This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
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29 September

Finally left campsite at Punto Sabbione at lunchtime after buying loads of cheap provisions from supermarket (closing down for the season on 30th)and being held up by selfish German hogging the Camper Van service point to clean his car. A sign written in various languages referred to how precious a resource water is and how it should be used sparingly. We presume our German friend couldn’t read.

Stopped off in Jesolo for beer and Internet café. Then drove leisurely to Slovenian border at Goriza. Entered Slovenia a bit trepidaciously, and decided to stay at border overnight. Went into café on border ordered coffee in best Slovenian and Heather made pals with Slovenian girl behind counter. Learned how to pronounce Na svidenje (goodbye) to add to growing vocab of dober dan (hello) and hvala (thanks). Discussed merits of parking with border guard. Very friendly and good English. Impressed with Slovenia already, has a good feel about it.


30 September

Stopped off in Nova Gorica, new town built on Le Corbusier principles after Gorica (Goriza) lost to Italians in war. Friendly car park attendant, everybody is friendly, so far in Slovenia. Got some money out of ATM. 340 Slovenian tolars to the pound with denominations in notes from 10 upwards. 5000 tolar note is about £15. If you like a good sized folding wad of notes, Slovenia is the place for you. We believe they go a long way too but not sure yet how far but a ham butty and a donut was less than £1. Decided to try to get some fishing in on the famous Soca (pronounced) sotcha river. Drove along river valley to Kobarid to nice little campsite on river bank. The river is an amazing blue.

Was totally unaware of Kobarid’s history. It was the centre of horrendous fighting between the Italians and the Austrian/German/Hungarian and Slovenian forces in WW1, known as the Isonzo front. The river gorge being a strategic location. In the decisive battle 500,000 Italians were killed and 250,000 taken prisoner as they were driven back. It seems incredible that such a thing could happen in such a remote place with nothing but mountains and river gorges all around. Kobarid is Caporetto in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.. Having ascertained that the fishing season was still on, we went in search of a fishing licence (about £35 for the day), but chance of monster Soca trout.

Slap Kojack

Slap Kojack

Did the Kobarid historical walk in the afternoon. Probably one of the most interesting and pleasant walks I have ever done. Its route is along one side of the river, uphill through the woods past various memorials to WW1, to an ancient archaeological site of a 6th century hill fort, down through WW1 trenches, over a rickety suspension bridge over the amazing river, to Slap Kozjack a fabulous waterfall at the end of a hidden valley, straight out of Tolkein and then back along the river to our campsite.

Haven’t mentioned culinary exploits for a while. Seafood risotto followed by Heather’s “Black Forest Trifle” (chocolate sponge soaked in brandy with black cherry ice cream and fruit yoghurt). The wine was a great disappointment in Italy, expensive and not very exciting, so we have been drinking rather thin but cheap 3 for the price of 2 vino de mesa at about 95p a time. Slovenia’s vineyards are widespread and the southern ones seem to do a lot of Merlot so planning on that for tomorrow.

Amazing blue river

Amazing blue river

Various German groups on campsite either canoeing or paragliding. According to the very nice German guy we met coming out of the Sauna,(faith back in German nation), while we washed up, the thermals here are “optimal”. They glide from the summit of Stol the local mountain at over 2000 metres and fly for ages. It must be amazing.


1 October Thursday

Up early to go fishing. (Haven’t been up early for any other reason) Weather overcast, (excuses already) . Didn’t see a fish all morning, and was absolutely frozen up to my goolies ( technical term for tops of waders, geographically correct too) , when two blokes came down to the edge of the river and poured in a load of fish from a big plastic container. So much for the wild fish I have come to try and catch. Finally sussed out which fly being taken, trusty old snipe and purple, and caught a tiny marble trout and small grayling. Decided to have afternoon off and come back for the evening rise. Arrived to see another fisherman in my spot hauling out 3lb rainbow trout, shortly followed by another ! I did not get another touch all night. Discussed pros and cons of promoting the Soca river as anglers paradise and then stocking it with rainbow trout with fellow anglers who were Swiss. Neither of us very happy. Walking back to campsite in the dark and a car screeches to a halt. “Do any good “ a Slovenian voice enquired “Do you like our river, the Soca ?”. Pleasantries exchanged he set off. Thirty yards further on he screeched to a halt again on a blind corner and got out of his car. He opened the boot and took something out. “Uh, oh”, I thought “Phantom fisherman mugger about to try and strike !”. “I’ve been fishing too, he said, look at my fish”. Another 3lb rainbow trout caught further down stream”. And after more smiles and nearly being wiped out twice by passing traffic at break neck speed he left. These Slovenes are just so friendly.

Up to the goolies!

Up to the goolies!

Heather went off in search of wine, with her versatile mini petzl torch fastened round her wrist (much used presi from Dave Hermelin for our travels, thanks mate) to ward off vehicles. “Dober dan” Heather fluently remarked to a Slovene in his garden “Whats that ?” he responded, “That’s very practical”, he retorted on hearing it was a torch. How many Brits know the Slovene for practical ?

Spaghetti Bolognese (loads left), garlic bread and Kakovostno Vino (same as qualitatswein) Merlot from Goriska Brda. A litre bottle crown corked like beer. 620 tolars (340 to the £) with 30 tolars back on the bottle. Very pleasant too. Want to try some Cvicek, a dry very Slovenian wine soon.


2 October Thursday

Went into Kobarid to investigate town and award winning museum about the Soca (Alonso) front in two world wars. It is incredible how often this lovely country has been invaded because of its strategic position. Cycled down the Soca valley to the outskirts of Tolmin. What a beautiful lush countryside, with meadows of wild flowers, contented looking cows, lop eared sheep and sleepy villages with little or no pollution or rubbish visible all surrounded by tree covered mountains.

Stopped for beer in camp bar, discovered Zlatorog (mountain goat), an excellent brew at nearly 5% alcohol and very tasty. Not bad for 80p. Young lad appeared with cup of tea and half a tumbler of clear liquid. “What are you drinking with your tea ?” Heather was forced to ask. “ “Schnapps, its medicinal”, the Slovene lad replied in perfect English, lighting a cigarette. “I’ve got a bad throat”. Zganje or spicka seem to be the local versions. Beware of locals inviting you to “Pridite na kupico”, “have a drop”. “And what are you drinking ?”, she asked another. Once more the reply was in perfect English, “Zlatorog, the same as you and coke”. We had a discussion about beverages, which mix soft drinks and alcohol, from kalimoto (red wine and coke from the basque country) to various Slovenian lemon and orange flavoured beers and Smile a particularly lethal sounding cocktail. Discussed Slovenian politics and outlook. Decided even more that we like this green, environmentally friendly and amiable country.

Feta cheese salad starter, converted left over bolognese into Chilli and more Merlot.


3 October Friday

Left Kobarid and headed for Llubljana via Franja, an unique W.W.II partisan hospital hidden in a ravine up in the mountains above Cerkno. The original wooden huts , with their bunk beds and operating theatres with equipment still survive. You have to admire the resilience of this lovely people who have been invaded so many times. This hospital was both impressive and atmospheric. You could imagine the wounded being carried up the stream in the bottom of the ravine, blindfolded for secrecy, at night by dedicated caring nursing and support staff. Their commitment is admirable, the lengths they went to to keep this place hidden was fantastic.



Carried on through the edge of the Julian Alps to Skofia Loka, one of Slovenia’s conserved traditional towns. Parked up in car park for the night, awaiting the mediaeval castle and other buildings to be lit up like fairyland.



Feasted on pasta and Chilli again, with Slovenian bread. The bread is all excellent, wholesome substantial and tasty. A great improvement on that which we have had elsewhere so far on our journey. Finished off the Merlot.

Fairyland was a little disappointing but the storm that night lasted 8 hours and next day the quiet little river we were parked next to was a raging torrent.


4 October Saturday

Breakfasted in typical Slovenian cake, coffee and booze café. Excellent quality and value. All the shops have computer linked tills, much more technically competent than good old UK. Ran out of gas. Been a worry for some time as to how to replace existing bottles. Currently we have a small UK calor gas bottle, a French one and a German one. Usually companies only deal with their own bottles. Have set up emergency system using camping gas so switched to that.

Drove on to Llubliana the Slovenian capital, found the camp site despite duff instructions in guide book. Caught bus into town. Excellent public transport network, flat fares and comprehensive regular service. Locals all have travel cards. Missed town centre and ended up in suburbs, kicked off by driver in centre of town on return. First impressions of Llubliana centre, “where is it ?” and then we found the old town. But the city seems extremely quiet.

Lovely old buildings along the Llubliana river. Went to the castle to view “virtual museum” of Llublianas history. Looked very fetching in 3D glasses. Show good despite fidgety Japanese. Discovered that tomorrow the castle was to host a mediaeval day. Decided to return next day.

Wandered the streets and found DVD shop, hired one, had a few beers and asked why the place was so quiet. The answer was that Friday night had been hot and everyone had been out got addled and were now still “hanging over”. As we were ravenous, we succumbed to McDonalds chips. Vowed, (again), never to stoop so low.


5 October Sunday

Greeted by mediaeval knights guarding the castle gates. Soon joined by throng of folk in mediaeval costumes amongst much pomp and circumstance. Treated to displays of flag twirling (very difficult in gusty, windy weather), sword fighting, drumming.

Got lunch at the museum café. Two bits of fried chicken, two enormous fat filled frankfurters, doorsteps of bread, pickles, hot wine and coffee for just over £2.

Mediaeval Day        I think I've pulled

Mediaeval Day                                           I think I've pulled

Inside in the main hall groups of various nationalities gave renditions of their folk culture: Galician Pipe band, Czech folk dance, a choir from Trieste, Excalibur (a band of comic sword fighters, whom we think we have seen on UK TV) and a superb local band with drums, pipes, flutes and horns of all sizes, finished off by comic juggling and fire-eating. I have always been sceptical about folk dancing etc. ever since my first and only skive off school, when at Primary School I was going to be forced to do Country Dancing in public and wearing my woggle !! I enjoyed most of this though. It was lively, evocative and fun. Most of the performers were young too which gave it credibility somehow.

Wandered the streets again in the rain, we have had a lot of that this week, and settled on a couple of beers and kebab styled pittas. Two drunken Brits were enhancing our reputation as international pillocks in the fast food shop.


6 October Monday

Solved the gas problem. Negotiated wrong instructions on map, to find a gas depot that fills gas bottles. Cheap too. Now we will have enough gas for a couple of months. Richard very relieved. The city has come alive at last. It is now more like the capital that we expected. Went to Cyber café. Free use of internet if you bought a drink. Very enlightened. The market is in full swing. Loads of stalls selling quality veg and other bits. Spent £4 on pineapple, figs, lettuce, cucumber, peppers, onions etc. Bought most from little old lady down from the hills.

Had lunch in gostilna (hostelry) (Sokol) which specialises in traditional Slovenian cooking. Highlights being wild mushroom soup served in a bowl made up of a special scooped out bread loaf, Venison (vanish on the menu) Goulash, hand made bread, local red wine and a really gooey, sticky pudding of nuts, honey, curd cheese, pastry and fruit in the backlava style but gooier. Pleasantly stuffed, promised even gooier pudding next time we go by hyperactive waiter. I want to return if time and budget allows as the Vanish plate (or Venison medallions in cherry sauce, Stag steak, Wild Boar with plums, sausage, buckwheat mash, bread dumpling and vegetables) sounds right up my street.

Soup in Bread Pot        Vanish Pot

Soup in Bread Pot                                             Vanish Pot     

Bought some wild mushrooms (Penny Buns, Porcini or Cepes) on market and was offered a whole box of rather dubious ones very cheap. Declined but wish I had bought them now. Consulted the oracle and discovered that they were Delicious Milk-Caps or from the same family an orange fungus which exudes green staining milk. Common edibles. Mushroom gathering is a Slovenian national sport. Went comparing prices in department stores. Very similar to UK for most things. Somehow expected to be cheaper, especially ski equipment..

Still stuffed from lunch so prepared pork a la crème with wild mushrooms and leeks for the following day.


7 October Tuesday

Cold overcast day. Discovered leak in van, water on floor. Only a jubilee clip needing tightening. Mental note to check them all due to weather getting colder.

Sent Heather off shopping so I could play on computer in peace. A bit concerned about weather as we want to go back into the mountains to Lake Bled and Bohinj. Heather returned from shopping, not spent a fortune thank God. Ate Pork etc. very good, still pi**ing down with rain. Went to wash up. Found a couple of Aussies trying to cook in toilet block and a couple of French Canadians contemplating putting up tent in toilet block to avoid torrential rain. Invited them all back to camper van for tea and coffee and warm in camper. Had a little tea and coffee and lots of brandy, spiced rum, gin and wine. Discussed travelling throughout the world. Aussies same age as us but French Canadians ten years older and still hitching and backpacking around Europe.



8 October Wednesday

Internet café failure followed by another lunch at Sokol. Pizza and Veal stew with buckwheat mash, very tasty. Had the gooier pud, but disappointed. Pointed out that Vanish plate should read Venison plate. English Menu may change in future.!!

Not a bad billet        Lake Bohinj

Not a bad billet                                                         Lake Bohinj  

Headed for Lake Bled, lovely quiet motorway. Lake Bled a bit like Windermere hard to find quiet bits, carried on to Bohinj. Parked in idyllic spot next to Lake in trees in campsite closed for season. Well, they should not have left the barrier open.


9 October Thursday

Awoke to sunshine, clear skies and lake view. Another kingfisher day, this one sped off across the lake from in front of our camper. Set off to walk to Slap Savica, a 30 metre waterfall up from the lake. Beautiful walk through the woods and past lovely chalets and huts. Very disappointed because path closed due to rock fall had to walk back down without seeing waterfall. Made you realise that this countryside is for real, not just for tourists !. The mountain walks here look fantastic, You can get to the top of Triglav, the highest Slovenian peak from here, in fact no Slovene is classed as a man unless he has done it at least once in his life.

Walked down to cable car up to Vogel, the local Ski resort. Caught cable car up only 36 kms of runs but it looks like it would be very quaint and fun to ski. Would like to return in winter for a day. We walked down a red run all the way down into the valley. Expecting aching thighs tomorrow. Next time on planks. Went into Ribcev Lev for provisions. Looked down the Lake from bridge, lake in front of bridge full of several hundred Rainbow trout (eating anything tourists threw to them) near to surface with some big brown trout deeper down. Two monsters of fish, 10lbs + swam idly into the Lake. Socas or Marble Trout I presume.

Rough camped again in informal rustic car park, having been refused permission to camp in closed site. In season there is obviously a problem with a glut of camper vans trying to avoid paying for overnight stays. No parking signs all over. Very chilly overnight, Alpine temperatures, glad of blown air heating. Heather getting desperate for Launderette not washed for nearly 2 weeks (clothes that is). Smalls not worn inside out yet. Richard does not understand problem.

Soup, Fried fish, salad and fresh fruit.


10 October Friday

Went hunting a launderette in Lake Bled (well on the shores, Heather not succumbed to washboard yet). Laundrette eventually found up back streets into hills, turned out to be Laundry in someone’s garage with a two day lead time. Spent two hours in Internet café setting up new E-mail account (to overcome insurmountable problems provided by previously reliable ISP) and inputting all address book and latest update to friends back home. Sent at last. A this moment Hotmail rules Totalise sucks.

Skojan Caves

Skojan Caves

Set off for Skojan caves. South of Llubliana. Struck once more by the beauty of Slovenian countryside. Managed to service van on motorway, filled up with water and emptied foul water. Ways of servicing the van become critical when wild camping. We have 100+ litres of water in the tank but washing up takes more than you would imagine. Must tell Heather to use less (Ouch !). Arrived at Skojan after tours closed to park over night in empty Car Park.

Parasol Mushrooms

Parasol Mushrooms

Walked to impressive viewpoint over sink holes, knew that tomorrows tour underground would be special.

Soup, Pork Chops, eggs, cheese and biscuits, several G & Ts.


11 October Saturday

Out of van, washed, breakfasted and ready for action for 0930 ready for 1000hrs tour. British all comers record for last month (except Florence). Not normally moving before 1100 hrs. Tour through cave, spectacular. Highlight walking across narrow bridge 45 metres above the river Reka flowing through Europe’s largest underground cavern (Unesco recognition in 1986). Heather getting very brave with heights, preparing for parapenting adventure in future. Caves were very Lord of the Rings as was graffiti in the Loo. “ Moria is bigger, greetings Durin”.

Set off for southern Croatian coast in search of warm. Ten miles from caves pulled in to let traffic pass onto roadside park. “What are those people putting in their car” Richard exclaimed, jumping from van and approaching slightly wary locals. Mushrooms, Parasol Mushrooms, three carrier bags full. Next two hours spent collecting mushrooms, parasol and field. Got a carrier bag full, very enjoyable. Back in van , Croatia in 20 minutes. Stopped at Duty Free and stocked up with Brandy, Gin and chocolate. Crossed into Croatia. Seems different already. After 2 weeks nearly in Slovenia, we love that country, its landscape and its friendly people.



[Loire/Ile De Re] [Dordogne and Gorges] [Summer Alps] [Italy] [Slovenia] [Croatia] [On The Road To Morrocco] [Monte Carlo or Bust] [Spain, Benidorm and Gibraltar] [Rabat And All That] [El Jadida, Ounara, Essouria] [More meanderings & out of Africa] [Snowmads] [Snowmads 2] [Richard -  The BIG 50 !!!] [Eastern Europe] [Eastern Europe (cont)]


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