Campsites: look here.
Campsites: look here.
1000 - 1500 SIT/night Personally, I tried the following: Terme Catez (excellent), Zlatorog Bohinj (so-so), Fiesa (a bit seedy, but fantastic atmosphere).
Campsites: look here.
1000 - 1500 SIT/night Personally, I tried the following: Terme Catez (excellent), Zlatorog Bohinj (so-so), Fiesa (a bit seedy, but fantastic atmosphere).
Grab your piece of health and well-being in the Panonian and Subpanonian parts of Slovenia (Prekmurje, Styria, the areas around Krsko and Novo mesto) where mineral waters spring up in dozens of wells, having kept people in good condition for centuries. My favourite spa resort is Terme Catez near Brezice (Croatian border) which has a wonderful pool complex and a great campsite. Relaxation with a capital R.
Slovenian countryside homes are self sufficient, many have cows stabled on the house addition. Chickens roam yards or are kept in cages. Rabbits in hutches provide protein. Gardens and fruit trees add to a well balanced diet.
Marge's relatives Jozi and Peter opened their home to us in Ilirska Bistrica, a picturesque valley south of Ljubijiana. They didn't speak English and our Slovenian was pretty limited so it was challenge communicating.
Picked up in Ljubljana, we finally decided to have them take the luggage while we took the bus to Ilirska Bistrica. There was apparently some confusion we were 5 people, because they came in a tiny Opal Tigra.
Peter built their nice house over a five-year period, finishing in 1985, in a new development at the edge of town with underground utilities. The hillside house has a beautiful view except for the gasoline terminal directly below! The zoning requirements are a little different here.
Jim and Peter walked in the sun, each pointing to a plant or object and naming the item in English and Slovenian. We had breakfast and I learned why Slovenian food stands advertise 'toast'. In Slovenia, toast means thin slices of ham and cheese on bread and toasted. A good breakfast dish as it turns out.
Back to Ilirska Bistrica from Portoroz, Jozi made us another fine dinner and then we gave out some gifts that we had bought with us. Slovenians can buy almost anything made in the world so it is not a place to bring things like ballpoint pens for gifts. They do appreciate things like American wine and coffee and toys for the children.
The next day the girls all went to Mass in the small cemetery church while Peter showed Jason and me around the graveyard. We talked with a woman and her daughter tending the family grave who have relatives in Toronto. Peter knew all the families in the graveyard. Another nice sunny day, not too hot but warm.
We all piled in the little cars and headed off to a fish restaurant in the county that Peter and Jozi like. The fish was fresh and good. We wanted to buy them lunch for putting us up and dragging us around. They were reluctant even to let us do this until we convinced them it was for gas. Slovenians really don't expect anything for helping you. They are very kind and generous.
Cousin, Viktor Strle, Jean Cooke
In the next small village over the hill from Nadlesk, the only Strle family the Srpan's knew turned out to be the right ones. On their picnic table, lay a picture of my grandfather, grandmother and youngest son from 1947! All doubt was removed as we embraced in joy after finding my paternal grandmother's relatives. Her wooden dresser is still stored in the garage.
Generous to the core, festive Slovenian teenagers share their stash of COLD Union Pivo with us on the hot bus ride from Koper to Portoroz.
The train station in Koper is right next to the bus station so we ran over and hopped on the bus to Portoroz. The bus was jammed so we ended up standing for the 45-minute ride. The students from the train were aboard and were in a happy mood, apparently helped along by all the pivo they carried with them. There is no concept of a minimum drinking age in Slovenia. It was another hot day so the kids helped out by giving Jason and me a cold pivo! What a country.
After our stay in Portoroz, we were back on the bus for Koper along with the kids we rode down with. They were all a little more subdued now, as the pivo seems to have run out. Got to the train station and had a burek for lunch. A burek is pastry filled with meat and cheese. They range from very good to incredibly greasy. This one, I think, actually had extra grease. Still, it does fill you up. The train from Koper to Pivka took about 2 hours.
Swimming in this part of the Adriatic is not for the faint of heart since the water temperature is brisk, at 69 degrees F. The sea is quite clean and calm.
PORTOROZ ON THE ADRIATIC
Peter and Jozi walked us to the Ilirska Bistrica train station for our trip to Portoroz on the Adriatic. We took the Inter-City train to Koper. The distance is about 163 km and takes about 2 1/2 hours. Round trip fare was about 1400 SIT ($10), a real bargain. The view coming into Koper is quite spectacular as the rail line snakes its way down from the mountains.
Portoroz, typical beach resort city, has many hotels. Getting a room in anything but August shouldn't really be a problem. The local tourist office helped us with information on various hotels. We chose the Riviera, a B category hotel.
The Riviera cost about $60 per night, double, including breakfast. The rooms were quite nice with a small terrace and comfortable beds.
We strolled over to the hotel "beach". In Portoroz all the beaches are actually made of concrete right down to the waterline. The guidebook correctly suggests that Portoroz be renamed Portobenton (Port of Cement). All the beaches are owned by the various hotels so you must pay an entrance fee ranging from 400 to 900 SIT if you are not a guest.
Portoroz is popular with German tourists and you can see an amazing amount of mostly elderly Germans in various stages of undress and with some truly impressive total tonnages. Letting yourself go seems to be something of an aphrodisiac among the Germans as both men and women seem very proud of their belly size. The locals told us the situation improves in the next week with the influx of college students. But for now there were several beaches where the application of more clothing would have considerably improved the view.
Dinner was at the Grill Restaurant, which specializes in roast meats. You'll know you're there by the large animal being roasted on a spit in the front. Our waiter was the worst we had in all of Slovenia. He couldn't speak English and couldn't seem to speak Slovenian either. After he took one order, he left and I had to call him back in loud and probably threatening voice. Too bad, because the food was actually quite good and reasonably priced. If you don't have the misfortune of getting our waiter, the Grill is a good place to eat. We strolled around town after dinner taking in the sights and the mild night air.
The hotel next to ours is apparently being used by large numbers of school children on an outing. Their path was past the Riviera at 6 am down several flights of stairs to get to the beach. Clogs are the in thing this year in Slovenia and the exited holiday groups of kids sounded like the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Jean decided to go to the Terme Palace spa for a round of massage and acupuncture for her ailing back. Joan and Marge swam while Jason and I decided a day of hanging out was in order. We went to one of the many beachside outdoor cafes, ordered some pivo, and proceeded to waste three or four hours relaxing, a concept unknown to the rest of our party. We finally decided we had to eat. We ordered a pizza with hot chilies and they weren't kidding about hot. Great stuff.
We met with everyone for dinner at the Taverna Restaurant at Obala 22, a great place, with good food and service and a nice view overlooking the marina and bay. We took about two hours to eat while savoring the food and views as the sun slowly sank after another day of beautiful, warm weather. We went over to the Palace Hotel casino to check things out but the odds weren't good. Walked around town again and got some sladoled (ice cream).
The next day has dawned another sunny after some lightning off to the West last night. Walked over to the town of Piran to see the church of St. George, a Baroque structure from the fourteenth century and well worth the walk. While walking back I saw what I thought was something you would only see in Slovenia. Outside the police station there was a police officer, about 6 feet tall and looked tough as nails, tenderly trimming the roses that surrounded the station. Captured the whole spirit of Slovenia for me.
Each family owns a narrow strip of land to plow and plant for their own use. Sometimes the land is miles away from home. The different strips make patterns on the land.
Train to POSTOJNA
The next beautiful day with clear skies and mild temperatures we took the train to Postojna to see the cave. Slovenia is on a limestone plateau and laced with caves.
Peter walked with us down to the station past beautiful gardens surrounding each house. Slovenians love gardening and growing things; beans, potatoes, onions, and garlic and cherry, pear and apple trees. There were also the prettiest, most fragrant red roses I have ever seen.
The good Slovenian railroad system has frequent trains to almost every part of the country. The majority are locals that use Polish or locally built electric rail cars. The longer runs are on inter-city (IC) trains that have compartments and dining cars. There is a small surcharge for the IC trains, worth the money for less local stops. The well maintained roadbed makes a very smooth ride. The scenery is outstanding for an overview of Slovenia from the train. Compared to the bus, the train is the way to go. You don't really need a car to visit Slovenia, as the train, bus, or taxi will be able to get you anywhere.
The entire karst limestone region is laced with caverns, Postojna being the largest with three levels and well known internationally.
We arrived in Postojna about noon. The train station is about a half mile walk from the center of town and another half mile from there to the cave. You have to climb a long set of stairs to get back to the station so, if you have any sort of disability, a cab would be a good idea.
We had lunch at the Jadran Restaurant on the main square where we ate outside and spent part of the time waving at the poor tourists crammed into busses going to the cave. I hate tours and Slovenia is certainly a country that you can visit without having to go on a tour.
The admission is not cheap (20 DM, or about $13) but is more than worth it since this is probably the biggest cave any of us will see.
The cave tours leave every hour on the hour so be there on time. A miniature train takes you about 3 km into the cave then stand under a sign for the language you want on the rest of the tour. A raucous group of Italian soccer fans made up most of the crowd and it seems they had more than a few pivos before coming to the cave.
The English language tour had only 12 people and we were the only ones from the U.S. The others were from Canada and Belgium.
At the very bottom of the cave was a bar, a strange sight to an American. I think the Italians used the time at the bottom to get their blood alcohol levels back up to comfortable levels as we were treated to yet more soccer songs on the way out. It takes about two hours to complete the walking portion. The train takes you back out. The cave exit is blackened from a munition explosion during WWII when it was used for storage.
You can see where the Pivka River, that created the cave, goes underground and enters the cave just before you leave. Other area caves are more primitive and for the adventurous.
Beautiful formations surround you on every level, none duplicate the other.
The stalactites and stalagmites were very impressive, with some almost translucent and others that looked like hanging sides of bacon.
We walked up and down three levels into the various chambers and caverns of the cave. It is so huge that words cannot adequately describe the scale. The Concert Hall cavern can accommodate 10,000 people!
Why leave the comfort of a warm swimming pool when a raging thunder and lightening storm hits? Simply open your umbrella as this Slovenian woman did. Wouldn't the umbrellas act like a lightning rod? Joan, I and Marge hid under the eave of a building.
The train took about three hours to get to Brezice. You pass through the Sava River valley on the way, which is worth the train trip alone. The river is hemmed between steep canyon walls with some spectacular rapids.
The closer we got to Brezice, the more threatening the weather. Light rain started by the time we arrived. Brezice is the only town we visited in Slovenia that had an auto junkyard opposite the railroad station. After waiting for the bus to town (2 km, 400 SIT), we arrived at Gostilna Prenocisce as the rain began in earnest. The rooms were small but the price was right (about $35 per night, including breakfast.) The place was very popular with the townspeople, as the activity at the bar showed.
Dinner was in a nice covered outdoor section as the rain poured down on the roof. Unfortunately, the rain seemed to have riled up the mosquitoes and other assorted biting insects who proceeded to consume us as we consumed dinner. We shortly fled to our rooms. After a shower, we retired for a night of insect battles punctuated by short periods of sleep. Thus did we pass our first night in Brezice.
The next day we hoped a bus out to Terme Catez, a classic spa built in the Tito era with big, ugly, poorly built hotels and numerous swimming and thermal pools. The girls decided to use the big swimming pool (at 900 SIT each!). After sampling several pools, clouds and thunder rumbled by, striking too close for comfort. The wind whipped through trees as some huge limbs crashed down into the pool.
Jason and Jim decided that the spas looked too much like a cellulite ranch so had a pivo at the restaurant and walked back to town. While sitting at the restaurant, we had the feeling that everyone was staring at us, a feeling that would be repeated many times in Brezice. In fact, everyone WAS staring at us. I don't know if it was because we were obviously "not from around there" or what, but it was most disconcerting. The town is close to Bosnia and the war so people were very wary. Curtains in windows of this town were closed tight, unlike the rest of Slovenia. As we walked, people would pull aside their curtains and just stare as we went by. We were beginning to feel a little paranoid.
To our surprise, everything in Brezice was closed. The stores are open until 1100 on Saturdays and don't open at all on Sundays.
The weather was beginning to look threatening again so we found the one open restaurant in town and sat down under the awning, having another pivo and fighting off the clouds of insects. The town itself has some beautiful old buildings but not as well maintained compared to Ljubljana.
We had some lunch and watched the skies turn dark as the locals watched us. Brezice was the only place in Slovenia where you were expected to pay as soon as you were served. Might say something about the level of trust they have in each other. After about a half-hour, a huge lightning strike and clap of thunder occurred and a violent wind and rainstorm started. Tables and chairs flew in the wind as Jason and I huddled in a doorway for about an hour.
The rain finally slacked off to showers for about a half hour so we explored a little. There is a large sports facility opposite the gostilna that looked like it belonged to a school. I still don't know what it really was because we were promptly thrown out when we entered.
In the evening, after everyone got dry, we went to the Pension Stirn for dinner. Of course, it was now raining even harder, so we were wet again by the time we got there. The Stirn, which was really quite lovely, was full of Turkish construction workers having their dinner. Once again, their favorite form of recreation was staring at us. This was really getting bizarre. Since the owner was apparently the only person working, the service was very slow and it took almost an hour to get our food. The food was not good.
We hiked back to the gostilna through the pouring rain and decided we to head back to Ljubljana the next day. We decided that we had seen enough of Brezice. More than enough. We retired for the night as the rain continued unabated. Marge still wanted to see the castle and the museum.
6/23/96 - Up at 0800. After breakfast, Marge hiked off to see the museum while we packed. By the time she returned, the last bus to the train station for two hours had left. Being ever resourceful, she convinced a couple of electricians who were drinking at the bar to give us a ride in their van. We all piled in and wove our way to the train station, arriving about 1200. We gave them some money for gas and off they went.
The train arrived about 1300 and we were on our way back to Ljubljana. The river was high due to all the rain but there was nowhere near the amount of flooding I would expect to see for that much rain in California. The karst limestone really soaks up water.
LYME DISEASE- After returning home, Joan noticed the tick bite site she received at the Terme Spa in Brezice now had a bulls-eye shaped rash. This rash can indicate Lyme Disease. Sure enough, she tested positive for Lyme Disease and took two courses of antibiotics. Jean's tick bite never turned into Lyme's Disease. If you really want to go to Brezice, make sure you are wearing plenty of insect repellent and don't sit on the lawns around the pools at the Spa, since the grass seems to be infested with ticks.
The girls left the spa about 1600 after asking the spa personnel about bus schedules back to town. They were told there weren't any more busses. Of course, there actually were. This was a common occurrence throughout Slovenia. Most Slovenians own cars and know nothing about public transportation. Use the guidebook and trust your common sense in these matters.
They were able to hitchhike back to town. Hitchhiking is very common in Slovenia and is relatively safe. Their ride dropped them off at the bus station and from there they walked about 4 km back to the gostilna. They looked liked drowned rats.
Our train was a pair of the new Slovenian built railcars, roomy and comfortable. The train was a local so we stopped at all the stations. The route to Bled is through the Sava River Valley. The river was very high. The route is quite.
We arrived at Lesce-Bled station at about 1700. You need to detrain for Bled at this station. The sign is only on one side of the station, so keep an eye peeled. The waiting taxi somehow managed to stuff the four of us and baggage into his cab for the 6 km trip to town. The cab driver said that, indeed, this was the first day without rain they had in about 2 weeks.
We decided to try the grand old lady of Bled, the Grand Hotel Toplice. This was one of the first hotels at the lake and still the only one directly on the lake. It is still considered the luxury resort and, of course, not cheap (about $150 double with breakfast) but the views from the rooms of the castle and the island were superb. The hotel has a spa and "thermal" pool with a temperature of 23 degrees C, or about 73 degree F. Not exactly my idea of thermal. There is also a private beach and boat rental.
The hotel is showing its age. The elevators are small and old and the hallway carpets are threadbare. The dining room is done in Tito modern with giant sputnik-shaped chandeliers and strange combinations of primary colors. The guests seem to mainly consist of German and British tour groups made of the usual conglomeration of old people. They love to dress up for cocktails and dinner, something that is not high on our list of pleasures. We certainly stood out.
Shortly after we checked in, it began to rain - again. The cloud effects were interesting as the castle alternately emerged and hid behind a wreath of low clouds. We donned rain gear and went to the restaurant at the Hotel Jelovica for dinner. The service was incredibly slow but the food was actually quite good once it finally showed up.
The Bled area is famous for its krema, unfortunately, they were out. Hard to imagine they run out of their most famous dish but this seemed to be a pretty common phenomenon. They only make so much and if the demand exceeds the supply, well, come back tomorrow.
We checked out the Bled Casino after dinner. The casino is only open from 1800 to 0200 and is downstairs in the Hotel Jelovica building. The casino is very small with about 50 slot and video poker machines, all with terrible odds. The tuxedo-clad manager informed us that we were not properly dressed to be able to play blackjack at $5 minimum per hand. All the machines and blackjack are played in Austrian shillings, giving you one more currency to convert. At least the video poker machines had the payoff lines in English, unlike the casino in Ljubljana, which had the payoff lines in Slovenian so you had no idea about the odds. Slovenia states they are looking toward casino development as a major earner of tourist dollars but they'll never make it like this. Perhaps the Slovenian casinos are typical of Europe but they need to take a look at American casinos if they really want to make some money.
We splashed our way back to the hotel and played cards on our balcony while watching the castle appear and disappear through the fog.
Haunting in the misty weather, this picturesque church adorns many travel posters of Bled.
6/30/96 - Up at 0800 with rain. The breakfast was very good with a wide and varied selection of food, although the coffee, as usual, was awful. I don't know how restaurants that can make good coffee in the evening can make such terrible coffee in the morning. Must be a different crew.
Jean and Joan decided to go to the Spa. Jason and I decided to go exploring. Got into our rain gear and walked around the lake and then back to town.
The rain actually stopped so we hiked up the hill to edge of town and then took a back road that circled around the town. This area is still small farms that back up to the mountains and is really quite beautiful. If this were America there would probably be about 10 hotels here, so I was glad it was Slovenia instead.
The road comes out at the bus station. There is a small stand across from the bus station that advertised hamburgers, french fries, and beer, which we thought sounded like a pretty tasty lunch. Of course, they were out of french fries (at 1200) but did have hamburgers and beer. We had tried a hamburger at Portoroz and I don't know why we took the plunge again. Slovenian hamburgers are actually like meatloaf, which wouldn't be bad except they then blend the meat with something that had the consistency of wallboard adhesive and then cover it with pimento sauce. It was the chewiest hamburger I ever had. The beer was good though.
The guidebook also recommended the Pri Planincu gostilna at Grajska cesta 8 in Bled as a good place to eat so we trudged up the hill for dinner through the increasing rain. The Pri Planincu is just up from the bus station and is run by a family that speaks English and has traveled widely. The place is very friendly and the service is, by far, the speediest we had in Slovenia. Joan and I had the garlic soup and Jason and Jean had the mushroom soup. Both were great. We had between us the Ljubljana steak (which is actually turkey), grilled meats, and fish. The quality was excellent and the quantity was more than we could eat. Ahh, if only we could take this place with us. If you are in Bled, forget everything else and get here for a meal.
We walked back to the hotel through the curtain of rain that surrounded us. The lake has a certain ethereal beauty in the rain and low clouds but the tableau was beginning to wear thin. We once again played cards on the balcony and hoped that someday the sun would shine again.
7/1/96 - Up at 0800, joined the old folks for breakfast. Rain continued all day, moderate to heavy with only a few periods of light rain. Light rain was almost like sunshine now. We spent most of the day holed up in the hotel except for going to the Pri Planincu again for dinner. Jason, who for some reason didn't enjoy being the youngest person in our hotel, lobbied for us leaving and going up to Bohinj. It sounded good to us so we phoned several of the pensions recommended in the guidebook. Unfortunately, they were full, but we did get rooms in the Zlatorog Hotel, which didn't receive much mention in the guidebook except for saying it was out of the way. That sounded OK to us.
7/2/96 - up at 0730. Jean and Joan decided they had to swim in the lake even though it was raining. Bled is quite warm for an alpine lake (69 degrees F) but is certainly not the Caribbean, especially with a steady rain and an air temperature of about 55 degrees F. But the girls are tough so out they went.
A new house near Peter's, has a concrete frame with an infill of hollow tile with no rebar that Jim could see. On top is heavy concrete roof tile. They will finish the house with insulation board over the tile and then stucco. Not good construction in an area with earthquakes but then they may not have as bad a seismic hazard as California.
In the country, everyone seems to build their own homes with the help of friends, acquaintences and fellow workers.
The U-shaped glacially formed valley, includes hanging waterfalls where glaciers merged into the central valley glacier long ago during the last Ice Age.
Our bus for Bohinj left at a little after noon, so we put Jean and the bags in a taxi and the rest of us walked. It was, of course, still raining. Jason and I went back to the Pri Planincu but only had time for a beer. We got the girls a beer to go, one of the Pri Planincu's own beers in glass bottles with rubber stoppers. What a place!
The bus trip to Bohinj goes through some very pretty territory up the Sava River valley. The trip takes about an hour because the bus travels the old road rather than the new direct highway, apparently to service the villages that were bypassed. The end of the line is the Zlatorog Hotel, which really is isolated from the rest of Bohinj at the head of the lake and is quite beautiful. The guidebook does not do the Zlatorog justice. It is well-maintained and very reasonably priced ($65 double with breakfast) for a room in the annex, which is just as nice as the main building except you have to walk about 40 meters further to get to the restaurant. Big deal. The annex backs up to the woods and is really nicer than the main building. The rooms are very spacious with the biggest bathrooms we had in Slovenia and have satellite TV and a minibar. The main building also has a swimming pool on the second floor. Too bad we didn't come directly here.
The Zlatorog is named after the Slovenian mountain goat, which is actually in the chamois family. You will become familiar with this little fellow because he graces the label of every bottle of Lasko pivo. He is also the symbol of the Slovenian Army mountain division where he looks a little more fierce than his Lasko brother. The Zlatorog Hotel has a sign in the lobby telling you the hotel was built with a pyramid in the interior "to concentrate the cosmic rays so you will have good health and an enjoyable stay"! Thought I was back in California for a minute. Opposite is a picture of Tito on a visit here. Strange juxtaposition.
Unfortunately, the cosmic rays weren't helping the rain situation any, as it continued unabated. We had the set menu lunch at the restaurant for 1000 SIT and it was quite good except for the beefsteak that, as was true in all of Slovenia, was a little chewy. Once again, we were so stimulated that heading back to our rooms for a nap seemed like the best idea, hoping it might actually stop raining while we slept. Upon awakening it seemed that, if anything, the rain had increased. Having a good case of cabin fever by now, we decided to get everything we had that was waterproof and go for a walk.
The area around Bohinj reminds me of Yosemite before all the people arrived. There are steep cliffs surrounding the valley clad in pine forests and somewhere, off in the clouds, Mt. Triglav, the highest peak in Slovenia. The area is a continuation of the limestone karst formations with only a thin layer of topsoil. We walked over a bridge over the Sava River and watched the raging waters. Even though there had been many days of rain, the river was still completely clear due to the small amount of soil that gets washed off the karst. We could see trout swimming in 5 feet of water from the bridge. Actually, there was a lot of trout. A fishing license here costs $35 a day but fishermen come from all over to fish these waters. It looked like even I could catch a fish here.
We hiked over to the campground about 2 km from the hotel on the shoe of Lake Bohinj. The lake was rising and several of the camping trailers were in danger of going under. Boat docks were already under water and things didn't look too good if it kept raining. We stopped at the outdoor restaurant covered by a big roof and had a pivo, hoping the rain might slow down a little. After about 30 minutes, it became apparent that wasn't going to happen, so off we went, back to the hotel. I was lucky to have a complete rain suit, but everyone else was completely soaked by the time we got back.
We dripped our way into the restaurant for dinner. Very good food and service by a nice fire. Went off to bed with the rain still pouring down, punctuated with a few claps of thunder just to make sure we were paying attention.
HIKING to SLAP(falls) SAVICA
7/3/96 - Up at 0800. The rain had actually stopped! Hooray! It was still cloudy but no rain. Over for breakfast and then got our hiking boots on for a walk to the waterfall. The Slap Savica is famous all over Slovenia so we wanted to see it in person. You can take a bus or walk on trails to get there. It is about 6 km from the Zlatorog.
The trail enters the Triglav national park just after you cross the wooden bridge leading to the Stare Penzion. The river was still high but clear. The trail leads around the northern edge of Lake Bohinj. Boat docks were still under water and several of the rental rowboats were overturned and sunk. Because of the thin soil, there was very little mud, so hiking was easy. You come out on an old logging road that leads along the banks of the river. We had to ford several rushing streams but the fording was not dangerous as there were many rocks to hop across on. The forest is very pretty and the river rushes by in a more and more constricted gorge. From this trail, you can make connections to other trails that lead up the mountain and, ultimately, Mt. Triglav.
After about an hour, we emerged in the parking area for the waterfall. We stopped for lunch at the Dom Savica restaurant, run by several women, who don't speak English but do speak some German. Since the menu is verbal, it was something of challenge figuring out what we were getting. After a lot of hand signals and using what we knew of German, we got soup, trout, salad, and klobasa. If you like trout, the Bohinj area is the place to go. All the restaurants, including this one, have a fish tank out back. The tank uses recirculating water from the river and holds live trout. If you order trout, they go outside, grab one, and cook it up. You get the whole fish, fried in some olive oil and covered with garlic and parsley. The trout was great and shouldn't be missed if you are in the area.
To get to the falls, you head up the trail north of the parking area. You have to pay 200 SIT at the gatehouse a little way up the trail. The guide book describes the trail as a "20 minute walk over rapids and streams to the falls". I don't think the author actually took this trail. It is actually about 1.5 km up a steep trail made up mostly of stairs carved out of the rock. According to my altimeter watch, it was a 250 meter elevation gain to the falls, so it is certainly not as easy as the guidebook makes it sound. Still, if you are reasonably fit, it is no problem to make the hike and the falls are worth the effort.
The falls shoot straight out from a hanging valley, drop about 60 meters, then makes a 90 degree turn to hurtle down the Sava river. Since it had been raining so much, the falls were very impressive. The flow was so heavy that you could hardly do more than peek around the protective rocks without getting soaked by the spray. It was difficult even to walk a few paces toward the falls because of the strong winds. Make sure you bring raingear even if it is sunny because you will need it.
After spending some time at the falls, we started back down the trail. A lot quicker trip coming down than going up. The sky now had some clear patches so we could see the tops of the cliffs that surrounded us. We hiked back the same trail we came in on. Jason and Joan were going to make the climb to the top of the Komarca Crag, but it was getting late and they wouldn't have time to make it back before dark. Actually, Jason, who had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in one summer, could have done it, but there was some concern that his mom maybe couldn't. I know I couldn't. We decided discretion was the better part of valor and headed back down the trail to the hotel. The streams that we had to ford on our way up had already gone underground and were completely dry. We hiked up one stream a bit and could see where the water was actually being absorbed by the ground. In a couple of hours, the stream, which had been a raging torrent, would be completely gone. This is probably not good for farmers but sure makes for easier hiking.
We were well and truly tired when we got back. I should say we old folks were tired. Jason went swimming while we took a nap. By the time we went over for dinner, it was partly cloudy and a lot warmer. There was no one sitting outside at the restaurant and we decided that it would be nice to be outside after all the rain. After about 10 minutes, it was clear why no one but us wanted to sit outside. The mosquitoes were also hungry after the rain and wanted us for dinner. We decided to join the rest of the diners inside.
While we were eating dinner, a large troop of athletes arrived. As it turned out, they were part of the Slovenian Olympic team who up here practicing. They managed to clear out the salad bar in about 5 minutes flat! They were a very fit looking group and should do Slovenia proud at the games.
We took a stroll in the night air, feeling happy not to be wet. The river had gone down to normal levels and the trout were swimming happily about. The clouds cleared to reveal a blanket of stars above. This is really a beautiful place.
We got our only view of Mt. Triglav while leaving Bohinj on the bus. Even Bled looked better in the sunshine. The countryside was green and fresh after all the rain.
We Visited relatives of Peter and Jozi for the day in small villages around the area, with most relatives living in the small village of Bac.
Tito wanted every village to survive, keeping the rural atmosphere, family and cultural values together as they have lived for centuries. To do this, chair and plastics factories were built in villages.
Bac is very tiny and beautiful but slowly dying with abandoned and collapsing houses. A chair factory is the only economic life left. Since Peter used to be manager at the factory he was able to get us in for a last minute tour. They make very nice furniture. You have to wonder how long this factory can last in an isolated location and so far from any rail line or main road. They are trying to be competitive in the world furniture market but have to compete with Asia; a tough row to hoe.
The chair factory is loud and an OSHA nightmare. You could tell factory workers by their missing fingers. We saw no safety equipment of any kind in the factories.
Marge's relatives were all very nice and fed us until we burst. If you have relatives in Slovenia, you can't visit anyone for less than two hours and they will feed you everything in the house. Marge was happy to see her relatives since she hadn't seen them in 17 years.
Chairs waiting to be finished and shipped.
We went back to Ilirska Bistrica on a dirt road over the mountains. We talked to a hunting party near the top of the mountain that was practicing skills with their dogs. Hunting is a favorite activity among Slovenians although there is some question about over-hunting. Stoyon thinks there needs to be more laws and enforcement to prevent this. I must admit that I saw less wildlife in the forest than I usually see in California. The forest is very dense with pine and fir trees. There is some logging but most of the forest seems untouched. The country is more than 50% forest, which contributes greatly to its' beauty, especially compared to other parts of Europe.
We stopped in a little town and had pizza that another relative of Peter's owned. I didn't think we could actually cram more food in our bellies. Some customers played bacci ball on the outside court. We visited with more of Marge's relatives who weren't home the first time we came, eating and drinking some more.
Taken by Joan Lee. Scene from Mlakar Gostice balcony with mists across Loz valley. The central big tree is a Linden tree, the natiioal tree of Slovenia.
Mlakar Gostice for lunch; located in the country between Stari trg and Vhrknika, in a beautiful setting with landscaped grounds, pine forest and small park in the back. A gostice is a combination restaurant and guesthouse. The food was absolutely great, with deer, fresh fish, and several varieties of veal and beef. The owner and his wife do the cooking and she is very friendly and knowledgeable about the area. There are also books on Slovenia and Slovenian folklore.
On our return from Portoroz, Peter and son-in-law, Stoyan, picked us up at Pivka train station and drove us for our stay at Mlakar Gostice.
After lunch we went to our $35 rooms with private bath, including delicious home-made breakfasts. The balcony overlooked park-like grounds and the approaching electric storm. Jason got his own room instead of rooming in with mom and Marge, which made him very happy.
After a truly wonderful dinner, we joined a couple from Ljubjana who had driven down for dinner. He is a chemist and mountain climber and she is a children's TV producer. Both spoke perfect English. Since Marge, Jason and Joan planned a hike in the mountains, they prevailed upon him for knowledge of the best areas.
The wild lightening and thunder caused a black out. We reviewed hiking trails by flashlight. Both of them were very gracious, giving up their meal time to help American tourists. We discussed Slovenian politics and the future of Slovenia until 2230. With intelligent, educated young people like this, Slovenia has a great future ahead.
A quiet walk through a quaint village near Mlakar Gostice while the sky grew more threatening and thunder rumbled in the mountains. Slovenians love dogs and especially big, dangerous looking dogs. Our walk was accompanied by wary looks toward these dogs. Most were tied up and the ones that weren't, we could outrun. We did have one stray dog follow us that seemed to like Marge. The stray proceeded to get in fights with each dog we passed until he was run off by a three pound terrier.
CERNICA VALLEY, SNEZNIK CASTLE, STARI TRG
We visited Sneznik castle in an adjacent valley just outside Stari trg. A 16th century Renaissance castle that is very well preserved, in part because of the isolation of the Loz Valley. This Schonburg-Walenburg family castle used as a hunting lodge, have rooms filled with beautiful antique furniture and huge numbers of hunting trophies. It's a wonder there is any wildlife left in the area.
This dormouse is my cousin, Janez's, pet, which was not tame. I was warned not to put fingers in his cage.
The world famous Dormouse museum is right next door to Sneznik Castle. I thought the dormouse was a cartoon character until we started doing research on Slovenia. The dormouse is a small rodent that looks like a cross between a squirrel and a hamster. It was an important source of protein to people in the area, which has always been the poorest part of Slovenia. The dormouse sleeps most of the year (dorMANT mouse) and wakes up in September or October, just in time to be hunted down by the villagers and made into stew. Dormice are an important part of the Loz Valley heritage. They have a festival every year in October to commemorate the hunt.
Jean, Janez, Maria, Ivana, Jason and Joan
Marge's Slovenian kin were essential in finding our family. We had done quite a bit of research before the trip, downloading information from the Slovenians Abroad homepage, Internet, and copying phone numbers and addresses of my family names from the Slovenian white pages.
We found our paternal grandfather's side of the family, still living in the house that was built in 1909. Peter and Jozi, Marge's relatives knew of this family. They had worked together. Without Peter's help, we would never have found our relatives. Language was a problem since no one spoke English. Marge was a great help with her adequate though limited Slovenian. Home brewed high octane schnapps helped us all get over the language barrier as we got to know this long lost brach of the famly.
Topliska Cesta 35, Catez Ob Savi, Slovenia, 8251,
Topliska Cesta 35, Catez Ob Savi, Slovenia, 8251,
Topliska Cesta 35 8251 Catez OB Savi, Catez Ob Sav
Topliska Cesta 35, Catez Ob Savi, Slovenia, 8251,
We've found that other people looking for this hotel also know it by these names:
Address: Topliska Cesta 35, Catez Ob Savi, Slovenia, 8251,