For those that enjoy nature I can’t think of a better place to spend some time. Triglav National Park and the surrounding towns of Bohinj and Bled are just great. I understand that the Plitvice National Park in Croatia is also supposed to be super. We hope to get there within the next few weeks. Triglav National Park was one of the first national parks in Europe and you can quickly see why it was protected. Bled, where we stayed, is not actually in the park due to its tourist infrastructure. I assume that there are national park rules that they would rather not follow in Bled.
I could easily wax poetic about this area: the blue sky, white clouds, mountains, rivers, gorges, turquoise ponds, flower baskets, all gorgeous. Some of our pictures look fake and hard to believe to me even knowing that we took them! The central symbol on the Slovenian coat of arms is Mt. Triglav which is the tallest mountain in Slovenia at 2,864 m (almost 10,000 feet). We saw a fish fossil from 230 million years ago was found on the top of Mt. Triglav. The earth and its climate have certainly gone through changes over the millennium.
Mike and I can’t get over the overflowing flowers in windows and along balconies. You don’t see many gardens full of flowers but look up and you see a lot. They make even homes that might not be in the best of shape look lovely. Some of the small villages in the mountains have the tiniest roads with houses at all angles right up to the road. In some places the tiny road will go past houses whose awnings actually extend out over the road. Quite a few of the roofs and awnings are damaged where larger vehicles have tried to get through and obviously not made it. Our RV would never physically be able to make it through some of these villages. Quite honestly, I have never seen roads like this on our travels before. Traffic travels both ways on these roads where the vehicles damage the roofs but, as you can imagine, they aren’t even close to one-way. Mike swears that somebody threw the houses in the air and when they came down “higgledy piggledy” some pavement was added and called a road. It makes for very interesting drives in the car or on the bicycles.
The mountains everywhere all look like they are ice capped but they aren’t. When you get above the tree line or in areas with major landslides, the exposed rock is quite white. It makes for very attractive views.
We spent one afternoon hiking the trail in Vintgar Gorge just north of Bled. The trail was very narrow with steep drop-offs. At one point we had to squeeze over to rocks to allow a bus load of people returning from their hike to pass. It turns out that this was a Canadian tour group from Calgary. We didn’t get a chance to talk as the walkway was less than 3 feet wide where they were passing us. They are only the second Canadians that we have seen this year. This part of the world doesn’t get many visitors from Canada.
Vintgar Gorge was discovered by the town mayor and a photographer in 1891. The natural form of the gorge was impassable. In the mid-1800s Bled was already a big tourist area and the gorge was only 4km from these visitors. To take advantage of the Bled tourism, in 1893 the gorge, now equipped with wooden observation walkways and bridges, was opened to the public. The water in the gorge and actually in the whole area, is phenomenally clear. It looks turquoise in some spots. It is lovely. On one hike, I saw a little bit of Dante’s cave so named because supposedly Dante visited the cave and it inspired his version of Hell in “The Divine Comedy”. To visit it properly you need a guide and appropriate equipment, so we didn’t get far past the entrance. On a different hike in another gorge there was an interesting arch formed by water erosion that looked very much like an elephant.
About half an hour drive from our campsite was Vogel Ski Resort where a gondola or cable car operates for summer visitors. Above the cable car was a chair lift that was also kept open. I really wanted to go up to the top of the two lifts. The first two times we drove there, late in the afternoon, the cable car was running, but the chair lift was closed. On the third day everything was operating. We thought that we would take a ride to the top, ooh and aah about what we were looking at, wander around the area where the chair lift stopped for a few minutes, possibly have a coffee and then take the lift back down. We had other plans for the rest of the afternoon. We didn’t bother taking any water or snacks with us for the quick trip. I did take my warm coat because it is always windy and freezing near the top of the mountains. Well we were wrong on all fronts. I overheated instantly when we got out of the cable car. Everyone else was wandering around in t-shirts. How they knew that it was going to be warmer up high and not colder I don’t know.
As expected the view from the cable car landing was lovely. You could see the mountains surrounding the valley and Lake Bohinj. We ate our lunch in this lovely setting and then took the chair lift up even higher. We were really surprised that, while the cable car was quite busy, the chair lift was almost deserted. Again, people must have known that the best views where actually on the lower level and not in the chair lift area. As we were going up the chair lift we could see a really steep walk up the side of the mountain that we thought went to the top. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to attempt it. I hadn’t come planning on much hiking, no water or anything. We did meet some young men coming down the mountain. They said that they had been to the top and that they could see across the whole mountain chain to the sea and that it was great. They added that it was a very long walk. Even knowing that Mike and I decided to go for it.
After going up and down very steep hills we got to the top of the area that we had seen from the chair lift. We were nowhere near the actual top of the mountain range. At this point we met another couple who told us that it was still a very long hike up a steep mountain trail full of switchbacks. We only saw about 5 or 6 people on our entire hike from the chair lift. I am guessing that the information booth at the cable car level must have told people about the view and the hike difficulty level. I was exhausted just getting to where we were. I was also scared about walking back down to the chair lift. I was afraid that my legs were getting wobbly and that I would slip badly going downhill. As we got back to the chair lift we noticed that it wasn’t running. It was 3:04 pm and apparently it stopped running for the day at 3pm. I was almost in tears. I did not want to try the long walk up and down the side of the mountain to the cable car level. I saw a ski hut with some construction people and a pickup truck. I walked over and almost begged them to give us a ride to the cable car. Luckily, one man did. The cable car was advertised to run until well into the evening. How they could stop the chair lift at 15:00 or 3pm in the afternoon with the cable car still operating for hours we have no idea. By the time we got to the car I was too tired to go to see Bled Castle. The plan had been to go up in the cable car at lunch time and then come down and spend the afternoon at the castle that we can see from our campground. We were going to leave the next day. Now we are staying an extra day. We cannot skip a castle that we have been staring at for the past week.
We did get to Bled Castle and I am glad that we stayed and visited it. It is one of the oldest in Slovenia. The first written mention of the castle was in 1011. In 2011 Bled celebrated its 1,000 years anniversary. The oldest musical instrument in the world, a flute belonging to the Neanderthals, from 55,000 years ago was found here. There was a permanent settlement in Bled more than 6,000 years ago. These numbers are unbelievable to us in North America.
Our peace and quiet came to an end this morning. We woke up to all sorts of people cheering and making a noise. It is Saturday and our campground is full of people playing football/soccer, basketball, archery competitions, trampolines and more. I expect that it was probably like this much of the summer.
Darn, Darn, Darn!!! While I was writing this we just got pulled over by toll inspectors. We weren’t at all worried because we knew that we were legal and had just renewed our expensive ($270 Cdn ) toll passes for Slovenia for both vehicles. Well we were a little premature. According to the inspectors we had been sold the wrong toll passes and had to pay a fine of $600. It didn’t matter that we had all our receipts or that we were just leaving the country. Mike had to go and sit in the police car while I watched from the RV. It was scary and uncomfortable. Mike is going to try and get a refund, but the officer didn’t think that it was likely. I certainly don’t think that there is any way that the different gas stations that charged us a total $270 for the wrong stickers are going to reimburse us. After paying the $600 fine the officers wanted us to drive to the nearest gas station on the highway and purchase the appropriate toll pass and then, adding insult to injury, pay an additional $42 for our use of the highway from Bled. We had been on the highway for less than ½ hour. If the cost is $1.50 for every minute driving our RV we won’t be on many highways here. We are now going to try some smaller roads that have a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes to get to our destination. We are hoping these limits are for noise concerns and not structural limits as we weigh 10 tonnes. What a bad ending to a beautiful area.