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  Slovenia 2006 - Part 1

 


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Slovenia - Part 1
Slovenia, situated between Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia is about the size of Wales with a population of just under two million. The terrain varies from the Julian Alps in the north west with Mount Triglav the highest peak in the country at 2864 metres, unique Karst rock formations with many caves and farming and vineyards on the central and eastern plains and heavily wooded hills to the south where brown bears still roam. It has a short coastline of 46km south of Trieste in Italy. The capital is Ljubljana a compact city in the centre of the country. The most well known tourist centre is around Lake Bled in the Triglav national park. It has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and will adopt the Euro as its currency in 2007 to replace the Tolar (SIT). The main language is Slovenian but we found English was understood in most places especially by the younger people. (Apologies for some inaccurate spellings of accented Slovenian words)
Ljubljana city centre
Ljubljana
Ptuj roofscape
 Ptuj
Lake Bled island
Lake Bled
Zlatarog statue
Bohinj
Triglav from Vogel
Triglav
ITINERARY
We didn't spend as long in Slovenia as we had planned, mainly because of the rather wet weather (that's why it's so green) so we've put together some notes from our daily logs. We used the excellent Rough Guide and the detailed Sunflower walking and touring guide as our main source of information together with a campsite brochure in English from the Slovenian tourist office and a lot of useful tourist information which they sent us before we left Britain. There are less than 40 campsites in Slovenia at present, the larger ones some at more expensive spa resorts, listed in the camping brochure and a few smaller sites marked on the road maps. There are only about six official motorhome overnight stops and we decided not to wildcamp on this trip


Our (circuitous) route around Slovenia
Our (circuitous) route around Slovenia

Day 1 - into Slovenia and first impressions

We entered Slovenia on the autostrada from Italy to Nova Gorica, a modern town of blocks of flats with pitched roofs, hotels and casinos. After obtaining some Tolars (350SIT =1, 240SIT =1) from a cash machine using our Nationwide debit card with no problems we had a quick stroll around a mostly deserted shopping precinct with much graffiti thinking this country must have more to offer than this!

We also bought a detailed fold out road map, essential as our satnav didn't cover Slovenia. The price of fuel is fixed nationally and there are filling stations called PETROL in most towns. Also with the switch due in January 2007 Euros were accepted everywhere. We set off on empty roads to our first campsite which was a basic farm site about five miles east of the town at Lijak near Sempas.  The owner's son spoke good English and invited us to sample their own Merlot - of course we had to buy a bottle for 4. The site is used by paragliders (a few from Czech Republic were staying in tents) and is gradually being upgraded with electric points and newer facilities. On a distant hill was the name Tito cut into the forest. We didn't ask about it!


Day 2 - towards the mountains

After a peaceful night and a promising sunny morning which unfortunately wasn't to last, we drove north west up the Soca Valley passing through small mostly rural towns and gradually more rugged scenery, getting used to the road signs and billboards with c, k, j and v in every word. The roads were mostly reasonable but became narrower through a gorge after Kobarid, a favourite adventure sports centre with kayaks and rafts on vans and trailers parked in every layby, and we met the occasional coach and a few lorries. We eventually reached Slap Boka, a high waterfall about 1 km up a rocky valley from the main road. The guide books implied that it was a rough path but the final section to the base of the waterfall became rather steep with loose stones so not wishing to suffer twisted ankles so early in to our trip we took some photos and returned to the carpark. Tourism is generally underdeveloped in this area and we were now in the Triglav National Park so there were no gift shops or cafe just a portaloo, convenient for those without their own on-board facilities.
 
Water sports on the Soca River
     Water sports on the Soca River

We watched white water canoeists, rafts and hydrospeeders coming down the river before heading to our next campsite at Bovec in a wide flat valley, surrounded by the Julian Alps. A busy town with adventure sports centres, two campsites and some winter sports amenities nearby. There were still damaged buildings from the earthquake a few years ago, also a useful tourist information bureau, still open at 7.30 in the evening. There were a couple of rather ugly modern hotels and holiday apartments in the centre of the town.
          


Slap Boca waterfall Soca valley
Slap Boka waterfall Soca valley

Earthquake damaged building at Bovec
Earthquake damaged building at Bovec

Rafting on the Soca river
Rafting on the Soca river

Day 3 - from river valleys to Smlednik

We first drove further up the Soca Valley towards the Predel Pass, a minor road crossing to Italy and stopped at Log pod Mangartom a small village surrounded by steep mountains which had been partially destroyed by a huge landslip in 2000. There is still plenty of evidence of the torrent of rocks that had swept through the village and the road bridge is still being rebuilt. We strolled through the village to read the information boards explaining (in English) the tragic history of the village especially during WW2. We returned to Bovec stopping at Fort Kluze an impressive stronghold built by the Germans to defend this strategic valley during WW1 (The courtyard is now used for concerts). Continuing back down the valley we turned off at Kobarid passing over the restored Napoleon's bridge and on a minor road through small hamlets to Tolmin and on to Most na Soci passing a large turquoise lake on the edge of the town. After a stroll along the lakeside passing some strange modern ironwork sculptures we then drove up a minor road quite narrow in places following the valley and railway line to Podbrdo an industrial town where a car transporter train runs north through a 6km tunnel to the Bohinj valley in ten minutes avoiding a one hour tortuous drive over the mountains. Motorhomes can be carried on the train but it only runs a few times a day and it's best to book in advance. After a steep winding climb we descended through another river valley to Zelezniki another industrial town and on busier roads to Skofja Loka, a large town with modern housing estates but with an attractive centre with many very old buildings. We found a free parking place by the river and strolled around the old streets, a mix of smart shops and buildings in need of repair.

     Shop window in Skofja Loka
        Shop window in Skofja Loka

We decided to head east to Smlednik where there was a campsite listed but noticed roadside signs for a motorhome stop which we discovered at Hotel Kanu on the minor road about 1km before the campsite, so we stayed there for 10 a night including electric hookup. There were two other vans parked overnight and the pitches overlooked the hotel  beach volleyball courts, a popular sport in Slovenia so we were entertained in the evening watching the sportsmen. There were also pleasant lanes around the area for strolling through the fields with typical hayracks everywhere. 

Typical Slovenian hayracks called "Kozolci"
Typical Slovenian hayracks called "Kozolci"


The site  was situated about 12km north of Ljubljana which we visited the next day and returned for a second night.

      hotel Kanu Smlednik stellplatz
       Stellplatz at Hotel Kanu, Smlednik




Remains of landslip at Log pod Mangartom
Remains of landslip at Log pod Mangartom
    
Fort Kluze from WW1
Fort Kluze from WW1 

Turquoise lake at Most na Soci
Turquoise lake at Most na Soci

Skofja Loka centre
Skofja Loka centre

Skofja Loka rooflines
Skofja Loka rooflines

 
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