SLOVENIA, SOCA VALLEY AND LLUBLIANA
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
SLOVENIA LAKE BLED, BOHINJ, SKOJAN CAVES
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
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.
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
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.