Saturday, 10 April 2010
Dober Dan! After only three days, I have a new favourite country. Slovenia. Even better than Portugal. Who would have thought?! And I have run out of both adjectives and superlatives to express how lovely I think it is! so you will have to make do with the beautifuls, stunnings, gloriouses and fabulouses scattered at all too often intervals throughout the post
To my shame, it is again a country I had never considered - I mean at least I knew where Portugal was, even if I never thought about it - I hadn't even realised until about four days ago that we couldn't drive straight from Italy to Croatia and that we would have to drive through Slovenia en route. And it seems that quite unfairly, it is overlooked by a lot of people. Fortunately the Lonely Planet raved about it in its short chapter - even the rough guide might like it here! - and luckily we had enough days in hand before Will may or may not be jetting back to the UK for the short visit from an airport in Northern Croatia to give it a whirl. And I am so glad we did as we have had possibly the best three days of our trip so far. It is a close run thing between beach living (evil genie's notwithstanding) and the clear air and stunning scenery here in the Julian alps. so there you go.
Slovenia is a tiny country, half the size of switzerland, perched on the edge of the east, sandwiched between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, but is packed full of 'geography' from the snow-capped mountains of the north, to the coast and beaches of the south-west and the wine-growing plains to the east - all my favourite things in a small space - I was obviously always going to like this place!
Credited by some as being the founders of modern democracy - given that Will is insistent that what we have now is not democracy, far from it... - apparently the Slavic ancestors of today's Slovenes (I thought they were Slovenians and that Slovene's were evil, body stealing baddies from Dr Who!) first had a system of elected leaders back in the 7th century, a french study of which was used by Thomas Jefferson as a basis for the American Declaration of Independence.
Since then, as a nation, they have had a chequered history of occupation, annexation and border-shifting - ruled for centuries by the Austrians, with a brief interlude of Napolean (he was a busy man!), then occupied by the Italians and then the German led Austrian-Hungarian army during WWI, it was divided after the war when part of the country was given to the Italians as reparations, part stayed with Austria and part joined the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. It was then occupied by the Nazis (albeit with partisan protest) during WWII, and Slovenia finally regained much of its land from Italy after the war, losing only Trieste, which remains Italian. As part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia contributed 20% of the GDP despite having only 8% of the population, but, feeling marginalised by the Serbian controlled government, they finally broke away from Yugoslavia after a short civil war in 1991, joined the UN in 1992, the EU in 2004 and adopted the Euro in 2007. There, I feel I have made amends for my ignorance and feel better about knowing things now!
The Slovenes are now busy welcoming the world to their beautiful country. Everyone we have met is friendly and speaks english, their shops and tourist offices are open at all sensible times (ie, from early, until late and they don't shut for hours in the middle of the day!) and they are reinventing themselves as the adventure holiday capital of Europe, capitalising on their stunning landscape with ever more extreme ways of walking it, climbing it, paddling it, rafting it, hanging from it and generally throwing yourself of it in adrenaline-pumping ways
Having checked the weather and finding it to be promising glorious-ness, we headed straight for the town and lake of Beld, described by the LP as 'an emerald green lake with a picture perfect church on a tiny island, a mediaeval church clinging to a rocky cliff and some of the highest peaks in the Julian alps as a backdrop, Bled seems to have been designed by some god of tourism', over the wiggliest mountain roads we could see on our big atlas.
And it was beautiful.
- makes you realise how fantastic all the other frescos we have seen recently must have looked when they were new!
And some sitting and strolling and generally relaxing.
in the fading light before finding a lakeside layby for the night under an inky black, star studded sky - perfect
This is where our adventures became even more reminiscent of our Rockie mountain honeymoon, and particularly the fabulous day we had at Lake Louise. On that trip, we had once again set out in t-shirt weather on an easy lakeside walk around the just thawed lake, which was all well and good, before deciding to return by the upper path where another lake and a cafe was promised. Again, it didn't sound too far so off we set, with just a light jumper, two oranges and half a sandwich each. Three hours later, we reached the top, having lost the path, ended up in snow up to our thighs and having had to scramble up a near vertical snowfield... where we found the cafe was closed, three proper hiker types who looked at us aghast at the way we had come and how ill-prepared we were, and a nice gently sloping, well gritted path back to the bottom... As I say, a fabulous day ;) it was simply the most beautiful place I have ever been though, and the walk was much fun :)
some places with tree trunk steps (where you could tell those apart from the fallen trees!)
to the prettiest of frozen lakes
- magical, so worth the effort!
- to give you an idea, we walked from the righthand corner of the lake you can see in the picture and this was taken from about half the distance and 3/4 of the way up! -
but down was not much faster and some of it was done on my bottom - only twice unintentionally... :)
We parked last night in an area marked on our new free map of Slovenia - the tourist office here is brilliant! - as being a camper stop, just below the 1200m pass and after an undisturbed night are now wending our way back down the mountains in glorious sunshine en route to the capital city, Ljubljana
So we have had our idyllic sunny mountain lakes mini break - just in a different country from the one planned and without the company we had hoped to have for it... - I have also discovered some hitherto unknown muscles in my thighs which are screaming this morning but otherwise, all good :)
The tourist office slogan is indeed correct - I do feel Slovenia!
With love for now from Becky, Will and Jules on Saturday, April 10, 2010