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  Slovenia 2006 - Part 4

 




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Slovenia 2006 Part 4
Final days visiting gorges, lakes and mountains

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Day 11 - A hidden gorge, a hidden museum (and a hidden supermarket)

 
Needing a provisions top up we drove back through Bled to Lesce where there were flags on the lampposts advertising a Hofer (Aldi) store 1.4km away but we never found it and eventually spotted a brand new Spar next to the bypass road. After a cool shop we emerged to scorching midday sun so headed back to Bled and followed intermittent signs to the Vintgar gorge 4km to the north, near the village of Podhom. After lunch in the free car park we paid our 700SIT entrance fee and set off along the path and wooden walkways cut into the cliffs through this impressive and peaceful, once the parties of schoolchildren had been passed, 1600 metres long river gorge. At the end behind a cafe and toll booth there was a path down steps to the bottom of a high waterfall. The gorge was only discovered in 1891 and within two years the walkway was built and it became an immediate tourist attraction.

  
Vintgar Gorge
                       Vintgar Gorge

Returning to Lake Bled we drove on to Radovljica to visit the Museum of Beekeeping, not signposted from the main road, so we parked and walked a couple of hundred metres to the pedestrianised centre of the town with many old buildings and murals. The museum is in an old baroque manor house with a magnificent but well worn hall and staircase. 

                  
Radovljica mural  
                   Radovljica mural           

Beekeeping was (and still is) a major activity in Slovenia. Many old and strange beehives were on show including a glass fronted one with working bees and a fascinating display of decorated beehive panels with paintings of many religious and less reverent subjects dating back centuries. Admission was 500SIT each and it made an interesting diversion for a couple of hours. Unfortunately photography wasn't allowed inside the museum but they have a website www.muzeji-radovljica.si   On the main shopping street in the town was another more modern beehive mosaic on a former bank building.

We stopped for tea by the southwest shore of Lake Bled next to the Rowing club and playpark. There were pleasant lakeside walks from here and gondola trips to the island. Apart from a few large and luxurious hotels and restaurants at the north-east edge of the lake we found this area to be pleasantly underdeveloped. 

    Gondolas on Lake Bled
            Gondolas on Lake Bled

We returned to the campsite mid-evening to find a Dutch caravan had pitched less than 2 metres away from our tent (why when the site was less than half full?) 




Vintgar Gorge walkway
Vintgar Gorge walkway

Waterfall at Vintgar Gorge
Waterfall at Vintgar Gorge

Radovljica staircase
Radovljica staircase

Beehive mosaic Radovljica
Beehive mosaic Radovljica

Lake Bled island
Lake Bled island

 

Day 12   -  to the mountains and Lake Bohinj

To the west of the campsite the road continues to the small town of Ribcev Laz and Lake Bohinj (Bohinjsko Jezero) a large dark lake with woods and steep mountains to the north and south. We parked at the cable car station and took the new cable car up to the Vogel ski station on a plateau 1535 metres altitude. The trip up in the cable car (expensive at 4800SIT, 20 return) was accompanied by piped musak of 1950's English pop tunes! Once at the top ski station the lake below is not visible but there are fantastic panoramic views,
if you ignore the usual mess of ski lifts, fencing and signs blotting the landscape, of the Julian Alps with the prominent Triglav mountain, the three peaks being Slovenia's national symbol - even incorporated into the national flag, to the north.

   
Triglav from Vogel
                      Triglav from Vogel

There were also the last remnants of snow (in mid June) but a few wild flowers were struggling to grow including vivid blue gentian. There are waymarked walks to the mountain peaks from here and a long walk down to the lake. After returning to the base station (by cable car) we found a pleasant lakeside layby in the woods for lunch. Back at Ribcev Laz there is a tourist bureau mostly for accommodation booking and gifts, and more lakeside walks. The church here has many frescoes dating from the 15th century but was closed for restoration. There are two famous statues here, one of Zlatarog the legendary chamois with golden horns (and the major Slovenian beer brand), the other commemorating the first climbers of Triglav. For the return journey to Bohinjska Bistrica we drove along a narrow minor road through the villages of Stara Fuzina and Studor where there many traditional double and single hayracks still in use.

    
Zlatarog statue
                          Zlatarog statue


Vogel cable car
Vogel cable car

Lake Bohinj from Vogel cable car
Lake Bohinj from Vogel cable car

Vogel hotel and ski station
Vogel hotel and ski station

Triglav climbers statue
Triglav climbers statue

Ribcev Laz church
Ribcev Laz church


Day 13  Farewell to Slovenia

We awoke to sounds of school children to find there was a cycling proficiency lesson taking place on the campsite roads at 8am - and why not - with hopefully slow traffic, plenty of road junctions and pedestrian campers on their way to the toilet block to negotiate around? (probably not a sight you'd see at a caravan site in the UK!). Another amazing sight on the campsite was the humourous mural on the wall of the amenities block. After settling our 3 nights' bill at the office we headed again back to Bled (there are no roads west over the mountains from the Bohinj Valley) and on to the busy main road to Jezenice, a large industrial town, and avoiding the motorway signs to Austria took the road to Kranjska Gora, an alpine sports resort with much building work going on, and after a final fill up with cheap diesel we crossed the border to Italy on the road to Tarvisio.



Cycling Proficiency lesson on campsite
Cycling Proficiency lesson

Camping Danica mural
Camping Danica mural


Postscript


We found Slovenia to be an interesting country to visit with friendly people, mainly good roads and modern facilities. As for living costs food and diesel were a bit cheaper than in Austria and campsite fees varied from 10 to 24 a night. A few Slovenes we spoke to felt that living costs had risen a lot since joining the EU and they expected more price rises when they changed over to the EURO in 2007.

Slovenia's historical influence has been Austria, Hungary and Italy so it doesn't have the Mediterranean feel of more southerly European countries. The capital Ljubljana with a population of about 300,000 is compact having a mixture of old and modern and elsewhere there a few signs of former times. There were many places we missed in the two weeks we spent there (we would have stayed longer if the weather had been sunnier). For instance we didn't visit any show caves such as those at Postojna, other tourist attractions such as Predjama Castle and the coastal resorts of Piran and Koper. There are many other sights worth visiting such as mining museums, many health spas and vineyards as well as the Lipica stud farm to see the Lipizzaner horses, and we felt that away from Ljubljana and Bled the trappings of tourism were understated. Many historical sites remain from the various wars fought over the centuries and there is a vast range of attractive scenery, but often some homework and studying of the guidebooks is needed to find some of the attractions. We hope we have presented a favourable taste of Slovenia.
 
 
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