Certain places resonate with us, hikers, in many unique and mysterious ways. Whether I can envision myself exploring one mountain top after another or just falling in love with a particular area, often-times I find myself returning to some spots again and again.
The Upper Soča Valley is definitely one of the corners of Slovenia where I have left bits of my heart.
At first glance, Mojstrana seems like a classic small town of a little over a thousand people. Yet this little town is anything but ordinary. Apart from hosting the Slovenian Alpine Museum, namely the only mountaineering museum in Slovenia, Mojstrana is also closely connected to the Julian Alps, the Triglav National Park and the Karawanks. That’s why I’m always beyond psyched when visiting that part of Slovenia and exploring the beautiful mountains and waterfalls surrounding it. This time I headed towards a most scenic 1,900-meter high mountain called Vrtaški Vrh with not only astonishing views of the tall and grand, but also green valleys and countless spring flowers blooming along the trail.
Approximately 75 kilometers from Ljubljana, the country’s capital, on the outer edge of the Triglav National Park, the largest protected area in Slovenia covering 838 square kilometers that encompasses Mt. Triglav and most of the 400 2K+ peaks found in the country, there is a sense of contented isolation. It seems that wherever you turn there are dusty trails that wind through tall forests and eventually end up in the surrounding snow-capped peaks. Bohinjska Bistrica, a settlement of less than 1,800 people, lies cradled among 2,000-meter high towering mountains, making it a perfect holiday destination for everyone in love with hiking; mountaineers, families and complete beginners included.
Fairytale on Velika Planina is everything I love about mountain resorts: it’s remote and isolated, yet still nicely connected to the valley by a cable car or a road that ends only 45 minutes away. It has personality and all the little benefits of any other nice resort in the valley, plus you stay in pristine nature with spectacular views of sunlit mountaintops of the Alps. That’s why I was beyond psyched when the kind folks at Fairytale on Velika Planina invited me up for a few days of snowy trails and jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets. And did I mention dogs are allowed? Lisa and her furry buddy Hari were welcome too!
Rolling hills, endless vineyards, pristine nature, generous and welcoming people, and good food. Now that I’ve really experienced the Krško region, spending there a weekend, I couldn’t agree more. That place makes a surprisingly invigorating holiday spot.
In just two relaxing days, I walked through a virgin forest of tall oaks and fallen mossy trees. I walked along long vineyards, stretched across the hilly landscape of the Lower Sava region. I explored Medieval castles to learn about Trappist monks. I drank chocolate wine, and ate locally produced food that simply melts in the mouth. I was treated to local wine Cviček and home-made salami by friendly locals. I spent the night in a remote B&B in the midst of vineyards. And I drank a cup of tea in a hostel run by the ex-gold-medal Olympic athlete Primož Kozmus. Kind of awesome, right?
Hurtling over cliffs, narrow gorges, and mysterious mists lingering in the thick tall forest now dressed in spectacular autumn hues, the waterfalls around Kranjska Gora tend to be most spectacular particularly during the rainy months in the fall. The most fascinating falls in the area, the Peričnik Fall and Martuljek Falls, make a perfect daily trip either in moody weather or sunshine.
With the early snowfall coloring the peaks of our highest mountains white, my thoughts go back to a special two-day climb in late August to three beautiful mountains in the Julian Alps I was honored to climb with my Dutch-Austrian friend Georg. Originally, we had been planning to climb Triglav over its 1-km high vertical North Face taking the Prag Route on the first day and explore the Triglav Lakes Valley on the second day, but as fate would have it, Slovenia experienced a sudden extreme drop in temperature just a few days before our trip and the mountains above 1,800 m dressed in an unexpected 30-cm snow cover. That called for a quick last-minute change of plan, and instead of climbing the Triglav North Face, we rather opted for the southern slopes of the spectacular mountains on the opposite side of Vrata Valley, also home to the beautiful Alpine ibex.
When making my way across the highest peaks of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps at the beginning of August, I looked 1,500 meters down from the top of Mt. Planjava, and played with the idea of returning to the same Alps, only instead of going up from the south I would set my base in the north, in Logar Valley. Interwoven with breathtaking green trails that usually end somewhere way up in the high mountains, beautiful tranquil trails along the Savinja River and countless little wild streams in the broader Solčava Valley, the 7-kilometer long Logar Valley is by far one of the most picture-perfect glacial valleys in Europe. As it turned out, it was indeed perfect for yet another hiking, via-ferrata and flyfishing adventure.
Looking at the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, a beautiful mountain range closest to Ljubljana, lit in vibrant early morning colors with veils of fog lingering below rugged peaks, I got an ingenious idea I just couldn’t shake off. In a weekend excursion, I would traverse a good part of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps across the peaks I hadn’t climbed yet! With five out of eleven favored peaks already checked, I was looking forward to climbing another set of five peaks in one go; Ojstrica, Planjava, Turska Gora, Koroška Rinka and Skuta – all mountains above 2 K meters, steep, and on my planned route from east to west.
One day in February I got the most exhilarating call. It was Alenka from the Ljubljana Guides asking me if I could join her on an organized group hike in the Julian Alps in July. The plan was to start the hike from Savica above Lake Bohinj, go to the Krn Lake Hut on the first day, then off to the Triglav Lakes on the second and third day, and finally head back down to Lake Bohinj across the Blato Plateau on the fourth day. It sounded like a blast and so I was in!