Siân Jenkins enjoyed a walking holiday in Slovenia, although she had hoped for a break from the Cumbrian weather…
According to my boss, ‘Slovenia’s a very pointy country’. Having booked my first group walking holiday after a lot of worrying about fitness, getting left behind or getting stuck half way up a mountain, this information was less than helpful.
Luckily for me, I didn’t get left behind or get stuck. Slovenia is a very pointy country, but I don’t think we went anywhere near the really pointy bits!
Our base for the week was Bled, a lake resort town in the north west corner of the country. The lake was picture-postcard perfect, with its famous island and views of the surrounding mountains. Unfortunately, on the evening we arrived, the clouds rolled in and that was it for any kind of view for the first three days. I’m pretty sure the brochure promised 20 degree heat and sunshine when I booked.
The first day was an introduction to some key terms. ‘Flat’ equals a gradient of at least 10%, ‘undulating’ is not a word recognised in Slovenia, and ‘steep’ usually involves hands. Despite those minor points, it was also a great day in the Karavanke mountains. After a rocky walk through Baron Born’s tunnels (it’s much easier to go through the hill than over it) and a stop at a mountain hut for a cup of tea, the rest of the route took us downhill through broadleaved woodland to Grad Kamen and its ruined castle.
Our ‘gentle’ introduction was followed by a two-day trek through the Julian Alps after a 900m ascent via cable car to the start of the walk. The weather was miserable. Wet and cold, with blankets of fog no matter the altitude. The bright white limestone paths vanished into the bright white fog and you could just about make out the outline of the person in front of you. We were above the snowline at 1800m (the highest I’ve ever been without the help of an aeroplane), so although the views were rubbish I was still pretty excited. Having spotted some bear footprints in the snow I’m not sure if I was more disappointed or relieved that snowy footprints and warning signs were the closest I got to an actual bear.
Luckily, the weather did improve. It was even warm enough for a sneaky paddle in the Radnova and a swim in Lake Bled on our day off, despite our guide telling us that the lido had closed ‘because it was too cold for Slovenians to go in the water’. Pfft!
Slovenia in the autumn sunshine was beautiful with the leaves changing colour and the bright blue glacial rivers and was well worth the wait. One of our walks took us to the top of the Martuljek gorge – a steep climb with a guide cable and metal handholds to navigate at the very end. Another new experience, which I was really surprised I enjoyed. Not great for those with a fear of heights though!
Having said all of that, the best bit of Slovenia was the food. Beef noodle broth with every meal, lots and lots of carbohydrate, local cured meat for breakfast, pumpkin seed oil on all of my salads, ‘starters’ that could feed a family of four and amazing cream cakes. All calories lost walking had definitely been replaced by the time I got on the plane to come home.