A few weeks ago we came back from our first holiday since our honeymoon. I actually found it quite surprising that it has taken us that long, but I guess work and life got in the way.
But at the beginning of July we finally manged to book time off and decided on the destination: Slovenian Alps. I have been to Slovenia before. It really didn’t seem that long ago, but when I checked the date on the pictures (prints with the date written by me on the back of them!) it turned out it was nearly 20 years ago! As a young and fit person back then I conquered the highest peak in Slovenia – Triglav. It was not our goal this time round…
It turned out that it was cheaper to book a package holiday including flights, transfer and half board than to make our own travel and accommodation arrangements. Less hassle for us. We just needed to plan our daily trips. Even that wouldn’t be necessary if we were interested in signing up and coughing up some cash on daily excursions organised by our travel company. But we had our own agenda and it included a lot of hiking.
Our flight was leaving from Gatwick so we needed an early start to make sure no crashes on M4 could prevent us from getting on our plane. Our car safely parked at the airport carpark and we could relax and kill some time before the departure time. Once on a plane we encountered a delay of some sort and spent an hour on the ground before finally allowed to take off. At least we knew that our transfer would be patiently waiting for us in Salzburg. As it turned out we were the ones who needed to wait for a few more people that were landing after us – the joys of having everything organised for you. After another hour or so of waiting we were finally sitting on the bus heading towards Kranjska Gora. By this time it was dark outside and we could admire beautiful lightning striking in the mountains around us, wondering at the same time how much hiking we’ll be able to do in such weather…
As it turned out weather was very kind to us and even though it did rain occasionally, it was mainly at night or in the evening, letting us enjoy the beautiful mountain views in full sun most of the time.
Below is a summary and a few pictures of our daily walks.
DAY 1 Vršič Pass
Weather forecast was promising, we were full of energy so it was decided that we should tackle the Vršič Pass.
Before we left for Slovenia we bought a very good book on walks in the area (Cicerone: Walking the Julian Alps of Slovenia) and it was our bible for the duration of our stay. Preferring a simple map myself, I am not massively keen on walk descriptions and would probably get lost on a first turn, so it was left to Geoff to navigate us each day and it worked rather quite well. With the small exception of walk duration given for this particular walk…
As with most of or walks we started in Kranjska Gora and followed route 7. First point of interest is the Jezero Jasna with its famous Zlatorog (gold horn ibex) statue. A mere 2 flat km from town and we were already amazed by the view – the green lake against the mountainous backdrop. At that moment we knew we picked the right place and would definitely enjoy our holiday. And it only got better.
The route goes past the lake and after a while the path ends and we had to walk along the road for a bit until we reached another path to Mihov Dom, that runs pretty flat along the river and offers more stunning views. Our route to Vršič Pass crossed the riverbed and followed across the meadow on the other side, up towards the woods. The views from the meadow coupled with the sound of buzzing insects stopped us in our tracks. The heat was what made us move towards the shady path ahead. From this point onwards it was pretty much a steady climb up to Vršič Pass, with a short break to see a Russian chapel, built by POWs during WW1, many of whom died in an avalanche while working in the area.
Russian Road (Ruska Cesta) is quite a popular road among bikers, cyclists and car drivers alike. The number of switchbacks is well known to anyone heading in that direction: 24 coming up from the south side and 26 coming from the other side. The walking route cuts through some of them, so you get a glimpse of struggling cyclists and other vehicles revving past them. You also realise how much further you still need to go.
When we passed turn off to Erjavčeva koča and a sign for switchback number 23 we thought we were nearly there. But then the route takes you still further up, way pass the height of the pass itself to later descent to your actual destination – slightly frustrating when you’re not quite prepared for it and already climbed a few hundred meters up…
The views were amazing though, even if the pass itself was rather busy…
After a short break for Burek (a delicious flaky pastry stuffed with meat, cheese or veg) it was time to head back. The route took us past the Tičarjev and Poštarski dom and the famous rock face of Ajdovska Deklica (sad looking pagan girl – you really need to look hard and use some imagination to match the photoshopped pictures to the rock in front of you). The descent was quite pleasant and offered more incredible views of Prisank, Škrlatica and Špik. According to our book we were supposed to reach Erjavčeva koča after about 15 minutes, which turned to be something closer to 45 minutes – ok we were tired by then and might have had a couple of photo stops but 15 minutes didn’t seem a likely time to cover that distance unless you were maybe on a bike…
Anyway, we marched on, reached switchback 17 and from there rejoined our previous ascent route back to Kranjska Gora. The mere flat 2km from Jezero Jasna seemed much longer on the way back then they did in the morning. We also decided that maybe next time we should take our hiking poles with us, since we brought them all the way from UK, but left them in a hotel room…
It was quite a long day – we got back around 6 – time for a shower and a well-deserved dinner that was awaiting us in our hotel. Unluckily for Geoff it turned out to be their “regional day” so the dishes were mainly Slovenian and accompanied by a live, accordion music… To sum it up: we didn’t hang around for too long. And at least that experience was out of the way…
DAY 2 Bled
It was Geoff’s birthday so I decided that it would be nice to go to Bled, have an easier day and enjoy the beauty of that place. Bled was part of one of the excursions organised by our tour operator but since we don’t do bus tours we decided to do it by ourselves.
Bled is located about 40km from Kranjska Gora and is easily reached by local buses. But there’s only a handful of direct buses, so the easiest way is to get one that goes to Ljubljana and change in Lesce. It really is as simple as that: get on one bus, get off in Lesce, cross the road and catch the bus to Bled. Both tickets together were €6 per person.
Bled is one of those picture perfect places – it has it all: a lovely lake with a small island in the middle, surrounded by beautiful Julian Alps. Walk around the lake is a must, although there are some parts that run right next to a busy road, that take away from that otherwise amazing experience. But every step offers different view and it’s hard not to take a picture every time you look around.
Lake itself is certainly being well utilised: there are gondolas for hire that take tourist to the island or you can rent a boat and row there yourself. There are also numerous beaches dotted around the lake, each full of people catching sun and cooling themselves in the lake.
We wouldn’t be ourselves if we just walked around the lake. Apparently a day without a few hundred meters ascent is a day lost. So Geoff found us a nice walk to Mala Osojnica that had been described as having the “best lake viewpoint of all”. About half way around the lake there’s a path heading up the forest waymarked Route 6. It was much steeper than I anticipated and what I envisaged to be an easy flat day, quickly turned into a steep, hot (read sweaty) ascent, which made me ever so slightly grumpy… but when we got to the top and the bird’s eye view of the lake and all its surroundings opened up before us, I had to give it to Geoff – it was well worth the climb and my temporarily red face. It really was the best view of them all.
We then walked bit further up to Velika Osojnica with a view I would describe as very average. From there we started coming back down towards the lake. As probably a lot of hikers out there would agree, the climb is really the fun bit, it’s the coming down I usually don’t look forward to. Since our poles were comfortably relaxing back in our room I found myself a stick, as the steep descent quickly started to take toll on my knees. When Geoff suggested another viewpoint on the way (Ojstrica) I just gave him a dirty look and moved on. Again ‘up’ I didn’t mind, but what goes up must come down and I already had enough. I was ready for a dip in the lake. So that’s what we did and oh my, did it feel good.
From here onwards our Bled experience went slightly pear-shaped. For a reason we cannot explain we decided to go past the supermarket next to the beach we were on and on a way back to town look for one of those places advertised to have drinkable water anywhere in Bled. That earlier detour to a viewpoint emptied our water bottles and we were both rather parched. Neither of us suggested going up to the castle, we just wanted something to drink. We didn’t find a single fountain with drinking water, which really upset Geoff as he was pointing at a poster announcing that all water in Bled was drinkable. I suggested that maybe they were referring to tap water in your hotel room but since back in Kranjska Gora we could count at least 3 different water fountains within 5 min walk from our hotel, we couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t have even a single one in Bled. At least we were back in town so the idea of cold beer and a slice of Slovenian speciality – a cream cake was enough for me. Geoff just wanted water but agreed to sit down in a restaurant that advertised itself as being a birth place of said cream cake. Unsurprisingly the place was busy, the glass of water Geoff got was tiny so it was his turn to be grumpy. It really was a shame as the cake was good, we had a table with a view and it was his birthday after all. I shall know for the future – when my husband is thirsty find water first.
At least we were lucky on the way home and managed to get a direct bus to Kranjska, which turned out to be cheaper than our morning fare (€5.20) and much faster as it didn’t stop at most bus stops we did on the way to Bled. And there was no accordion guy in our hotel restaurant during dinner…