Following the weeks of mountaineering in very real winter conditions, I wanted the past week to be different. Warm, pleasant and colorful. As it happens, our little green country is fortunate to have three different types of climate, and when the first flowers only start to bud in one place, spring is already in full swing in another place.
Barring some occasional drizzles, late winter was pretty dry not leaving nature as spectacular for wildflowers as usual. But since nature is slowly awakening as the proverbial rainy month has only just started, flower lovers can already see the first spring blooms in a few sites. Here are three blooming sites from three completely different parts of Slovenia I visited last week, each very different, yet wonderful in its uniqueness. Enjoy!
Leper lilies in the Ljubljana Wetland
Tucked away at the southern end of Ljubljana and expanding to the first foothills of the mountains in the south, the Ljubljana Marsh covers 163 square kilometers or about one percent of the country and as such qualifies as Slovenia’s largest wetland. Its marshy flats are interwoven with an endless labyrinth of meadows, fields, ditches, and paths, while being also well-known for their booming wildlife and diverse plants. Among others, they house 89 species of butterflies, 48 species of dragonflies, and over 100 species of birds, some of them considered endangered worldwide, while as much as half of Slovenian bird population picks this place to hatch.
Sometime between the end of winter and beginning of spring the ancient hay meadows of the wetlands are also the spot to see blooming leper lilies, beautiful bell-shaped flowers of a somewhat reddish-purple color. In fact, leper lilies are the first to adorn the still colorless meadows.
Yet with temperatures close to zero until just a week ago, it seemed pretty surreal that anything colorful could already have been out in the Ljubljana Marshes, so I debated the blooming leper lilies photos I had found on Instagram a few days earlier (hey, come check out Exploring Slovenia’s Instagram profile!). One cannot really trust social media for the most up-to-date information about the blooms, right? Although I would lie if I said I hadn’t been intrigued. Nonetheless, I had to check out myself if the flowers were indeed out.
I drove to Bevke, a small village on the western side of the Marshes, and took my usual flower spotting hike crossing the fields towards the more central area. Those parts of the Marshes are less cultivated and have as such allowed the wildflowers and wildlife to simply boom. You hike in the seemingly remote marshy landscape as the deer and wild rabbits escape from their hideouts upon someone coming too close to them. The fairytale-like land also revealed fields of blooming leper lilies that seemed to flower in abundance everywhere and shone brightly in the setting sun. What a gorgeous flower adventure to begin with!
Martinj Vrh dressed in crocuses
“Vrh” meaning “a peak” in Slovenian, one would naturally assume a hilltop to say the least when talking about Martinj Vrh. Even though you are greeted by a hilly landscape driving to it, the name actually stands for a village stretched along the hillside that goes as high as 1,000 meters. Due to its remote location, this village would otherwise never catch anyone’s attention if it wasn’t for the purple carpets of crocuses that cover its open meadows early in spring.
Up next in April: Velika Planina and meadows of crocuses
I was quite amused that I didn’t have to trek for hours to get a glimpse of the elusive beauty; I merely had to sit in a car. Once there, you can stroll about the meadows, roll out a blanket and enjoy a picnic with the views; the Julian Alps to the northwest, the Kamnik-Savinja Alps to the northeast, and Mt. Ratitovec with other smaller peaks of the Škofja Loka Hills all around.
Since I had a few hours to kill before the planned return back home, I explored the area only to find friendly locals and beautiful trails up and down the rolling hills surrounding the flower-speckled meadows. A 2-hour sign suggested another bigger hike in the neighborhood, to Blegoš, which at its 1,562 meters still had snow, and I actually did start going towards it, but changed my mind after spending fifteen minutes in the cold forest. The warm sunlit meadows called me and I ended up slacking off beside the crocuses until sunset. Lazy but sweet.
Blossoming cherry trees in the Goriška Brda
For the last intro spring trip I opted for the sunny part of Slovenia, the Goriška Brda, where, situated somewhere between the Alps and the sea, I wandered through romantic villages and roamed amongst the vineyards, olive groves and orchids along gorgeous rolling hills.
I parked my car in Gonjače and set off to do a 10-km round hike between five adorable villages, each on its own top of a hill, connected with one of the most scenic cherry routes in the central Brda, the Drugmbernca Trail.
From Gonjače I first hiked to Imenje, whose name probably originated from the word “Imetje” meaning “belongings”. According to the old local stories, the people from the Imenje Village provided food and their other belongings to the neighboring fortified village of Šmartno in exchange for the protection against the enemies. Not only did Imenje provide belongings in the olden days, but for me also great views of the next village of Šmartno, nestled among the blooming white branches of countless cherry trees.
Šmartno, the next small village of a little more than 200 inhabitants, which has been declared a cultural heritage monument, carries a remarkable history by having protected the people against the Turkish raids. From Šmartno I continued on the up-and-down trail to Biljana, then to Dobrovo and its Renaissance castle, and finally among delicate blossoming cherry trees back to Gonjače.
Up next in May: Golica and its daffodils
The marked three hours stretched into almost five because it was just so dazzlingly beautiful and I needed to make a photo stop every five minutes… and lie in the sun, dig out snacks of my pack, and recline against rocks, basking in the warmth. The cold weather I escaped that morning at home waved vaguely at me as my parents sent a message saying that our puppy wasn’t particularly happy in the garden as it had apparently rained. Multiple times as a matter of fact. I thought of my poor puppy in that clingy rain, while in the west I lounged in the perfection of an early spring afternoon. It’s a good thing I leave my Alpine base every now and then, but next time that poor thing is coming with me.
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