canoes, caves, horses, rock-climbing, lakes, gorges, coast, history
08.07.2013 - 15.07.2013 27 °C
I feel S(LOVE)nia
This is the current Slovenian Tourist Board slogan, and from our perspective it is very aptly named. The idea to visit came from a book that was given to us called “Travel with Kids” (thanks Pam!). Although Dan had read that it was a great place to visit, we were unprepared for how beautiful it was going to be. After a 4.30am start from Sicily we picked up a hire car at Trieste airport (what a lovely change). An hour or so on the freeway and we were then on the quiet and stunning country roads leading to Lake Bohinj. When we arrived at our destination we were amazed; it was where the forest meets the lake, sparkling and pristine. Our first excursion was a canoe on the lake. Paddling at a leisurely pace we rounded a corner to find a small bar with a trampoline to jump from the jetty into the lake. The water was crisp but three courageous members braved the elements. Unfortunately we had no money for a cold beer however!
Canoeing on the lake and Jumping in feet first
Vogel and Slavica Slap
Packing a picnic lunch we took the short drive to Ukanc, which is the base point for the chair lift up to Mount Vogel. Vogel is a ski resort near the lake, and for about 40 aussie a day you can ski over 26kms of runs (Nov-Apr). The mountain at 1800 metres is also popular in summer with trekkers and a number of the restaurants are open. Once again this was also an amazing spot, very low key, with views of the lake and the dramatic Julian Alps. The kids loved the fact that cattle, sheep, and goats were grazing on the now lush ski slopes. Following our walk and sampling of the local apple strudel we descended on the cable car and drove to Slavica Slap (slap being the Slovenian word for waterfall). Walking up about 700 steps we reached the waterfall. The fall at times runs behind the rock face, and eventually cascades 60 metres down, spilling into a green pool below.
Vogel and Waterfall
After all these adventures we realised that it was mid-afternoon, so we found a quiet spot on the lake and ravenously tucked into our lunch, including a delicious local cheese we had purchased, before enjoying a relaxing swim in the chill waters. We topped off the day with another canoe trip for Dan and Nat, and a bike ride for Gabi and I (this time we did have the money for the beers!). While we savoured the local brew - Lasko - in the most magical of settings, the words from the song ‘The Riddle' by Nik Kershaw kept going around in our heads, as they had played it up on Mount Vogel. See the video below if you want some 1980's punishment!
Lunch on the Lake
Nik Kershaw Song
Nature was certainly all around us, and that night we had a visit from a furry friend. Dan woke me from a deep slumber and put me into a mild panic when he mentioned that there was a large rat in the room. With both of us hiding in the bathroom we witnessed this bold thief as he pinched an apricot from the bench and then scampered out - fortunately not a rat but a squirrel! For the remaining nights the brave Happells slept with the doors and windows closed ...
Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge
The following day we decided to move in more touristy circles and visit Lake Bled (where according to Dan, Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman fame named one of his horses after the iconic hotel - Vila Bled). Our first port of call was hiring a row boat and rowing out to Bled Island - this is the only natural island in Slovenia. The island also has a beautiful church built in the 17th century. After a swim and another row it was time for a lovely lunch at a traditional Slovenian restaurant on the lakefront - the intriguingly named Osterija Peglez'n.
Topping off the day we paid a visit to Vintgar Gorge. This 1.6km gorge allows you to follow its path along timber platforms that twist and turn and cling to the high rock walls. Underneath the water rushes past in a series of waterfalls and plunges over rocks and into deep green pools. The colours are enhanced by the limestone rock, filtered sun and the stunning dense forrest. In parts we could see small trout swimming against the current. The place was magical and we passed very few tourists.
Bled and Vintgar Gorge
Climb every mountain
Lake Bohinj is certainly the outdoor adventurer's mecca. Rock climbing was next on the agenda, and Gabi was soon kitted out in a pair of climbing shoes, hat and harness. Her instructor was a local Slovenian guy - barking out instructions in a firm but friendly way. After a nervous start and jelly legs Gabi soon overcame her fear and managed to make it to the top of her rope course and ring the bell, with strong praise ringing out below from her parents and instructor. Nat also managed to have a turn, but got a bit stuck near the tree and had to be helped down by the enthusiastic instructor.
Another canoe expedition was in order; this time including a picnic by the lake. On this occasion we managed to paddle right across the lake and found a quiet spot under the trees. However, as is the way of mountain life the skies soon darkened and we were surrounded by dark and threatening clouds, with lightning strikes in the nearby hills. Should we stay or should we go now as The Clash once posed? Paddling into the middle of the lake with metal oars would have made us sitting ducks, so we stayed and sheltered under a thick canopy of trees. Passing a wet and cold 15 minutes with terrified children as massive thunder claps and lightning surrounded us was an unforgettable experience. We also nearly lost the canoe as the wind picked up and turned the once calm lake into a choppy, white capped maelstrom. Finally the storm abated, and wet and cold we paddled quickly back ... a shower and hot chocolate in our b&b room had never felt so good.
Rock climbing and calm before the storm
calm before the storm
Horse Riding and Mostnica Gorge
Our last day commenced with horse riding. This low key establishment (no public liability insurance or flashy advertsments) was based in a lovely nearby town called Studor. All the houses are built in the traditional alpine design, with sloped roofs, timber shutters and flower boxes filled with colourful geraniums. The kids had an opportunity to ride on Icelandic horses (known for their calm temperament and sure footedness), and they loved the experience.
With horse riding now under our belts, we piled into the car for the trip to Mostnica Gorge. Arriving and parking the car we unfortunately missed the small 30cm sign pointing to the main path for the gorge. After an hour of walking we eventually found the correct path. This gorge is also stunning, and quite different to Vintgar as you walk along paths very near to the river. Unfortunately the camera ran out of batteries so I only managed to take a few photos.
Horse Riding and Mostnica Gorge
Ljubljana, Postojna Cave and Piran
It was with heavy hearts that we left Lake Bohinj. This is certainly a place I would return to; it is so low key, no nasty fast food outlets or development, not overcrowded, pristine and beautiful. I just hope that it doesn’t become ruined as it becomes more of a tourist destination. A passing visit to the capital Ljubljana did not disappoint. This charming city with its lovely streets, squares and the famous triple bridge was well worth the detour.
Piling back into the car we made the journey to Postojna Cave; these caves are over 20km long and were created by the Pivka River. It was certainly clear that this was a top tourist site: plenty of massive sign posts, huge car park and a multitude of restaurants and tourist shops. Since it opened to the public in 1819 it has had over 35 million tourists. A train network takes you through most of the 5.3km of cave that is open to the public, followed by a 20 minute guided tour in a language of your choice. It was hard to believe that we had only seen 5.3km of this massive network as it seemed to go on forever. We completed our tourist activities with a visit to impressive Predjama Castle 10 kms down the road - a Renaissance castle built within a cave mouth.
Finally getting into the car before another downpour we drove down to Piran on the Slovenian coast. Slovenia only has 46kms of coastline, and Piran is one of the three major towns on the Slovenian Istria. The town has medieval architecture, with narrow streets and compact houses. Our hotel (Tartini) was right on Tartini Square - a perfect location to explore the streets and duck down for a swim in the warm Adriatic waters. Our dinner on the first night was on the rooftop terrace, which provided a spectacular view of the sea and town. We have a motto with the kids on this trip that they must try everything once. Ordering the fish plate for two, Dan and I soon regretted this motto as the kids helped us polish off the delicious gamberini (prawns), cozze (mussels) and other tasty fish morsels. Next time fish plate for four! We spent the next two days here jostling with the other human seals for a place on the rocks, exploring the streets and enjoying the culinary delights of Piran.
Alas this was to be the end of our I feel S(LOVE)nia tour.