistake. They were in fact crepes. I was wondering why they were so thin. This also explained the lack of syrup. Stupid American. Don’t worry I had ample opportunities to redeem myself as breakfast at each location included crepes, as well as eggs, cereal, and sausages. I was quite impressed. This was not some “continental breakfast” at Best Western.
After checking out, I drove deep into the heart of the Alps, ascending up to the Vrsic pass to hike Slemonova Spica. Ya, I don’t really know what that means either, but a nice 4-mile loop to stretch the legs. The water was getting more and more aquamarine color. I am used to seeing this color in lakes at the bottom of glaciers, but do not often see it so pronounced in the rivers as well.
In the bottom left of the below picture, you can see a horned deer. The people are obsessed with some mythical Goldhorn deer. They have statues of it, put it on all their products, basically the mascot for an entire country. This guy kinda resembled that Goldhorn character
The road continued to wind ridiculously down the mountain
After stopping briefly in the town of Bovec for a beer, I continued along the Soca River until I could get a closer look at its magical color.
A lot of kayaking and rafting companies set up shop here. I am sure it would be a cool experience but I was not keen on the frigid waters on this trip.
When I parked to view the river I got blocked in by a cement truck and ended up hanging out in this cemetery for 2 hours until they decided to move it. Asking these guys how long it would take was an interesting discussion.
Speaking of language, I really did not have that hard of a time here, because although the Slovenians have their own language, the country is so small (New Jersey) that most speak English to communicate with the other European countries surrounding them.
I ended up in the small town of Kobarid for the next 2 nights. I chose this location as it was in the middle of the Soca Valley and there were numerous trails in the area and a world-class WW1 museum next to my lodging.
After checking in, I walked to the town center to read a book with a couple of beers, watching the goings on of small-town life.
1st observation is that everyone smokes here, and all have that painful-sounding smoker cough like you want to reach a suction device down in there. 2nd observation is in a small-town people park wherever they please. As I sat at the main intersection (no traffic light) people would just park in the middle of the road and go into a store, maybe coming out 30 min to an hour later. This happened on multiple occasions. I get exasperated by such things in my town, but at the same time it is frustrating, it is quant in this setting.
The next day I followed a historical trail around the city. It had stops for various monuments, churches, and early human settlements.
Near the end of the Kobarid Historical Trail, I came upon the Kozjak waterfall.
Below was the half-ass route they created to get you to the waterfall. This would not fly in the US. There would be a boardwalk the entire way with guardrails and fencing encasing the boardwalk, and maybe a conveyor belt on the boardwalk. No, on second thought they would just have a video screen at the trailhead showing you camera footage of the waterfall and that would be good enough.
Coming back into town I stopped at the WW1 museum. This is an incredibly thorough museum on the conflict, specifically, the battles fought in the area between the Italians and the Slovenians as part of the Austro-Hungarian army. This was where Hemmingway got his start as an ambulance driver for the allies.
The land I was standing on actually became part of Italy for a while. In addition to the WW1 battles, the museum also chronicled how WW2 and even the Yugoslavian wars affecting the locals. Just an incredible amount of fighting in such a small area of the world. I don’t think Slovenians were ever gung-ho on fighting in most of these wars, but once people start attacking your homeland, you need to defend yourself, or at least that was their take on things.
The next stop was Tomlin and another gorge. By this time I had my fill of gorges, just like I had my fill of hot springs while in Yellowstone
A quick stop in Kana lob Soci, where even their fire hydrants are skinnier than the fat dumpy American version.
I stopped for the night at the seaside town of Parin. Not much of Slovenia is on the coast, less than 50kms I would say.
After walking through the walled city, I checked into the hotel, grabbed my suit, and went swimming in the Adriatic. Not that cold at all. I should keep track of how many Seas and Oceans I have been in, as I think I have covered quite a few.
While strolling along the waterfront I wanted to find a seafood restaurant. By this time I was tired of sausage and potatoes. I found one that was empty, which made me nervous, but turned out that later in the evening, when normal people eat, it was packed.
While enjoying my meal, I would watch the people walk by the pizza place next door. They would look at the menu outside. I could imagine them saying, “Oh look honey they have pepperoni on their pizzas and look at this they also offer one with Mushrooms…we have to try it!” I know third-world countries are obsessed with pizza places, for good reason. They have high margins and the ingredients don’t really spoil. But for some reason, they are obsessed with pizza here. I mean every other place is a pizza place. It was a bit off-putting when you are trying to get a feel for the regional culinary tastes. I mean I am no Anthony Bourdain, but I do like the eat local.
I finally made my way back to the capital for one more night before I flew home. I spent the day exploring the local castles, parks, and museums.
Being much closer to the war in Ukraine than back in the states, I saw lots of protests, but also found most people I ran into not overly involved in the news cycle. They seem to feel that Ukraine never wanted to be part of Europe in the past, but now that they were being attacked, they were singing a different tune. Regardless, they still felt terrible for the people and what has happened, but they did not feel any fear of being somewhat close to the conflict zone.
For lunch, I ended up at an outdoor food festival. They had every ethnic delicacy known to man here. I stuck with noodles from a Chinese place as I can never get enough noodles. Love those carbs.
The natural history museum was a bit underwhelming. I learned about edible rats and even this magic bone flute that I believe is the world’s first musical instrument
I had another traditional sausage dinner along the river that evening.
I stopped at the main square on the way back to the hotel. It was humming with life on this warm October evening. It felt very Old World. A guy playing some sort of instrument. Another roasting chestnuts. I sat by a statue for 30 minutes just to take it all in. Taking a brief video to try and remind me of this feeling in future times.
That evening I went to the parking area to check on my rental car. I had to be at the airport around 6am and did not want anything to go wrong. I walk down below level and tried to search for a pay terminal for my parking card. I could not find one. I stood by the exit ramp and watched people leave (like some weird stalker). They seemed to put the ticket in a machine and it opened the gate but the transaction was done earlier. I could not find the machine! Eventually, I found it in a random stairwell. I figured I would be good and went to bed.
The next morning at 430am I went down and dropped my key in a box outside the hotel. I was hesitant to do this because once I relinquished my key, the front sliding doors would no longer open, and there was no person at the front desk until at least 9 am. As I said, I dropped the key in an overnight box and went to the vestibule where I would pay for parking. I walked up to the sliding glass doors and they failed to open. This left me with some immediate dreed. I knew this would happen!!!! I walked around and could not find another way into the underground parking garage. I should say that you can't go down the ramp as it has a steel gate that opens and shuts when your ticket is scanned….after paying. There were all these drunk kids around. They were no help. I eventually found another entrance that had a place to slide your ticket to get access to the vestibule. I was in! I went to the machine, inserted my ticket and it asked for 19 Euro. I pulled out a CC and found nowhere to slide it. The machine only takes cash and I had none! WTF. So I left the building and walked down the main street in search of an ATM. Every 5 seconds a taxi would stop in front of me and ask if I needed a ride to the airport. I kept my frustration in check and kept shuffling forward. The first 2 ATMs were behind glass and would not slide open for me. The third opened with my bank card. By this point, I am thoroughly done with sliding glass doors. I remove 50 Euro from ATM and walk back to the parking structure. I scan the ticket and enter, slide my ticket into the machine and feed my 50 in. It keeps spitting it back out. I try and flatten it and pray for it to keep the damn bill, but no such luck. I see an image of money that shows 1,5,20. I assumed at this point that the machine did not take the 50s. great. I left the building again asking anyone on the street if they had change. I wasn’t even trying to get a fair trade. If you give me 20, I will let you keep the other 30 I said. No dice. The kids were all poor and drunk. I finally talked to the next taxi driver that stopped me for a ride to the airport. He had 20, so I let him keep the balance. I went back to the parking building and slide the ticket in the receiver by the door and nothing happened. I did it about 20 more times before I gave up. Is this really happening? I could not get back into the building to pay the parking fee. I was thinking of options. I could break the glass door off its tracks. I tried everything short of just running at the thing. Nothing. I had spent an hour so far fucking around with this parking situation. I found an intercom on a side wall. I was like, there is no way this works, I doubt there are even wires to it in this Eastern-Bloc Hellhole! Amazingly 10 seconds after I pressed the button the door slid open. I completed my transaction, got down to my car, and swiped the ticket again at the gate. It opened and I was off. I needed a drink, but the airport was not serving at 6 am.
Until Next Time