Hiking Trip in Slovenia part 2

DAY 3 Zelenci, Podkoren, Rateče

 

Distance: 15km

Ascent: 317m

Descent: 320m

 

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).

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Path runs through some lovely meadows

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Traditional hayracks

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We discovered some monster slugs living in Slovenia (glad they’re not in my garden!)

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Podkoren

 

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On the bench in the centre of Podkoren

 

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.

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Another bench, another view

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Tradional painted beehives in Rateče

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Isn’t she lovely

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.

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Zelenci

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.

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Springs at the bottom of pools form little volcanoes

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…

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Our cake selection in slaščičarna Kala

 

DAY 4 Sredni Vrh, Gozd Martuljek, Martuljkov Slap

Distance: 22km

Ascent: 725m

Descent: 861m

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.

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View of Kranjska Gora

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On the balcony path

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.

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Lower Martuljkov Slap

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!

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Through the enchanting forest to Slap 2

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Upper waterfall

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The view was better than the waterfall

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A cycle path with a view

 

DAY 5 Slemenova špica, Tamar, Planica, Kranjska Gora

 

Distance: 17km

Ascent: 536m

Descent: 908m

 

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.

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Mala Mojstrovka from saddle of Vratca

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.

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Amazing views with every step

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Austrian Alps in the background

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.

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High pasture at Sleme – plenty of room for half of Slovenia

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Panoramic view from Slemanova špica

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.

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This apparently is not how you tackle fallen trees…

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Down towards Tamar

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This is the path. Really.

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.

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Ski jump in Planica

DAY 6 Planica, Cipernik, Vitranc

 

Distance: 15km

Ascent: 941m

Descent: 782m

 

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.

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Ski jumps in Planica

 

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Gloomy mountains in the cloud

 

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Up towards Ciprnik

 

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Don’t forget to look up

 

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.

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Right to Ciprnik or left back home?

 

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.

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First glimps of what’s behind those clouds

 

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View from Ciprnik

 

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.

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This is the wrong way down

 

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Rather bleak part of Vitranc.

 

Perfect end to a perfect trip.

Hiking Trip in Slovenia part 1

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…

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On top of Triglav, 1997

 

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

 

Distance: 24km

Ascent: 885m

Descent: 936m

 

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.

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Jezero Jasna with its famous Zlatorog

 

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.

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Russian Chapel

 

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.

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One of the switchbacks on a way to Vršič Pass

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…

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The views were amazing though, even if the pass itself was rather busy…

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At the top road turns into a parking lot

 

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…

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Burek time – lunch with a view

 

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Breathtaking views of Prisank, Škrlatica and Špik

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Looking for Ajdovska Deklica’s face

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Found it in the end – adjusted contrast for better visibility

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

 

Distance: 12km

Ascent: 405m

Descent: 285m

 

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.

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Bled

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Bled Castle

 

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.

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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.

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Gondolas waiting for customers

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.

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And that was an easy bit

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Awed by the view

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Blejski Otok – Bled Island

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.

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Hiking poles were left in a hotel room, again

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.

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Cream cake in Park Restaurant and Cafe in Bled

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And the view that comes with the cake

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…