As we were driving towards the mountains, the soft morning light, caught in the forested slopes of the Karavanke Alps on the right and the craggy peaks of the Julian Alps on the left, added to the vibrancy of a beautiful autumn day. The contrast between the freshly covered snow-capped peaks and the explosion of colors in the forest lower down was mesmerizing. Anything from virgin white to bright green, red, yellow and orange-brown, all set against a clear blue sky with an occasional streak of fog still lingering in the fresh air. The kind of perfection that can only be seen right after a good long downpour.
Hiking among Alpine pastures of Pokljuka
Hidden in southwestern Pokljuka, a high karst plateau in the Julian Alps with 6,300 ha of mostly fir forests, are numerous Alpine pastures with old wooden huts that seem lost in time. Some of them have been changed into tourist homes, while others are kept simple by the new generations of the old shepherd families. In summer, hikers can make a stop to taste delicious home-made cheeses, sour milk and sometimes local cured meats and štruklji – a welcome relief on their wanderings along the long trails of Pokljuka.
In winter, however, there is a sense of contented isolation. As often as not, from late-autumn until mid-spring the pastures, especially the higher ones, are uninhabited and inaccessible by car, and can only be reached on skis or showshoes. Set against a playground of high peaks of the Julians Alps and yet so snugly hidden in the otherwise thick forest, Pokljuka’s Alpine pastures offer perfect winter hiking goals with breathtaking views of the winter wonderland.
Visoki Mavrinc, a gorgeous and safe peak above Kranjska Gora
Way up high – above the lively Alpine town of Kranjska Gora, a glacial valley with a mountain stream, the evergreen fir forests and an escarpment that ends with some of the highest mountains in Slovenia – is a comfortable 1,562-meter peak. The trail to get there narrows from a broad valley to a forest which ends quite unexpectedly on an open flat top. We gasped at the sight. Perhaps even more than the tall peaks, this rather low peak opens to sublime views and lets you soak up the intense history of the place and magic of the Alps without risking too much on the way.
The peak on the brink of the accessible
Through the window of a car, I remember being awestruck as a child by the serrated outline of a rugged mass of rock and snow, usually shrouded in a swirl of clouds, towering over Gozd Martuljek’s green and vibrant landscape. Later I learned that the Martuljek Mountain Group is the remotest and wildest part of the Julian Alps with only two mountains accessible on marked and secured trails. Other peaks, all over 2K, quietly watching the world from their solitary abode, remain a place for experienced mountaineers, comfortable with climbing and manoeuvring through the labyrinth of faint tracks.
Many years later I am still awestruck; so much that entering that mystical world seems like a far-fetched unattainable adventure that only exists in dreams. Particularly so in winter. Coming close to it to catch a glimpse of the elusive beauty and absorb the grandeur is another matter. And there is no peak closer than Vrtaško Sleme, which at its 2,077 meters brings you so close to the Martuljek Group it seems like you can almost touch its first peak Kukova Špica.
Exploring Slovenia’s Guided Tour to Špik – another peak in the Martuljek Group
Safe winter trails that will blow your mind
When everything becomes still, the streets empty, the noises die down, the silence becomes overwhelming and I can finally hear it. The winter is here. First snowflakes lightly fill the air and the world turns calm and beautiful. Our hearts fill with joy and our minds with fantasies about our favorite corners of the world turning white. We go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different.