When you have travelled overland through 11 countries, passed through too many cities, towns, villages and hamlets to number and completed more than 1100km of hiking and running, you get to see a lot of places. Some spectacular, some pretty and some very ordinary. We jokingly started referring to the Patagonian landscapes and hikes as ice-cream and that we have started with dessert as the first course of our travels. That was until we came to Slovenia.
Only a speck of a country, Slovenia’s natural scenery is truly spectacular. It is also rich in cultural heritage, spanning thousands of years. The Julian Alps with its deep valleys, white cliffs, towering peaks, deep green forests and rivers that seem too clear to be real have been an absolute highlight in our travels. Our hike down the Soča River Valley was nothing short of breathtaking.
We had to conquer a mountain pass with fifty switchbacks (they were numbered) to get to the upper reaches of the river where we started our hike. For 18km we followed the water as it formed rapids and slowed into pools, narrowed into magnificent gorges cutting through limestone and broadened into inviting oases where we braved the icy waters for a swim. We crossed it many times over rickety suspension bridges as the river hugged the mountainside and shaped the valley as it went. We also hiked up to its source – gushing from a cave high up in the mountains. Add to this dramatic landscape summer foliage that colour every meadow bight green and red geraniums to adorn every window and balcony, and you can start to imagine the Slovenian Alps.
It seems as if the country straddles two worlds. The first, a peaceful lifestyle centred within quaint little villages not more than 5km from each other, but each with its own character. A lifestyle where there is still enough time to keep your own vegetable garden and make your own wine. This is juxtaposed within a Slovenia, connected by large freeways, fantastic communication infrastructure and with access to the best of every modern convenience.
We were off to the Slovenian part of the Istrian peninsula next – but we all hoped that we would have the opportunity to spend more time in this amazing part of the world again. Slovenia should be on everyone’s “must do” list – it will definitely remain on ours.
– Jarik –