I am the first to admit that Slovenia is not a country I’d ever considered as a holiday destination. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in my head Slovenia and Slovakia had merged into a single, far-off destination. I certainly wouldn’t have considered Slovenia only a couple of hours drive from Venice; indeed it barely registered until I was in a hire car with partner in climb in the passenger seat motoring along a high mountain pass how effortless getting across that border really was.
Slovenia is a lot like Wales, but warmer. It is roughly the same size, has grand mountains and highlands, lots of climbing, and a completely inscrutable language of its own (there are 56 dialects of Slovene in the country with only 2 million people). Despite the limited English of the Slovenians we encountered, and our even-more-catastrophically-awful Slovene, each and every person we met was friendly and hospitable to a fault. Go into a shop and you announce yourself with the cheerful, aimed-at-nobody-in-particular ‘dober dan’ (good day) or you’ll be met with odd looks and feeling that you’ve committed a faux pas. Same goes for people you meet on the trail, in the car park, or even just walking down the street. The greetings were so prevalent that I felt rude when I got back to the UK and didn’t say hello to everyone I met.
The country is beautiful. We only had six days due to a series of on-calls boxing in the trip, so we stayed mainly in the highlands in the north-west of the country around Lake Bohinj. There are two big lakes in the area – Lake Bohinj is the bigger and less-developed of the two. Lake Bled, with it’s picturesque church on an island in the middle of the lake and castle has unfortunately become something a tourist hotspot and we only spent half a day there to drink in the scenery before deciding to retreat to the less populous Bohinj region.
Far and away the best decision we made was to make the attempt on Mount Triglav: Slovenia’s highest peak. I say make the attempt as it was still somewhat early in the season and we were told it might not be possible without ice climbing gear, of which we had none. Nevertheless, we climbed 1200m up steep scrambling paths and across iron-studded cliffs before Triglav turned us back (we came across a steep gully full of ice sliding elegantly off a sheer 400m drop. A single slip on the ice while crossing would have sent one or other of us plummeting to our deaths) and it was worth every step. Truly stunning scenery, and a feeling of being alone in the world that was second to none. The whole walk we saw only 2 other people. It was beautiful and somewhat exposed – the sheer cliffs and steep-sided valley made for a real feeling of taking a path up into the sky. It also led to photo opportunities that made slogging up the hill with my half-kilo camera and fisheye lens worthwhile.
Slovenia is marvellous. I only wish I’d had the time to see a bit more of the place before being dragged kicking and screaming along the M25 at 3am to get back into work for the morning. It’d have been nice to see Venice given a day or two, but instead we just saw the airport (strictly average and somewhat over-warm, unless you’re in the market for a Venetian mask and forgot your trousers, at which point it’s the best airport in the world).
Six days of scenery-rich, forget-it-all bliss. Fan-bleeding-tastic.