DAY 3 Zelenci, Podkoren, Rateče
We woke up to the sound of rain outside our window so we thought it might be nice to have an easy day to recover and check the emerald green pools in Zelenci. In our book it was included as Walk 1 so it sounded promising. Poles again were left in the hotel room. This time there really was no need for them.
Following our guide we went towards village of Podkoren, crossing lovely flower meadows, passing traditional hayracks and admiring the views. (Bit of historic trivia: Sir Humphrey Davy, the English inventor of miner’s safety lamp, used to live in this little village).
From Podkoren the route joins the cycle track, which was built over the old railway line, closed in 1966. The track runs for miles and is well used by cyclists of all ages. There are plenty of benches and an occasional restaurant for those who need a break and some refreshments. I think I must have had a “bench day” and decided I wanted to sit on every single one I saw – more to stop and admire the views rather than because the walk was tiring. We ignored a couple of signs pointing us in the direction of Zelenci and followed the loop route from our book, going to Rateče first. The colourful beehives and a green-eyed fly are pretty much all I remember from passing that little village.
A short walk from Rateče we finally got to Zelenci. Since it’s right next to a road, there were a few more people than we expected or met along the way. It still wasn’t busy by any means and with a little patience we managed to get the place to ourselves, even if it was for a couple of minutes.
Zelenci are the pools that are the source of Sava river – the longest river in Slovenia, that crosses Croatia and eventually flows into Danube in Serbia. Apparently the pools never freeze and regardless of how cold it gets outside the water temperature stays at constant 5-6 degrees C.
But most of all they have this amazing emerald green colour, turning sky blue in places. And with the backdrop of Ponca and Jalovec they really are beautiful.
On a way back we passed a flied with ostriches: half an hour and 100 pictures later we were good to move on and go back to Kranjska Gora.
It was a slightly shorter day and we came back around 4. Strangely enough it so happened that each day going forward we were back at the same time – 4pm. And our first port of call was ice cream shop Charlie – highly recommended – big selection of delicious flavours and the scoops are very generous too. Every day after ice cream we went for a swim to the sister hotel of ours – Ramada resort, then shower, dinner and afterwards another sweet treat in slaščičarna Kala. After first visit in that place we knew we’d be back – slices are massive (some cakes were better than others, but that’s understandable – De gustibus non est disputandum), coffee delicious and staff very friendly…
DAY 4 Sredni Vrh, Gozd Martuljek, Martuljkov Slap
So we have this thing that we like seeing stuff that is on covers of our guide books. When we found out that the view on our Slovenian book was taken along the route to Sredni Vrh, which happened to be near Kranjska Gora, we had to include that walk in our plans.
Brief description of the walk promised wonderful views (eg cover photo) so we hoped for good weather and neither disappointed.
As instructed we followed the Route 2, through the forest, past Galerše towards village of Sredni Vrh. The ascent is gentle and the total climb on this section was only about 300m, so quite a nice and easy walk. When we reached the balcony path the promised views opened up: Velika Pišnica valley with magnificent peaks of Vršić, Razor and Prisank in the background.
When we finally picked up our dropped jaws and finished taking pictures we continued on. (By the way we didn’t get to take the cover photo – we figured it was taken from a terrace of a nearby house rather than from the path). We saw our route’s marker pointing up but unsure where the up was, we carried on up on the main path. Soon enough we realised (thanks to smartphone’s GPS!) that we weren’t going quite in direction we planned so we turned and back tracked our footsteps to the marker we saw earlier. After squeezing past the cattle gate and scrambling up the little hill we finally found the path we were supposed to be on – the obvious path doesn’t always turn out to be the right one…
Original plan was to get to Sredni Vrh and take route 19 back to Kranjska Gora. But since the day was still young and we were relatively close to Gozd Martuljek, which was a starting point of another walk we wanted to take, we decided to go for it. As there is no marked route to Gozd Martuljek from Sredni Vrh we just followed the road – hairpin after hairpin on tarmac road wasn’t much fun but 40 minutes later we were back on a marked route – this time route 6 towards Martuljkov slaps.
The track runs through a spectacular gorge with steep walls on either side before it starts climbing up towards first of the waterfalls: the Spodnji slap (lower fall). It is a more impressive of the two and runs 29m from the top.
From here we marched on to the second slap – the track was more difficult and in places very steep. It was really more about the journey then the destination. The second waterfall drops 130m but in three stages so it doesn’t make the same impression as the lower one. A dangerously looking path takes the brave (or mad) ones further up for a look of the higher stages of the drop. I wasn’t interested, Geoff went bit further up but came back saying that the view wasn’t worth the scramble. Besides we had a long way down back to Kranjska. On a way back we passed the charcoal burning site and shortly after joined the cycle path towards Kranjska – even though it was tarmac, it was a pleasant flat change to all ups and downs of the walk so far. Straight to Charlie for well deserved ice cream!
DAY 5 Slemenova špica, Tamar, Planica, Kranjska Gora
Very early start today, as we wanted to catch an early bus to Vršič Pass. We went to a bakery for our lunch pastries before having a very quick breakfast at the hotel and then we were off. Except that bus didn’t come and we were rather annoyed, especially as the day before we even bothered to check in Tourist Information if that bus was running, and of course we were told that it was.
An hour later we were finally on the bus heading towards the pass, this time as our starting point rather than the final destination. We got off and immediately took the wrong path, twice (!), before finally finding the same track that brought us to Vršič Pass on our first day.
It was a pleasant steady climb through dwarf pines towards saddle of Vratca, where the path splits and takes you either towards Mala Mojstrovka (a much more challenging walk) or towards Sleme. Following the path to Sleme, we soon turned another corner and a brand new view opened in front of us: Mala Pišnica valley, Ciprnik and Austrian Alps in the distance. And the views kept changing every few steps we took.
The guidebook warns that Slemenova špica is a very popular peak to climb and that in summer you might end up at the top with half of the Slovenia. And although it was busier than on any other of our routes, it still wasn’t crowded and the high pasture of Sleme certainly offered enough space for everyone. And the panoramic views of Jalovec and Tamar valley below were absolutely breath-taking. But also a bit daunting since we knew we had to descent all that way.
We chose the route via Slatnica saddle towards Tamar. At first the path was quite friendly and allowed to admire the closing walls of nearby peaks, but after a while there was more scree and we had to be careful where our feet went. And then we got to Tamar waterfall (Črna Voda) and seeing the path (or rather lack thereof) we were to follow down, I was almost ready to go back where we came from.
But we carried on, managed to get to the bottom and from there (Tamar) it was pretty much a flat (if not short) walk back to Kranjska Gora, with a short break in Planica to check the highest ski jump in the world. We even got to see some jumpers practicing on lower ski jumps – brave people.
DAY 6 Planica, Cipernik, Vitranc
The last day welcomed us with rain. We had a planned route already and weren’t prepared to change it – it was our last day after all. But since the plan was to come back via Planica, the route we did the previous day and the weather forecast looked more promising for the second part of the day, we decided to do our route in reverse.
After a long breakfast, clad in our raincoats, we set off on our last walk. The light rain lasted maybe 5 minutes and after that it stopped completely. It stayed cloudy but at least we weren’t getting wet.
The walk to Planica was rather uneventful – one of those “need to get there” situations. But from there the steep ascent started pretty much straight away. It was a lovely walk in the woods, bit eerie with the trees in the cloud but we enjoyed it a lot. We checked pretty much every gap offering a viewpoint but all we could see was cloud. So we decided that we were going to enjoy the walk and not hope for any views, even though we were promised some spectacular ones from the top of Ciprnik.
Up and up we went and in the end, when we got to the fork where Ciprnik was further up one way and Kranjska Gora via Vitranc the other, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to go up to Ciprnik just to see more clouds. But Geoff managed to convince me and so we turned right.
Half way up we were overtaken by human incarnations of mountain goats, when we got a surprised glimpse of peaks poking through the cloud. By the time we got to the very top it was all cloud again. But then we had a quick drink of water and when we turned around we saw this amazing view, still through the clouds, but if anything that added to the splendour. We were totally awed by the views and since they kept coming and going we lingered at the top for a while.
We had to retrace our steps back to the place where the path split and then we carried on towards Vitranc. Even though it’s a peak, it’s not marked as such, so you may well miss it, but the woodland path between Ciprnik and Vitranc is really pleasant.
Shortly after passing Vitranc we reached the second of the chairlifts that is closed during summer. From there the path down was supposed to run underneath the chairlift, so even though it didn’t quite look like a path we started descending. Luckily Geoff quickly realised our mistake so we scrambled back up and found the right path down. Not that this one was much easier – pretty steep and slippery after earlier rain, it took a lot of our attention and knee power to get back down. We were wishing for some snow and skies to whizz down but instead had to march in the increasingly hot sun. The thought of ice cream kept us going, and as usual, we were sitting down with two big portions at 4 o’clock on the dot.
Perfect end to a perfect trip.