I don’t often write a blog, but I cannot help but share my Slovenian walking holiday experience with you.
This was my first visit to this country, of course I had read and heard much about the Julian Alps and Lake Bled, but the reality far exceeded all my expectations.
After a long journey from Venice airport we arrived at this peaceful, calm and beautiful area.
Lake Bled lies in a valley surrounded by the Julian Alps, and has as its centre-piece a romantic-looking island, which reminded me of a jewellery box waiting to be opened.
Next to the lake, Bled Castle rises majestically on the craggy rocks. At the foot on the hill, St. Martin’s Church is an imposing feature. Taking in the view as you arrive feels like stepping into a fairy-tale, and creates an atmosphere of awe - you feel this is the most beautiful place you have ever seen.
On every walking day, there were three different walking level options to choose from (to suit your own level of experience) and the first day I walked with the moderate group. Our group leader was a well-informed, with a good sense of humour.
Firstly, we passed next to the lake and next to the Vila Bled, which was a formal royal summer home and later President Tito’s residence. After a short walk through a forest, we turned up to the hill and climbed Mala Osojnica. From there, we got a breath-taking view of the lake and Bled.
From here we continued our walk to Bohenjska Bela, Kupljenik and Ribno. These are very pretty, small villages where you can see how the people live in the Slovenian countryside – and taste it too, at the last one we could to try the local bee beer.
On the second walking day, we discovered the Lake Bohinj area. Lake Bohinj is bigger and cooler than Lake Bled and its crystal-clear water amazed us. Both are glacial lakes, but the water changes three times a year in Lake Bohinj, whereas only once in every three years in Lake Bled. The Lake Bohinj is without island and castle, but the scenery is enthralling.
We went across the Mostnica gorge where the walking path leads next to the Mostnica river’s dazzling dale framed rock formations.
Of course, after the walk we rested and refreshed ourselves with some local drinks.
On the third walking day, I felt brave enough to choose the hard route. This proved a great decision.
The Pokljuka high plateau could show its real face for me. The walk was really hard; half way we just climbed up and up; but the reward was wonderfully worth the price.
We felt the enormous mountains very close, they towered in front of us. This was one of the most impactful parts of the Triglav National Park for me.
After a couple of walking days, you wish to see something else: cities, culture, people… so sightseeing in Ljubljana next day was perfect.
We got a very professional guide, Mateja, who led us by foot - and also by boat - across the capital of Slovenia, and provided us with interesting details about the lifestyle and culture.
The boat was an amazing hand-made boat, big brother of the "pletnas" which take the tourist to the island on the Lake Bled. We just sat back, supped our drinks and listened to Mateja stories.
After the guided tour, we had some free time to discover the local cafés, pubs and restaurants… and for those in the group whose appetite for culture was not yet sufficiently satisfied, there was the chance to visit the Ljubljana Castle as well.
We had a free day next, when we visited the local attractions all together.
First of all, the pretty island was the goal. Our “pletna” glided across the water, guided by the boatman's strong arms.
We arrived on the island fairly quickly, where 100 stairs waited for us. We were very lucky because nobody was engaged in our group. The local tradition is that the bridegroom takes and lifts the fiancée to the church which is on the top of the island.
Another tourist tradition is that if somebody pulls the bell of the church that person will be a millionaire soon. You hear the bell ring very often. (Of course, you have to pay to pull it.)
In the afternoon we climbed up to the Castle. The view was so stunning that we gazed in awe and found it very hard to move away ready for the knight show that evening.
The show was well done and a pleasant feature before the dinner, which was served in the Castle Restaurant’s panorama room. We pleasantly-surprised our birthday-girl traveller, who later told us this was her best holiday ever.
After the delicious meal, we walked down to the hotel, but we were stopped by St. Martin’s church, which seemed to invite us in very mysteriously in the semi-darkness. Inside a choir sang in the candle light, between medieval frescos.
The next walk was near Kranjska Gora between Bled and the second holiday base, Kobarid.
We were very fortunate that the night and morning rain was gone when we started the walk. We moved beside the Triglavska Bistrica forward to a mountain hut where we had a nice lunch break surrounded by the high mountains.
After we followed the Sava river to the pretty Jasna Lakes where all our walking group levels re-joined. We got our coach and continued the travel to Kobarid.
Kobarid is a beautiful, natural place and profoundly sad and important as a historical memorial site.
Here was the Battle of Caporetto, also known as the Twelfth Battle of the Isonzo, in World War I. 40,000 soldiers died and 20,000 were injured there.
The St. Antona church memorial place and the Kobarid Museum commemorates the sacrifice of the soldiers.
The scenery was little bit different here than other part of the Julian Alps.
In the wide sunny valley of the River Isonzo several little villages hide in the hilly countryside.
Firstly, we visited the St. Antona church memorial place, after that we went across the Napoleon Bridge of the River Isonzo.
The waterfall of the River Kozjak and the walking route to it, walking between the high rock walls, provided a very special experience for everybody.
We passed through and reached a sunny eye in the wall, with neatly well-kept fields. Here we met an 80-year-old man who was harvesting the grain. He looked very fit and happy.
In the heart of Dreznica village, was the interesting Parish Church of the Sacred Heart. We had a break in this village and everybody rested in a local restaurant.
An extra option that day was to visit Tolmin Gorge.
Those who chose to go enjoyed unforgettable views of the crystal-clear water going across between narrow and high rock walls. It was a very impressive and picturesque short walk.
In Kobarid, we caught an event in the evening; a local "Beatles band" was playing. It was a great fun!
The last part of the holiday was in Venice.
This city, of course, has so much to see you will always find something new. St. Mark’s Square, Doge Palace and St. Mark’s Cathedral next the Clock Tower are the most striking emblems of the city. A lot of narrow streets, pretty restaurants and romantic Lagunas give it its unique atmosphere.
It was only a taste, we would definitely have needed more days to explore its museums, old churches (with beautiful interiors) or take a trip to the islands.
This holiday was a very remarkable 10 days which contained everything a visitor - and particularly a walker - could wish to see and experience.
It was an unforgettable experience of the Julian Alps and of Slovenian culture, finished off nicely with little Italian culture – in the good company of people who share similar interests.
I hope we will go back to Slovenia with more people who would like to see these outstanding places.