We pretty much sealed our fate for a disorganized day today when we went to bed last night without any kind of plan. We don’t do well when we wake up not knowing what we want to do in a given day, and this morning we had a lot to figure out. We could go on some kind of canyoneering adventure with a group, finalize a car rental, or spend the day in Bled hiking, boating, cycling, or some other combination of the three. We could even head out of town. We made a half dozen Skype phone calls trying to find out the availability of each of our options, but still didn’t really get anywhere. Finally, we realized it was time to head into town to talk to some people face to face.
As it turns out, most of the rental car agencies were sold completely out, and based on a forecast of gloomy weather, most of our tour options were cut short as well. The lone car that was available was bigger and thus, more expensive than what we needed, but it seemed like the only good option for really seeing the area surrounding Bled without shredding our legs beyond recognition. A little begrudgingly and feeling a bit flustered, we headed over to pick up the leftover car that no one else wanted.
When we got back to the rental counter though, the guy at the counter who had been a bit gruff before, suddenly became terribly friendly and found a car in the category we were actually looking for and made us a really good deal to be able to drop it off in another city on the other end of Slovenia, preventing us from having to climb a major pass to get out of here. He happily laughed and joked with us as we got the details worked out, and before we knew it, our less than perfect planning day was well on its way!
Keys in hand, the next step was to stuff our bicycles in the back seat. With racks and fenders, the task was a bit more complicated than we are used to, but it didn’t take us too long before all the doors were closed. Ideally, we probably would have gone back to camp and gotten the rest of our stuff as well, but it was already noon and our plan for sightseeing in Triglav National Park was going to take pretty much every last hour of daylight available, so we headed out with nothing more than was in our day bags. We had the most important stuff anyway – wallets, the GPS, the camera, the laptop, and both rain jackets.
Following our guidebook, we headed over to Triglav National Park and began the drive up Vrisc pass. It was so weird to be in an actual car that actually goes up hills without having to breathe hard. Once we realized we could also control the temperature in our little pod, we were pretty much beside ourselves. We hadn’t covered very much ground before we were already grateful for our two days with a motor. The pass averages between 10-14% with something like 24 switchbacks to the top and the rain was looking pretty immanent, but we didn’t have any reason to care. All we needed to do was drive and enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and the dramatic, gloomy clouds that decorated the peaks and left the green meadows looking as if they might actually begin to glow.Today, the most challenging thing we faced was the difficult of stopping for pictures- we aren’t used to having to find somewhere to park!
As we drove, we stopped at many sites from the battle lines of WWI, memorializing many who had died here, including several hundred Russian prisoners of war who perished in an avalanche while building the road we were driving on. A little Russian church had been built in their honor.
The pass, Slovenia’s highest, was windy and chilly, and we saw lots of cyclists finishing the arduous climb. We waved and cheered as we took our pictures and then headed down the other side. At one side trip, our guidebook indicated that a 20 minute hike would take us to the source of the region’s most famous Soca river.
First though, we stopped for lunch at the restaurant at the base. The cute lady running the place spoke almost no English, and obviously our Slovenian isn’t so great, so mostly we just let her choose for us. Ben ended up with beef goulash and I had the sausage. The food was good and a bit different from what we are used to and we really enjoyed ourselves. We finished off the meal with a cheese curd pie which was actually a hot dessert that was made mostly of cheese and sugar near as we could tell. It was so nice to have such a warm meal on such a chilly day!
Well fed, we began our hike that was supposed to be kind of easy. I should have been wary when someone on his way down wished us luck. What do we need luck for? We quickly found out. The uphill trail quickly reached a hand line which was absolutely necessary for proceeding across the narrow, rocky crag which was supposed to double as a trail. Ben, of course, was thrilled about the new element of danger that had just presented itself, but our shoes have no traction on the wet limestone in the rain and I was a bit nervous. Gratefully, the precarious scramble didn’t last more than a few minutes and before long we were staring at a crack in the fault line with water gushing out – the source of the clear and cold Soca river. It looked as though we might get swallowed right up by the rocks, but instead, we took a few pictures and retraced our steps, hoping the rain would stay away for a few minutes.
Back at the car, I mourned not bringing along my long sleeve wool shirt that I seem to always be wearing on this trip because I get cold so dang easy. Even on warm days, I sometimes get chilled after I stop exercising. We’ve nicknamed it “sleevie” because I wear it pretty much constantly much like some toddlers clutch their well worn blanket. The poor shirt is going to be in tatters by the time we get home and I have every intention of replacing it with a small army of new ones. Merino wool is the best!
Thankfully, the car has a heater (amazing!) so we turned it on and marvelled at how fast we got warm. Soon though, it was time to get out again and check out an interesting gorge carved out by the river and an adjacent suspension bridge. We bounced our way across the bridge, sending each other flying while anyone around stared and one lady even took our picture. Once we’d sufficiently amused ourselves and all those around us, it was on toward Kobarid.
Kobarid is the historical home to a number of WWI memorials, namely a museum and an Italian mosoleum. We didn’t have enough time to do the museum justice, but we did head up to the mosoleum to visit the final resting place of more than 7,000 Italian soldiers that died in the hills above Kobarid. Perched high on the hill, the memorial overlooked beautiful valleys in either direction and was removed from any city noise. The cold stone walls, containing thousands of names, in such a peaceful place were a stark reminder of the huge cost of war.
A bit sombered, we headed out of the beautiful valleys back toward camp, realizing that if we didn’t get moving, we’d truly be up all night. It was a two hour drive through narrow hairpin turns that required intense attention to the road. My skill for driving a manual transmission leaves something to be desired, so Ben was our sole driver for the day. We were positively starving, but hadn’t packed any snacks (since we didn’t know we were going on such a journey) and everything was closed down for the evening. With a few wrong turns, the drive felt even longer, and by the time we figured out how to get the car into the campground (so many things we aren’t used to worrying about) it was well past 10:00.
In the pitch dark, we set about making dinner which we barely finished before the rain hit. In the dark tent, we quickly ate, and discussed plans for our drive tomorrow. We thought having a car would be a good way to rest, but it turns out, this has been one of the busiest days we have ever had!