One of the many joys of working here at Cicerone is being surrounded by amazing photos and guidebooks of great places to go for a walk. With new projects always ongoing to unspoilt, beautiful and relatively unknown mountains regions, there's just one problem...where in the world are they?
One of the latest Cicerone guidebooks to have me reaching for the well-thumbed atlas was Walking in the Karavanke. Superb mountain walking, spectacular views and forested valleys. Sounds great, just tell me one thing - where is it? If that’s a question you find yourself asking, let me save you the trouble of looking it up.
The Karavanke form the border between Slovenia and Austria with a total length of about 120km, making it one of the longest mountain ranges in Europe. It divides naturally into two sections: the Western Karavanke, as far as the Košuta ridge, is more or less a single unbroken ridge, while the Eastern Karavanke are split into several massifs. The typical pattern all along the range is of precipitous rocky faces to the northern, Austrian side, while to the southern, Slovene side there are steep grassy slopes and terraces. The ridges offer outstanding views in both directions: to the north lies the Austrian region of Kärnten, famed for its lakes and more rounded mountains, while to the south the Julian Alps drop their stark faces to the valleys; the contrast between them is part of the charm. Further east along the range views of the whole of Slovenia open up, across the Gorenjska plain to the capital, Ljubljana, and beyond to Snežnik, the ‘snowy one’, standing alone not far from the Adriatic coast.
In spite of its modern cities and excellent transport networks Slovenia still has an air of the past, when the pace of life was slower. Slovenes keep close contact with their families and their land; in some cases the same family has worked the land for hundreds of years. Much of the population still lives in villages, where almost every house has its vegetable patch; even in the cities allotments are common. The country, independent from Yugoslavia since 1991, is about the size of Wales, or half the size of Switzerland, and although only about 11% of the land area is covered by high mountains, 90% is higher than 300m above sea level, and the Slovenes proudly count themselves an Alpine nation. With a present-day population of about 2 million centred on Ljubljana, the capital city, there are only a handful of other large towns, the most important being Maribor, Celje and Kranj. Mountains have shaped the country and its culture, and it is common to see whole families out walking together, such is the Slovenes’ enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Slovenia may be only a tiny country, but within its small area lies some of the most varied and beautiful mountain scenery in the whole of Europe. From the stark heights of the Alps, through forested plateaux and rolling hill country scattered with small farmsteads, to the fascinating limestone karst areas, Slovenia has it all. This book will hopefully entice you to explore further; once you have sampled the mountains, the countryside, the old town centres and the easy-going way of life, you will want to return again and again.
Walking in Slovenia: The Karavanke
This guidebook offers 23 walking routes across the 120km Karavanke mountain range, a natural border between Austria and Slovenia. The one and two-day routes are graded for difficulty, and range from low-level walks to high summits. The approaches are mainly from the Slovenian valleys, with bases in unspoilt towns and villages.More information
The 23 walks described cover all the main peaks along the full length of the range, which between them offer spectacular views, caves where Stone Age remains have been found, high pastures where cows, sheep and horses graze together in harmony, slopes so carpeted with flowers that the mountain appears covered with snow, airy ridges, shady forests and empty summits. You will discover that the range is more complex than it looks or appears from the map, a place where the views spread out without warning as you round a corner, or you suddenly emerge from the trees into open meadows where time seems to have stopped.
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